Is dermatillomania destroying your skin?

dermatilomania blog

Dermatillo-what? Many of us have never heard of this disorder, and those of us who have are all too familiar with the damage it can do to otherwise perfectly healthy skin. So what is it, and how do you know if you have it?

Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder or skin picking disorder, is when a person obsessively picks at their skin. The most commonly targeted areas include scabs, skin around the fingertips, and other perceived imperfections in the skin. While we all pick at our skin from time to time, people with this disorder frequently cross the line into picking that causes harm, scars, and even infections. And while skin issues related to excessive picking can be treated by a dermatologist, the root cause of this is not actually in your skin at all.

While there isn't really one certain thing that can determine whether or not a person develops this disorder, there are some pretty common triggers. Stress and anxiety, negative thoughts or feelings, and even chronic skin concerns like acne or eczema can quickly turn into a picking problem if not addressed early on. 

Not at all. It sounds counterintuitive because this disorder presents on the skin, but its roots are psychological. While we aren't in a position to treat psychological wellness, we can provide information on how to come to an educated guess that you are suffering with this disorder, what the signs are, and how it can impact your skin's health long term.

Dermatillomania can manifest through excessive picking at blemishes, cracked lips, peeling skin, and other skin imperfections on the face and body. But don't worry—it's perfectly normal to want to pick at pimples and pop them, so take comfort in knowing that you don't necessarily have this disorder just because you get enjoyment out of this. If that were the case, almost every dermatologist in the world would be diagnosed with dermatillomania. 

However, if you find yourself picking at EVERY single imperfection on your face and body to the point where it causes small injuries or draws blood, this might be cause for concern. You're opening your skin up to infection and scarring, and this is even worse for chapped lips. You're introducing a lot of bacteria and potential illnesses to your system by constantly touching your mouth. If you have chronically dry lips that you feel a constant urge to pick at, contact a dermatologist to find ways to restore moisture to the area and address the underlying cause. Many people don't realize that scaly, chapped lips that won't go away can sometimes be caused by actinic keratosis and cancerous lesions. 

Just like with the rest of your body, a similar disorder called trichotillomania that can impact your scalp and hair too. Picking at your scalp can actually damage follicles and lead to bald patches, as well as the compulsive need to pluck out hairs. If you're constantly pulling and plucking at your hair, brows, or lashes, this is a signal of the disorder and a psychologist or psychiatrist may be able to provide you with a better diagnosis and the proper treatment so that you don't have to suffer with hair loss and scalp damage. 

You might not think dermatillomania applies to you because you tend to leave most of your skin and hair alone, but if you're aggressively picking and biting at your nails and cuticles, this may be a sign. We don't need to warn you how risky it is to bite at your fingers because we are all aware of the illnesses we might encounter. But this repetitive action can cause a lot of harm to your nails and fingers. Getting regular manicures or acrylic nails might help keep hang nails to a minimum and prevent you from chewing at your nails, however, you still need to address the underlying cause if you're doing something like this chronically. Otherwise, it might just start to manifest in another area of the body. 

Once you obtain an official diagnosis for dermatillomania, your next step should be meeting with Supriya Tomar, MD to help you address any damage to your skin that may have been caused by this disorder. Give us a call at 561-805-9399 or email us at to schedule an appointment.

Posted by Supriya Dermatology