I was a chronic skin-picker for nearly two decades. I would routinely lock myself in my bathroom and squeeze the crap out of my face (literally). And then I would shamefully look in the mirror at my self-inflicted wounds and cry. My face would be red and inflamed, and the viscous cycle of skin-picking à more acne à anxiety à skin-picking would be exacerbated. It was relentless and exhausting.
I had no idea how to get off the skin picking merry-go-round, but eventually it seemed to stop happening as much when I started to balance my body and heal my acne. At the time I was just happy not to be picking my skin as much – but recent research is starting to explain why my skin-picking resolved with changes in my health.
It has been understood for awhile that chronic skin picking, otherwise known as dermatillomania, is often triggered by anxiety. This is not a huge surprise considering that acne, anxiety and reduced levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feeling happy and calm, seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, therapies to reduce anxiety, such as journaling, yoga, aerobic exercise, acupuncture and hypnosis are used successfully to help stop skin picking.
But it turns out that the deep connection between acne and skin-picking may have its roots in insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation. Recent studies [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5413000/] have shown that poor insulin regulation can lead to increased levels of both anxiety and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), both of which are leading causes of acne in susceptible individuals. Stabilizing insulin levels, which naturally increases serotonin levels, has been shown to reduce the incidence of both acne and skin-picking.
So even though all the supplements in the world cannot replace the importance of diet and exercise on stabilizing insulin and blood sugar levels, recent studies have found that inositol, a simple carbohydrate that is found in plant and animal tissue, may help stabilize both insulin levels and reduce the incidence of skin-picking [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11235935].
There are two different forms of inositol, myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol, and using both of them together in a 40:1 ratio helps regulate insulin levels [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8392181], increase serotonin levels and reduce anxiety. This translates into 4000mg of myo-inositol and 100mg of d-chiro-inositol daily.
When I look back on my healing journey, taking inositol contributed tremendously to helping me alleviate my acne and PCOS symptoms. And, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, the inositol also helped me curb my obsession with picking my skin.
But keep this in mind – simply popping a few inositol capsules every day is not going to immediately solve your skin-picking problem. Instead, research has shown that a holistic approach is far more effective [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28761349]. Combining the proper diet with aerobic exercise, yoga, and journaling along with inositol is an approach that will help cultivate balance and serenity – and clear skin.