Trichotillomania is a body focused repetitive behaviour where a person feels compelled to pull their hair out.
Trichotillomania is a secretive condition where the person is ‘unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action’, in this case, mainly pulling hair from the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. Research indicates that 1 or 2 in 50 people experience trichotillomania in their lifetime.
Though it is not known what causes trichotillomania, the theories are that it is a type of addiction, a way of relieving stress & anxiety and that it is a form of self-harm.
Two of our #LashGang members frequently write about how trichotillomania affects them on their blogs, and how they use products such as strip lashes to cover up bald patches. To help spread awareness of the condition and to give advice to anyone who may be suffering with trichotillomania, we interviewed Gweni of G Beauty Blog and Sophie of Pretty and Polished to tell us their thoughts.
How old were you when you first realised hair puling had a name, trichotillomania?
Gweni: I remember coming across an article in a magazine when I was around 12 on trichotillomania, but didn’t actually start referring to my hair pulling disorder as trich until I was probably 17. My hair pulling wasn’t as bad as how it was described in the article when I was younger, so I don’t think I quite realised it was trich at that point. I used to just refer to my hair pulling as “picking my eyelashes”.
Sophie: I can’t remember exactly when I realised, but I do remember being around 8 and my Dad stumbling across a website for fellow sufferers. It had a ‘league table’ type format, allowing you to enter how many days you had been ‘pull-free’, and it was a place to support others and ask general questions about the disorder. This was the first time I became aware that there were other people like me, and I think it gave my parents some peace of mind too (especially as I was 3 when I started pulling). When I was in my mid-teenage years I became more pro-active in researching trichotillomania, and it was around this time when I started to learn more about the realities of disorder, rather than in the psychological lingo that psychiatrists had conversed in. The first time I met another sufferer wasn’t until this year, when I met up with Gweni!
Do you think the general public understands what trich is, or knows much about it?
Gweni: I have found a mixed response to how much people know about trich. Half have never heard of it, or hair pulling in general, and find it quite weird but then liken it to something like biting your nails. The other half will respond with how they know someone who pulls out their hair. I don’t think the general public is very clued up on the disorder’s name, but I do think a lot of people know about hair pulling in general.
Sophie: I think there is still a huge misunderstanding in society regarding most forms of mental health illness. When explaining my disorder to others in person, they still give me ‘that look’; a condescending, confused frown which says ‘you’re a freak’. Before I had my eyebrows tattooed, I was almost certain that if I walked down the street with no eyebrows or eyelashes and embraced my baldness, most people would stare at me as though I wasn’t normal. I don’t think many people have heard of it- only those who have it or know someone with it (which would be rare as it’s an incredibly secretive disorder). There is so much education needed and awareness to be raised, especially considering the huge number of people it actually affects. A lot of people can’t get past the idea that we do this to ourselves and that we can’t stop ourselves from doing it.
“It can be such a lonely disorder, with most of your time spent secretly hating yourself and frantically trying to cover up the damage of hair-pulling.”
What advice would you give to anyone who is currently suffering with trich?
Gweni: You are not alone. It is such a common disorder. There are a lot of bloggers out there who deal with it and have written about their experiences online. There is help out there for those of you who want it. You just can’t let it define you as a person.
Sophie: If you suffer from trich, it’s so important to know that you are not alone. It can be such a lonely disorder, with most of your time spent secretly hating yourself and frantically trying to cover up the damage of hair-pulling. There’s a fairly large community online (whether it be blogs, forums, or social media) so if you want to talk to others who have trich too and know what you are going through, then get involved; everyone is so approachable! It’s very tough at first, but the most important thing for my journey with accepting trich was to be open about it. ‘Coming out’ to friends, family and partners is incredibly daunting at first, but once it’s out there in the open, you can start having those conversations and try to bring understanding to them (so they can help you) and yourself.
What are your top beauty tips for those with trich?
Gweni: Eyeliner is your friend. I never leave the house without lining my upper lash line; it’s such an easy way to cover up any bald patches. I like to cover up my bald lashes with winged liner and false lashes, my Nouveau Lashes Natural ones are my all-time favourites! As for brows, I like using a brow powder and an angled brush. Instead of using brush-like strokes, I find that patting the powder onto the skin is much better for covering up patches. I like to use it as a bit of an excuse to do fun eye makeup looks; not having eyelashes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look fabulous!
Sophie: I can’t speak for hair loss from the scalp, but for eyelashes, definitely get yourself a good eyeliner and some natural-looking false lashes like Nouveau Lashes! It’s amazing how many people you can fool into thinking they are your own! Eyebrows are a bit trickier, but I swear by Soap & Glory’s Archery brow pencil (mainly because it’s the perfect shade for me and has a dreamy texture).
Getting the shape right is hard if you’re drawing them on from scratch, but take time and play around with filling them in and see what works for you. Also, find a shade which matches your natural hair colour to make them look as seamless as possible. Earlier this year I got my eyebrows tattooed (individual hairs were tattooed on to look as natural as possible) and it has totally transformed my life. If your trich is eyebrow-focused, I’d definitely recommend looking into having them tattooed! I save so much time in the morning and never have to worry about my brows now…ever!
Sources: NHS, The Trichotillomania Learning Centre.