Barriers are meant to block contact from your hands to the rest of your skin even when you aren’t mindful about your picking. They also provide a reminder to you of what your goal in having a barrier present is and it can serve as a deterrent from picking at your skin. Whether you utilize a barrier for your fingers, open sores, or externally, it interrupts the automatic motion of hands-to-skin which can turn the ingrained action of picking into a conscience decision.
While effective for many people, creating barriers is something that must be established well before a picking episode, or the potential for one, occurs. Barriers are not long-term solutions to curing Dermatillomania, they are simply meant to interrupt the steps of picking for a person to regain control while offering insight into what can help “in the moment”. Some examples of barriers include:
Bandages – Whether you chose to bandage the tips of your fingers to prevent roaming your skin for imperfections or cover an open wound, a bandage will stop you from going straight for your target.
There are waterproof bandaids, flesh-colored bandaids, gauze, and wraps you may consider. If you fear that changing your dressing may tempt you to pick, choose a trusted loved one or healthcare professional to swap out the old dressings for fresh ones.
Gloves – Wearing gloves can be very effective for people who unknowingly pick their skin. It doesn’t prevent you from going about your day-to-day activities and you may even learn that you pick more than you originally thought. One exercise to try is to wear the gloves for a full day and record when your hands drift to a vulnerable area in an effort to pick. Similar to CBT practices, you can then investigate what your feelings were before you noticed the fabric on your fingers reach for a spot or to roam.
People who pick in their sleep can greatly benefit from wearing gloves when they go to bed. It is nearly impossible to control an action when you are sleeping so gloves can prevent sores from being reopened or created, even if it doesn’t stop the action of picking/ scratching.
Lotions/ Creams – Some people find that the act of nurturing one’s own skin can help to reduce the need to interrupt the healing process. Sometimes a skincare routine can liberate a skin picker by helping him/ her with counter-balancing the harmful actions that comes with having Dermatillomania with loving strokes in applying the product. Promoting skin health can be a form of taking back control over the condition of one’s skin while calming down anxious thoughts. The cleansing and tingly sensations may also be cathartic for the sufferer in a similar capacity as the skin picking itself.
* It is important to note that while this works for some people, others may be adversely affected by the heightened sensation of a substance on the skin which may prompt more touching and unhealthy grooming. If you are negatively affected by an extensive regime, do not continue to over embellish in skincare products. See a dermatologist or skin care analyst for tips on what would work to keep your skin healthy without it triggering your urge to pick (eg. a lightweight moisturizer).
Mirror Coverings – This strategy is for people who find a pimple that needs to be popped from a quick glance in a mirror but then get caught in the contagion of being in front of the mirror for hours of ritualistic, or obsessive, skin picking. Walking by a mirror can be difficult because the moment a skin picker comes across a mirror, imperfections jump out and need to be “dealt with”.
At home this problem can be easily handled- even creatively! Other than taping the side of a cardboard box up against your mirror, take a piece of Bristol board and create a collage of inspiring images and messages telling you that you are beautiful and that you deserve to be happy! If being around a mirror to pin it up is too tempting, as a loved one you trust to do the honors; this can also be removed for when you have visitors so that your privacy remains if your disorder is a secret.
If you’re running short on time and need something quick, use a can of fake snow (for winter window decorations) on your mirror without causing it permanent damage.
Lighting – While deemed more of a preventative measure, adjusting your lighting can play an important role in keeping you from noticing marks on your skin which in turn helps you avoid the cat-and-mouse game with your picking.
Fluorescent lighting makes even the fairest of skin appear splotchy which can create a panic for a compulsive skin picker. Dim the lighting where you have control, especially in the locations you are prone to pick in. You can also replace a light bulb with a lower wattage or even keep the lights off altogether.
Many people with Dermatillomania are susceptible to engaging in this behavior at nighttime, which is where this tactic will be the most useful. Whether the bathroom or the bedroom is your chosen spot before you sleep keep the lights off while navigating your home. You may also carry a flashlight (to occupy one hand) to help guide you to bed.
Nails – One of two techniques have kept some people away from picking at their skin. While some find it effective to grow their fingernails long and have acrylic or gel nails applied, others swear to having their nails trimmed very short as a way to making the task of picking harder to achieve. With manicured hands, some sufferers have reported that the smooth endings of the nails won’t pierce into their skin- thus causing little to no damage in the attempts to pick. For the same reason, others choose to keep their nails cut to the quick so that they cannot get to the details using their fingers without the hassle that is associated with having long nails.
Additionally, paint your nails! Take pride in your expressive self as picker-upper. Short or long, some extra colors or designs, pamper yourself with a little bit of extra love (also, you may be less prone to pick since nail polish tends to chip quicker when picking).
Makeup – Many people with Dermatillomania will wear makeup to hide the markings on their face. One problem with this is that certain products cause your skin to become oily and you may experience breakouts, which may exacerbate your urges. Speak with cosmeticians about products that are right for your skin type and try some primer to reduce redness.
How is this a barrier? What you can’t see you can’t be triggered by. The purpose of wearing the makeup is not to hide from the world in shame but to hide the marks from yourself, even if it’s just so you don’t sneak a glance in the mirror from afar to see a few pimples that will create turmoil from within.