acne and ocd/bipolar disorder (picking)

I struggled with acne since I was about 14 years old — menarche. That’s 8 years of spots and spending money on over-the-counter/herbal remedies that never quite worked. Until I saw a dermatologist in ~November, I was taking stabs in the dark as to how to make my biggest insecurity go away.

I was also “taking control” as only someone with OCD can. I picked. It mixed with my hypomania in a vicious way. I’d focus in on one thing — the texture of my skin and how I could make it better! Of course!

And I picked and I picked and I picked until I looked like a meth head and then I picked some more.

I was always fully aware that picking made it look worse and was likely to make it more infected. But my mind is not quite logical with some things. (a symptom of OCD is being fully aware that your rituals make no sense in the logical world.) I didn’t really have any reasoning for the picking save for this:

*hand drifts to face* (bad habit) oh no there’s a little bump maybe I can squash it *squeeeesh* oops damnit Martha you’re not supposed to do that maybe scratch it until it’s completely smooth *uses dirty fingernails to damage layers of skin and create dime sized scab from pin prick sized pimple* maybe that other scab on your chin is ready to go and *peeeeeel* damnit where’s a tissue I’m bleeding in public this is embarrassing

Sound gross? I know, I know, it was like I couldn’t help but publicly shame myself multiple times per day. And that was part of getting through picking — remember the shame, don’t touch your face. Remember the shame. And you don’t have any tissues.

Top ways to stop picking:
-wear fake nails. this makes it near impossible. this is by far my top tip. It gets you out of the habit of picking, even after you stop wearing nails.
-knit/crochet when you have idle hands. and keep at it. and start a new project when you finish another.
-eat. something that requires two hands, like shelling peanuts.
-shift your focus from picking to moisturizing. it doesn’t happen overnight. but it is another way to control skin texture and it is also a way to be kind to yourself.
-sit on your hands if you feel them drifting toward your face.

and of course,
-read up on OCD, if you have been diagnosed. once I was diagnosed, I read a lot of articles on picking and OCD, and they helped me to recognize patterns that were the disorder. I previously thought I had no self-control, and I was destined to have scabs on my face 5ever.

But now I have clear skin, nothing to pick at. If I get a hormonal zit, I let it be. It dies, thanks to RX creams I still have on hand.

Another note– I see a lot of beauty bloggers and people on the acne tag who haven’t seen a dermatologist but complain of horrible acne and spend hundreds of dollars on anything that might work. I have spent a total of $150 on three months of seeing a dermatologist, and less money on new skincare items/medications that have all worked that the doctor recommended. Below I include all products for acne, scarring, and hyperpigmentation. It’s a lot cheaper than guessing in the dark for years with spots on your face. My advice is to see a doctor!

Products I currently use:
-Cerave A.M. and P.M. facial moisturizers ($28 total)
-Cerave eye cream ($12)
-Cetaphil facial cleanser ($4)
-PCA pigment bar ($30 bulk)
-Avar-e pigment lightening gel (RX) (free)
-doxycycline every other day (RX) ($10)
-Cetaphil cream ($15 bulk)
-Aquaphor ointment ($20 bulk)

seldom use anymore now that acne is dead:
-Epiduo (RX) (free)
-Aczone (RX) (free)
-Eletone (RX) (free)
-PCA blemish bar ($30 bulk)

This is just an example of what clear skin has cost me financially. I consider it money well spent. Most of these products last me forever (the bulk bars claim to last a year) (the bulk creams will probably outlast them).

If you pick your skin, do some research and free yourself. šŸ™‚ And cough up and see a doctor about those zits if they really bother you and lower your self-confidence. You deserve to feel great in your skin.

~*treat yo self*~


skin, hair, and nail things that have treated me well in November and December


This little eye cream in a tube by Cerave is convenient, hygienic, inexpensive, and very moisturizing. If I forget this for a day, I notice. When I started using it, I noticed that my eye makeup (foundation, concealer, and shadows) went on a hell of a lot better. I have tried more expensive eye creams, and this one tops them, in my humble, pharmacy-skincare-fanatic opinion.


My heavy-duty moisturizers. I use the Cetaphil cream on my face almost every night and some mornings (let’s be real, I don’t get my shit together until the afternoon). Makeup goes on fine over it. It’s super rich but not greasy. I also use it after a shower/bath all over. It’s cheap, a jar lasts forever, and it feels so luxurious! I spot treat with the Aquaphor. Flaky nose, lips, brows, scabs (gross), whatever. Once every week or two I put on a thin layer on my whole face overnight. It doesn’t break me out, it just banishes any dryness (can you tell how much I obsessively hate dry skin?).


My holy grail every day or I’ll die moisturizers. My dermatologist told me to use them, and she is a saint. Or a god. Or something. They are exactly the same except for the one marked a.m. has sun protection. They sink right into the skin and leave it soft but not shiny. FoundationĀ applies like a dream over them (after a primer) (haven’t tried without a primer because I am a believer in the priming).


THIS STUFF. MAN, OH MAN, THIS STUFF. If you have acne scars, BUY IT NOW. Get your ass to Sephora and drop the dollars because this gets rid of them!! I know, I know, there are some scary studies about lab rats who were dunked into super-concentrated vats of hydroquinone. But I quit drinking and smoking and diet coke. I will keep rubbing hydroquinone on my face. Shoot me (please don’t it will leave a scar!) (or do, the scar will be gone in two weeks!).


My cleansers. I have a special place in my heart for these guys. Washing my face twice daily is so soothing. I get so… so zen about the whole thing. In the morning I just use the Cetaphil, like my dermatologist told me to. I love this cleanser. I love all of these cleansers. Sigh. At night I use the rest all mixed together. The Biore black cleanser seriously gets all of the shit out of your pores. My derm did not tell me to use this, but commented on how perfectly empty my pores were after I started using. Yeah, I said using, like drugs. It’s that good. The scrub is a super cheap, fine scrub that is suitable for daily use and smells nice. The Blemish Control Bar is a sacred thing.Ā It contains sulphur and salicylic acid and other goodies that beat acne-causing demons out of your life with brass knuckles. It somehow does not dry you out or sting you in the process, because It is kind. My derm sold me the Blemish Control Bar. Miracles come inĀ little jars.

My cleansing routine is intense and not for the faint-of-heart. So was my acne! But now it is gone. Gone!

When I go to wash my face at night, lover says, “is it okay if I watch an episode of Frasier while you’re in there?”

Frasier was our thing that we watched together.

Face routine, you’re tearing us apart!!


Basic chapstick. I buy the five-pack and have one in every coat pocket and two (?) in the bathroom. I use it every night and under every lipstick or gloss. My lips stay nice. (I have not yet mentioned on this blog that I am a professional trombonist. I am not kidding. I am working on a degree in trombone, of all things. So my lips have to stay nice. They are the only thing making me any money.)


Hair and nails. I always get “your hair looks nice today!” when I use it’s a 10. I don’t know what it does, exactly. It really does feel silky. And the Crew pomade is my favorite pomade of the moment. I use it when I want to look polished and extra androgynous. The nail treatment has made my nails super strong. They never break anymore. My nails barely bend (and they are long). It looks fine on its own, and it works very well as a base coat.


These make your scalp feel like it is brushing its teeth, and it feels amazing. My super thick hair is shinier and more manageable since I started using this line.

You might be able to tell that I am a tad OCD about skincare. So be it. It calms me down. That’s kind of the thing with OCD, the rituals calm you down. But at least these are socially acceptable and okayed by someone with a degree.