I can’t really count to the people who have “perfect skin”, even despite the big progress I made in treating my acne. Enter the teenage years, my hormones suddenly exploded and went out of the order, leaving my life a mess. Everybody’s hormones go out of control when growing up – that’s what the puberty is scientifically about, right – but the problems we face can be different. Mine was severe acne, along other health problems.
It was like a wall or bars in jail where I was isolated from my “normal” friends among whom I desperately wanted to belong but, with the meaning of appearance and beauty extremely magnified in those years, it felt impossible. I used to be depressed about looking like this, no one will ever approach me; I buried myself in piles of books and stories in order to forget about how miserable I felt. Sounds dramatic and at that time, I certainly wasn’t the happiest. But with years passing by, those times surely taught me something. That is, if you want something, work consistently for it; don’t be harsh on yourself; and finally, reading is fantastic!
The consistent work and being kind to oneself is what I’d like to talk about in this article that may be most useful for those of you with problematic skin but I hope even those who have never experienced any bigger skin issues can find something beneficial here. To make it better arranged, I split my notes on skin care to two parts; in this one, the first, I’d like to talk about what you can do for your skin without buying anything; in the second one that will follow, I’ll show some products and procedures I use to maintain it.
The most important message I’d like to share in this post is: Respect your natural skin condition. Don’t try to make it over. Don’t fight against what you have got with artificial instruments – at least not first.
Here’s how I mean it:
1. The very first thing you should do is – surprise, surprise – find a good dermatologist and appoint a meeting.
By good I mean someone who will listen carefully and consult, not give commands. It sounds like a matter of course but it’s not. The doctors can be very busy, overworked and some of them educated in the past regime (here) and/or very rigid in thinking. I’ve met many doctors but only one of them helped me – who respected I didn’t want to use corticoids on my eczema or put too much chemical substances on my already damaged face. We were finding solutions together. She didn’t prescribe me any aggressive medication that so many of her colleagues in other places did. Also, she was the only one who noticed that I have oily and very sensitive skin at the same time which was something I definitely haven’t known before. That’s why most drugstore products for oily/acne skin are too harsh and I went through many bad experiences with them. The same goes with prescribed medicine; things like alcohol tincture with antibiotics? Never more.
This relates to another topic, and that is: Do you have any allergies? An asthma? Check up with your doctor, too. If you do (like me), your skin is likely to have weakened immunity and therefore protects itself worse. This means you need to treat it even more carefully.
Then, after you have diagnosed possible issues…
2. Look closely on your diet and lifestyle and be honest to yourself. Do you feel good?
Do you eat the best you can afford? Do you sleep enough? Do you feel energetic or tired without any clear reason?
I can’t stress enough here how important is to maintain a healthy-ish, balanced lifestyle. Don’t believe anyone who says that food or sleep or water or lifestyle at all doesn’t have any or big impact on your skin; it’s bullsh*t. Skin is our biggest organ and if you already deal with some skin issues, the way you live definitely shows. So why make it worse if we have a choice, right?
Try to notice all the changes happening in your body during the day, after you eat or do something. Test how much movement and rest time you need to feel fresh. Figure out what feels good to you.
For me it’s important to drink enough water and to maintain a regular regime, meaning sleeping, eating and moving regularly. Since I’m an epileptic ((lol, now it looks like I have all diseases of the world but trust me, I’m a pretty healthy person), it’s a must; but I perceive it as a good thing actually and don’t feel limited that my daily rhythm has to be steady. I observed that eating a lot of seasonal fruit and vegetables, meat only few times a week, having fish whenever I can and limit gluten and dairy except for the fermented kinds (like yoghurt, kefir, etc.) is what makes me feel – and look – good.
As somehow who grew up in East Asian household, I’m used to think of my body and mind function as an “energy” – it it flows and isn’t “stuck” somewhere, I feel good and everything works well. The diet, sleep and exercise are means how to manage this flow. You probably heard of several types of food in Chinese medicine – “cooling”, “warming”, “neutral”, etc. I’m used to think of food in these terms and choose it according to what I want and need at the moment but mostly to be balanced.
I make sure I have about 8 hours of sleep every night and try to go to bed and get up at similar time every day. I run 3-4 times a week; I began when I was 15, trying to get in better shape and now it’s so natural for me that I can’t imagine my life without running. It’s my go-to hobby when I need to unwind, clear my mind and breathe in some fresh air. I accompany it by practising yoga almost every day which is quite a different activity but the two complement very nicely.
Even though I don’t have any 100% evidence, I like to think that changing my lifestyle cured my health issues; my allergy is almost nonexistent, I have no sleeping problems, I’m ill twice a year at most with some quick cold and got rid of acne completely. Consistency is the key.
3. Be aware of your period and related changes.
As women, we live cyclically – the changes that happen with us come back at the same time every month. It’s important to know how these changes affect your skin and how to deal with them. I follow some advice in this Refinery29 article which breaks down every stage of month and explains what happens inside our bodies and on our skin. Observe how it changes across the month. For example, after my period I have very dry skin and even if it’s not cold outside, I use thicker day creams; and when the estrogen levels go up, I feel like a million bucks. The skin is radiant, glowy and supple and I don’t need to do anything more than usual.
4. Everything relates with everything – a face mapping tool
Speaking of Chinese medicine, not sure how much evidence-based this specific tool is but it has served me quite well when I had new breakouts. Face mapping is something that connects the function of internal organs with what shows on the skin. According to that, certain areas on face are connected with certain organs like liver, heart, etc. and should be treated accordingly. I wouldn’t do any important decision based solely on this information but it can be a nice aid to understand better how the body works. I often get pimples around my chin when my period’s about to come (hormonal imbalance) and if I smoke at a party (oops), it usually shows on one of my cheeks (lungs).
5. And finally: Think hygiene.
If you’re breaking out, sometimes you don’t need to go as far as to ancient China. Sometimes it’s just plain ol’ dirty pillows, phone screen or touching your face with unwashed hands. Be sure to change and wash everything that gets in contact with your face regularly.
Next: Notes on Problematic Skin Care #2: What to Put On
I’d love to hear some ideas and comments from your side, be it from my problematic skin fellows or everyone else. What do you do to maintain your skin at its best?
(Image source: Pinterest)