Coping Cards

I Can Do It—Again

“I can do it again,” aka knowing I’ll eventually get out of the BFRB-low, is a comforting reminder for me when facing major setbacks.

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy and strength to deal with my BFRBs. In these times, I’m fully aware of my skin picking and cheek biting (nail biting hasn’t taken center stage in a long time—knock on wood 🤩).

I know what I’m doing, but I’m not fighting it. To be fair, I don’t do as much damage to my skin as I used to. Maybe that’s because I’m more aware of my picking and biting?

Also, I no longer “dig” and patch up spots and use blockers early. Some of my BFRB coping techniques have even become new healthier habits, which is very helpful.

Of course, setbacks are always frustrating and annoying. But I no longer let them affect my days and my mood. Knowing I “can do it again” gives me comfort in pulling myself out of the BFRB low.

Once I have more energy, I know I can return to my BFRB coping techniques, do my breathing exercises, journal, and take good care of my inner child.

Some days are just more challenging than others. And sometimes, BFRBs are just easier to deal with than other times. And that’s okay. BFRB recovery is not linear.

I send you much love, Anja 💙


Cold Sores & Canker Sores from Cheek Biting & Lip Picking

Have you ever gotten cold or canker sores from cheek biting or lip picking? Let me tell you how most of my blisters and sores result directly from my Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors and how I got them under control. 

Since my youth, I’ve struggled A LOT with painful sores on my lips and the inside of my cheeks.

It took me ages to make the connection that I get cold sores from lip picking and canker sores from cheek biting. 

I’m glad I’ve reached a point in my BFRB recovery where I rarely get them anymore (knock on wood).

Below I’ll show you what I’ve learned and which BFRB coping methods have worked so far.

Getting cold sores from lip picking and lip biting

As a teenager, I got one cold sore after the other. I already got a new one before the previous one was fully healed

Picking my lips made the cold sores get bigger and out of control. It got so bad over a weekend that I went to the hospital, where I got a prescription drug. Since then, I’ve made sure to always have the medication at home.

Finally, in my twenties, I realized that when I’m nervous or worried, I pick my lips or bite the inside of my lips. And whenever my lips bleed, I get cold sores quickly.

At the time, I didn’t know how to control the lip picking and lip biting nor the emotions that caused the behavior. 

Fortunately, with the help of some coping methods, I rarely get cold sores anymore. In this post, I will share the coping techniques that have worked well for me so far.

4 ways to help with lip picking and not get cold sores 

1.     Moisturizing lips:
I apply lip balm every other hour or so. Moisturizing lips helps prevent chapping and mask rough patches—the stickier and thicker the lip balm, the better. When you unconsciously touch your lips, the tacky consistency reminds you not to. I mainly use Vaseline Lip Therapy, but please comment below if you have better recommendations! 

2.     Exfoliating lips:
My lips’ rough and cracked skin triggers the urge to pick and bite. To smooth the skin, I exfoliate it with a mixture of honey and sugar (2/1). Don’t overdo it—you shouldn’t do it more than once a week!

3.     Wearing finger cover:
I wear finger covers as a barrier against picking the skin around my fingers. But they also help against mindless lip picking. Wearing a thumb cover makes picking impossible!

4.     Fidget toy for busy hands:
Fidget toys are always helpful to keep the hand busy and from feeling the skin on the arm, face or lips which triggers the picking urge.

Getting canker sores from cheek biting

I don’t even know when I started biting my cheeks. I engaged in that BFRB without noticing it. I often got painful canker sores, but it took me forever to realize that I got them from cheek biting.

It usually starts by nibbling the insight right corner of my lip. The rough skin then triggers to bite even more and increases the urge to create a smooth surface. And this is where the never-ending biting cycle begins.  

Cheek biting is the most accessible BFRB for me, and that’s probably why I do it most to seek comfort and relieve frustration, anxiety, and overwhelm.

I find cheek biting particularly difficult to control as it’s nearly impossible to create barriers and easy to hide the damage.

I got my cheek biting somewhat under control—more nibbling than biting—through awareness and these BFRB coping methods. 

5 ways to control cheek biting to avoid canker sores

1.     Rinsing with Mouthwash: 
Mouthwash has a burning sensation. Despite the slight discomfort, I rinse my mouth with it until the burn fades away. I feel like it distracts a bit from the urge to bite. 

2.     Wearing a mouthguard
The mouthguard is the ultimate barrier against biting your cheeks, lips, and nails. I wear it to prevent cheek biting and to give the skin a chance to heal when it’s too late.

3.     Nibbling & Snacking:
Chewing gum, hard candy, or the intense sensation of sour candy are the good old classics to keep the mouth busy or distracted. Healthier alternatives include snacking on nuts and sunflower seeds or crunchy veggies like carrots, celery sticks, or kohlrabi. (Hunger is also one of my BFRB triggers, so snacks help with that too!)

4.     Chewy fidget toys:
Snacking obviously is not a long-term solution, so I often use a chewy fidget toy to get the nervous energy out of my jaw. It sometimes helps to curb the urge to bite.

5.     Puffing out my cheeks 
I puff out my cheeks when I notice that I bite my cheeks. This little pause allows me to create awareness of what I am doing. I find it especially helpful when I’m out and about. 

Wrinkles from making weird shapes with my mouth

I don’t know if it’s age, but certain lines around my mouth seem to be caused by my mouth distorting when I bite my cheeks.

I have no solution for that. But I’ll just leave that statement here as it is. Maybe it serves as a motivator or reminder not to bite your cheeks 😉

Coping Cards

BFRB Beauty Basics

What has your BFRB taught you?

I’ve learned so much about BFRBs and, consequently, about myself. And I’m still on my way to learning more. I wish I had known many things sooner, but better late than never, eh?

In BFRB recovery, in addition to avoiding inflammation and pain, we focus so much on having spotless skin, smooth fingers, or stunning long hair or nails—to look a certain way and fit a certain beauty profile.

However, BFRB recovery is much more than that. It’s about inner healing, unlearning trauma, and getting to know yourself.

It might sound strange, but I’m grateful for my BFRBs and what they’ve taught me.

For example, these are some things I’ve learned so far on my BFRB recovery journey, aka my BFRB Beauty Basics:

💙 More self-love
💙 Less self-doubt
💙 More self-acceptance
💙 I’m good enough
💙 Creating awareness helps to heal in many aspects
💙 More self-compassion and patience
💙 Less perfectionism

What would you add to this list?

I send you much love, Anja 💙


Tire out Your Hands with a Stress Ball or Putty

Squeezing, stretching, shaping, and popping are the keywords for gel-filled fidget balls, stress balls, or putties.

This type of fidget toy comes in all sorts of textures and intensities. Whatever your sensory needs, you can get everything from super soft and dense to doughy.

People with BFRBs often have restless fingers that constantly wander around, leading to picking and pulling.

Squishy stress balls and putties are great for getting (nervous) energy out of your fingers and keeping your hands busy. 

Fiddling with these fidget toys will help relieve anxiety and tension. Some stress balls even have sensory features like different colors or scents. They have a calming effect and can improve concentration.

Strengthening hands with the stress ball

Another advantage of the stress ball and putty is strengthening the hand, fingers, and wrist muscles. I’m a rock climber and used training putty to improve my grip even before I knew the term BFRB.

I’ve noticed my hands get tired and calmer after playing with the putty. After some time of kneading, they don’t wander as much anymore.

I like to get two benefits from using the stress ball and putty–finger workout and BFRB relief.

In general, I prefer a firm putty to a softer stress ball. I like the playful stretching, rolling, and kneading. It’s like adult Play-Doh! 

But everyone has different experiences with body-focused repetitive behaviors and preferences regarding fidget toys. I recommend trying different toys to see what you like!

TIP: @pullyoselftogether uses a kneadable art eraser which makes a great fidget putty. I like that idea a lot!

Click here to learn more about how to find the right fidget toys for your sensory needs.


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!