Popping pimples is a struggle acne sufferers know all too well. Acne is a difficult journey, and occasionally when we feel overwhelmed, popping pimples or stress picking becomes a tempting alleviation.
My personal journey with picking was a difficult one to navigate, but over time I created techniques to resist the urge and treat my skin better overall. These actions were the ones that made a difference in my skin, helping to lessen the severity of my acne.
Let’s rewind to a time that I wasn’t so kind to myself. When my acne was at its worst, I found my fingers instinctively reaching for my face. I didn’t even realize that I was scratching or picking while doing my homework or having a difficult phone conversation.
When I am stressed out, I tend to break out. And when I was breaking out and stressing out simultaneously, picking became a temporary fix for me. It didn’t solve the problem (in fact, it made it worse). But when I was looking for a quick fix it felt like I was at least doing something.
Unfortunately ‘doing something’ resulted in damaging my skin and causing scarring. Logically I knew this anxiety- relieving habit was destructive, and would lead to more problems down the line. But there were mornings in front of the mirror that I’ll admit I didn’t care.
I wanted my acne GONE, and popping a pimple seemed to show a result faster than waiting for my medications or skin-care regimen to kick in.
Stopping the picking was a huge challenge for me. But when I finally faced the fact that it was causing more problems, I decided to come up with different options so I could take care of my skin properly.
Here’s the toolbox of treatment techniques that made a tremendous difference for me:
1. Do Something
Part of my picking stemmed from the fact that I felt I didn’t have control over my acne. My skin didn’t begin improving until I started taking action. Instead of feeling helpless, passive and depressed, I decided to take action.
Whenever I got stressed I got my hands off my face and into my medicine cabinet. I would wash and cleanse my face, (even if it was in the middle of the day) and usually apply a mask or spot treatment over the areas that were bothering me most.
I have always gravitated toward products that have a cooling, warming or tingling sensation. But the key is finding a product that is right for your skin type.
2. Ice, Ice Baby!
Inflammation can be a telltale sign of acne, and it definitely was for me. When my skin was inflamed, it made my acne look and feel worse than it actually was. Of course, picking just aggravated the problem.
One of my favorite quick fixes was grabbing an ice cube and putting it over the angry area. That helped me reduce the size and redness of my pimples, and helped combat some of the damage I had done those times I slipped up and scratched.
Similar to icing an injured knee or sore back, icing pimples may help alleviate pain and severity. A personal bonus for me was the psychological aspect. Ice is cold (duh). So when I applied ice to my skin it triggered a sensation and a feeling (aaah).
Picking became a release for me. And ice was the perfect replacement, causing slight discomfort if I held it there long enough, but without doing any actual damage.
3. Resist and Make Up!
Habitual picking was a huge challenge for me. Even when I was following the steps above and actively tried to stop picking my hands would gravitate to my face when I was stressed out ⸻ especially when I was studying and doing homework. Without even realizing it, I was scratching and popping pimples!
Cue makeup. This might sound counterintuitive. But I found makeup was a wonderful tool to help me stop popping and picking.
There was one day I was wearing mascara and had a twitchy itch on the side of my eye. As much as it bothered me, I just blinked until it went away. When I got to thinking about it, I realized that when I was wearing mascara or eye makeup I didn’t allow myself to rub my eyes.
I decided to use the same concept and apply it to my skin. I realized that most of my picking happened after I had gotten home from school and had taken off my makeup. When I was wearing a full face of foundation, I knew subconsciously not to touch my face for fear of messing up my makeup.
I decided to start keeping my makeup on or reapply it when I knew that I would be studying or in a stressful situation. This turned out to be the perfect way to keep my hands off of my face!
Popping can be tempting for tons of reasons. But these coping mechanisms made a huge difference in my health and happiness. The more I kept my hands off my face, the less dirt, oil and bacteria I was spreading, and the less inflammation I was causing.
This is my personal toolbox of techniques. Feel free to use these or find your own coping mechanisms. Either way, try hard not to pop that pimple!