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How To: (Finally!) Stop Picking at Your Face

You know better than to pop that enormous pimple—it’ll likely exacerbate the problem and lead to scarring. But you can’t help yourself. Again. And again. While skin picking varies in severity from the occasional fusser to a full-blown disorder, we can all benefit from a few professional tips. We sat down with psychologist Dr. Laura Curtis Feder of New York’s Clear Clinic, a dedicated acne treatment center, to learn the techniques she uses to help her patients stop obsessing over their faces.

Identify Triggers

Often a specific place—a particular mirror or a bathroom with bright lighting, for example—triggers the urge to pick. “Identify those places” says Dr. Feder, “and raise a mental flag or red alert when you’re going into those spots to guard against engaging in the behavior.” If completely avoiding that space isn’t realistic, Dr. Feder suggests setting a time limit for how long you’re in there and visualizing something in the mirror that will make you walk away, like a giant red stop sign.

Check In

When you’re feeling the urge to pick, check in with yourself to examine the thoughts and feelings that are driving that urge. Is it anxiety? Stress? Boredom? Try to identify the underlying reason behind your picking habit, then consider how to address the root problem.

Occupy Your Hands

If your hands are otherwise occupied, they can’t be picking at blemishes. Some easy recommendations: playing a game on your phone, typing out emails, or giving yourself a manicure.

Take A Photo

If you can’t stop obsessing, try taking a picture of the pimple and saying to yourself, If it still bothers me in 24 hours, then I can touch it. “Often what we see is that picking is an instant gratification, impulse thing,” say Dr. Feder. “The person is unable to wait, even though they know that the damage they’re doing to themselves is so much worse than if they were to just wait for a day for the pimple to resolve itself or for medicine to kick in.”

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