Many of my clients pick their skin. This is an addictive habit exacerbated by extreme or chronically stressful situations and the worst of it is that there is more to pick when we are stressed! Psoriasis, eczema, acne and dry flaky skin can all be partially attributed to the excess cortisol that is produced as a stress response. Hormones, neuropeptides and other signaling molecules also released during these times can be as aging as sunlight because they break down proteins and DNA. All this disruption drives many clients into the bathroom in a quest to somehow fix or ’cleanse’ the situation.

I recently had a client tell me that she ‘prepares’ her bathroom for a picking session. She brings in a magnifying mirror, comfortable chair and box of Kleenex and then works at her skin for an hour or more. She told me it gives her a sense of control, relief, and emotional release. It is also the opinion of Ted Grosshart, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, that the compulsion to pick can be intensified by drugs taken for ADD and ADHD. Of course, after picking and the ensuing irritation and scabbing, most clients feel shame and less social because of their appearance. This form of isolation severely affects their self-esteem. It is a deeply psychological problem and needs to be handled with patience and compassion.

So how can we begin to break the cycle? Keeping the skin surface smooth with exfoliants and regular facials that include the use of AHA’s, BHA’s and other light peeling agents will get rid of little bumps and surface unevenness that might tempt fingers to go to work. Become aware of when you pick – at your desk, in the car, at home when you are watching television, when you have to deal with new environments? Iona Ginsburg, associate professor of psychiatry in dermatology at Colombia University has a useful tip. She suggests her patients put a Band-Aid around the fingers that do most of the picking. We encourage our clients to wash their skins’ by candle-light and time themselves in the bathroom. No more than five minutes to cleanse, tone and hydrate.

We also offer complimentary zaps in between spa visits to keep the skin and the client under control. Once the skin begins to clear and the client is no longer ashamed of how she/he looks, their demeanor and confidence grows. Confucius once claimed: ”True quality of life comes from a lasting harmony between body and mind.” Clear skin is that, plus a great facialist to guide the healing and an easy to follow home care regime that keeps the skin clear and healthy. Then there is no need for picking.