Dr. Lee joined CTV’s Your Morning on March 18 to discuss the psychology of touching your face and provided strategies to stop doing so.


“Don’t touch your face.”

It’s what everyone around the world has been told to avoid for weeks, but in case you haven’t noticed, that’s easier said than done. But there might be an explanation behind it.

According to clinical psychologist Vivien Lee, there’s a psychological reason why we can’t seem to keep our hands off our face. We’re often not aware of automatic behaviours until they’re pointed out to us. Sometimes when we’re told NOT to do something, we seem to do it even more. It’s not because we’re inherently rebels, but we start to notice how often we actually engage in a behaviour and it may happen more often than you think. It doesn’t mean there’s something abnormal about you; it’s likely just an increased awareness.

Here are some of Vivien’s tips to stop touching your face.

Awareness is key

Ask those around you to point out when you move to touch your face. Put something on your hands (for example, clean gloves) to increase awareness of when you touch your face. Knowledge is power!

Practice mindfulness

When you have an itch on your face, you want to scratch it. Avoid doing that! It may be uncomfortable, but try to sit and notice the sensation and delay your reaction. Often, the itchy feeling goes away on its own after some time. You can handle more discomfort than you think.

Some people may feel a more intense compulsion to scratch or touch their faces, perhaps due to anxiety or difficulties with impulse control. If mindfulness doesn’t work, try something to distract yourself that also uses your hands so you don’t unconsciously touch your face.

Substitute your behaviour

Some habits are hard to break. For example, some people rest their hand on their chin when listening to others, rub their chin when thinking deeply, or rub their temples when feeling stressed. You may need other people’s help to point this out if they’re around. Think of what you do when you’re deep in thought. Maybe sit in front of a mirror when working on something. Find something else to do to replace this behaviour.