SCAR WARS: A Compulsive Skin-Picker’s Guide to Erasing Self-Inflicted Wounds and Looking Incredibly Glowy All Over

My boyfriend once said my skin looked like a battlefield. But now it’s almost perfect!

Oct 14, 2011 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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I’ve been picking my legs, arms and bikini line for six years straight. Basically, any spot that I can hide under clothes or whatever, I also pick (this excludes my face, fortunately -- I don't touch it). I’m not talking picking at one or two ingrown hairs -- I mean digging deep into my skin with pins, tweezers, scissors even, to get out hairs that probably wouldn’t surface on their own for weeks.

As bad habits go, it’s disgusting, painful, and embarrassing. And it makes me look like a meth addict.

In high school and my early college years, the picking was a side effect of my depression, manifesting itself whenever I was upset or sad, which was often. I would sit in my bathroom each night, hunched over the edge of the bathtub, trying to pull things out of my skin that weren't even there to begin with. I'd finally stop and realize hours had passed. The ritual was calming and kind of out-of-body, until I woke up to the festering holes and felt a thousand times worse about myself.

Compulsive picking is such a nasty little disorder because even though the logical side of me knows that I am only making my skin worse, the crazy side takes over and tells me that if I just pick one last time, my skin will finally be flawless. And so the cycle continues.

Recently, though, I've been more emotionally healthy than ever before. I have an amazing boyfriend who loves and supports me, blemishes and all. I am happy for the most part, yet I still pick. It's no longer in response to overwhelming situations (OK, sometimes it is -- living in New York is rough!); rather it is just something that I do. Old habits die hard, or whatever the cliché is.

I like to think I can stop picking on my own, but years of trying have shown me that I can't, at least not for an extended period. But I'm also in my own nutty anti-medicine cult and refuse to take Tylenol or any anti-depressants that could help me.

I realize that this is a symptom of a deeper mental health issue, not really about hairs, and that no cream can fix what's going on in my head. But after spending hundreds of dollars on nearly every body product out there, I know which ones truly work to get rid of even the most stubborn scars and spots.

The great thing about skin is that it regenerates -- you get a lot of chances to fuck it up. I hope you have perfect skin from head to toe, but if you don't, you can get it! I promise you, if I can get glowy radiance all over, anyone can. Here's how:

1) Smooth on a calming body serum where things are irritated.

Aveda's body care line is pretty much perfect. It's all-natural, sourced responsibly, smells amazing, and it WORKS -- the products do what they say they're going to do. I like the brand's individual essential oils (rose, bergamot, and vanilla) for soothing inflamed skin, but their Calming Composition is on a whole other level: I put it on anything red, bumpy or painful and it soothes the skin and dramatically reduces the inflammation.

I am of the "more is more" camp when it comes to slathering on products -- I literally use bottles of creams and oils in three days -- but with this, you really only need a few drops.

2) Oil up!

Have you seen the ads for this stuff? It's just a white page in a magazine with a letter from someone saying like, “Bio-Oil saved my life.” If you've never used it, you'd roll your eyes, but Bio-Oil really is a miracle working, life-changing dream. If it wasn't 20 bucks for a little bottle, I'd, like, bathe in it.

Many a night, I have laid down a towel, squirted this all over myself, and woken up to soft, healed skin. It works that fast. I emergency-used it before a trip to Florida in August and was able to frolic around the beach without a towel wrapped around my lower half, which never happens.

3) Baby (lotion) yourself.

Because sometimes the fancy stuff just isn't as good as the classic. I love smelling like an infant and I always have baby powder along the top of my jeans from constantly patting it on my butt. (If you never baby powdered your own behind, I strongly suggest it: It is very calming and you feel all regressed in a good way.)

Johnson's Baby Lotion will never make you break out anywhere; it's as gentle as it gets. Even though there is fragrance in it, it doesn't sting -- otherwise people wouldn't slather it all over their babies. This is my go-to lotion for keeping my picked-over areas smooth. I layer it on top of the Aveda and/or Bio-Oil sometimes, for extra skin conditioning.

4) Exfoliate, but be gentle about it.

Omigod, I love scrubs! The idea of scrubbing imperfections out of my skin makes me so excited -- I know, I know, it's the compulsive in me. I have to watch it: I've definitely learned one thing not to do and that is not to scrub already irritated skin. Trust me, it will NEVER work. I used to think I could even it all out into one flat, red, bloody mess that would magically fix itself by the morning, but nooo.

Instead, you have to wait until whatever you have heals, and then go to town. This product, Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Treatment Scrub, is definitely pricey, but it's the best of the best -- a treatment product that looks and feels luxe and glam, but also works like crazy -- and it comes in a huge tub that lasts forever. The stuff smells a little medicinal and funky at first, but it seriously makes your skin glowingly beautiful. I use it twice a week.

5) Use a body balm like you would a lip balm -- same concept.

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Benefit's Bathina is the silkiest, prettiest body balm there is, and it conditions skin like crazy. Applying it makes taking care of my skin feel incredibly glamorous, since it comes with a little puff that you use to rub the balm all over your arms, legs and chest before you go out. It's hydrating, and adds just the right amount of sheen to your skin. 

The fragrance is amazing -- floral and lush and rosy, but not overpowering. And most crucially, it won't irritate sensitive skin despite being perfumed.

6) As a last resort, use the body makeup Kim Kardashian and I both swear by.

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If all else fails and you still need to cover imperfections, go with Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, aka. the best spray-on body make-up EVER. The Kardashians beat me this recommendation, but they’re the ultimate beauty divas and you know that if they like this, it’s amazing!

It's for legs, but I've used it pretty much everywhere. It doesn't rub off (just wait about 10 minutes after applying) on clothes or in water and it gives a nice, matte cover to any ugly spots. A friend I know uses it to hide her ankle tattoo for interviews. I know that body makeup sounds gross or scary to a lot of people, but I promise it's not.

So: What are your skin-perfecting miracle products? Do you always tweeze responsibly, or are you like me when it comes to hair removal? I want to know!