Tuesday 22 January 2019

Stress leads to a spot of bother

One of the things I loved about getting a little older was that my skin cleared itself up. I never had particularly bad skin, but my teenage years were often irritated by an occasional smattering of spots across my chin.

They all but disappeared about age 21 and for the past few years my skin has been clear and never needed a second thought, save for the initial signs of early ageing.

Being a beauty writer you consistently analyse your skin and try plenty of products. I had worked out what suited my skin and, without sounding vain, I was fairly pleased with the way it looked.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. I read a quote recently: "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone". It rang so true. I am now well and truly at that edge. I moved to Los Angeles for a few months and have been extremely stressed. Although I am not missing home too much, I do miss the comfort of my friends on call and the security of being in a city I know like the back of my hand.

Into my second month in LA my hair became greasy which I put down to a change in water, or adjusting to US products, but the most unsettling thing was that my skin began to break out, quite badly. For a few weeks I applied heavy concealer and assumed that, just as quickly as the blemishes arrived, one day they would simply disappear. They didn't.

As the days passed I began to resent what I saw in the mirror. As its name indicates, concealer does just that, but it can't hide spots entirely and I became increasingly self-conscious about my face. Although writing is a solitary profession, I found myself using work as an excuse and declined social invites, simply because I didn't feel good about myself.

I am normally a pretty positive, happy person, and I am lucky to be where I am, but suddenly it was as if my face told a completely different story to the outside world and I realised this was why I was avoiding people. I took the fact that my skin had a breakout as a mark of personal failure. I felt it suggested I led a sloppy lifestyle and ate badly or was unhygienic in my skincare, when none of the above are true.

There was nothing I had done to invite this and I didn't really know what to do to get rid of it. I'm an avid believer in natural medicine. Therefore, my first port of call was with an acupuncturist.

While he glanced at my skin briefly, he more intently looked at my tongue, asked me about my diet and took my pulse. He explained to me that there was a lot of heat in my body. He said that this may have been brought on by extreme stress to do with moving here and culture shock, which I was surprised to learn actually exists.

I had been stressed to such an extent that my body could not function properly and this severe imbalance was affecting my hormones and was showing up on my face and hair. As well as frequent acupuncture sessions for a month, I was prescribed daily exercise, steam baths to sweat out the toxins, a good diet and some nutritional supplements.


From a cosmetic point of view, the fact that I was putting on suncream every day on top of moisturiser in a climate where my skin was likely to perspire easily was leading to gloopy, chemically clogged pores. Add to this primer and foundation on days when I was wearing make-up and it's no wonder it reacted.

It sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but at the time I thought I was protecting my skin and doing what's best for it as I have always used very good organic products.

I was also using a cleanser with cotton wool, which apparently is a big no-no. Any sort of infection thrives on cream, therefore it's essential to rinse your skin thoroughly and a wash-off cleanser or face-wash is preferable.

A secret revealed to me by a dermatologist is an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo called Selsun. It feels like silk on your skin and kills all bacteria without being harsh and can be used after a cream cleanser to ensure your skin is perfectly clean.

If you're using a facecloth, wash it daily in the machine, or have a few and rotate them. Always wash your hands before you touch you face.

I clean all my make-up brushes once a week and I also wipe my phone with an anti-bacterial wipe at the end of the day. Because when you think of it, it's right beside your face and can easily rub germs off on it. Simple steps really, but all very important.

As far as skincare goes I now use a moisturiser which has an inbuilt SPF. It saves using an extra product and I don't wear any make-up unless I need to. I also avoid primer, for now.

I felt an immediate release of stress after my first acupuncture session, but after a day I was all riled up again. However, after about three sessions I did see an improvement. I was sleeping deeply and also sweating a lot, which is an unpleasant part of the toxin release.

A month on, and my skin is better, but still not perfect. I guess the old adage remains true: "You don't know what you've got until it's gone".

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