I did a video recently with tips to stop scalp picking and hair pulling. Here’s the video and edited transcript below with product links in case you prefer to read:
Now, first of all, with any picking and pulling, it’s very important to make sure that your lifestyle areas are taken care of. So you want to make sure you’re generally eating well, particularly caffeine and sugar, keeping those low.
Wash your hair and massage your scalp
So yeah, these basic lifestyle things can be very important in getting you to stop these behaviors. But let’s get more specific now. The first thing that I found my clients that are picking at their head or pulling their hair on their head find really helpful and important is to wash their hair every day. So the conventional wisdom out there is that you should wash your hair minimally. There are people that are trying to go weeks without washing their hair. And sometimes people are like, “Okay, ideally you just shampoo your hair once a week, and then if you need to wet it or just condition the ends,” or whatever, but I’m sorry to say for people that are picking, it’s actually more helpful to wash your hair every day. And of course, you don’t have to shampoo towards the ends. The important part is actually your scalp.
So get the scalp really clean and to go with that, it also really helps to use a scalp massager. This feels really good. I actually very much like it. You can even put your shampoo on with it. It looks like these are huge and will hurt, but they’re not, they feel very good actually. All silicone, very easy to keep clean and all that. As far as what shampoo do you use, it depends. But I suggest if you have not tried this before to try a special shampoo with either Ketoconazole or Miconazole. These are antifungals because you might have a fungal either infection or just overgrowth. Now, let’s not go so far as to say you’re infected, but this is really quite common and can cause a lot of the flaking, itching, things like that. And I would probably even try it, even if you don’t relate to being really itchy, just being picky. So definitely keep your hair clean every morning. That can go a long way towards not picking or pulling.
Change up habits that lead to picking or pulling
The next thing you want to do is to make sure you change up any habits that lead to picking or pulling. For example, you might always be sitting on the one side of the couch with your arm up on the rest and your hand is just naturally comfortably in your head. Basically, that’s the most easy place to rest your hand is on your head. That makes this way too easy to do the behavior. So we want to make it harder to do the behavior that we don’t want and easier not to do it. So if that’s the way you sit, do your best to instead be sitting in the center of the couch.
And maybe you can put your hands up or around a pillow for comfort, but you want to avoid those situations where it’s just too easy. So at your work desk you might also have a habit of having your elbow on the desk and so, you want to have a rule there, no elbows on the desk. Maybe if you’re literally not typing, you want to have a pen in one hand and a squishy ball on the other hand and just have that be the rule for you and a new habit that you’re going to make to preempt the old habit. Because these habits that we want to break, it’s very difficult to break these motor habits for one thing and it’s almost impossible if you don’t give yourself a new habit such as holding a squishy ball, holding the pen always. You can’t be picking are pulling if you’re doing those things.
So also regarding changing habits that lead to picking, another habit is just touching your scalp or touching your hair. Maybe it starts with twirling your hair, or maybe it just starts with a light grazing. We can think that that’s fine. A lot of times we think, “Oh, the picking is the problem. The pulling is the problem.” But it’s so much easier not to pick or pull if we don’t touch in the first place, right? This reminds me of Christina Pearson’s book, Pearls: Meditations on Recovery from Hair Pulling and Skin Picking, She has a runner of good phrases along the top or bottom of the page, I don’t remember. But the one, “it’s easier to stay out, then get out.” Think of that. Once you’re doing the behavior you don’t want, it’s really hard to stop, right?
Physically block yourself from doing the behavior
But not so hard not to start. Not as hard not to start. A couple of ways you can do this. Some of my clients like to wear a really soft cotton turban, this is particularly comfortable. It’s sometimes called the chemo cap. Women, if they’re losing their hair from chemotherapy will wear them. But they’re very comfortable, cute. I don’t know if you would want to wear them out and about, but certainly, when you get home and that’s probably the worst time – being at home. It’s a good thing to have. Get those things on in the situations that you need them. Watching television, reading, studying, whatever the situation or just being at home. Get those caps or hats on. Sometimes people find it works for them just to tie their hair back in a ponytail or something like that, or put it in a bun. And if that prevents it for you or wearing a headband, that’s really common too. A lot of my clients find headbands are just helpful. Make habits of using those tools.
An alternative is, of course, you put something on your hands instead, whether it’s gloves or I showed this in my face picking video, but totally applicable here, these little gamer finger gloves. They’re very comfortable and I don’t get that interest here. So you’re probably going to go like this, you can’t feel your scalp, whatever, your hair and so, you don’t do it. So I’ll link those as well.
Another strategy that some of my clients have found helpful, even at work where you might not want to be covering different body parts is the Keen bracelet, so this is a bracelet that you will train to buzz when you start doing the behavior that you want to not do.
And so, there you’ll just get a buzz. Because you don’t realize when you start doing it, this makes you more aware of it.
The biggest, most important thing with any of these strategies is persistence, so what you do here and there, it’s not going to be enough. This is a very challenging problem. So you really want to make sure you’re hitting it here and there and there and doing all these things habitually. Use all these tools consistently, and then your scalp will heal and you know that there will be less to pick at then, right? Fewer scabs and things will just get better and better and that’s the name of the game is just little by little. Let me know which is your favorite of these strategies. Let everyone else know if you’ve used some of these or others that you found really helpful. I really appreciate the comments.