Skin Picking in Alzheimer’s Patients [Tips & Solutions] is reader-supported. I may earn a commission when you purchase via links on this page.

A quick word on skin picking disorder :

Your loved one could be scratching their body parts for several reasons. Do not identify it as a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Note that, skin picking is not a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease (although, it is seen commonly in Alzheimer’s patients). There are plenty of other reasons that could drive Alzheimer’s patients to harm themselves in such a harsh way.

Table of contents:

Non-medical methods to stop skin picking in Alzheimer’s patients

Gift them a pair of gloves or mitts

If they use their fingernails to scrape out the skin, give them a pair of gloves to wear in both hands.

That way anytime they feel like gouging or picking their skin, they will become conscious of their behavior. You can help them break this habit through the practice of conscious or intentional living.

Also know that, when you perform an activity and derive pleasure from it, you are more likely to do it more and form a habit.

This is what happens with Alzheimer’s disease patients and with continual cognitive decline, it becomes challenging for them to become aware of their own bad habits— they lack general self-awareness.

Keep their fingernails short and filed

finger nails alzheimers disease

If the skin picking habits get out of order, you better help them, cut off their excess fingernails and also file them to get rid of sharp edges. They cant pick if they have no sharp/pointy nails.

Doing this might frustrate them as they will have a lot of excess unreleased energy built up inside them.

Train them to release this pent-up energy with the help of a stress ball or a Rubik cube. Repeatedly squeezing the stress ball releases tension will also keep them occupied and entertained.

Teach them to play video games on a smartphone

teach the person picking their skin to play games on their mobile

A gaming app on the latest mobile phone can keep them busy for days. Once their mind is off from skin picking, it will be easy to counsel them and make them look at this sickness objectively.

Best herbal remedies to heal picked skin fast

Does your loved one suffer from skin picking disorder as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease or any other type of Dementia? Looking for ways to heal picked skin fast? 

To ease your worries concerning skin picking, I have shared several home remedies that will help your loved one recuperate faster.

In case you don’t know why scars are formed around a wound, the body’s natural healing process gets to work by first, forming a protective layer known as a “scar” around the wound. And then, the healing begins. Hence, do not worry if you see black marks in the affected area.

Before carrying out a home remedy to heal the wounds, always wash the skin with soap and water. Even the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends cleaning and keeping the affected area moist by applying some petroleum jelly.

Apply turmeric to the affected area

turmeric to heal picked skin

Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant that can be found in your nearest grocery store. To heal picked skin fast, form a paste of turmeric and water, and apply to the affected area of your loved one. Apply on areas with the most number of skin picking cuts and wounds.

Before you go ahead with this, I have to warn you that turmeric has a bright yellow color and it can form stains on your loved one’s clothes or the bedding.

Kindly, cover the entire bed or chair with a plastic sheet.

Numerous studies have proved the effectiveness of this natural herb. Tumeric contains a curcuminoid known as Curcumin. This is what gives it a natural yellow color. 

According to a study by the University of Sydney, Curcumin works as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anticoagulant, and anti-infective agent when applied on picked skin.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe Vera is being used as a traditional medicine in some Asian communities since the 16th century BC. Back in the day, people used to use it as sunscreen, a natural ointment for cuts and burns, and also to treat some skin conditions. Nowadays it is used in almost all herbal skin products. 

Besides, you don’t have to worry about extracting get out of an Aloe Vera leaf. Ready-to-apply Aloe Vera gels are available online or in your nearest drug store.

This is how it can help heal picked skin fast: According to a study by the University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran, application of Aloe Vera gel on a wound or a cut resulted in modulation of inflammation, increased wound contraction, and increased alignment and organization of the regenerated scar tissue. Dr. Oryan A and his compadres confirmed the effectiveness of Aloe Vera gel to heal picked skin fast.


A lot of people are repulsed by the pungent onion-like smell that the insides of a Garlic bulb have. However, you may want to make the best use of Garlic as it is one of the oldest home remedies to heal picked skin in Dementia or to be specific Alzheimer’s patients.

I found a study that shows how the active ingredients present in Garlic fight against germs and reduce inflammation in the affected area. 

Before you move further, you need to make whether your loved one does not pick the skin around the face or the genital region. Applying Garlic oil near a sensitive area might give a burning sensation and make matters worse. But when applied on the back, thighs, legs, hands, etc, can cure cuts and bruises in a few days. Plus, there are no side effects. It’s an all-natural remedy for skin picking.

Apply a topical ointment

Not everyone likes homemade herbal products. And not every skin picking wound gets healed with herbal products. Particularly, if your loved one has a wound that is been picked several times before and is now infected with bacteria and fungi. I have dealt with a Dementia patient before, I know how difficult the situation can get.

I would recommend you purchase an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid ointment. Aquaphor and Neosporin are two popular ones and are available at almost every drug store. Neosporin is a generic name for creams that kill bacteria.

Virgin coconut oil (VCO)

virgin coconut oil to heal picked skin

Last but not least, this tropical tree is known to be one of the most resourceful plants on the planet. People in South East Asia have been using Coconut Oil as a natural disinfectant; or the treatment of dermal infections.

This is how applying slightly heated Virgin Coconut oil can help a Dementia patient with a skin picking problem: There is a structural protein called “collagen” present in the extracellular space in the various connective tissues in the body. This protein is responsible to make our skin appear plump and youthful (in both men and women).

Application of Virgin Coconut oil(VCO) on the lacerated area, the area where your loved ones like to scratch will increase the formation of Pepsin-soluble collagen. According to a report by the University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India, this protein is one of the key building blocks of the skin.

What causes skin picking in Alzheimer’s patients?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

A person suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(OCD) wants everything to be in a certain way or else he/she gets restless and begins to worry.

Some patients become obsessed with a certain idea or a concept and they continuously need reassurance from their outside world.

Skin picking is a disorder and can be treated with anti-depression drugs. Reports suggest that 5 % of the total population suffers from Skin Picking Disorder(SPD) and most of the cases have shown enormous improvement after proper medication.

It’s possible that your loved one is suffering from such a disorder along with Alzheimer’s disease and you have mistaken skin picking as the only symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study was done by Dr. Zeba Hassan Hafeez, MD, MCPS, with a 74-year-old Dementia patient with Pathological Skin Picking, the patient stopped picking her skin after taking fluvoxamine(an antidepressant) 25 mg twice a day.[1]

Mindless activity

It’s been reported that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease engage in mindless tasks like “getting ready to work even though they don’t actually work anymore”, some part of them still thinks they have to go to work because they had to in the past.

It is possible that skin picking is just a way to keep their mind engaged and can be replaced with something else more productive–and safe.

If they like picking on the skin, they won’t mind picking on something else(an object) as well.

Try gifting them a wooly sweater or a cloth with lots of lint on it, hopefully, they’ll replace their skin picking habit with removing lint off of the cloth.

Seeking pleasure in self-harm

Fear of early death, all dreams and goals destroyed, being a burden to family members, not being able to earn money, being forced to become co-dependent, etc are some of the common worries an Alzheimer’s sufferer has on a daily basis— there is only a limit up to which a person can be resilient—everyone cracks down eventually.

People who are constantly in a state of emotional pain desperately want an outlet, a way to get rid of these bad feelings and feel normal for a while.

Self-harm is their way to release that negative energy and also let others know about how they feel.

Although there is no evidence of this method being effective or useful for them, in a state of panic they turn towards harming themselves.


Instead of just finding ways to stop your loved one from picking the skin, I want you to shift your focus a bit.

Try to find the root cause and fix it. Obviously, the situation is going to be different for every Alzheimer’s patient, but the above-mentioned points will help you make sense of your loved one’s actions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *