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You Are Way Too Picky

There is a somewhat disturbing article in the October issue of Elle about the author's recent battle with a bout of dematillomania, also known as acne excoriée. Call it what you will, but many people pick at their faces. Some of us gently extract in a magnifying mirror, while others perform minor surgery until we draw blood. Dermatologist Frederic Brandt discusses the degrees of the problem, cautioning:

Scarring depends on the severity of infection and how adamantly people go after them. And inflammation, if you break out or do enough extracting, can lead either to a lightening or darkening of skin color.

So there you have it. One false move, and your problem just went from bad to worse. There are multiple things that can be done to try and rehabilitate a picker. Like getting regular manicures to stop nail biting, a newfound devotion to skincare can help (think regular microdermabrasion, treatment with bacteria-killing lasers, Retin-A). Or if it's an OCD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder issue, therapy can help. Have you ever had picking problems, and what has helped you?


Jaime-Richards Jaime-Richards 6 years
Hi Anonymous, I had a friend who went through something similar. She found that if she tried occupying her time with another activity (phoning a friend, riding her bike, etc.) she was able to divert her attention away from the picking. It's understandable that this is stressing you out. Have you considered talking to a therapist? Perhaps he/she can help you get to the source of what's causing the picking and give you some more suggestions as how to stop. I wish you the very best of luck. Hang in there! It will get better.
satoriv satoriv 8 years
Bella,Thank you for the advise of putting a mask when you feel the urge to pick your skin. I think I'm about to that right now actually.
Cris1192 Cris1192 8 years
I became a picker last year and because of that I'm forced to use my bangs as a sort of camouflage device... I'm trying my best not to do it and this post has really helped me thanks!
tspoppy tspoppy 9 years
UGH - I totally do this, even though I rarely get pimples or black/white heads. I just get these little bumps, no redness, but I CAN SEE THEM so I rid my face of them. Most of the time, it only takes a day or so for my skin to recuperate, but sometimes they become inflamed and hate the crap out of me and look quite awful. :/ I'm ready to commit to seeing a dermatologist to get real facials and allow a professional to perform extractions. It's just very hard for me to KNOW there are impurities in my skin even if they can't be seen by anyone else. :(
lizlee89 lizlee89 9 years
there's a differnce between seeing a zit and wanting it gone and having a psychological obcessive compulsion that you can't stop doing even if you try (it's like watching your weight and wanting to be thin vs. annorexia and bulimia - while I believe this condition exists, I think most people probably don't have it - it's just when it becomes a serious problem that you need help...
daniellexo daniellexo 9 years
glowingmoon, sadly i am the same way, however probably much worse..i will run my fingers all over my face looking for the teeniest bump and i will just pick for hours. i definitely think my picking is anxiety related though, because i pick everything(my cuticles, my scalp- i once picked so badly i had a quarter sized bald spot on my head for weeks), especially when i'm stressed. i need to be on meds, sheesh.
CupcakeGal10 CupcakeGal10 9 years
unnamedafterher, thank you for correcting some of the previous comments that are dismissive of the fact that severe picking can certainly be a symptom of more serious problem. as someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder from an early age and who has had serious picking problems, i find mrssaraas comments both ignorant and offensive, although i'm sure she didn't intend them to be.
sydneyalias sydneyalias 9 years
I pick at my skin, too. I didn't get break outs until my late teens, early 20's so I didn't do it when I was really young, but I do it now. I have to say, sometimes it makes them go away quicker, but a lot of times it makes it worse and it irritates everything. I should stop, but I probably won't. I hate having problem skin!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I pick all the time, I can't help it. I have to say I've gone a little overboard on those "blind pimples" but I learned my lesson the only thing that will help those are icing them.
soybean589 soybean589 9 years
I totally pick at things. It's such a terrible habit. But I sterilize everything with soap and water or astringent. If I get a big, deep pimple, I need to relieve the pressure underneath the skin. Call me sick, but that *pop* means everything is going to be alright.
lovekailua lovekailua 9 years
oh goodness I am a horrible picker of pimples! I was just thinking about this problem of mine yesterday. i pick anything that looks ugly, but then it looks worse! i pick absentmindedly while I'm driving or studying or even working (at home though so it's not in front of people to gross them out). i have very fair skin and i know i'm ruining it by picking but I cannot seem to stop! srgh. ok, today I make a concerted effort to stop :)
SmileyFace26 SmileyFace26 9 years
I am a picker as well, I have to be careful, I have fair skin and so I have a few scars. But now that I am better with my skincare, I have less to pick at. I have very very few blackheads now.
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
I am trying to stop picking however it is so difficult! I see these nasty blackheads and want to rip the d*mn things right out. I think I have some spots of skin that are slightly darker from damage. However I have been trying to change my way with a new skincare routine. I noticed though, that if I don't pick at my face then I pick at my shoulders and neck when I work the computer. Ugh!
Beauty Beauty 9 years
Thanks for sharing your stories! It may help temporarily to put on a mask when you get the urge. You literally can't pick, and by the time you wash it off, hopefully your skin looks better and the urge has passed. Angela123, the article probably isn't online - it's in the new issue, with Jennifer Lopez on the cover.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I have this problem, too. For me, my issue is that I have a neurotic streak. So if I start picking, and I just don't stop. I take it too far. I make my tiny (practically invisible) blemish much worse. Lately, I've been better about this. Knowing that I can become overly neurotic about my skin, I stopped examining my face. I don't analyze my skin anymore. Analyzing my skin triggers my neurosis, so I don't do that anymore.
MrsJamesTKirk MrsJamesTKirk 9 years
From ages 12-15 I would pick a LOT, and, after a while, I just talked myself out of it. My skin always looked so much worse afterward, and I couldn't cover the scab up with makeup. My skin has also improved a LOT since then (most of the time it's pretty near perfect, now), so that makes a big difference. Still, if it's right before my period or I have some big event coming up and I've got a huge zit on my face, I will TOTALLY go insane. I can't help it sometimes. It does seem to actually help with certain pimples too, if they're small. Also, for those who have the urge to pick, try and find something else to do that will make you feel proactive. Use a good face mask or a really heavy duty spot treatment. Then just run out of the bathroom and do something fun and distracting to get your mind off it. Paint your nails or do your hair...anything else to make you feel pretty. Just remember that most people won't notice your skin anyway, especially if you're a teenager and EVERYONE has skin problems.
emalove emalove 9 years
If I have a zit, I always pick at it...I can't help it.
Angela123 Angela123 9 years
my boyfriend does this the point where he has been in the bathroom for an hour and his face is bleeding! I'm looking up the Elle article to show him.
cfp cfp 9 years
I don't really like the idea that this is a medical compulsive issue. It makes me feel like it's going to be a lot harder to quit than it already is. I have a really hard time resisting this particular urge...I usually use an extractor of some kind to get them out (I only pick at blackheads because they bother me most...and I have them EVERYWHERE) and if I don't have a tool I'll use tweezers or anything I can get with edges. I try so hard not to, but I just can't help myself. I don't have the urge to do it when my face is clear, but that's a rarity. I've been seeing a dermatologist since I was 14 and now at 21 and my face isn't any better. The only time that I didn't pick severely was when I was on Accutane. But about a year after I stopped taking it, my acne came back and no other medications (including other prescription pills, gels, creams, etc) have helped. I know I need to stop and I'm thankful I don't have any scars yet but I know it could happen...most of the time when I start it will only be to get ONE blackhead out, but then before I know it my whole face is red, swollen and blotchy and looks worse than when I started on it in the first place. Does anyone have any remedies that worked for them?
demure20 demure20 9 years
meljaye meljaye 9 years
i pick at the cuticles around my nails...have done it all my life. it's worse when i'm stressed (which seems to be alot) didn't bother me until it started bothering other people..."ewww what's wrong with your hands!!!" i've realized that when i have manicured nails i tend to not pick as i've worked a bi-weekly manicure into my monthly budget...
unnamedafterher unnamedafterher 9 years
mrssaraa, I think the ignorant viewpoint is yours. While the article implies antidepressant or anxiety medications might help, but certainly doesn't suggest that they are the only course of treatment. No physician would prescribe these types of medications for picking alone. An individual who recognizes these symptoms in themselves might never have drawn a connection between picking and anxiety/depression. Hopefully, if they felt there was a connection, they'll contact their health care provider and explore the possibilities. But they certainly don't need people like you adding to the stigma that psychological medications are bad or wrong, unhealthy, or the "easy way" to deal with problems- there's enough of that to go around. They may be wrong for you- but that's your personal choice.
weffie weffie 9 years
pickers unite! i knew i wasn't the only one haha... i'm sure it's more a compulsion than a cosmetic thing but, considering i was once a "crazy" cutter & burner, i think picking at pores & freckles is the least of all the evils i've inflicted on my poor skin :D
lilCROAT03 lilCROAT03 9 years
wow how relevant. i picked 2 nights ago bc i was mad at my bf...sometimes i just get into it bc make up get stuck in my pores and i'm too lazy to get facials so i go at em myself . i totally regret it and now i refuse to leave the house (so dramatic).
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