how to stop picking your skin!

image source: trich.org

ARE YOU A PICKER?

if you consciously or unconsciously pop, squeeze, poke, scratch, peel, extract, pinch, or rub at your skin – this blog post is for you! at skinSALVATION, if you do any of the above to your skin, we consider you a “picker”. i know, i know, it’s not the most lovely of titles. i wasn’t happy to learn i was a picker; i thought i was extracting my acne properly when i saw white stuff come out! but it comes down to this – it doesn’t matter how exactly you’re messing with your skin, if you are physically aggravating it with your hands or other tools, you are going to slow down the clearing process.

this is a big deal. being a picker will be an important factor in how fast we are able to clear up your skin; your journey to clear skin will be a slower, more frustrating one if you are unable to keep your hands off your face. sometimes, if the picking (or scratching, rubbing, etc) is bad enough, it will inhibit people from clearing up altogether.

unfortunately, it can be super difficult for people to keep their hands off, especially when they see a juicy white head that looks ready to extract! so, while i know how hard it is and have compassion for those struggling (especially since i have had trouble quitting the picking behavior myself), it is also my job to get clients to leave their skin alone, so don’t hate me when i ask you “how is the picking is going?”

so, we have an array of suggestions, some may be helpful for you and others may not be, but as i tell clients everyday at sS – some effort is better than no effort! it is worth a shot, and any decrease in the physical aggravation to your skin will increase the rate at which you clear up.

as a side note, even the estheticians here at skinSALVATION refrain from extracting our own skin. there’s so much that goes into a proper extraction – you need good light and a clear view of the pore opening so that you can ease the seed out with as little trauma to the skin as possible. you also need the right leverage to get the right angle to completely clear the seed out of the pore. too much pressure in the wrong spot can rupture the cell walls, which leads to bacteria spreading, new breakouts in pores nearby, and the textural scarring known as pock marks. after all – anyone can get a mirror and a pair of scissors to cut their own hair – but will it be as good a cut than if you let a professional do it for you?

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER:

1. i remind my clients all the time, some progress is better than no progress, and all progress is worth giving yourself credit for! taking (small) steps everyday to self-care / self-love adds up overtime. try to think through the process of what happened the last time you picked. you probably ended up with a big mark that took forever to heal, and scarred, right?? cultivating this gentle mindset towards yourself is a HUGE way of giving yourself self-love.

 

2. be open to professional help. if stopping picking altogether was as easy as reading a blog post and taking a few suggestions, we’d all be cured! as you know by now, unfortunately, it can be a complicated behavior to stop. there are cognitive behaviorial therapists that specialize in BFRB (body-focused repetitive behavior). kristin southwick is a great one that has helped many of our clients with excessive picking of the skin – she’s no longer working within the bay area, but may be available for remote counseling (email us so we can send you her information). trich.org is a great resource to find help and community!

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD OF PICKING:

ice your face, #1 recommendation we make to clients of all time. it will help decrease inflammation = make acne less pickable. we have most of our clients using these ice pop makers. you can ice for up to 30 minutes, just remember to cleanse your face beforehand and keep the ice moving (to avoid frostbite) and don’t apply too much pressure (this can lead to more inflammation). icing works well to treat existing inflamed acne as well as prevent it, and it helps to drive your active products further into the skin. win win win!

squeeze a stress ball! this can be helpful for those who unconsciously pick their skin, for example while on the computer or watching tv. these are the isoflex stress balls we hand to our clients during our signature face treatments, to keep their hands busy 🙂 koosh balls, play dough, anything your hands can fiddle with will work.

meditation can be helpful to reduce stress levels, and if stress is one of your “picking triggers” this would be a more preventative approach. it could also help right in the moment too though! we recommend clients use the simple habitcalm or insight timer apps for guided meditations. youtube has super helpful videos too, and if you find that meditating is difficult because your mind starts going a mile a minute when you try to sit quietly (my experience), then body scan meditations are a great place to start! i like this one because it’s only four minutes. meditating is a practice of being aware, and noticing your mind wander off (and bringing it back to the meditation) is awareness in itself.

turn the lights down low. we suggest that you refrain from turning the bathroom light on when doing your regimen. instead, you can light candles (i find this makes it more of a self-care routine versus a self-critique session), set up a himalayan salt lamp, or just simply leave the door open so the hallway light can get in. overall, the idea is to have more flattering lighting. one of our esties, kayla, never turns the big light on when doing her regimen and this has helped her immensely.

 

here are a few gadgets that you can try out. this toy soybean is a keychain so you could use on the go! this keychain is supposed to be like bubble wrap. if you want to try something that literally looks like a pimple, you could try this, called the pop it pal.

 

find (and use) resources online. check out our pinterest board on skin picking for more strategies to keep your hands off your face, as well as for ideas on how to live the acne-safe lifestyle to avoid the formation of acne in the first place!

free your mind with EFT! try using the emotional freedom technique (EFT). if you haven’t heard of it, do not worry, i did some research and included my findings below. i based most of the information on what gary craig, the founder of eft, says on his website and youtube videos. i think it has potential to help people stop picking their skin – it seems a little woo-woo but is worth a shot!

SOME BACKGROUND ON EFT:

according to gary craig, “the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system”. if that statement is true, based on that basic idea, energy disruptions are the reason for any emotional issue, whether it be actual emotions like grief or other issues that have emotional roots like stage fright. once you identify the energy disruption, you can use the tapping process to correct them. the eft tapping basic recipe is described in detail in this blog post so that you can simply read along and apply it to whatever personal issue you want to improve upon/release.

here’s another explanation of this technique given by holistic doctor mercola:

eft is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles. instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on the head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. — and voice positive affirmations.

this combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the “short-circuit” — the emotional block — from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease.

and yet another anecdote: after suffering from allergies for years, our founder + ceo finally found drug-free + long-term relief with advanced allergy clinic, whose work is very similar to EFT, as dr. mercola has described (except without the verbal affirmations). feel free to email kim@skinsalvationsf.com to find out more about her experience!

we are going to use the example problem of having the “urge to pick skin”. before reading on, if you want to watch an introductory video with some clips of people who have changed their lives using eft you can click here.

the points used are based on the pathways (meridians and vessels) that acupuncturists use. they are either on/near the end-points of the energy pathways or at points along these pathways that are close to the body’s surface. the theory is that the tapping stimulates the energy pathways thereby balancing the disruptions.

BASIC RECIPE FOR EFT:

one important thing to keep in mind: language used always aims at negative because it’s the negative that creates energy disruptions (and the eft goal is to neutralize them).

also, if you’re a visual learner, it might be helpful to watch the video i based the notes below on.

1st step: identify issue and make assessment on current intensity of problem, how bad on scale of 0-10.

  • example phrase: urge to pick at skin, level of 8.

2nd step: setup. tap the karate chop (KC) point with two or more fingers (fleshy part of outside of hand) while saying setup phrase in the format of “even though i have this ____, i deeply and completely accept myself.”

  • example phrase: even though i have this urge to pick my skin, i deeply and completely accept myself

3rd step: sequence. while tapping each point about five times, say a reminder phrase that includes a brief statement to remind our system what we’re working on. each point is marked on the diagram below.

  • example phrase: “this urge to pick my skin”

1st point: top of head (TOH). tap with your finger tips while saying reminder phrase.

2nd point: beginning of eyebrow point (EB). tap with 2 finger tips while saying reminder phrase.

3rd point: side of eye on corner of orbital bone (SE). tap with 2 finger tips while saying reminder phrase.

4th point: under eye on orbital bone (UE). tap with 2 finger tips while saying reminder phrase.

5th point: under the nose (UN). tap with 2 finger tips while saying reminder phrase.

6th point: chin point midway between bottom of lip and chin (CH). tap with 2 fingers while saying reminder phrase.

7th point: collarbone (CB). take fist and thump in area somebody would tie their tye while saying reminder phrase.

8th point: under armpit/on rib cage (UA). take finger and put right on hollow part of armpit, then go down straight 4 inches. tap with 4 fingers while saying reminder phrase.

4th step: reassess issue on scale of 0-10.

  • example: urge to pick at skin, level of 4.

5th step: repeat until goes down to zero or plateaus. if it plateaus, then according to gary, you need to get to the root of the issue more. you can read more about how to do that here.

KEEP US INFORMED:

if you use any of the suggestions mentioned in this post, let us know about your results so that we can better help other people! email emily@skinsalvationsf.com or frontdesk@skinsalvationsf.com

how allyson handles stress

me taking a meditation break during my jam-packed 10 hour day at sS, prioritizing small stress reducing activities like meditation on busy days ensure i stay calm, energized and productive. 

dr. wayne dyer, a self-development coach and author of over 40 books says that “there is no such thing as stress, there are only people thinking stressful thoughts”. this is a powerful concept to reflect on, especially as extremely hard-working, urbanites, grinding to stay on top of extremely competitive industries, and pay our insanely high bay area rents. as an individual who is quite sensitive to even the most mundane stressors such as my daily commute on bart, this was something i had already been working on adjusting in my life, but hadn’t seen my stress so clear, until i read wayne’s words. i often speak to clients about how my meditation practice has transformed my lifestyle, and continues to bring me to a place of peace, urging people to start a practice themselves.

stress being such a huge factor in the acne-game, especially with those painful, deep inflamed lesions, it is important that our clients are doing all that they can to manage and minimize stress. this is where us estheticians come in at sS, acting as cheerleaders for our clients, often pulling from our personal resources, to inspire and motivate the life-changing art of stress management! while i am a huge advocate for self-care and that manifests in my life in various ways, meditation and positive affirmations have become one of the most important tools for taking control of stressful thoughts, feelings, and all of the manifestations that come from stress in my body (poor digestion, bad sleep, bad food choices, angry pimples).

one of the most common things i hear from clients when i suggest they begin a regular meditation practice, is “it’s too hard”, “i won’t be able to turn my mind off”. for beginners, meditation can seem like an impossibly daunting task. most call to mind a time of complete stillness where the goal is to eliminate all mental activity, instantaneously reaching a place of calm, still “nirvana”. i’d like to take this time to clear up this misconception about meditation, in hopes that it will remove some of the fear around starting a practice. personally my practice is all over the place, and that really depends on what i’m working with that day, week, month. some days when i sit and meditate, i really am able to focus my mind inward to a single point, such as my breath, how my body is feeling, or the point of contact with myself and whatever object is supporting me (my chair, bed, the floor). i feel euphoric and an overwhelming sense of joy, stillness, connectedness, and i can spread this energy throughout that day. other days i am unable to focus, i fidget, or can’t find my center. this is completely ok, because meditation for me is not about not thinking, or judging the process of meditation – meditation teaches you to be ok, to find an ease, or a compassion for all moments: both the peaceful and the difficult ones. this is why it is so impactful, because it can decrease that tension and judgement around not- so- pleasant moments of stress in our life. we can learn to be at ease with an extremely packed schedule, or a difficult coworker.

hopefully you are now inspired to combat some of your stress with the wonderful tradition of meditation, so here are some of my favorite resources, apps, meditation spaces, books, and teachers!

meditation apps:

  • calm calm is an awesome meditation app that also includes stress management tactics, adult bedtime stores, walking meditations (great place to start meditation if you are concerned about sitting still) as well as uber relaxing nature sounds, that can be a great touch on a jam-packed day at the office, nothing like hearing the flickering of a fire to instill a little inner peace! i recommend popping on an adult bedtime story if you have issues winding down at night, a much better alternative to popping on a tv show.
  • headspace seems to be a great app for those scientific types, who are looking to increase synaptic connections, focus, productivity, and calm their nervous systems. for those of you who really like evidence-based practices, headspace seems to provide that, as well as amazing guided visualizations, and walking meditation.
  • simple habit was made specifically for busy-on-the go types, and has some very short but sweet meditations, also includes longer meditations for when you get the hang of it, a personal favorite, is the commuting meditation.
  • insight timer is basically an enormous library and meditation community, tons of great guided meditations, sound healing, and binuaral beats!
  • youtube is another great resource for finding guided meditations, inspirational talks, by amazing guru’s like louise hay, gabby bernstein, or jack kornfield.

meditation spaces in sf bay area: amazing communities if you want to learn more about meditation, and sit with a community!

other resources:

being in balance– quick, easy read, that helps you to evaluate your thoughts and how they are impacting your life, i.e are my negative, stress-filled thoughts creating more stress in my life, or am i thinking positive, empowering thoughts that will ultimately lead to more happiness and less worry?

the universe has your back – another great, empowering read that changed my life personally and helped me realize how powerful my thoughts can be, both positive and negative!

10% happier– great, comical read for those cynics, a meditation  memoir written by a very high-profile business type about getting his life and stress together with meditation, check this out if meditation and self-help/new-age healing makes you cringe a bit, he also just came out with an app, 10% happier, subtitled “meditation for fidgety skeptics”.

when to meditate

  • first thing in the morning before i get out of bed is my personal favorite time to meditate, it really helps to set the tone of my day, and squash those early morning anxieties around what the upcoming day will bring. by starting my day with even a 5 minute meditation, i can begin centered, in control of my thoughts, fears, anxieties, practice gratitude, which will ultimately lead to more happiness and productivity.
  • setting an alarm to meditate at some point during your very busy work day is an amazing way to practice stress management. the mind is extremely clever, so just practicing meditation in your office space will increase positive warm thoughts that you will soon come to associate with your meditation space/office!
  • on your daily commute! this is a perfect time to meditate, instead of spending your bart or bus ride scrolling on the ‘gram, give one of the earlier mentioned apps a try next time, this can reduce commute-related stress (see also our amazing blog sS tips for a better commute).

how emily handles stress

emily is a long-time client of sS, turned front desk associate and now, esthetician in training! she’s gone through quite a few growth spurts this year (changed careers, got licensed as an esthetician, started 2 new jobs – reception and esthetics at skinSALVATION, and got married!) and thus, has had her fair share of busy- and sometimes stressful times. it’s been years since i’ve tried to coax her to joining sS, and we are super lucky + happy to have her as part of our team! -kim

if i don’t put a real effort into managing stress, my default mode is to be a stress case. i put a lot of effort into managing it so that i can be the best version of myself, for myself and the people i love and interact with everyday. here’s a glimpse into my stress management toolbox:

meditation is the cornerstone of my approach to handling stress. i especially like body scan meditations to get me back in my body/reality. you can search “body scan meditation” on youtube and find a plethora. i also like this one for when i really need a reset and a reminder that everything is ok. if i don’t even have five minutes to spare, i follow the steps below. i got this technique from here.

  1. get comfortable. adjust your posture (whether sitting, standing, laying down) so that you are in the most comfortable position possible
  2. do a quick scan from head to toe, relaxing each muscle as you move down from head to toe. you can imagine a warm golden glow moving down your body if that helps. this can be done in as little as 5 seconds if you are in a rush, but ideally it would take about 30 seconds-1 minute
  3. smile inwardly and remind yourself that holding onto stress and resentments is silly
  4. take 4 slow, deep breaths and feel the relaxation moving down your body with each out breath. slowly open your eyes after the fourth breath

if other people are stressing me out and i find myself easily annoyed, i try to do a quick spot check inventory to put a stop to the downward spiral of resentments. i’ve included some questions that really help put a hex on unhealthy thoughts – but just a warning, they aren’t always fun to answer. give them a shot next time you’re feeling super stressed at a person or circumstance, i promise it will at minimum change your perspective on the situation.

  • why am I angry?
  • what are my expectations?
  • what am I failing to accept? (accepting opinions of others doesn’t mean I agree with them)
  • do I need to be right instead of happy?
  • what have I done in the past to set this ball rolling? (trains of circumstances)
  • am I being loving and tolerant?
  • where have I been selfish or inconsiderate?
  • where have I been dishonest?
  • where have I been self-seeking?
  • where have I been frightened?
  • where was I to blame?
  • what should I have done instead?

basic miscellaneous tips:

  1. i try not to let myself get too hungry because when my blood sugar gets low my mood gets crazy. eating breakfast helps me avoid getting too hungry throughout the day. if you’re like me and don’t always feel hungry in the morning, i have found that smoothies and oatmeal are an easy way to get some calories quick, and i can drink/eat them fast on my way out the door. 
  2. having two dogs forces me to focus on something other than myself. i start out each day walking my dogs for at least twenty minutes. i get fresh air, exercise, and connection to my community just by walking around the ‘hood. it helps me more than my pups even know!
  3. to get settled at night i drink this and this, plus take 3 of these. i try to stay off my phone and not watch anything too scary on tv before bed so that i don’t get all riled up.

sleep better tonight, look better tomorrow

photo by miikka skaffari

photo by miikka skaffari

getting a restful night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to live an acne-free lifestyle. our bodies restore and heal themselves while we sleep, so to get – and keep – clear skin getting a deep, restful sleep every night is key… they call it “beauty rest” for a reason! (plus, since you’ve kicked the coffee habit, it will help you stay alert, focused, and energized throughout the day without coffee’s nasty side effects.)

if you’re having trouble getting your 7 – 9 hours every night, there are some simple changes you can try incorporating into your daily routine that will help.

no more bright screens before bedtime

you likely already spend your whole day looking at some combination of computer screens, smartphones, tvs, and ipads, so why not give it a rest for a couple of hours before you’re ready to sleep? the brightness from the screens represses your melatonin production, which in turn makes it hard to sleep.

if you’re someone who typically unwinds by watching tv or spending time on your computer, why not try reading a book (just not on an ipad,) taking a bath, having a cup of herbal tea, or maybe a glass of red wine (just don’t overdo it, alcohol can diminish sleep quality.) if you’re concerned about missing your favorite shows, you can always DVR them or watch them online during the day later in the week, when the screen brightness won’t affect your sleep patterns.

for more info check out chris kresser’s in-depth article on how artificial light could be affecting your sleep.

catch some rays

just as staring at a bright screen at night can mess with your melatonin levels, not getting enough natural light during the day can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. if you spend your day in a cubicle, or otherwise deprived of natural light, be sure to take every opportunity to get some sun. go for a walk during your lunch break, find a workspace near a window, open up the curtains in your home. even little things like not wearing sunglasses in the morning can help your body more easily recognize daytime vs. nighttime and regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

eat right and exercise more

we all know that eating right and exercising more are essential parts of living a healthier lifestyle – and they play a huge part in promoting restful sleep. exercising during the day helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, and not eating within two hours of bedtime will lead to a more restful sleep. no need to be a gym rat either, 30 minutes moderate exercise like walking or biking will yield the same sleep benefits as more intense exercise — you can even break it up into shorter times throughout the day.

if you find that you’re hungry before bed try having a snack like a banana or a small bowl of granola with almond milk (some studies suggest that a small amount of carbohydrates before bed can aid with sleep.) or try a snack that’s high in tryptophan, the chemical responsible for promoting a healthy sleep cycle, like a few slices of turkey or a handful of pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, or cashews.

chill out on the caffeine after lunch

it’s probably no surprise that caffeine can seriously disrupt your sleep patterns. for most people, a little bit of caffeine in the morning is fine, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid all caffeinated beverages after lunch since caffeine can take up to 10 – 12 hours to metabolize. if you find that you’re still having trouble sleeping, try cutting out caffeine altogether and have an apple and large glass of cold water in the morning — studies suggest that doing so is even more energizing than having a cup of coffee.

avoid drinking liquids in the evening

stop drinking water, tea, juice, and any other liquids an hour or so before you go to bed, so you’ll be less likely to wake in the middle of the night needing to pee. if you find that you’re really thirsty throughout the night, it likely means you’re dehydrated, so concentrate on drinking water throughout the day instead of at bedtime or in the middle of the night.

quit smoking

smoking is detrimental for lots of reasons (it makes acne worse!), but it is specifically troublesome for sleeping. nicotine is a stimulant, and stimulants disrupt sleep (especially if you’re smoking in the evenings.) furthermore, smokers experience increasing withdrawal symptoms throughout the night, making it really difficult to stay asleep.

get stress and anxiety in check

stress and anxiety can create serious sleep problems. if you can’t stop thinking about work or school and the million things you have to get done the next day, try jotting down a quick to-do list. the simple task of collecting your thoughts and writing them out, will help get them off your mind so you can concentrate getting the rest you need. worrying at bedtime doesn’t accomplish anything other than to disrupt your sleep, instead try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualizing a peaceful night sleep, or progressive muscle relaxation (tense up your whole body as tight as you can, then slowly relax each muscle group starting with your toes all the way up to your head.)

doing yoga in the evenings is also a great way to relax, and bonus, it counts towards your daily 30 minutes of exercise.

find a bedtime routine that works for you

the two hours before bed should be spent doing activities that relax you, not stimulate you, so make sure to get your invigorating tasks out of the way before it’s time to start winding down. for instance, if you find that washing your face wakes you up, do it earlier in the evening. or, if you find that you relax after a shower or bath, take one before bed.

pay attention to what it feels like to fall asleep

when i was a kid, i noticed that when i start to fall asleep, my mind thinks of lots of random things. since then, whenever i have trouble falling asleep, i’ll start to think of things that are totally unrelated (like free-association, but where the associations don’t make any sense) and before i know it, i’m drifting off! if you are able to model your thought or breathing patterns before you actually fall asleep, that can help to trick your mind and body into relaxing to the point that you end up really asleep!

we hope these tips help! if you have any tricks of your own, let us know in the comments. we are always looking for new ways to ensure a peaceful and restful night’s sleep so we wake up feeling (and looking) our best.