Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes, and as much as we all wish we didn’t have one, chances are, we do. While some habits are a bigger detriment to your health, others have a more cosmetic effect. To help you break your bad beauty habit —from picking your skin to biting your nails — we chatted with board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman. Ahead, the five worst behavioural patterns she encounters regularly at her practice, and her top tips for kicking them to the curb.
At the top of Dr Engelman’s list of bad habits is pimple popping and skin picking. “I know it’s tempting, but popping your pimples on your own can have serious consequences,” she warns. “Your hands are covered in bacteria and excess oil that can easily transfer to the skin — so squeezing pimples can actually worsen your existing breakout or cause more.” Even worse, she points out the popping process can lead to scarring and, at the very least, excess redness and swelling, making the spots more noticeable until they finally heal.
Needless to say, you need to kick this bad beauty habit to the curb. To do so, Dr Engelman recommends refocusing your attention on other de-stressing activities. “I find that many people pop pimples to relieve stress, so instead, focus your energy elsewhere,” she says, recommending a stress ball, fidget toy, or “good old-fashioned pen or pencil.” “Another good way to reduce the urge to pick at your zits (or at least, the damage done to your skin if you do) is to keep your nails short. It is harder to pop pimples this way,” she adds.
If you trim your nails regularly, you will be able to ward off Dr Engelman’s second most-encountered bad beauty habit: nail-biting. “Nail biting can be caused by habit, stress, and many other factors,” she says. No matter the cause, however, Dr Engelman says the effect is the same. “It increases your chance of getting sick (by transferring germs to your mouth) and may even lead to an infection around your cuticles,” she warns. While keeping your nails short is her best tip for prevention, she says that keeping them well-manicured can help, too. “Painting your nails or coating them in a special polish that tastes bad can help you stop,” she explains.
On the topic of nails, Dr Engelman says that cuticles are the focus of another bad habit she sees regularly. The trick to stop picking at your cuticles is to first figure out the cause. “If it’s stress or discomfort, refocus your energy,” she suggests, noting that stress and fidget toys also come into play here. If, on the other hand, having long or torn cuticles tempts you to pick, Dr Engelman recommends booking regular manicures to get ahead of the issue at hand (pun intended).
Moving from your hands to your face, Dr Engelman says that another problem involves plucking out eyelashes and eyebrows. “Pulling eyelashes or eyebrow hair is a common stress-induced habit, but it can also be a sign of a serious disorder, trichotillomania,” she explains. “This is a condition that induces a constant need to pull out hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows.” If you think you may be suffering from trichotillomania, Dr Engelman says to seek treatment through therapy. “For casual hair-pullers, however, using a fidget toy to occupy your hands can help,” she adds, noting that she also recommends guided meditation as a means of management.
Do you find yourself regularly biting, picking, and chewing on your lips? Dr Engelman says this is common and generally caused by stress, but that it could lead to some unsavoury symptoms. “Lip picking and chewing can cause irritation and chapping on and around the mouth, as well as increase the risk of infection by creating tiny injuries through which bacteria and germs can enter the skin,” she explains, noting that in extreme cases, it may even result in scarring. To take back control, Dr Engelman recommends replacing lip chewing with gum chewing. “But if you find yourself unable to break the habit, it is best to consult your doctor or seek therapy,” she encourages.
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