Don't Pick at Acne! (But If You Do, Here's How…

Updated December 04, 2014.

Excoriated Acne:

Most people have, at some point or another, given in to the temptation to pick at a blemish. But for some, the picking goes on to the point where skin tissue is damaged, sometimes severely.

Excoriated acne occurs when pimples have been scratched, or picked, to the point of wounding the skin. The picker is unable to stop him/herself from picking. Although anyone can develop excoriated

acne, it tends to occur more frequently in women.

Excoriated Acne is Caused By:

Excoriated acne is quite literally caused by picking, squeezing, or scratching at blemishes. Sometimes, excoriated acne begins as a common case of acne vulgaris. Other times, the sufferer picks at imagined blemishes, or miniscule comedones that are barely visible.

Those with excoriated acne have a compulsive desire to pick at the skin. They may spend hours in front of a mirror, picking at their blemishes. The constant squeezing and picking can cause open sores. When these sores scab up, they lend themselves to more picking. It becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

Excoriated Acne Looks Like:

Depending on how severely the sufferer has picked at the skin, excoriated acne may look like angry red bumps or scratches, to open red sores, crusting and scabs.

At the very least, the constant squeezing makes blemishes more inflamed. At worst, picking at the skin can cause open wounds. These wounds can become quite

large and deep, as the sufferer continues to pick at the sore.

Excoriated acne is often accompanied by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Where the skin has been picked to the point of permanently damaging the tissue, scarring can occur.

How Excoriated Acne Is Treated:

Acne breakouts that do occur can be treated with an over-the-counter product or prescription medication. Antibiotics may be needed if the lesions are infected. But these treatments won’t combat the most significant source of concern: the constant picking at the skin.

People with excoriated acne sincerely wish they could stop picking at their skin. Sometimes, a dermatologist may be able to help by explaining the importance of a “hands-off” policy. But often it isn’t a matter of willpower. This form of acne may also be accompanied by anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression, or other mood disorders.

Treatment for excoriated acne is tailored to the individual. In addition to acne medications, those with excoriated acne may benefit from psychological counseling, drug therapies (for those with underlying mood disorders), or substitution therapies. Another helpful step is getting rid of that magnifying mirror!

If you have the compulsive desire to pick at your skin, you need to talk with your dermatologist or family practitioner. Don’t be embarrassed. This is a recognized medical condition. There are many people just like you who have overcome excoriated acne. With help, you can too.


“Excoriated Acne.” AcneNet. 2008. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed 24 Oct 2008.

Gupta M, Gupta AK, Schork NJ. “Psychosomatic Study of Self-Excoriative Behavior Among Male Acne Patients: Preliminary Observations.” International Journal of Dermatology, 2007; 33(12): 846-848.