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How To Stop Your Picking Lips Habit: Essential Tips & My Journey

Have you ever found yourself in a sudocrem-smeared battle with a determined toddler who moonlights as a skin and lip-picking expert? Picture this: sticky plasters strategically placed, a three-year-old donning a doctors costume, and a desperate and tired parent learning the hard way never to leave sudocrem lying around.

Welcome to the world of lip-picking dilemmas—a world I’ve intimately navigated with three of my daughters battling dermatillomania while tackling my own bouts of trichotillomania.

I’ll be updating this post about in the near future detailing some scars that have resulted from compulsive picking and pulling — as an added cherry on top of this delicious crapcake, I’m also dealing with alopecia barbae!

Latest Update: 01/02/2024

Ready to learn more? Read on friends.

How To Stop Picking Lips Habit

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Dermatillomania

Do you find your lips caught in a relentless picking habit, stuck in a cycle of discomfort? Understanding the complexities behind lip-picking is the first step toward breaking free. In this post, we’ll delve into essential tips to curb this habit and explore additional insights, including assistance for concerned parents like myself who may have picked up on their child’s compulsive behaviours, or indeed exhibit these problems themselves.

Trigger Warnings: This article does discuss self-harm and suicide.

Self-Injury & Lip Picking

Lip-picking can become a tough cycle, often linked to self-injury. Recognising the triggers, whether boredom, nervousness, or anxiety, is crucial. If you find that the habit persists during stressful times, it might indicate a form of self-injury that requires attention.

What Does Self-Injury Mean?

Self-injury involves deliberately harming the body without suicidal intent. Identifying the root cause can reduce or halt this habit, especially when related to past issues or stress.

Lip Picking in Children:

For parents concerned about their child’s lip-picking habits, it’s essential to be vigilant. Signs such as persistent lip damage, avoidance of social situations, or worsening habits during stressful periods should not be overlooked.

OCD Response Prevention in Toddlers

My toddler started picking her lips and showing signs of derma around scabs when she was just 3. A combination of sudocrem and plasters helped us break this cycle over about 6 months. It took time, but the process worked, and she’s thriving now. Plus, she’s turned into a little “Dr. Fix-it” with plasters!

Note to self: Never leave sudocrem lying around; the removal process is a real challenge.

This strategy might not work for your child but it’s worth a shot if the picking isn’t solely focused on the lips, as response prevention is a well known OCD tactic.

If you or your child struggle with lip picking, then I have had success with applying lip balm (or vaseline) to prevent lips from getting chapped or skin from flaking off. I struggled a lot with lip picking when I was 8/9 and I didn’t really stop until I was about 12. The vaseline routine does work but it takes time and patience.

I have also spent an inordinate amount of money on fidget toys and distraction techniques over the years. We had some luck with the ONO Rollers Jr (affiliate link) and they’re pretty indestructible. They’ve been covered in food and all sorts of other yuck, dropped down the stairs and fallen out of pockets onto solid floors, but work just as well as the day I bought them.

I’ll also admit to spending a few hours “testing” them as well.

What Causes It?

The triggers for repetitive body-focused behaviours, like lip-picking, are complex. Stress and anxiety play a role, often worsening the severity of the habit. Understanding your triggers is key to developing effective strategies for correcting the behaviour.

Warning Signs in Children:

Parents should observe changes in their child’s behaviour, especially if lip-picking becomes a consistent response to stress. If accompanied by withdrawal, mood changes, or signs of distress, seeking professional guidance from your GP is probably your best bet.

Spotting the Signs in Your Journey

In the labyrinth of skin wellness, you might find yourself at a crossroads. Maybe you’re not sure that you have a compulsion yet? Have a look at the list below and see how many ring true with you.

  • The persistent inability to refrain from picking at your skin
  • Unintended consequences like cuts, bleeding, or bruising from picking
  • A penchant for smoothing or perfecting moles, freckles, spots, or scars through picking
  • Unconscious picking, perhaps even during sleep
  • The emergence of skin picking as a coping mechanism during anxious or stressful times

Tools of the trade in this struggle extend beyond mere fingers and nails, those in the depths of the disorder *waves* may use teeth or various tools like tweezers, pins, or scissors to “scratch the itch”.

My daughter seems to default to “I’m not picking, my skin is just itchy” or “there’s a hair in it”. Although her ailment isn’t solely lip picking I find that the lip picking element ramps up in the winter months!

How To Stop Your Lip Picking Habit

Breaking the lip-picking cycle requires a multifaceted approach. Follow these steps to promote healthier lips and reduce your urge to pick.

This is a change that needs your care, love and attention, whether for yourself or your child. Sometimes this condition does need medical intervention, so make sure you book a GP appointment if you’re finding that you absolutely cannot stop picking, if you or your child are causing repetitive injuries that struggle to heal or if the emotion stress is affecting your daily routine.

It’s ok to need a little extra help – I tried CBT and low-dose anti-depressants to try and stem my own issues with TTM. Neither were particularly helpful at the time, but taking the first step to change meant that eventually I found a routine and little tricks to reduce my impulse to pick.

There are also links to sensory processing disorders and ASD diagnoses which are rife in my family and the co-morbidity of these conditions is quite high.

How To Stop Picking Lips Habit


Keep your hands engaged – perhaps try squeezing a soft ball or don gloves.

Identify when and where you tend to pick your skin, then actively avoid these triggers.

Gradually resist the urge to pick for longer durations.

Care for your skin when the urge strikes – moisturise as a protective measure.

Share your battle with others; having a support system can help you recognise moments of unintended picking.

Maintain skin hygiene to ward off potential infections.


Allow your nails to grow long; keep them trimmed to minimise the temptation.

Keep tools like tweezers and pins within easy reach, reducing impulsive access.

Helpful Tips

Here are some tips on how to stop your picking lips habit!

  • Stay hydrated to keep your lips moisturised.
  • Avoid lip-drying cosmetics; opt for emollient balms.
  • Resist licking lips, as saliva can exacerbate dryness.
  • Use a humidifier to counteract dry air, especially in winter.
  • Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, to address the emotional triggers behind lip-picking.
  • Connect with online communities for shared experiences and support, fostering a sense of solidarity.
  • Replace lip-picking with healthier habits like fidget toys, redirecting the impulse positively.
  • Place visual cues and maintain a progress journal to celebrate victories for you and your children

Parents’ Concerns and Offering Help:

For parents worried about their children’s lip-picking habits, here are some key warning signs that you need to be on the look out for.

Warning Signs:

  • Persistent lip damage.
  • Avoidance of social situations.
  • Escalation during stress.

How to Offer Help:

  • Foster open communication.
  • Seek professional guidance if concerned.
  • Encourage alternative stress-relief strategies.
  • Keep an eye on behavioural shifts.
  • Dig deep into those emotional triggers.

Final Thoughts:

Breaking the cycle of lip-picking requires commitment and a holistic approach. By understanding the triggers, adopting healthy lip care practices, and seeking professional help when needed, you can pave the way for softer, healthier lips.

Whether for yourself or your child, the journey to overcoming lip-picking (or any picking) is mountain that you can climb. One day at a time.

Good luck with your journey. If you’ve conquered the lip-picking dragon or have tips on helping your little ones, spill the tea below!

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