Olivia Munn: 'I Find a Way to Work Around' My Lash-Pulling Disorder

07/18/2013 at 12:31 PM ET

Olivia Munn eyelashesAmanda Schwab/Startraks

It’s hard to believe when you see her confident performance on The Newsroom, but Olivia Munn suffers from anxiety so severe that it causes her to pull out her own eyelashes.

“It’s called trichotillomania,” the actress, 33, told PEOPLE Wednesday at the L’Oreal Women in Digital Awards in N.Y.C. “It’s the same thing as people who bite their nails.”

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Munn’s condition, which began when she was 26, is triggered by big social situations. “If I were to walk into someone’s birthday party, I’d have a bad anxiety attack,” she admits, which in turn causes her to start lash-pulling.

Fortunately, the star’s experience in the makeup chair has given her the know-how to put together an easy fix. “I just created my own little lash-band with individuals,” she says, adding that she has a powder mix that she applies to her eyelids to help the false lashes adhere.

The rest of her beauty routine is simple: relying on “a good lip balm [she likes a Body Shop one] and a hair tie” to beat the summer heat.

And her final beauty must: Showing off her freckles. “I’ve had them since I can remember … it’s just my skin,” she tells PEOPLE. “I don’t like it when people try to cover them up!”

Tell us: Do you have any beauty struggles like Munn does? How do you deal with them?

— Susannah Guthrie

FILED UNDER: Beauty , Cosmetics , Skincare
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ladydi96 on

My daughter suffers from Trich – same lash and eyebrow pulling. It is a very “hush hush” disease that needs a voice. It’s a disease that creates more shame on top of the anxiety that triggers it. Not only does it wreak havoc on the individual sufferer, but on the person’s family as well. Thanks so much for putting a famous face to this disease and thanks to all of the commenters who shared their story. From a mom’s standpoint, it is absolutely heartbreaking. My compassion and thoughts go out to all of you!

Rosie on

Skin picking is part of this disease. I’ve done it since high school and like everyone else here, I have good days and bad days. It’s soothing to find those flaws and pick at them, even though I know what I’m doing to myself. My doctor prescribed meds, which I haven’t taken yet. I don’t want to be the type of person that needs them. It’s reassuring to know there are others out there to suffer the same feelings.

Stina on

I’ve never picked my eyelashes or eyebrows, but in the past few years I’ve begun to pick my skin, leaving horrible scars on my arms. I’ve had anxiety/depression problems for years & its NO JOKING MATTER!
I also have a son (who’s 12) who has ADHD, OCD, Anxiety Disorder & Tourettes. Our adult daughter also has Anxiety Disorder & OCD.
I wouldn’t wish these disorders on my worst enemy, and I mean that. The saddest part is having to watch your children struggling, and knowing how tough of a road they have ahead of them..
I have no clue who this actress is, but I applaud her for speaking out about such an uncomfortable issue!

I can relate on

Oh my goodness! I have always felt like such a freak. I have had an eye lash and eye brow pulling problem for years. It started when I would take exams in college and has followed me into my late 20s. My solution? I wear my glasses now every time I am at work. Having my glasses there to bump when I go to pull my eyelashes stop me from doing it. And eye brow pencil on my eyebrows. I like to think I hide it well – only those closest to me know that I have this problem. It’s amazing to read someone else though admitting they have the same problem. Honestly, I find it incredibly embarrassing to admit. Thank to who whatever celebrity this is for admitting this is a problem for some people!

Amy W on

I really feel like this article was very offensive to people who deal with Trichotillomania. This is a very superficial way to inform readers of a serious disorder. I sent the following letter to the editor in response:

Dear Editor,

On July 18th, you printed an article online about Olivia Munn’s struggle with a disorder called Trichotillomania. While I appreciate your publication shedding light on a disorder that affects so many people, I was truly disappointed with how you chose to present the information. I find it offensive that you placed this piece in the Style Watch portion of your website as if to suggest that Trichotillomania is merely a fashion faux pas.

Men and women all over the world deal with Trichotillomania. It is an anxiety order that drives individuals to hurt themselves, in some cases to severe levels. I think that it socially irresponsible of your publication to treat this topic like it is something easy to deal with. Most people who suffer from this disorder do so, to some extent, for their entire lives. It is not a topic that should be featured amongst articles about beauty bargains and the return of 90’s floral prints and yet that is exactly where I came across this item.

The information that the author shares on the disorder is of little significance. Nowhere in this article are readers privy to examples of how people outside of the media deal with the pitfalls of this condition. Instead she focuses on the actress’ tips on how to cover up the damage she inflicts on herself. The writer then goes on to call this Munn’s beauty struggle and provides readers with a short insight to the remainder of Ms. Munn’s beauty regimen. The author fails to offer her readers with any suggestions on how to learn more about Trichotillomania or where they can seek help if they need it.

Over the years, I have been an avid reader of your magazine. I have always chosen People over other entertainment magazines because I felt that your writing staff managed to bring a level of integrity to their writing that other publications lacked. However today I find myself questioning whether or not I can, in good conscience, continue to support a magazine that so harshly misrepresents information in order to fit an article into the confines of one of its more popular, preexisting and frankly superficial categories. I expect more from People magazine and hope that you will shine a more truthful light on this subject than the one you have dimly presented your readers with.


Amy W.

morgan on

I was very relieved when I read this. I got teased and teased. I even got teased from a teacher. She would say things like “oh my God your bald!!!” And start laughing. It made me cry and then everyone else started teasing me saying similar things. I was in fourth grade then. I have been able to stop pulling my hair, but unfortunately I keep pulling my eyelashes. But again thank you for posting this article.

Rosalina on

I actually have tricotillomania. It’s a behavioral disorder that causes you to pull your hair out. In most cases, its usually hair from the scalp. Ive suffered from it since I was about six years old. I never really understood those urges to pull or why it felt so good, or why it had to be “that one specific hair” but I would pull and pull until I had bald spots the size of quarters. Anxiety can sometimes trigger the act, but in most cases, it’s not what it is associated with. I have studied this disease and the acts of it and I also have fallen back into the habit countless times again, even with the proper help. The disease has caused me carpal tunnel syndrome from years of angular hand placement as well. It’s an unfortunate disease, but we learn to cope better once we understand it. The fact that its a behavioral habit and addiction is recognition enough to want the help that is needed. Although difficult, it can be done. I am now a hairdresser, I believe that coincides with always finding a way to hide my bald spots. But the psychological traits must be acknowledged to get passed this disease. The good and the bad.

Jasmine James on

How can anyone put down this woman?! How can anyone possibly put hate into this article? You’re just jealous jealous jealous.., and definitely on your way to hades! Olivia Munn has more honor, beauty and integrity in one of her little toes than you have in your entire existence.

Ruby on

I’m 28 years old and started pulling out my hair when I was in the first grade. I’ve tried many treatments and medications. Nothing has seemed to work for me. This is something I struggle with daily. If anyone has any advice for medication that may help me, please let me know.

Sage on

I have trichotillomania and I think there is no use in hiding it. I feel offended by this post quite honeslty. Saying that without makeup her disorder would be unfortunate is offensives.

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