I constantly feel the urge to pick at my face/acne. I think this could be considered a skin-picking disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Do you have any advice on how to stop? It gets in the way of my daily activities and makes me feel bad about myself.

Great question, and it’s important to know that you are not alone! It can be really hard to not pick your face, especially when there is a pimple or scab. A lot of us think to ourselves, “if I can just pop or pick this blemish, then it won’t look so bad” but we all know that isn’t always the case. These thoughts are completely normal and don’t necessarily mean that you have a skin-picking disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Dermatillomania is a mental health condition that causes a person to continuously pick their skin, not just their acne or their face. It can lead to injuries, infections, and scarring of the areas picked because the person does it repeatedly. When a person with dermatillomania picks, it will often bring them a sense of relief and success, which isn’t the case with OCD. People with OCD pick because they have to, not because they want to. Skin picking with OCD also doesn’t usually cause injuries or scarring like dermatillomania does.

Picking and popping acne, especially on the face, can make the blemishes much worse. Every time your hands touch your face you are introducing new bacteria to the lesions– putting you at risk for infections of the skin and illnesses like colds, flu, and COVID. You can help reduce the cause of acne by washing your face in the morning before work or school and in the evening before bed. It is also a good idea to talk to your health care provider about your acne and picking habits. They may be able to help prescribe some oral or topical (cream, lotions, ointments) medications to help treat your acne!