In the past yr, way to the proliferation of pores and skin-care suggestions via social media, I’ve grown to be unexpectedly preoccupied with what I’m placing on my face. For years, I changed into content to lazily rinse with water inside the morning or follow years-old drugstore exfoliator. Then I learned approximately toner, and from there, my pores and skin-care education improved to highly-priced Sunday Riley purchases and in-intensity micellar water comparisons. I have put on greater sunscreen in the past yr than all of my teen years mixed. My group texts are now peppered with earnest discussions of 10-step regimens, hyaluronic acid, and snail mucus face mask.
Skincare has been a pleasing investment. I can’t fight the getting older manner, however, my skin looks higher. And it’s more pleasing to spend $25 on comically tiny bottles of Good Genes and Ceramic Slip Cleanser than the indulgences of my early 20s.

But pores and skin-care routines are a slippery slope for someone with my mental makeup.
For the beyond 15 years, my existence has been dictated by routines ranging from quirky to self-negative, all element and parcel of my obsessive-compulsive ailment (OCD). This provides a venture: How do I interact in pores and skin-care exercises—a self-care exercise that advantages my body and saturates my social media feeds—without it triggering my OCD?
“The worst aspect for people with OCD is to have rituals and workouts,” Jenny Yip, Psy.D., a medical psychologist and institutional member of the International OCD Foundation, tells SELF. “It’s smooth for us to update one compulsion with a new compulsion—and also you don’t want to update one compulsion with any other.”
OCD starts with obsessions—unwanted thoughts repeating to your thoughts—which trigger anxiety and soreness, she explains. In order to reduce the negative effect of the obsessions, a character engages in compulsions, that are behaviors that provide relief through permitting you to experience more secure or escape the compulsions.
For someone to be identified with OCD, their obsessions and compulsions have to intervene with their ordinary each day functioning, Yip says, which include their capacity to deal with obligations at faculty or paintings or interactions with family, friends, or romantic companions.
Sticking to an ordinary because it brings fantastic bodily effects isn’t inherently the identical element as engaging in compulsive conduct, however, it can quickly veer into that territory for some. For example, I’m a very nervous flier, and for years, I’ve depended on rituals to subdue intrusive mind of crashes. If, for instance, the morning of a flight, I’m methodically repeating my ritual of cleansing, tone, and moisturize till it “feels proper” or I reach one of my “excellent” numbers, then I’m using my skincare routine to quiet my obsessive thoughts about flying.
Magical wondering—an issue of my OCD that leads me to trust that my mind or actions can affect the external world—tells me that messing up my routine earlier than I visit the airport would possibly lead to a plane crash.
When your mind receives into that kind of obsessive tailspin (one you may objectively identify from afar as nonsensical, but still can’t appear to get away) compulsions can give you a feel of remedy or temporary freedom from obsessive thoughts, Yip says.
“That relief is reinforcing,” she provides. “So while your notion comes back, what are you likely to do? Whatever you probably did previously.”
If I get too caught in that notion loop—I need to do that just so, or this aircraft will crash—I can become repeating my habitual to the point that it interferes with my everyday functioning. I might omit my flight or disappointed a person I’m touring with, as an instance.
If pores and skin-care recurring begins to interfere along with your social existence or sleep, or you have to repeat it any time you reduce to rubble or according to unique regulations, the ones are symptoms that it might be eliciting some OCD-associated behaviors, Yip says.
More and more human beings have been getting interested in pores and skin care over the last few years, in all likelihood because of “empowerment and schooling via social media,” Evan Rieder, M.D., assistant professor inside the Ronald O. Perelman branch of dermatology at NYU Langone Health and board-certified psychiatrist, tells SELF. But for people with OCD, moderation is key.
“There may be [a] great gain to pores and skin-care regimen with respect to self-care,” he says. Some humans locate that sticking to a routine like that is relaxing or that a Sunday night masks facilitate them mentally prepare for the week beforehand.
But, Dr. Rieder says, if a regimen starts to transport far from being psychologically beneficial closer to something that interferes with paintings or social sports, then it might be time for an alternate. “Often, limiting the time spent on a regimen and quantity of times in step with a day devoted to self-care may be the key distinction among helpful and maladaptive behaviors,” he says.
I’ve been living with my OCD long enough that I even have a terrific experience of which rituals can end up compulsions and of whilst my pressure stage might exacerbate my symptoms. I’ve located that on the subject of skin care, it’s important for me to mix it up—bypass the toner or moisturizer now and again, as an example.
Breaking your “OCD policies” like that is a part of a strategy referred to as publicity therapy, Yip says. You can completely ignore the rules, or your “OCD monster,” which is mostly a hard first step for people if they’ve never attempted publicity remedy.