I often find myself unconsciously picking at hairs on my neck. I pick until I'm broken out, bleeding and scarring. For at least eight years, I thought this was just a bad habit.
Turns out, there's a real diagnosis for it: trichotillomania. It's an anxiety disorder (related to obsessive compulsive disorder), where the affected person has the urge to pick hair from their body - neck, head, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc.
This disorder has made me feel all the feels for so many years, and it’s only made other mental and emotional issues worse. It was triggered by stress and depression in my late teens, and it has aggravated my mingling depression ever since.
It’s a physical manifestation of feeling like I can’t control or change my situation. I pick because I can control. I also pick out of boredom. My hands are so used to being occupied at a keyboard, phone or crochet needle, that when I don’t have one of those things I get agitated.
I just found out that Olivia Munn also suffers from Trichotillomania, and that makes me feel better. Knowing that it’s something that other young women are dealing with makes it easier to share with others (and accept for myself).
I'm sharing it with you in case you or someone you love deals with it too. There's more to this than meets the eye - it's not just a bad habit.
Why does this require special skincare?
I have constant breakouts bordering my face. It’s been a terrible source of pain and self-consciousness for the better part of a decade. Even at my wedding, I had to work some cosmetic magic to cover up the evidence.
I am now on the arduous journey of rebuilding a positive self-image, specifically surrounding my neck. I find that a glimpse of my scarred and acne-covered neck can ruin what started off as a great day.
That self-consciousness translates into more picking. So, I’ve decided that caring for my neck is going to be the best way for me to start building a healthy relationship with it.
My new skincare arsenal
I’ve removed my former apprehension about skincare products (I previously had a bare-bones soap & water approach), and have stocked up on some tools to help with my particular situation.
First, I make it a priority to wash my face daily. I purchased some face wash that I enjoy and that feels and smells nice. I’m going to allow myself time to really explore what I like, so I don’t have any specific recommendations on this one.
I love using witch hazel as an astringent and rosewater as a toner - they’re soothing to my inflamed skin, and both great simple products. Witch hazel also heals skin, which is a bonus for my poor scars.
I use e.l.f.’s moisturizer daily, and I cool down with aloe vera when my skin is particularly sensitive. Again, nothing too special about the products - I just like that it’s inexpensive and smells nice.
I top off my skin care routine with a face mask that I read as a recommendations from another young lady dealing with trichotillomania. My skin gets a lovely respite when I'm pulling at the dried face mask instead of my hairs.
Skin care is a great start, but I need even more help to keep me from picking. I try to reduce my caffeine intake (by switching to tea instead of coffee), because it gets worse when I’m jittery.
Working alone at a desk all day creates the ideal picking condition, so I’ve also explored physical barriers. Tightly wrapped scarves or a heavy slathering of Vaseline tend to work best, although my hands still find a way to my neck.
And finally, being open about this with trusted friends or family is essential. Avoid talking to people who will tell you it's "just a bad habit" or minimize it.
I've been actively trying to quit picking for years, so I usually only talk to sympathetic friends about this one. Be open and straightforward about how they can help - my husband gently reminds me to stop picking whenever he sees my hand near my face.
They can also be a trusted source of information - one of my best friends outlines her whole skin care routine on her blog, which is going to inform many of my next purchases.
It’s important for people to share the “gross" or "embarrassing" things, because there are mental and physical health conditions that endure in silence for far too long. Women in particular are so prone to martyrdom instead of seeking the help they need. If you're struggling, tell a friend!
There you have it - are there any skin care products or routines that you would recommend?