A Flaky Confession


My psoriasis first flared up when I was 17. I was just about to take my AS levels when big, red, scaly patches appeared on my body, but the worst area by far was my scalp. The stress of my exams meant I even started picking and pulling at it, and along with skin I’d pull hair out, too.

It took me a while to go to the doctors but it was quickly diagnosed as psoriasis, and I was given steroidal creams to help with the scaling of my skin. Since then my skin has never been that bad – sure, I’ve had smaller flare-ups, but nothing like I was when I was 17 – but my scalp has always been an issue. The worst part? Over ten years later, I still pick it.

It’s my absolute worst habit. My boyfriend hates it, my mum hates it, and I hate it, too. Sometimes it’s absent-minded but others I’m fully aware I’m doing it and even get a sick enjoyment out of pulling off a particularly bad patch of psoriasis. I struggle to wear my hair exactly how I want it – my hairstyle that day is dictated by where there’s not an open sore, or a particularly flaky patch I’ve pulled at (if you’re particularly observant you may have noticed I usually wear a headband when running, or have my nails cut really short). I’ve made myself bleed and I’m fairly convinced that in some patches my hair is thinning from being pulled out over and over again.

This has been going on for twelve years now and I’ve decided it’s time to stop. I spend so much time, money and effort making sure the rest of my body is in tip-top condition, then there’s my scalp that’s in a complete mess from my own doing! I recognise that with stress-induced behaviours, taking away one behaviour may mean the stress will manifest itself in other ways, but I truly believe this is just a habit now that needs breaking.

So why I am I blogging about this really quite unpleasant habit..? I want to be held accountable! Now it’s out here in public there is no way I can go back on my word. Also, a little plea for help – have you ever managed to stop an obsessive-compulsive behaviour? Have you got any tips on getting out of a bad habit, or into a new one? I’m not keen on negative reinforcement (ie a twanging a rubber band on my wrist) but other than that I’m open to ideas! In a few months I want to be able to say I don’t do it anymore, and be able to wear my hair however I choose.



  1. June 12, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    Very brave to write about this so well done you. Its official term is dermatillomania; maybe combined with trichotillomania if you find you get stress relief from pulling the actual hairs too. They’re both usually anxiety induced and I hear mindfulness helps in those cases, but some can be done unconsciously and that’s harder to manage. hope you can find some good techniques by googling derma! X

    • June 12, 2015 / 5:59 pm

      Great insight, thank you! I don’t feel like nowadays I do it as a stress reaction, as I just do it all the time (unless I’m stressed all the time, eek!) though strangely I do it more when watching a tense film! I’ll definitely have a Google around those two conditions.. Hypnotherapy has already been one suggestion. Xx

  2. June 14, 2015 / 8:00 pm

    Oh my god Sarah I totally do this too! I was worse when I was younger, but I still have to stop myself doing it now (I’m a picker by nature!). I’ve never actively tried to stop altogether although I have tried to stop cracking my knuckles and neck (my major obsessive habit), which I did do through negative reinforcement, but for me it acted as more of a distraction as I didn’t find the twanging of an elastic band particularly painful – I did managed to stop for 6 weeks but as soon as I stopped wearing my band I started again!!

    Maybe try having something else to do with your hands, like a fiddle toy, so when you catch yourself doing it, distract your hands with something else other than picking – I personally found having a distraction very helpful xx

  3. Georgie
    February 2, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    Definitely try Selsun shampoo, it smells a bit weird but you can use it when you feel your skin flaring up and it seems to have an effect after one wash ( i tend to leave the shampoo on my scalp for a couple of minutes ). You can also use it as a body wash if you suffer from eczema or rub a little onto dry skin where it is sore. Having a bottle in the house i can turn to once or twice a month is a godsend! (beware you will need a decent conditioner / hair oil when you use it!)

    • Sarah Harradine
      February 3, 2016 / 8:40 pm

      Thanks Georgie! Haha, I am okay with something smelling weird as long as it works well. I’ll check it out, thanks again.

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