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My Skin and My Shame- Dealing with Dermatillomania

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

I have a very real and difficult personal issue to share with you today. I hope this encourages someone else who struggles with this-

If If you asked me what I'm most insecure about, I would already have the answer on the tip of my tongue- my skin.

This is difficult for me to write about and mentally revisit because it was so detrimental to the way I see myself, even today. However, I recognize that I am most likely not alone, and as I've found a way to coincide with my face as it really is, I hope that by sharing my story, someone else might gain confidence.

In Middle School I began the arduous journey every human makes from childhood to adulthood that is often accompanied by teenage acne, and it was the beginning of a long road for me. I was surrounded by beautiful girls who had seemingly perfect skin. Looking back I know now that they probably really didn't have the skin I thought they did, but at the time I was jealous, sensitive, and aware of the nasty red bumps popping out all over my face. I am sure you somewhat understand the exact feeling when you come to discover that last nights IN-N-Out this morning is making a statement on your forehead. I was already a self-conscious teen with completely natural hormones and I didn't know what to do with myself. I began to mess with my break-outs not realizing what I was doing, and eventually it became a habit.

This habit is likely relatable to most of you, but my picking habit (I physically cringe at the word pick now) became much more than that. When I was 15 I struggled through some major life changes and minor depression, and it showed on my skin. Not just from breaking out, but on reflection and after my dermatologist explained to me, it was then that I started to struggle with something called "Dermatillomania", a compulsive disorder akin to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Truly I didnt have terrible skin if I didn't touch my face. The puberty-esque acne I had calmed down around 17, but it often would rear its ugly head on nights I had some spare time to stand in front of the bathroom mirror.

Initially, I thought that perhaps I simply was in a rut of a horrible habit, (which in a way I was), and thats what my mom continued to tell me. I watched video after video, and read article after article online trying to break my ruthless habit that was now leaving scars in my porcelain skin. What I didn't realize is that just like yelling at an alcoholic to stop drinking, I couldn't listen to myself or my mother yelling at me to break the habit, because that wasn't the real issue. Neither my mother nor I handled the situation effectively, and in some ways we still struggle with the ramifications of that today.

The real, underlying issue, was that I drastically misplaced the pain that I really should have talked to someone about and handled differently. I had no confidence in myself and the way I thought others saw me. At its worst, I didn't really recognize what I was doing until I could no longer find a place on my face to hurt, or my forehead was pulsing with swollen, massive, traumatized bumps. I would hate myself even more when I realized what I had done, but by that point there was not much I could do.

So how did I get out of it? What saved my skin, and freed me from my shame? Just like any other addiction, it begins with recognizing you have a problem. After I realized the deep scars and stains that lasted on my skin, I knew something should change. After evaluating how many hours of my life were wasted standing in front of that mirror, I realized I needed to limit that time.

So, the first step: surround yourself constantly with people. If I wasn't with people, I would wait till I was bone tired to stand in front of that mirror or running so late that there physically wasn't time for an emotional mirror-melt-down. I realized I never could go into one of those depression zones with people around, so I began to get ready for bed with people surrounding me. This infinitely helped when I moved away to college and had a roommate.

Secondly, I tried to recognize what the root problem was, and fixed that. I thought long and hard about the root cause of this depression, and somethings I simply couldn't control. But there is ONE thing I can control- myself. You can't control anyone but yourself. So, I decided I would start with the part of the world I could assert myself over, and that began with the first thing people see of me: my face. This mindset then progressed to taking dominion over my bed-making, then my dishes, my apartment, my relationships and at this point I've learned even how to apply this in the way I run my company.

Third, I affirmed that I am perfectly and wonderfully made, zits and all. My confidence certainly should not come from my outside appearance, it starts somewhere else before that comes out of my fingertips. I realized that I am loved, valued, and cherished, even if I had the WORST skin in the world (not self-induced) because I ultimately am not loved for my accomplishments or physique. That is something that will never ever change, even if I were lost and alone, deformed and broken in a dirty pit. You and I are loved more than we can comprehend. Once I realized that- really TRULY realized that- my dermatillomania began to subside.

Like you've heard, "old habits die hard", and every once and awhile I make mistakes again. But there is hope, and if you struggle with this, you don't have to, In this situation I've begun to see for myself how elegance isn't about the exterior nearly if ever as much as the interior. Elegance isn't about having a perfect look, but a look centered on the right heart and mind.

My skin isn't the best skin in the world, but it no longer reflects the pain and heartbreak I struggled through for all those years. Yes, I have one major acne-scar under my left eye, but in some ways its a sign of accomplishment- what I've overcome and learned along the way. I've even gotten to the point now where I'm confident going foundation-free!

I wish and pray for anyone struggling with dermatillomania to find their voice and recognize that is not the end


Hannah Brusven founded The Swish in 2018 to combat trashy & politically biased women's media and create a  place for young women looking for a little more than more society feeds them.


Here we believe elegance is powerful, and the key to unlocking confidence, persuasion, and impact. Explore trends, traditions, lifestyle, and more with The Swish-- for an inspired elegant life. 


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