Hello Beauties – I hope everyone is doing well and taking good care of themselves. I’ve been busy with self-care, and I want to discuss my beauty routine with you all today. I have a specific regimen that addresses the needs of my skin, which changes with the seasons. During the winter, I have lots of dry patches, particularly around my eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, and nose. The eyebrows have become the hardest to keep moisturized and I’ve tried a ton of different products, from straight coconut oil, to an expensive Mary Kay cream, to serums and glycolic acid treatments. Right now, I’m using a combination of things, trying to figure out what works the best. I’ve got a dry scalp as well, and I use t-gel and denorex to help keep that under control, followed by a coconut oil condition that I apply heavily at the ends and very lightly at the roots. That works well most of the time, but I’ve found that other factors affect my skin’s moisture level. Drinking water is very important for skin health, so that’s a beauty tip I want all of my readers to take away – DRINKING WATER IS A FREE WAY TO KEEP YOUR SKIN AND BODY HEALTHY! I cannot stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated, because it makes you feel good inside and out!
I have a confession to make – I have dealt with issues around my appearance. It’s somewhat complicated, and has to do with how I look. I’m much like a lot of other women in our culture who’ve been sold on the idea that there is a certain standard that defines beautiful. It is impossible for anybody to live up to that unrealistic ideal, because it is something that doesn’t exist, in real life. Rarely do we see diversity represented in the media, which makes the majority of us feel as though we’re just not good enough, and that leads to eating disorders and self-hatred, among other things. It also encourages us to buy products (which, hey, I’m guilty of) and makes us scared of aging, because in Hollywood, once a woman is of a certain age, she’s discarded as though she doesn’t matter, when the truth is, we should be revering our elders rather than casting them away.
Anyway, on to the topic at hand: my own self-image issues. Being that it is currently winter, and I’m stuck inside, it is crucial for me to find ways to occupy my restless mind. If I don’t, I will start to think about certain parts of my body that I think are very flawed, and revert to the self-destructive behavior that I’ve worked so hard to let go of, especially behaviors of the obsessive compulsive variety. I’ve spent a lot of time denying, concealing and hiding the kind of OCD I have, which is known as trichotillomania – a hair-pulling disorder.
It all began around 2003 when I got my eyebrows and upper lip waxed – I discovered a few stray dark hairs on my chin and began tweezing them. But the more I tweezed, the more hairs I discovered. This pattern continued, and when I dealt with stress, I felt relief when I picked and plucked. Aside from that, there’s a deep connection between the way I feel about myself, and my outward appearance that also tends to usher in an OCD episode. Either way, I end up in a trance-like state, plucking and tweezing, losing hours at a time. I have blown things completely out of proportion, and it has taken me time to see my chin hairs in a realistic light. I’m naturally fair-skinned and most of my body hair is blonde, but when I look in the mirror, I’m seeing a magnified close-up, and I’ve got a biased view. I used to think the hairs were way more visible than they actually appear, which is known as a cognitive distortion.
Before I even think of grabbing the tweezers, I touch my chin to feel for course hairs, something that I’ve done for hours on end in the past, which, at times, makes the urge to tweeze that much stronger. To a stranger it might appear as though I’m merely touching my chin, but this is, in reality, a part of the ritual I can do out in the open without others noticing. Those who know me well are able to recognize when I’m entranced by my own OCD behavior, and they’ll call me out on it. Due to the shame I feel, I like to tweeze in private; when I get caught, I try to pretend I’m doing something else, but I’ve had to surrender many a pair of tweezers to my loved ones in order to keep me from harming myself with them. Who would have thought such a small item could have such a terrible effect?
For the longest time, I wanted to stop this madness, but still, I couldn’t. It was almost comforting for me to pluck and pick and tweeze during hard times, but it didn’t have a positive end-result, though I was convinced it was going to make my skin look and feel smooth and hairless. What’s worse than all of that though, is that I have caused myself scabs, scars, and infected ingrown hairs. Quite honestly, that looked way worse than the hair I was trying so desperately to eliminate.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when I decided I was going to conquer this little OCD demon, no matter what. I started by challenging myself to be mindful of these behaviors, and when I recognized the signs or felt the urge to pluck, I’d divert my attention to something else. I asked my sister do the tweezing for me, because she’s able to see what hairs are dark and long enough to be pulled out – she’s got the objective perspective, and that has been a huge help.
I went even further with this goal and thought about how I’d reinforce things. Last year, I wrote on a piece of paper, “skin care, not skin destruction” and I decided that when I had urges to touch or pluck my facial hair, I’d do something to make me feel beautiful instead, like putting on moisturizer or doing my makeup. It really started began to work, so I thought I’d take it even further. I’ve been rewarding myself with little things – such as subscriptions to beauty boxes, so that I can try a variety of products to see what works best. I’ve implemented a skin care routine that now takes the place of the time I used to spend in front of the mirror examining the tiniest details of my body that I once loathed because I thought they made me look hideous.
These days, I’m washing my face morning and night, and applying various products while massaging my face and concentrating on healing the scars I’ve got from plucking and picking. I’ve become more comfortable with letting the hairs growing out, and I’ve realized that when they get a little longer, they’re easier to tweeze and far less likely to become ingrown and infected. There are 6 pair of tweezers in my apartment, all located in places I’m aware of and they’re not hidden from me now because I can be trust with them.
I’ve found that taking time for myself is essential, so I’ve been setting aside 5 minutes each morning and evening to take care of my skin. It helps me feel pampered, and buying/sampling products is a way in which I reward myself for abstaining from those old patterns. I’m taking care of my skin now, because, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger, and as I inch up toward the big 40, I’m seeing my past catch up with me. Case in point – I didn’t always wear sunscreen when I was younger, and now I’ve got dark spots and moles in places where I once had blisters from gnarly sunburns. Moral of that story: wear your sunscreen!
I don’t expect that this journey of overcoming my OCD to be easy, I may in fact find myself obsessing over those tiny hairs once again. What’s different is that I know my triggers, and I’ve learned what to do just in case I find myself in front of a mirror with tweezers. I’ve realized I can stop and figure out something healthy to do in place of that destructive behavior which is rooted in negative feelings about my self-image. It’s such a powerful thing to begin to overcome something that’s brought me so much pain and caused me to feel humiliated and ashamed for far too long. I have wasted far too many hours and have put too much effort into something that accomplishes absolutely nothing, and I’m reclaiming that time to give some loving care to my face, my body, and ultimately, to myself.
For anybody who suffers from crappy self-image, and/or OCD, know that you’re not alone and that it is entirely possible to change behaviors that you’ve held on to for too long. Even the most confident person has insecurities about their self-perceived flaws. These kinds of thoughts and feelings can be hard to shake off, but it can be done. The moral of the story is: be gentle with yourself, and reach out if you need help!
Also, drink lots of water, and wear sunscreen! Those are two easy ways to look and feel more beautiful, and they don’t cost much (and water is free too!). Until next time, take good care of yourselves, because if you don’t, nobody else will!