We all pick at our skin (or at least many of us pick). Some pick even if there is nothing there to pick. We pick when stressed, tired, frustrated, or sometimes hormonal. Picking can be a symptom of maintaining control or a medical condition.
As a teenager (and I guess for years into my 20s and 30s) I could crush some serious time sitting on the bathroom counter with my face pressed against the mirror looking at every breakout and imperfection that needed extracting. There was nothing more satisfying than the feeling of a whitehead popping or a blackhead being pushed out of my skin completely intact.
I remember sitting with my body contorted so I could be as close to the mirror as possible and feel my fingernails digging into my skin. I can still hear the voice in my head saying “don’t keep squeezing, you are going to take it too far”, just as the crescent shape of my nail cut my face, and lifted skin. Even with my face bleeding, I would be disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the plug of dirt, oil, and bacteria out of my face.
What was left behind was an injury that was hard to cover up and A LOT more visible to the outside world than the original blemish.
Since my 15 years as a licensed esthetician, I have learned that ‘picking’ our face is more of a psychological trait that we could just stop anytime because someone told us that it’s bad.
So let me clarify —
WHAT IS PICKABLE & WHAT IS NOT PICKABLE
WHAT IS PICKABLE?
There are only 2 that you have a free pass to pick: whiteheads and blackheads. Whiteheads, the red inflamed white heads that as kids we call ZITS. Blackheads are those thick oily dark plugs that most of us as oily-skinned teenagers had.
Whiteheads should not be confused with milia which are hard little white bumps that are close to the surface of the skin.
Now just because they are pickable doesn’t mean you SHOULD pick. And I’m not saying this in a mom-like nagging voice, I’m just saying if you don’t pick these very tempting things on your face, your skin will heal faster. Your breakouts will be less irritated and they will be easier to conceal and cover up with makeup.
Don’t believe me? Experiment. Focus on 2 different breakouts. Pick at one and leave the other alone, putting spot treatment and makeup on the one you are leaving alone and go to town picking the crap out of the other one. Tell me which went away faster.
WHAT IS NOT PICKABLE?
Cystic acne is NOT pickable. Cystic breakouts are those frustrating underground pimples that one can often feel deep along the jawline before they ever come to the surface. Sometimes they tingle, maybe they itch and often they ache.
Cysts may last for a week or more, and can typically recur in the same place every time you are due to have your period. That’s not to say men don’t experience them too but it tends to be more common in women due to hormonal shifts.
Cystic Acne is generally caused by a hormone fluctuation that is happening internally. No amount of picking will set them free. They need to be absorbed back into the body. Picking will only leave unsightly marks from the pressure of your finger and possible injury from your nails.
Best home solution for cystic breakouts? I have found my clients have the best success with these two products.
When using either product, saturate the cyst with a dime size or larger amount of product, and apply with your finger or a QTip. If using it during your PM routine, sleep in the product. If using it in your AM routine, let it absorb in before layering another serum, moisturizer, and SPF on top.
5 TRIED AND TRUE TIPS TO KICK THE HABIT OF PICKING
#1 Ditch the magnifying mirror
Do I really need to explain this one? Magnifying mirrors enhance the imperfections on our faces that we are most self-conscious about that no other mortal can see.
Wanna see what people actually see when they look at us?
Stand in front of a mirror at the same distance you would stand in front of another person. Then you can see what the world sees.
#2 DON’T LEAN INTO THE BATHROOM MIRROR
When you feel your hips hit the bathroom counter, it means you are leaning into the mirror. Back away or leave the bathroom altogether.
#3 COVER THAT SHIT UP
If you have a blemish or pimple that is offending you, put on makeup or coverup so it will be less visible and less tempting to pick at it.
#4 USE A SPOT TREATMENT
If there is nothing to pick at, you won’t pick. All skin is different, so it may take some trial and error to find the ingredients that work best for you. Here are a few (I have many more that I like) of my favorite spot treatments to help make breakouts go away quickly.
#5 WASH YOUR FACE IN THE DARK
Perhaps your desire to pick is too great and none of the previous hacks work for you. Then take all temptation out of the equation and wash your face in the dark. I mean use just enough light so you aren’t accidentally washing your face with moisturizer but keep the light so dim that it is impossible for you to see your face for picking and then get in and get out of that bathroom as fast as possible.
Face picking is psychological and there is no overnight remedy for that. I would suggest taking it one day at a time and making sustainable decisions such as knowing what is okay to pick and what isn’t. I hope the 5 practical tips will slowly help you in this journey – and let me know which worked right away for you!
Need more tips on how to deal with your specific picking issue? Click this link to sign up for my Skincare Coaching Package, and together we will create a routine that helps avoid the picking while getting your skin to look gorgeous and glowing.
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