Skin Picking: It's More Serious Than You Think

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Whether it’s because of a blackhead, callus or a scab, most of us are guilty of picking at our skin every once and a while. For many, it’s hard to stop and they find themselves repeatedly touching, rubbing, scratching, picking at, or digging into their skin—a condition known as chronic skin picking (CSP).

The actual cause of CSP is unknown but it can be attributed to a variety of factors. “While some people begin this behavior only after an injury or disease of the skin, others may view it as an emotional outlet, with the behavior spiking in instances of anger or frustration. In either case, the result can lead to scarring of the skin – the epidermis and/or dermis, noticeable tissue damage and in some cases infection can occur at the site," says New York dermatologist and contributing dermatologist for Algenist skin care Jody Levine, MD.

“Over time, if this behavior is repeated on the same patch of skin, the area can often experience discoloration and thickening,” says Dr. Levine. Scars can form as well, leaving the skin with an uneven skin texture that may be permanent.

It’s important to distinguish the difference between this disorder and the occasional skin picking that most people experience. Seek help if you’re experiencing one of more of these common characteristics of CSP:

  • Inability to resist urges to pick at real or perceived blemishes in the skin
  • Mounting tension before picking
  • Gratification and relaxation while picking
  • Noticeable sores or scarring on the skin
  • Increased distress and/or interference with daily life

Learn more here.

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  • Annette Pasternak

    I am a health coach specializing in behaviors like this. I can say that depending on the severity of the CSP you may be able to learn to keep it in check yourself or you may need expert help. There is a blog on my website with self-help tips which may be a good place to learn how to stop picking.

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  • solution

    Try taking Xlaravis for a few months. Cleared everything up fast.

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  • cindy

    I have cystic acne and when it starts up the picking starts and then we start that nasty cycle. When it clears, nothing to bother with. The social stigma that come from cys acne, mentally, all you want to do is make it go away at any cost.

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  • Maria

    I'm a chronic skin picker. I scratch my left wrist, and I've been doing this for 30 years. The skin is usually dark and scaly, with small scabs. It's so relaxing and so difficult to stop.

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  • Sarah

    I feel like I do it every night after washing my face and before bed. I will try to stop once I see that my skin is starting to get beat up, but sometimes I can't help it. When I didn't have a small bathroom mirror, I would forget about doing it. My suggestion is that for those with a serious picking problem- try to stay away from those cloes mirrors that you can sit down at for time on end.

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  • Claudio Pinto
    Master Aesthetician - New York, NY

    I often recommend my patients use a very good moisturizer and makeup. What you can't see you cant obsess over and pick. This is why weather when on acne treatment or after chemical peels its so very important to have proper post care. I do agree if it becomes obsessive that one must seek help. But the best to do is let the skin heal and try first moisturizing and covering the skin with products that are easy to use and effective in covering things up. It's important to be realist with patients and providing them with the best possible care!

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