All through my life, one of the most prominent symptoms of my anxiety and compulsive personality has been obsessively picking the skin on my face – also known as dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is a skin picking disorder and can be incredibly mentally and physically harmful. When I experience intense anxiety, I am liable to pick at my skin frequently, which causes bleeding and leaves scars that can take weeks or even months to heal. Here (www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3lumLt2YQM) is an informative YouTube video by Sloane Pirie, in which she explains her experience with dermatillomania, how she’s combatted the disorder, and what recovery looks like for her. I’ve picked at my skin since I was a kid – and in the recent years, as I’ve entered into my twenties, my dermatillomania has not gone away. It was really in the past two years that I committed to one of the most effective coping mechanisms I’ve found: skin care.
My skin care routine varies day to day, but is most consistently a meditative window of time (ten to thirty minutes) where I am mindfully present, focused on caring for my face and skin, and directing good energy and healthy products onto it. I often uses face masks, which require me to commit myself to 10-15 minutes of simply sitting with myself, waiting for the mask to dry and do its work. I love using peel masks as well as clay masks. Typically, they brighten and smooth your skin. For people with dermatillomania, I highly recommend using peel masks, because the peeling component may help combat the desire to pick at your face. Being present with myself and having grounding activities like a skin care routine are an effective way for me to come back down to earth when I am feeling like I want to pick at my face (a feeling that also feels like I am not present, that I am being swallowed by anxiety, that I am losing perspective and losing myself in the mirror). This is why I like face masks so much!
Mindfulness, for me, is a coping mechanism against the symptoms of my anxiety – however, it is not effective for everyone! Many people require coping mechanisms that are more direct, or include mental health professionals or an active support system. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone for assistance if your current self care is not helping you like you want it to.
The field of cosmetics, skin care, makeup, etc, is not accessible for everyone – it most often requires a certain financial stability, a proximity to retail plazas, drugstores, or cosmetic shops, as well as time. However, caring for your skin and body can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you only have the time or resources to wash your face with a damp hand towel or put a steaming towel on your face for a few minutes, that is okay! MarieClaire.com published a great article on homemade face masks, (www.marieclaire.com/beauty/how-to/a2830/best-homemade-face-masks/) all of which require simple edible ingredients which may be more accessible than buying cosmetics. My favorite is the banana face mask, which only calls for half of a banana, honey, and orange juice.
Finding a routine that incorporates mindfulness and presence is the most important part of this self care to me, and also the part that is applicable to many other parts of one’s life.
My skin care routine is not about developing the perfect skin or face, but instead about developing a calming routine that allows me to appreciate my face, to replace the window of time I might’ve spent obsessing over and picking at blemishes on my face with care instead. Set routines to incorporate my body and focus are valuable for my life style, and prioritizing these routines is an effective way for me to cope with my anxieties. Below, I’ve included several links to items I use in my daily skincare routines. I hope you are able to try them out and be inspired to find what works best for your skin.
My current favorites:
Formula 10.0.6 Skin Brightening Peel Mask $2.99 at Target
L’oreal Paris Pure Clay Mask $9.77 at Walmart
I use these masks once to twice a week when I have the time or am feeling particularly anxious about my skin. They both leave my face feeling very soft and bright.
Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel $13.96 at Amazon
This peeling gel is incredibly helpful for my dermatillomania. It gives a similar “cleaning” sensation that picking your face might because it lifts dead skin cells without harming your face or leaving scars. Here’s a video explaining what I mean.
Burt’s Bees Renewal Cleanser $5.59 at Target
I use this cleanser every night before bed and bring it with me on my travels. If I don’t have any time for my entire routine, I will always at very least cleanse my face and freshen up my pores before ending the day
Written by: Clara Zornado