Stockholm Syndrome: Dermatillomania Makeup Tips

Learning to use makeup and learning about skincare has helped me with many self care techniques for my dermatillomania and otherwise.

Originally written for the Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) during BFRB week October 1-7, 2017


I love makeup. Or rather, I should say that I have a Stockholm syndrome relationship with makeup. At 19, I was held hostage by makeup and my dermatillomania, having never before worn it or had any interest in wearing it.

When my dermatillomania was at its absolute worst in my early 20s, I quickly learned the ins and outs of how to conceal my awkward condition. Everyday I prayed to and thanked the makeup gods that I was able to cover up my horribly red, weeping, and marked face (or arms) just to give the appearance of functioning like a normal person. But I was not okay. I needed help. Makeup made me feel better and calmed my rising anxieties about my appearance. Even when I was home alone or ready to go to bed sometimes just applying makeup and wearing it through the night was enough to calm me and temporarily halt my urges.

At first, I did not know what I was doing at all with make-up. It started with just concealer but when I started using half a tube on face every day and realized it wasn’t blending well, I discovered foundation. And then I learned that powder can help create a smoother and lasting appearance and that it also seemed to work better on slightly open wounds. I then started using all three and tried every drugstore brand under the sun. I bought brushes and sponges, watched YouTube videos, all to perfect the technique of smothering and soothing myself. I needed makeup and started to carry an emergency kit of concealer and other supplies around so that my flaws never showed. I did not go swimming. I did not wear tank tops or short sleeve shirts. I hid in my makeup that kept me safe. I remember feeling so frustrated that I was a slave to this commodity and felt that I needed it like a junkie needs their drugs. Wearing makeup was a consolation that provided me the facade of happiness.

skin picking
Image credit: http://bit.ly/2hgUH1S

After years of misery perfecting my cover-up techniques and learning about the different aspects of skincare, I finally started working through the healing stages of my dermatillomania. I started to improve to the point that dermatillomania no longer controlled my life or all of my waking thoughts. I began to enjoy the makeup process as it did not feel like a necessity anymore. I felt attractive for the first time since I could remember.

While I can probably get away without wearing makeup most of the time now, I don’t. Makeup is still my comfort and still brings me some degree of happiness wearing it. I have even noticed that if I am having a hard time with my skin I will sometimes splurge at Sephora to make me feel like I am some how being proactive about my skin.

Learning to use makeup and learning about skincare has helped me with many self care techniques for my dermatillomania and otherwise. Would I have found this comfort and interest in makeup and skincare if I had not had dermatillomania? As I spent half of my life as a tomboy, it is hard to say. Regardless, I am grateful for what makeup has given me even if it was not something I would have chosen.

makeup tips
Image credit: http://bit.ly/2AgYZKo

For those that need it, here are some derma-friendly makeup tips that have worked we for me:

  • Primer and setting spray: I use to scoff at it. Seemed like another layer to add to my face that was already bordering on way too much but it truly helps the make up adhere better to your skin and makes it last longer so you do not have to worry about your carefully placed make up accidentally rubbing off.

  • Invest in quality concealer and foudation: Not only do better quality products cover better they are often better for your skin (oil-free, paraben-free etc). Take the time to find a brand that works best for you. Make Up Forever carries a water-resistant brand of concealer that lasted me 2-years even with regular everyday use (they have a foundation too). When applying concealer, dab it, don’t swipe it for better adherence.

  • If your skin is weeping and open, it is hard to cover and you run the risk of infection – The best course of action is to let the wound get some sort of barrier on it before you put on makeup. Here are a few techniques that can help:

    • Liquid bandages – Found at practically every drugstore, using this requires a bit of technique to get right. The key is to get the thinnest layer possible for the best coverage in the end. It sting a bit when applying it but it will protect your skin once it is dry. Make sure it is dry before applying makeup.

    • Honey, lemon and cinnamon: These ingredients are naturally antibacterial and will reduce redness. If you have time, put a mixture of these three on the area for 10 minutes or more to allow a barrier to form (the sticky mixture helps you from touching it too) then very gently wipe away with warm water.

      lemon-honey-cinnamon
      Image credit: http://bit.ly/2m0PSLR
    • Tea tree oil: Naturally antibacterial, tea tree oil can help dry out open wounds. Make sure to check the bottle to ensure that you get 100% tea tree oil as many brands like to add a small percentage of tea tree oil and fill the rest with rubbing alcohol and then charge too much (I’m looking at you Body Shop). Be aware, that the pure essential oil can be strong so if you have sensitive skin dab a cotton bud with water and then add the tea tree oil before applying it to your skin.

      polysporin cold sore patches
      Image credit: http://bit.ly/2jaTCcI
    • Purchase Nexcare acne patches or Polysporin cold sore patches (these ones are thinner and are better but more expensive) for more severe wounds. You can then apply make up on top of the patch. The patches still show a bit but chances are if the wound is bad enough it still looks better than the wound would with makeup. You’re also protecting it and it will heal faster. These are also great to wear at night time when you want something to heal fast!

  • After primer and concealer, follow with foundation and then a loose mineral powder (with or without colour) for a more natural and lasting finish: Investing in quality products and applicators will reduce the caked on look but it is also important to work within your budget! There are decent cheap alternatives. Maybelline’s Fit Me foundation and FaceStudio Master Fix primers and powder are budget friendly. Makeup brushes/sponges really do make a difference for the look, feel and coverage.

    • Flat foundation brush: Put the foundation on the back of your hand (not directly on the brush) and swipe your face in a downward motion starting in the middle of your face. Reapply more concealer after if need be and dab with a makeup sponge for a quick smooth finish after.

    • Stippling brush: These brushes are great if you want a more airbrushed finish. With the foundation on the back of your hand, dab the makeup on to your face. Do not swipe or twirl the brush as it defeats the purpose of the technique. Give your skin a chance to absorb the makeup afterwards as well for best results.

    • Powder: Loose is better than pressed and mineral is better than not. Use a kabuki brush and dab it on wounds instead of swiping in order to get it adhere better. Powder ensures the longevity of your makeup. For those with mature or dry skin, loose powder can set in wrinkles and dry patches so just stick to a good hydrating liquid foundation and setting spray.

    • Brushes don’t always have to be expensive: Granted quality ones last longer but it is still hard to cough up the money for them, even if they do make a difference. Check out these cheaper sets by ELF Cosmetics. Amazon also offers plenty of options.

    • Setting spray: Essential for hot summer days or a humid climate, a setting spray keeps your make up locked in place and your skin looking moist and fresh.

  • Keep your makeup tools clean: Whether you use your fingers, brush or a sponge to apply makeup it is even more imperative for those with dermatillomania to keep these items clean to avoid infection. Use a daily spray cleanser on your brushes and sponges and then deep clean once a week. If you use a sponge make sure to replace them once every 3 months.
    dirty make up brushes
    Image credit: http://bit.ly/2haYsCj


    • Homemade brush and sponge cleanser: Mix water, rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, antibacterial dish soap, olive oil, and micellar water in a spray bottle. Use daily.

  • Less is more: I know it is tempting to smother on the concealer but it is important to apply it on in smaller layers in order for it to look natural and blended.

  • Blotting papers: These are especially imporant for those with oily skin. They remove excess oil but not your makeup. It will help to keep the shine down and keep your makeup looking fresh. Tissue can be used in a bind but will remove more makeup.

  • Wash your makeup off before bed: It is tempting to leave it on sometimes and I have definitely done it many times but you are ultimately making your skin worse in the long run by leaving it on. Your skin can become infected and will be more prone to break outs and wrinkles.

  • Face masks: These can as sooth your skin, pamper it, and can help you to stop touching it. Find ones that help reduce redness, like clay masks.

  • For immediate relief of redness: Stick a spoon in the freezer or on ice and apply it to your face. Witch hazel (though try to avoid putting it directly on an open wound, it stings), moist tea bags and cucumber slices are also great redness relievers.

  • Make your routine about self-care, not self-loathing: Touch your skin with kindness and allow your makeup routine to become a positive aspect of your derma struggles. Make an effort, no matter where you pick, that you will touch your skin with kindness and that every act of your routine is done gently.

BFRB Awareness

Oct-1st-7th-2015

Today is the last day of the BFRB Awareness week. BFRB stands for body focused repetitive behaviors and they effect 1 in 50 people. There are a variety of types of BFRBs but trichotillomania (hair-pulling) and dermatillomania (skin-picking) are the most common. For today’s post I wanted to compile some of the reviews and articles I’ve written about dermatillomania as well as some I’ve been featured in to get finalize the last day of this awareness week in hopes that they will reach someone struggling and to help  spread awareness.

In Februray 2015, I was interviewed for an article on skin-picking that was featured in a major newspaper. While there are some inconsistencies with the article, it has been widely and positively received and has helped to bring awareness to dermatillomania. Read more here.

A collaborative creation, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars is a book shares individual stories of different people who are dealing with dermatillomania. I contributed my own story and wrote a review to promote its publication. Learn more about this book. All proceeds from the book purchase go towards Canadian Body Focused Repetitive Behavior Support Network (CBSN).

One of the books I recommend to anyone dealing with dermaillomania is Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette Pasternak. It’s one of the most comprehensive books out there for skin picking and Annette herself is very familiar with the condition as she use to struggle herself. Read my review here.

Finally, I wrote a guest blog piece for the CBSN on relapsing with dermatillomania and covered some tips and tricks that help to get over this hurdle. Read more here.

For those who have a BFRB and are looking for more help and resources, CBSN has a tips & tricks page as well as page for general resources and information. CBSN also offers live and online peer support for those looking for help. Click here to learn more.

Those that deal with BFRBs often feel immense amounts of shame.  I speak so that those who are too afraid to, know that they’re not alone.

 

 

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

7116594

4/5 stars.
ebook, 272 pages.
Read from April 10 to 18, 2015.

I have successfully read all 3 of Gillian Flynn’s popular novels. At then end of this review I will rank the three of them based on which of the three I like best.

Camille is a small time reporter in Chicago, with the hopes of hitting it big time. She is ambitious, blunt and abrasive, all great qualities for a reporter. However, she throws herself into work and into drink to stop from reminding herself of her estranged childhood and trauma. You start notice that Camille is plagued with scars of self-mutilation and her body is covered in words that she has carved into her own body. This behavior began in her teenage years and while she has since stopped cutting, she begins to reminisce when she is asked to report on the murders of some children back in her hometown, Wind Gap, a place she hasn’t been back to visit in eight years.  When Camille was a preteen, she lost her sister Marion, to a strange illness. Marion was her mother’s favorite and Camille never received the same attention or love the way her sister did. If anything, her mother had more disdain for her in that she wasn’t a feminine and and well-to-do little girl like Marion. Camille was always headstrong and never did what she was told and perhaps some of her mother’s disdain for her came from the fact that her father did not stick around. Her mother, Adora, is cold, proper, re-married and still living in the Victorian home that Camille grew up in. Camille’s mother has another child in her new marriage to dote on, Camille’s half-sister Amma, who is only thirteen. Amma seems to be the doting daughter that Amma always wanted but she is a vicious but smart young girl.  At least, Camille and Amma have one thing in common, they are both always living in the shadow of the dead Marion. Wind Gap is the type of town Camille was always anxious to get out of, a town where everyone knows everyone’s business and relationships are superficial so returning home, even temporarily was exceptionally difficult for Camille.

Camille learns that two young girls went missing and were found murdered, but something doesn’t quite add up as both of the young victims had all of their teeth removed and were unmolested.   She is able to get some extra information by liaising with a young and good looking FBI agent, Richard. Slowly, Camille starts to open herself up and begins a sexual relationship with Richard, however always fearing that he will reject her for her scars, she also starts to get quite close to Amma. This closeness unfortunately is going to blow the whole murder case wide open and Camille will learn things that she wished she had not.

It was Camille that made this novel for me. While I’ve never self-mutilated I felt drawn in to her scars and her desire to cover them and hide. It reminded me of my worst years with dermatillomania.  I just felt like I completely understood Camille and could relate to her entirely regardless of our different circumstances. I liked her tough approach to her life and even how she dealt with it. I appreciated that she had vulnerable moments in the book despite her facade. What Camille has lived through, what she has done to herself and what her family continues to do her to her is beyond tragic. She is not a typical protagonist by any means and I love her for it. I imagine that this novel made some people uncomfortable with its content. Here is Camille who is clearly a traumatized adult and hides nothing  from the reader in terms of her desire to cut words into herself, then Amma’s behavior is pretty hard to stomach at times,  let alone the way the two young girls in this small town were murdered, which, is why I love this plot. It’s unwholesome, brutal and honest. Flynn is never afraid to shed light into the darker areas of life and show that not all stories have a happy endings.

Alright, in terms of Flynn’s novels, here is how I would rank them:

1) Dark Places

2) Sharp Objects

3) Gone Girl 

I’ll just say this, it’s apparent that Gone Girl  was the favourite for most people, it was also the one made into a movie,  perhaps because more people felt they could relate to the crazy spouse?  I do know know that the other two books are a lot darker. Personally, I feel that Gone Girl is lacking. I appreciate the wit it took to create the plot but I felt it didn’t have the same dark and mysterious appeal as the other two novels. I mean, the crazy spouse thing has been in a lot of mystery novels, though not quite the same way Flynn does it, so I can appreciate that, but I just found that I never came to like the main characters in Gone Girl. I remember not initially liking Libby in Dark Places but I found as a reader, I grew with her through the story. Libby didn’t even like herself in the beginning as the only thing she defined herself by was the horrible murders that happened to her family. I was hoping that I would eventually come to like the couple in Gone Girl and I never did so inevitably I didn’t care what happened to these awful people, regardless of the twisted circumstances they found themselves in. Sharp Objects brought back the same obscure darkness I came to love in Dark Places.