The hard truth is that incessant picking is rarely about the state of our skin. By now, most of us know that after a session of fastidiously manhandling our pores, we don’t emerge from the bathroom looking better. Clearer. Less red. Experience says it’s quite the opposite. That’s why we rarely dare do it in the a.m. Oh no, this serious offense is a nighttime crime. One we hope to sleep off. Let’s understand why we do this to ourselves.
Control issues? Journal.
Oftentimes, we pick because we angst. We feel out of control of elements of our lives, so we opt for meticulous activities, ones that we have complete agency over, and the responsibility behind it is clear. Oh, we f*cked up our face? Yeah. We did that. No one else to blame but ourselves. At least that much is clear. Got that notion handled. Ehem.
If it feels like this may be the case, try busting out the notebook instead of obsessing in front of the mirror. Slap on a mask—either a clay mask or a soothing one with honey—and write down the elements in your life that feel out of your agency. Maybe it’s work. Is there a project, or a coworker standing in the way of your success? Is it communication issues with a lover, or a close friend? Is a family member spiraling and not letting you in? Maybe you feel off inside your body and need a reset.
Write these things down. When we write things down, we gain not only a semblance of control, but an element of actual control. We are recognizing the issue, verbalizing it, and thus, disarming it a little bit. Plus, we can outline a plan of action. Can we have a friendly aside with our coworker or boss? Can we suggest counseling with our lovers, or get other family members to help you with that tricky one? Can we make a meal plan and fitness routine we can start, taking baby steps?
Anxious energy? Find a meticulous activity.
While it may be about anxiety, it’s not always about control. A lot of the time, we just need to keep our hands busy. We are buzzing with stress, but it’s time to wind down, and there’s not a lot else keeping our hands busy. Scrolling is making it worse, plus we’ve exhausted our feed, so we pick at our face, or even our nails and hands, until we are bleeding and red all over.
Try something new with your hands. Try sketching, or prepping for your next day. Peel a pomegranate and remove all the seeds into a bowl for a super antioxidant punch in the morning, freshly picked and ready to support your glowing skin.
Try being mindful
When activities just don’t satisfy the itch or they feel pointless in lieu of obsessive-compulsive picking, mindfulness is the next best thing. Mindfulness in this case means pausing to think a while longer about what you’re about to do before you do it, and this involves a little dialogue with yourself. Scientists consider this kind of dialogue a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
CBT in this case might involve a conversation like, “Do I need to pick this pimple? Is it ready to be popped? Will it be worse if I do it? Am I picking because I’m stressed? What am I stressed about, and how can I deal more directly with that?” CBT also involves some acceptance of the problem and giving oneself physical roadblocks from the offending act. In this case, it might be dimming the bathroom lights, or throwing out that magnifying mirror that no one really needs anyway.
Obsessive habit? Get a new one.
Of course, this way of coping with angst is absolutely obsessive, and definitely compulsive, but we’re not here to diagnose us all with OCD. We develop these obsessive habits to avoid the real sources of our stress, so why not channel that energy into something more productive?
Get your skincare done for the evening, and try to rush out of the bathroom to squeeze in some deep, restorative yoga. Or an abdominal massage to lower adrenals and wind down and promote awesome digestion for yourself in the morning. Prep for the next day by picking out your outfit and making some overnight oats. Moisturize your hands and nails and give your feet some love each night. Pick a habit that aligns with self-care and makes you feel productive and loved. Carving out this time will take away from your precious picking moments.