How do I stop touching my face?
May 10, 2005 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop touching my face? Whenever I am sitting still and concentrating, and sometimes when I am anxious or nervous, I touch, scratch and otherwise fiddle with my face. This is not good for me, and results in any small spots/blemishes getting much worse and inflamed, and they stick around for longer than they should. Please help me break this habit and help me get prettier!
posted by altolinguistic to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I remember reading an interview with Jim Carey talking about being the Grinch. He mentioned avoiding itching his face and being trained by, if I remember correctly, a Navy SEAL. Not much help, but perhaps a place to start looking for information.
posted by striker at 8:37 AM on May 10, 2005

Have you tried squeezing a stress ball or having something else in your hand that you can fiddle with? When you are by yourself you could try wearing gloves on your hands to remind yourself. Are you female? If you got some fake fingernails that might make it more difficult for you to pick.
posted by crapulent at 8:39 AM on May 10, 2005

Other ideas:

1. Put super glue on the tips of your fingers. This will definitely make you not want to touch your face.

2. Sit on your hands.

3. Wash your hands in vinegar or some other smelly liquid. Or hold something stinky in your hand when you are studying, sitting at your desk, or wherever it is that you are most likely to scratch your face.
posted by crapulent at 8:47 AM on May 10, 2005

Response by poster: more relevant details - I'm female, 26, and my job involves far too much sitting at the PC alternately thinking and typing. I keep my fingernails very short as a legacy of playing the piano in childhood (another habit I haven't broken!). Not at all keen on fake fingernails - not my style. Stinky things... hmmm...

Does anyone else do this, or is it just me?!
posted by altolinguistic at 9:00 AM on May 10, 2005

I used to have the same problem, and while "avoiding boring things like secondary school" actually helped a lot with touching my face less, what also helps is keeping your nails very short and clean. If there's less place for dirt (and less chance of superficially scratching your skin), there's less chance of infecting pores which leads to spots.
posted by fvw at 9:03 AM on May 10, 2005

Do you get enough sleep? I read somewhere that sometimes habits like this are a symptom of and/or are exacerbated by sleep deprivation. Are you prone to paying attention to your skin later in the day or evening as you get more tired and less focused?
posted by Il Furioso at 9:05 AM on May 10, 2005

On should-have-previewed, never mind then. But it's not just you anyway.
posted by fvw at 9:05 AM on May 10, 2005

I vote for the stressball or some other fidgety item. Maybe some nice lotion to massage into your hands? (Maybe rosemary or peppermint-scented to catch your attention if you start to pick later?) And be patient; it'll take a while to break the habit. And wash your hand often.
posted by Specklet at 9:39 AM on May 10, 2005

Yeah, I tend to do the same thing too. Could you keep little toys around to play with? I imagine the retraining would be something like: keep a stressball on your desk at work - any time you start touching/picking at your face, recognize that this is what you're doing - mindfully pick up the stress ball (or toy, or nice thing to touch) and fiddle with that instead.

It'll take some time, I would guess. You really just need to substitute something else for your fingers to do!
posted by bibbit at 9:41 AM on May 10, 2005

Nervous habits are worse when you're tired and/or stressed. 1st, try to become aware of the activity. Then learn some stress-reducing habits to substitute. When you start to touch your face, do a few deep breaths, or consciously relax your shoulders.

You can also try aversion therapy, and snap a rubber band on your wrist when you catch yourself.
posted by theora55 at 10:48 AM on May 10, 2005

altolinguistic - you are most certainly not alone. i do this too. i haven't found a way to cut it out completely, but sitting on my hands helps reduce it. using hand cream works for me too - makes my hands softer and a little scented, but also slightly oily from the lotion, so i don't want to touch my face with that. my other alternative is to pull gently on my hair, running my fingers through the ends. it's not really a solution though i suppose - more just a transferrance of the action.

i'm definitely much worse when i am overstressed and tired.
posted by netsirk at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2005

When you are by yourself you could try wearing gloves on your hands to remind yourself.

I've heard of this as far as when you're sleeping. I don't know if you touch your face a lot when you're sleeping, but if you're doing it then also, wearing cotton gloves while you sleep would cut down on the amount of total time you're touching your face by quite a bit.
posted by hootch at 11:19 AM on May 10, 2005

Another yes on "worse when tired". Mostly because when I'm tired and trapped at my desk, I really really really just want to prop my chin/cheek on one hand and close my now...

...which leads, of course, to many a zit. I've taken to carrying around a nice cotton handkerchief, which makes a good cushion/shield for those times when I 've got to prop my head up. Long sleeves work well, too--anything so long as you're preventing your bare hands (do you KNOW where those things have been?) from touching your face.
posted by Vervain at 11:21 AM on May 10, 2005

i do the same thing, i either touch my face or run my fingers through my beard or hair. its just started in the last couple of years, its driving me crazy but i havent found a good way to stop yet.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2005

Stupid office toy stuff can work. My coworkers bought a bunch of this stuff and it can be kind of fun to mess with while thinking.
posted by mikeh at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2005

I do the same thing. I either touch my face, or scratch at my scalp. I'm trying the lotion thing, but I'm thinking about getting something like a rubbing stone to keep in my pocket.
posted by stray at 1:24 PM on May 10, 2005

I do it too - on my face, and on my chest (or, the area where my neck meets my chest - if that makes sense). I end up with nasty nasty marks. Also worse when tired/stressed/bored.

Things that help me stop: obsessively using lotion on my hands, so that I rub them together instead of on my face. A slinky to play with, or a stressball. Wearing a necklace that I can touch instead.

Seems like we all just need more sleep!
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2005

I'm a girl who sits at a computer all day, and I do this too. Our jobs are isolated, and I think this may be a weird bioquirk -- after all, grooming is an intensely relaxing and social activity for apes; we've just happen to become largely hairless. I believe most of us suffer from a lack of asexual, relaxing touch. All day long, we pick nits out of documents, and no one picks nits off of us. It is damn depressing.

So, to avoid unconsciously pawing at myself, every so often I go off to the bathroom and brush my hair with a hard-bristled brush, something I can really feel against my scalp, or better yet, floss. It's such a grown-up responsible healthy thing to do it's above reproach, and this nit-picking compulsion is peculiarly satisfied by it. Stress balls may work for others, but I personally find that compulsively squeezing a ball of sparkly goo rather than my own live skin does little relieve that very specific grooming desire.

(Oh, and sleep, drink, eat, exercise the correct amount, of course -- not that I do -- but what could it hurt?)
posted by melissa may at 6:58 PM on May 10, 2005 [4 favorites]

I also have this problem, so you're not alone. None of you! Ha! But I could never figure out what to do about it. Maybe I, too, just need more things with which to fidget.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:59 PM on May 10, 2005

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