Exfoliate Your Skin to Reduce Triggers

Do you pick your fingers when you feel something rough or bite the dry parts on your lips? How about the tiny bumps on the upper arms or thighs?

Rough, dry, and bumpy skin is a huge sensory and visual trigger for me. While I try to accept that textured skin is perfectly normal, I still find it hard sometimes to resist the urge to “fix” things.

I try to get the best version of my skin to reduce triggers. Through proper care, I try to prevent hangnails, reduce breakouts, and manage the symptoms of keratosis pilaris as best I can. 

I’ve never been a big fan of an elaborated skincare routine. In fact, I didn’t have one at all before I started my BFRB healing journey.

So, on a quest to get happier skin, I’ve tried too many, in my opinion, useless skin care products. But two have caught on and made a positive difference—exfoliating and moisturizing. Well, I also no longer say no to a cleanser with salicylic acid.

Exfoliating removes the dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Moisturizing the skin keeps it soft and prevents cracking, which is especially important after exfoliation!

How to exfoliate the skin of fingers, lips, face, and body

These are the different exfoliating techniques I use to smooth the skin of my fingers, lips, and the rest of the body. I don’t have a strict regimen. I do it preventatively before my skin triggers the urge to pick or bite my skin.  

⚠️ Do not exfoliate on open wounds, cuts, or other sensitive or sore areas! Only exfoliate once the wounds inflicted by your BFRBs are healed. 

1. How to exfoliate your fingers 

I’ve been picking and biting the skin around my fingernails for decades. The new skin that grows is much stiffer and tears easily. To smoothen the skin around my fingernails,

  • I sand the skin next to my fingernails with the rough side of the nail buffer or a paper file. A regular (glass) file probably does the same job. 
  • Sometimes I use the pumice stone in the shower to smooth out rough edges.
  • I clean my nails with a soft cuticle brush that doubles as a gentle exfoliator. Wet hands beforehand.
  • Sometimes I use the chemical exfoliating cleanser that I use on my body on my fingers and hands as well. 

Moisturize your fingers afterward! I use hand cream and cuticle oil a couple of times a day.

2. How to exfoliate your lips

The rough skin on my lips triggers the urge to pick and bite. I make my own lip scrub to exfoliate the skin to get rid of that trigger. You shouldn’t do it more than once a week!

  • I gently massage my lips with a mixture of honey and sugar. The ratio for that is approximately 2 to 1.
  • You can also buy special lip exfoliation products in the drugstore

Don’t forget a rich lip balm afterward! I use Vaseline Lip Therapy every other hour to prevent picking my lips. 

3. How to exfoliate your face and body

The sight and touch of pimples, blemishes, and ingrown hair trigger my dermatillomania. Exfoliating helps to unclog pores and smooth out tiny keratosis pilaris bumps.

I’ve learned that chemical peels are healthier for the skin than physical ones. Scrubs are often too harsh for sensitive skin, especially on the face. But it’s up to you and your specific needs what works best for you.

When you search for chemical exfoliants, you will come across the terms AHA (alpha hydroxy acid ) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid). Check the packaging labels for:

  • Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most common AHAs. The latter is made from milk and is said to be mild. In comparison, glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane and can be more irritating. 
  • Salicylic acid is well-known and the strongest. You can also often find this in cleansers or lotions. 

In addition to removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores, both AHA and BHA are also used to fade pigment spots or scars (hello and goodbye picking scars?), shrink enlarged pores, reduce fine wrinkles, and even out skin tones.

I haven’t been using the chemical exfoliator long enough to know if these benefits are true, but I really could use them all 😉

If you’ve never used an exfoliator before, I recommend researching or getting advice from a professional. I find blog posts like the one by The Skin Care Edit very informative.


  • If you’ve never used a chemical exfoliator before, it’s essential to use it slowly and in low concentrations, especially if you have sensitive skin.
  • Also, the skin becomes more susceptible to sun damage. So always use sunscreen when you go outside! 
  • Provide your skin with plenty of moisture after exfoliating! When you pick your fingers and lips, moisturize them as if your life depends on it. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said that, but that statement has stuck with me ever since I read it.

If you exfoliate your fingers, lips, or other parts of the body, please let me know! I’d love to hear your methods!

2 replies on “Exfoliate Your Skin to Reduce Triggers”

Hey, I agree with texture being a trigger. I embarked on my skin care & wellness journey earlier this summer. It’s been 3 weeks and I’m seeing a difference by exfoliating and moisturizing. It’s annoying when breakouts happen though because of the moisture. So it’s a learning process. I know you mentioned texture and I wanted to share something that has helped me tremendously: it was especially helpful for going to work on my cystic acne and hyperpigmentation. Just wanted to share!

Hey, thanks so much for sharing! I’m still trying to get the best version of my skin. So, I look forward to trying this product. I agree, this whole skincare and wellness thing is definitely a journey and learning process 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *