By Zoe Weiner. Photos: Courtesy of Zoe Weiner.
I've always said that if I were stranded on a desert island, the only things I'd need to be happy are a pair of tweezers and a magnifying mirror.
I'm not thrilled to admit this, but until recently I spent at least an hour (OK, sometimes closer to two) every day staring at myself in a 10X magnifying mirror. I would study my face, searching for clogged pores and random facial hairs and then take not one, but two pairs of tweezers—one pointed, one slanted—and have at it. I extracted an insane amount of pleasure (no pun intended) by doing mini surgeries on myself, and it became a strange obsession I started to look forward to every day. Being able to recognize and fix every teeny, tiny imperfection made me feel in control. Some people take baths or do yoga to relax—I park myself in front of a magnifying mirror and go to town.
I've always been insecure about my eyebrows (I got my first wax when I was nine, after girls in the fourth grade made fun of my unibrow) and started regularly tweezing them myself before I'd even hit puberty. At some point spending all that time in front of a magnifying mirror trying to perfect my brows led me to move the tweezers south to my cheeks, chin, and other parts of my face.
A little more than a month ago, I had the (delayed) realization that this was definitely not normal behavior. Nobody ever noticed what was going on behind my bathroom door, but I started to recognize a lot of parallels to the eating disorder I suffered from throughout high school and college, and became aware that what started as a quirky habit had turned into something a lot more concerning. Upon doing a little Internet research, I realized that I might be dealing with a combination of anxiety disorders known as trichotillomania, which involves obsessively pulling out hair from your eyebrows, scalp, and other parts of your body, and dermatillomania, or skin picking.
These disorders are characterized by “increasing buildup of tension immediately before the plucking, which is followed by a sense of relief or reduction in tension when the hair (or skin) is pulled." Yup. That was me.
This realization was around the same time I was getting ready to move in with my boyfriend, and decided that this was not the kind of behavior I wanted him to see. I knew he'd be worried if I did it in front of him, and weirded out if I locked myself in the bathroom for over an hour every day “getting ready." So. I made the conscious decision to toss the magnifying mirror out in the move and say goodbye to it forever. Or at least, for the sake of this experiment, a month.
At first, it was straight-up brutal. I was constantly touching my face throughout the day, searching for a rogue hair or a soon-to-be blackhead, and freaking out that I wouldn't be able to fix it. I had a mini panic attack one afternoon when a pointy little black hair showed up unannounced on my cheek, and couldn’t concentrate on anything else until I got home and pulled it out (to be clear—regular mirrors and tweezers were still fair game). After that, I started using a Japanese Facial Razor to help exfoliate my skin to make sure all future hairs and blackheads didn't stand a chance, whether I could see them with my naked eye or not.
After the first 10 days, though, my obsession began to curb. Because I couldn't actually see the issues with my skin without the magnifying mirror, I slowly started to forget they were even there. My eyebrows were thicker and unrulier than ever, and my nose was almost definitely covered in blackheads, but I didn‘t really care. I realized how freeing it was to cut a full 60 minutes out of my morning and evening routines, which left me with ample time to spend hanging out with my new roommate/boyfriend.
It's been 32 days, 19 hours, and approximately 17 minutes since I last looked in a magnifying mirror, and I’m proud to report I'm doing A-OK (with more than a few blackheads and random facial hairs to prove it). I‘ve stopped obsessing about trying to have “perfect” skin and am learning to appreciate the bigger picture…which really isn‘t so bad. TBH, I like myself more now that I don't have every imperfection on my face staring back at me at 10 times their normal size.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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