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Hyram (c) Courtesty of Selfless by Hyram5
Hyram (c) Courtesty of Selfless by Hyram

Hyram opens up about his journey with eating disorders and self harm

The skincare guru struggled with his mental health for years – on a new podcast, he’s using his platform to help others with theirs

Content warning: mentions of suicide attempt, self-harm and eating disorders

Growing up, Hyram Yarbro had no access to the internet. Raised in a strict Mormon family living on a cattle ranch in rural Arizona, it wasn’t until college that the skincare influencer – who now boasts over 10 million followers across social media and his own beauty brand – discovered online life. “Home was a very religious environment with no internet and highly restricted materials, only my parents’ religion,” he tells me over Zoom from Colorado, where he splits his time with Hawaii. 

It wasn’t just the internet that his eyes were opened to. College was also the first time Yarbro discovered there were other people like him. Isolated from the wider world, cut off from access to “LGBTQ+ content creators, or news, or queer rights”, and aware the family’s religion was against it, Yarbro had kept his sexuality secret. When gay marriage was legalised, he says, “I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know a single gay person where I lived.” He remembers seeing Ellen on TV but “my parents would make us turn it off.”  

His fears were not unfounded. When he did come out, his parents essentially disowned him – trauma that, combined with financial and career worries, fed into the struggles he experienced with depression, eating disorders, self-harm and a suicide attempt through his teens and early twenties. 

Yarbro has long wondered how to tackle his experiences with his mental health online. While he has broached the subjects before in a series of candid, pragmatic videos several years ago, having built his personal brand around skincare he was unsure how to reconcile his upbeat online persona with the darkness he’s struggled with. Now he’s hoping a new podcast will serve as a platform for him to have these important conversations and to share with listeners the “tools and mentalities” that helped him cope. “Mental health issues thrive in secrecy and shame. My eating disorder and self-harm continued for so long because you feel like you’re alone and can’t talk about it with anyone.”

Justaposition sees Yarbro dive into the mental health journeys of other content creators, like comedian Melissa Ong who left a successful career in big tech as her “self-worth was entirely tied to what other people thought of me”, blind YouTuber Molly Burke and TikTok comedian Hilary Star. Neither Yarbro nor his guests thus far have mental health qualifications – it’s more of a sharing, safe space, although he tells me he’d love to platform self-help authors in the future. “Everyone has their issues – but people have an online persona, which I wanted to get beyond and meet the real person, particularly their mental health,” Yarbro explains. “On podcasts, you can take your time and tell the whole story.” 

Alongside exploring the stories of others, on Justaposition Yarbro also speaks in-depth about his own personal struggles. He’s chosen to discuss his experiences of depression, self-harm, eating disorders and attempting to end his life not because it’s easy (I hear his voice waver on the most painful admissions, like his estrangement from his parents) but because he thinks it will help his listeners. “I’m thinking of someone who’s going through that, who it might help to hear from me that I’ve been through it,” he shares.  

Leaving home, though the first step to liberation, was not the end of Yarbro’s problems. He started college in Hawaii, then dropped out for financial reasons, working multiple jobs in the service industry, with the pressure eventually resulting in a suicide attempt in 2018. “I’d grown up believing that if you work hard, you’d succeed, so working so much yet being unable to support myself was just too much.” 

Skincare turned out to be a lifeline for him during this time. While still a student he had begun to take an interest in the subject – he had sun damage and deep-set lines that made him self-conscious about looking older than his age, so he trained as a make-up artist and educated himself on skincare, getting into retinol in particular. As he saw the results of his efforts, he started making YouTube videos to pass on his recommendations and ingredients knowledge.

It was the “two or three thousand” subscribers he gained on YouTube thanks to these videos, alongside therapy, that helped him through his lowest points. The thought that anyone wanted to watch him gave him hope for his future. His advice to people struggling with depression is to seek therapy but also to find a source of hope. “Cling on for dear life to anything that means life can get better,” he says.    

Throwing his energy into content creation brought success, but also burnout. He remembers going through periods of spending so much time making and editing videos he barely slept, constantly uploading to YouTube and TikTok. It’s a common state of mind for content creators and something that is much discussed on the podcast. Speaking to Star about how she copes with her social media workload, Yarbro describes TikTok as “the most authentic, but also the most exhausting” platform, where “you can never take a break, step back or miss a trend”. Star replies: “it’s my Kryptonite. TikTok is the reason I can barely fall asleep at night”.

Hyram doesn’t exactly regret this intense period, as it resulted in the size of platform he now enjoys, but he’s happy to have reached a level where he can work at a sustainable pace. He counsels his audience not to overwork unhealthily, but believes in focus and work ethic. He recommends listeners write six-month, one-year and five-year plans and work towards them.

Another recurring topic on the podcast is the weirdness of online fame and its effects. “I don’t think it’s possible to have a large following and not have ramifications for your mental health” Yarbro says, adding he’s dealing with it in therapy. “Looking at your follower numbers, comments and criticism can mess you up, but mentally I’m able to disconnect. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I turn off my phone and go outside”. As someone who has struggled with pressure to be perfect – “being a perfectionist fuelled my eating disorder and my problems with self-harm,” he says – Yarbro describes his recovery as a “continual process”. But he is clear how grateful he is for his online community; both the connection they share as well as the opportunities and material benefits they’ve brought him.  

Yarbro is, thankfully, no longer at the low point he once was, but he still loves the meditative aspect of his skincare regimen. “Doing your routine for 5-10 minutes morning and evening provides small moments of peace and an element of taking care of yourself,” he says. He also finds happiness in giving back. His skincare line, SelflessbyHyram was developed using ethically produced ingredients, comes packaged in recyclable sugarcane plastic, and a percentage of every sale goes to either The Rainforest Trust or Thirst Project. The brand calculates it has conserved 192,000 acres of rainforest in Bolivia and provided clean drinking water for life for 9,000 people in the Kingdom of eSwatini  in its first year. “That’s the part I’m happiest about,” says Yarbro.