Do you feel stuck? In lockdown when we stare at the mirror all day and you have all the time to pick apart and degrade yourself. We live in a culture where the comparison to others is so cutthroat and normalised. The media surrounds us with photoshopped and airbrushed people with beautiful skin. A constant pumping out of this standard by companies can begin to wear down your self-esteem and feel overwhelming at times. So starting the journey of wanting to feel happy and confident in where you are at is monumental. It’s not enough to just accept what you’ve been given, feeling happy, confident and proud in your skin is what skin positivity is all about. How can you begin this journey? I hope to give some insight into my views on skin positivity and some tips that have guided my experience through.
What is Skin Positivity?
Skin positivity is about changing your mindset. It’s about altering the way you think when you see yourself and your skin. That means no matter acne, hyperpigmentation, skin conditions, skin colour etc…, it’s learning to feel happy and confident in where you are at now. Because placing your confidence and self-esteem on how well you fit an ever-changing beauty standard, is just unsustainable. It’s also draining. Physically and mentally draining. Sometimes even with a great skincare routine, great diet, enough sleep, your skin will still break out and that’s beyond your control. For people like me who suffer from skin conditions, that is beyond our control. In society we live within a beauty standard, we witness only the ideal. And if you don’t fit that you are made to feel bad about yourself. Why? Why are these factors negative to begin with and why do we allow ourselves to believe they are?
What does happy in your skin mean?
In terms of skin positivity, feeling great every day is unrealistic. You won’t always feel your best and sometimes being overly positive makes you lose sight of balance. That can be a dangerous route in skin positivity, as it can undermine the emotions and experiences others feel and go through when people say ‘oh just be positive’ or ‘look on the bright side’, I call this toxic positivity. So for me feeling happy in your skin is confidence. When you look in the mirror, knowing that the acne, skin condition or hyperpigmentation etc…is just your body. All these natural features are just reflections of what your body is capable of. Understanding that these do not reflect or determine your beauty as a person and therefore should not impact your confidence. Accepting that we live in a society where these standards will be thrown onto us, but feeling so confident in ourselves, our bodies and our skin that that’s okay, that we are prepared and won’t put ourselves down for it. Happiness and confidence will be a lifelong journey, there is not a point in time where everything will suddenly be happy and positive and light. Backward steps are important too and the key is in just maintaining. Looking into the mirror and being okay, feeling good as you do your skincare routine, walking out the door with confidence because you look and feel great. But maintenance also means, understanding when you feel bad on some days, asking yourself why? Taking the time to put a bit more care into yourself because you’ve been able to identify that today is not the best for you and actively changing that.
Why is it important to be comfortable in your skin?
Feeling comfortable in your skin is so important. You can’t just place the huge feeling of your self-esteem onto whether your skin is clear or not this week or if you’ve decided to put on make-up. It doesn’t work in the long-term. Our skin goes through many changes even within the time frame of a month. Even the best skincare routine can’t prevent all acne. Even the best treatments can’t sometimes help skin conditions. We can’t rely on that for our confidence. Because otherwise, our emotions would be changing so rapidly beyond the point of what is healthy for us. It would cause us to place ourselves under such unnecessary stress. This can take a huge toll on our mental health. 9/10 dermatologists agreed that the psychological effects of skin conditions are overlooked. Also, about 13 million visit their GP each year with skin complaints. These are huge numbers. Some may argue that in a society caged within beauty standards, appearance is important. However how I like to think about it is that, when someone is confident, when someone is comfortable in themselves, that radiates and comes across far more than if they were conventionally beautiful.
Can being happy clear skin?
This is true. When we are happy our brain is releasing hormones such as endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. Overall, these hormones help to improve metabolic processes within the body. Circulation improves, oxygen delivery improves, and nutrients are absorbed better from food. I’m a strong believer in the inside being reflected on the outside. Naturally, this will begin to show on your skin and can help achieve better glow, elasticity and yes reduce acne. Also feeling happy prevents the release of stress hormones. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to skin health, outweighing even a good skincare routine. Stress can lead to an increase in the production of cortisol from the adrenal glands, this, in turn, worsens your immune system and blood pressure greatly. This also increases the activity of sebaceous glands in the skin. Meaning your skin produces more oil and more sebum, in turn worsening acne and clogging pores. It can also disrupt collagen production meaning skin shows signs of ageing quicker and loses elasticity. It can also worsen inflammation in the body so for those with eczema or psoriasis, stress could make it worse. These are the direct effects of stress. Indirect effects are higher cortisol levels worsen sleep and suppress appetite. This, in turn, could lead to unhealthier habits e.g., drinking more coffee, unbalanced eating or higher alcohol levels. All of these could worsen the appearance of your skin, especially acne.
What can clear up skin?
There are numerous amounts of factors that determine the condition of your skin. Some of the most common ones are:
1. Skincare routine
All of us no matter age or gender must be taking care of our skin. A consistent and simple skincare routine helps to remove bacteria and dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. These are typically some of the biggest causes of acne as they can clog pores and reduce collagen and cell production. This would leave skin less elastic and dull. Also, a good skincare routine can help the epidermal layer to retain moisture which is important in regulating sebum production. If your skin is not hydrated enough your skin will react by producing more sebum to regulate that. This is a big cause of acne, as excess sebum causes clogged pores. A skincare routine also allows you to target certain skin problems or concerns with active ingredients. That could range from rosacea to overly dry skin, to acne to signs of ageing.
Certain foods can, directly and indirectly, cause acne. Foods high in sugar or heavily refined and processed foods can cause increases in testosterone levels within the body which in turn leads to excess sebum production, causing acne. Also, it can affect hormone imbalances within the body especially if your diet lacks micronutrients and antioxidants from vegetables and fruit. This could cause hormonal acne on the skin.
Complementary to diet, depending on where you live, the produce in some countries tend to lack certain nutrients or antioxidants, simply because of climate differences or food regulations. Or you may not be able to get enough of a certain nutrient within your diet, just from food. Supplements can help as an addition to a balanced diet, especially if you struggle with hormonal acne. Some supplements contain ingredients that target problematic skin, which if you struggle with severe acne could be something to look into on Dermoi’s website.
Lifestyle is quite a general point to include as so many categories fall under this. Skin can break out depending on what type of climate you live in, whether it is very dry or too humid for example. Seasons can affect your skin, an example being that winter tends to leave a lot of us with drier skin due to the colder climate. The amount you exercise within a week can also affect the skin. Overexercising can cause build-ups of sweat, dirt and grime on the skin which could lead to acne, especially if you don’t wash your face or shower after finishing a workout. Even emotional changes and stress levels as I mentioned above can show onto the skin in the form of acne, cortisol being a big contributor.
5. The environment
Sometimes acne can just be out of your control. Environmental aggressors like pollution can clog pores and leave dirt on the surface of the skin. Damage done by free radicals or UV rays could reduce collagen production, cause hyperpigmentation and speed up signs of ageing. The best way to protect yourself from these is by using SPF daily.
How to build a good skincare routine?
My key rule when building a good skincare routine is simplicity. There are so many products out there so many new releases all the time it can be difficult to navigate what will work for you and what you need. The first step is to identify your skincare concerns. Finding out what skin type you are is essential to identify products that would be useful for you. Also knowing whether you want to tackle acne, signs of ageing, hyperpigmentation etc… Setting clear skincare goals to not get side-tracked by the volume of skincare you will be met with. My key products to include in a routine are:
1. Cleanser– a light cleanser that will not overly dry out your skin, to remove the day’s dirt.
2. Exfoliator– to be used a couple of times a week to remove dead skin cells (chemical exfoliation is best, try to stay away from scrubs).
3. Serum– this you can adapt to your skincare goals. Typically products containing one to two ingredients.
4. Moisturiser– to hydrate and protect the skin’s barrier.
5. SPF– one of the most essential products, helps to protect skin from UV damage and free radical damage.
What is the best skincare line for anti-ageing and acne?
For anti-ageing products, you want to be looking for ingredients such as Vitamin C and Retinoids. These ingredients help increase cell regeneration and boost collagen production all to keep skin elasticity and firmness, which helps improve signs of ageing. One brand that has caught my eye is Empelle. They use innovative MEP technology in their products. This is a collection of ingredients unique to the brand which stimulates skin cells to release oestrogen, however is non-hormonal itself. For some background information, whilst going through menopause and when you are post-menopausal, your body slows down the production of oestrogen. Oestrogen is the hormone usually released by the body during the ovulation part of your cycle. It gives skin the ‘natural glow’ during this time and helps collagen production. Empelle helps post-menopausal skin achieve this glow and hydration. In terms of ageing, it also boosts collagen production to increase skin elasticity.
There are many acne products out there however one product which stands out is Osmosis Skin Defense. This isn’t a skincare product but a supplement that is directly marketed for those with problematic skin. It contains ingredients such as DIM (Diimdolymethane), activated charcoal, N-acetyl cysteine and sodium thiosulfate. Especially for those who suffer from hormonal acne, it can be difficult to overcome with just a skincare routine. I believe that what happens inside reflects outside onto your skin and Osmosis Skin Defense is a product that helps to take care of you from the inside out.It restores health to the body and reveals a clearer, blemish-free complexion.
Overall skin positivity highlights the importance of self-care. Being able to identify when yes, maybe you aren’t feeling too great and taking active steps to help combat this. We can’t control everything that is fed to us by companies and the beauty standard is ever-changing however what we are in control of is how we think about ourselves and what we let affect us.
Author: Ema Kanlic