By Philip Tajanko
FEB 20, 2023
We’ve all done it - picked at our skin even though our sensible side knows there won’t be a good outcome. It could be in response to the scab or skin that has healed over a recently popped pimple or injury, or it could be a nervous tic when daily stressors become overwhelming.Whatever the reason, picking your skin has a tendency to initiate a vicious cycle, as the skin often becomes further wounded which can cause additional stress, resulting in an increasing urge to pick at your skin even more. Despite the temptation, it's important to overcome this habit in order to maintain a healthy skin barrier.
Throughout this blog, you will learn about the fundamentals of picked skin, the potential harm associated with it, and how best to recover from it.
What does picked skin look like?
This discoloration is a result of melanin production increasing as part of the natural healing process. For skin that has been picked over time, the skin may appear uneven and rough from a cycle of scarring and reinjury. The longer the habit of skin picking continues, the likelihood of permanent damage being sustained increases, which could lead to a compromised skin barrier1.
What happens to your skin if you pick your face too much?
Scars and bumps
This may also lead to emotional distress and lower self-esteem, causing additional stress and anxiety that can fuel the compulsion to pick skin or any acne present.3 If the habit seems too difficult to break on your own, it may be best to seek professional help for guidance, as there is likely unresolved anxiety and stress leading to the compulsion.
How can I heal skin that has been picked?
Patience and discipline
Once you have overcome the urge to pick your skin, healing skin that has been picked is much like healing any other injury. You’ll want to keep the skin hydrated and well-supplied with nutrients through a protein-rich healthy diet. To optimize the healing process, you’ll want to be in the know of which foods to avoid during wound healing.
Using a simple, gentle, and fragrance-free peptide moisturizer can also help to keep the skin hydrated and prevent irritation or itching that may otherwise prompt a picking response4. As well, topical products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide have been shown to reduce inflammation and the chance of infection5.
This may be surprising since benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acids tend to be drying ingredients but in particular, salicylic acid has been shown to suppress the production of prostaglandins, a class of proinflammatory mediators 6. In the case of benzoyl peroxide, it aids with the release of reactive oxygen species7. Applying a spot treatment of these products sparingly can help give the skin the greatest opportunity for a speedy and healthy recovery.
How long does it take to heal picked skin?
What are common methods to help prevent your skin picking tendency?
4. Therapy or counseling
5. Covering the skin
- Picked skin is prone to infection as the fingers carry bacteria into the freshly created wound.
- Picking can lead to an uneven skin texture as scarification heals the skin imperfectly.
- Stress and anxiety are the largest causes of the compulsion to pick at your skin.
- Picked skin should be well-hydrated and protected with topical skin care products during the healing process to ensure it heals without complications.
- Scars from picked skin can sometimes take years to improve in appearance.
- Be patient and dedicated in regard to the healing of your skin. Try various methods for avoiding picking your skin to find what works best for you.
By Philip Tajanko:
Philip is studying Bioengineering at the University of California - San Diego and is passionate about scientific writing and hormonal research.