Why shouldn't you pull out scabs?

We all know that scabs should not be removed from the skin. However, keeping your hands off those crunchy, flaky bits can be difficult.

Scabs or scabs are tempting to be picked off, as some people derive satisfaction or pleasure from doing so. Some people may also do it as part of coping with anxiety, stress, or boredom. Just like modern nails. Even picking at the scab may be part of an underlying condition called skin mania , a condition that is somewhat similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There’s also the fact that scabs tend to get dry, itchy, or tight, which can make picking them off even more tempting. The problem is that removing scabs feels good in the moment, but we’re just setting ourselves up for trouble down the road.

What is a scab?

Scabs are like bandages on the body. When the skin is injured, the body forms a hard, dry crust on the outside to keep the area clean while fresh skin forms underneath. They form a protective barrier to protect a wound from bacteria and dirt. The area under a scab also contains white blood cells, which help destroy any germs in the wound. They also remove old blood and dead skin cells that are still in the wound.

The scabs are temporary. Once the underlying skin has finished repairing itself, the scab will fall off on its own, usually within a week or two. I mean, we’re not supposed to remove it, and there’s really no need to.


There are several risks of pulling out scabs, even if they are about to heal.

The wound will take time to heal

Picking off a scab usually causes the wound to bleed again. That’s because when we remove the scab, we’re also ripping off some of the newly reformed skin that has grown over the wound.

When that happens, the body has to re-grow even more new skin. As a result, the wound takes longer to heal completely.


Some minor wounds do not develop scars. But if you’re on your way to getting one, picking at a scab will only make the mark more noticeable. Unfortunately, the application of antioxidant oils probably won’t make a difference.

Picking causes more skin injuries. And the worse the injury, the more likely we will end up with a scar. That is why it is important not to pull out the scabs that appear with tattoos.


Open wounds are at higher risk of being colonized by harmful bacteria. That can increase the chances that a minor wound will end up getting infected.

That can set the stage for complications. Cellulitis, a bacterial infection that usually comes from open wounds, requires treatment with antibiotics and could lead to infections of the blood, joints, bones, or heart.

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If we can leave the scab alone, we will. But if it’s itchy or uncomfortable and generally driving us crazy, we’ll try applying a light coat of Vaseline . We will carry a tube or pocket bottle and apply the ointment every time we feel tempted to scratch the area. This will prevent pinching while also providing a protective barrier to help with wound healing.

If that’s not enough, we can do the extra step of covering the wound with a bandage . We can also cover it with creams that promote wound healing while it is bandaged.

If we pick at scabs repeatedly and can’t stop, we may have dermatillomania, a compulsive disorder characterized by automatic or compulsive skin scratching. While some people with dermatillomania choose healthy skin, others tend to focus on scabs, blackheads, or dry patches.

Symptoms of dermatillomania

If we have the occasional urge to pick off a scab, it doesn’t mean we have dermatillomania. However, if we find that we want to stop picking our scabs but are unable to do so, we may be experiencing this disorder.

The next time we pick off a scab, we’ll try to take a moment to assess how we’re feeling. It can be helpful to keep a record of these feelings and impulses in writing. If we find that the pinching is usually triggered by some kind of stress or brings about a feeling of relief , we may have dermatillomania.

Note that this is not always conscious behavior . Some people with dermatillomania do it without even realizing it. Over time, picking off scabs can lead to open sores and scabs, creating more to pull off. These visible marks can also make people feel self-conscious, which can contribute to anxiety. This creates a cycle of behavior that can be very difficult to break.