Kicking the Habit

We were in a hotel bathroom in Puerto Rico the first time I tried it. Under the yellow glow of neon lights my older sisters showed me how best to approach it. I got as close to the mirror as I could and started with my nose, applying pressure with my finger nails until I felt the release. The first little batch of blackheads squirted forth from my skin and, immediately, I was hooked — I was a picker.

My skin has always been sensitive — fragrant products and stress bring on break-outs and my pale complexion makes sunblock a year-round necessity — but the picking is really where my issues come from. Since high school I have been prone to cystic acne and all of my poking and prodding makes mountains out of mole hills on my freckled epidermis. Even so, I’ve been fairly fortunate. Others struggle with much more visible skin issues, ones that steal their confidence and make them feel less than beautiful. To damage my skin when others are unable to repair theirs just seems selfish.

So why not stop picking? Because after twenty year it’s not just a habit, it’s part of my everyday life. Each week I spend countless minutes in front of mirrors expelling the build-up of oils and dead cells from my pores. There are nights when I could be in bed a full hour earlier if it weren’t for this compulsion. I start off telling myself, I’ll just get this one… and before I know it the skin on my face is a tortured, blotchy — sometimes bleeding — mess. It’s bad for me and I know it, but something about it feels good and — unlike those pesky blackheads and whiteheads — I just can’t put my finger on it.


One day in and a fresh whitehead decided to make an appearance.

Last week I decided to use the New Year as an excuse to quit the habit. It’s been hard, I had been really going at it in the weeks prior and that, combined with unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, meant that my skin was in especially bad shape but what better time to go cold turkey than after a binge?

Until I start to see some of the rewards, I’m working on a system for positive reenforcement. For my first week without picking, I plan on allowing myself to splurge on a fancy exfoliant (my sister generously gave me some of her Rodin+Fields Enhancements Micro-dermabrasion Paste to try out, I’ll let you know how that goes). If I make it to a month, I’m going to treat myself to a facial.

At the time of posting I have gone seven days without picking. There have been moments of temptation, but I’m keeping my eyes on the prize. In addition to breaking a bad habit and working towards clearer skin, I’m also hoping to learn more about my motivation for doing this — what about it brings me that feeling of calm? And why do I find it so hard to stop once I’ve started? If anyone reading this is a fellow picker (active or reformed), I would love it if you would share your stories in the comments.

Until next time,



One week in and I’m feeling better already

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