When I was a kid, stepping on extra crunchy leaves, sticking my bare hands in snow, playing with bubbles from a bubble bath, were all little things that I’d look forward to. I just wanted the satisfaction that only certain textures could bring. I annoyed so many poor kitties and puppies for the chance to shove my face into their velvety soft fur. Every time my parents got a package, I begged to shred the packing peanuts apart, or pop all of the bubble wrap. And honestly, when confronted with these objects, my impulse control was really low. I’d spring for the chance to crunch a satisfying patch of ice without thought. There was just something so innately satisfying about all of these different things, and even as I’m writing this, I’m having trouble articulating the commonalities. I guess it’s just that I felt some sort of reward when I was doing these things. The controlled pop of bubble wrap is a different sort of satisfaction than petting a cat, but nonetheless they’re all wrapped up in experiencing the tactile feel of it all.
I would constantly annoy my poor dog by getting all up in her space. She was so patient with me.
And now, as an adult, a lot of the consideration of what beauty products I buy comes from whether or not I like the texture. There are certain fabrics that I avoid interacting with because I DON’T like the texture of them. I like crunching plastic water bottles for the crinklyness, and running my palm against my hairbrush. And, relating it back to my BFRB, when my skin isn’t the perfectly smooth surface that is usually unachievable, my hands are sometimes drawn to it - trying to “fix” any lumps and bumps but ultimately causing more harm.
Being drawn to tactical experiences is a big part of my relationship with my BFRB, so I figure I can’t be alone.
Something that I used to watch on youtube, more than I’d like to admit, is Dr. Pimple Popper. It’s a youtube channel of a dermatologist - and I think you can guess what kind of videos they have. As someone who loves to pick their skin, I told myself that watching those videos would “quell my craving” to get rid of all those little bumps and spots on my face. It would maybe work in the moment, but would almost 100% of the time it would leave me THINKING about my skin, and I’d wind up in the mirror a few hours later afterwards.
After accepting that this was not healthy and was, in fact, fueling what almost felt like an addiction to picking my skin - I looked for other outlets that kind of “fulfilled” the sensory and texture experience that I was looking for. It wasn’t exactly the same - but I found another section of youtube that made my fingers want to get moving, just in new ways this time.
That is the story of how I discovered a very specific community on youtube. There are so many videos of people playing with slime, crunching soap, and cutting makeup all delighted the part of my brain that wanted the satisfaction of different textures.
I’ve got a couple of recommendations lined up here:
I am not sure whether all of these that I’m referring to would fall into the “ASMR” category. “ASMR” was a big craze awhile back. It stands for “Autonomous sensory meridian response”, and these types of videos cause some people to get a pleasant “tingling” sensation in their brain. I’ve never had that reaction, I just think they’re satisfying - but that’s good enough for me!
And of course - it got me looking into how to get some of these strategies into my own hands. (But not all of these things.. I’m not wasting expensive makeup like that!)
I’ve tried making slime a couple of times - NEVER to the same level of sheer beauty that you find in these slime professionals. But pretty substantial nonetheless! I’ve used this recipe with decent success! I get saline solution at my local drugstore. I wouldn’t recommend saving the slime for long periods of time, it gets kind of nasty, but it’s fun to make and play with once in awhile. And I’m sure if I threw something extra in like glitter or beads I’d get a whole new experience!
My sister also gifted me the Kinetic Zen Garden which I absolutely ADORE. I always wanted MoonSand as a kid, it looked so magical and enticing when they were showing it in Nickelodeon advertisements, and this is essentially grown up MoonSand. It’s super calming, and surprisingly doesn’t make a mess! Since all of the sand clumps together.
Photo courtesy of kineticsand.com
There are so many different ASMR-adjacent communities that I haven’t explored - paint mixing, cake decorating, “oddly satisfying video” compilations - and even more! I know another common type of ASMR is to have people whispering to you, or pretending to give you a haircut. I’m not personally a fan of the ones where you can see other people’s faces. I’m like, this is my moment! I’m not trying to form a false connection with a person on my computer right now! But, they’re out there.
Finding other things to entertain this texture-craving part of my brain has been super helpful for me. Watching these videos is soothing in a low-committal way, I don’t even have to pay attention to the plot of a TV show! And finding ways to take these tactile activities into my real-life is a good break from screen time. It’s something that I’m glad I learned about myself, and wanted to share!~Mari, HabitAware Team member. You can read about my story here!