How To Manage Skin + Scalp Picking: Advice From The Pros

Scalp picking is simply the act of, well, touching and pulling at your scalp. There are a few reasons one might find themselves doing this.

If you pick at the scalp due to product buildup, tight hairstyles, or itchiness from a new hair or scalp product, it’s not necessarily something to worry about. If this is the case, just be mindful of why it’s happening and work to adjust your hair care habits accordingly. For example, work on clearing out that buildup—we suggest a clarifying shampoo or a gentle scalp scrub to help you press reset. Or if yours is due to tight hairstyles, try to loosen it up a bit.

However, some people pick at the scalp as a nervous tick, and this can manifest into a more serious skin-picking disorder known as excoriation or dermatillomania. This can become troublesome both because of the stress it can cause and the physical damage and pain it may have on your scalp.

“Scalp picking is not considered a disorder unless the frequency and/or damage caused to the skin or scalp is significant enough to affect one’s quality of life,” board-certified psychiatrist Edward Pirok, M.D., Ph.D., tells mbg.

Further, “There’s actually very little difference between picking at the skin and picking at the scalp,” board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg. So when we’re talking about scalp-picking causes and triggers, the same applies to general skin picking. Aftercare, however, will be different given the nuanced skin that is the scalp.

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