I was newly engaged and started getting excited about wedding planning. I had in mind the exact things I wanted for a perfect wedding, but one thing was stopping me from looking my best: DRY SKIN.
What do I mean by dry skin? I am talking about flaking skin and uneven skin texture. The one where no amount of foundation primer is going to “flatten out” the dry skin sections. This makes foundation application harder, and makeup not staying! Was spending a lot of a variety of ‘hydrating moisturizers’, in hopes of finding that ONE cream.
But of course, I also knew what led to this, and here’s my story.
Makeup was my world!
I guess when I was young, I never really bothered about my actual skin health. Well, I am also blessed with never really having any issues with acne or breakouts growing up. So, it’s kind of like “no problem, no worries!”.
Back when I was a fashion design student, I was blogging and modelling as well. My manager was always reminding me to look my best, especially that I was also a Clozette ambassador. That led to an opportunity to join Miss Singapore International – which means the focus of makeup was stronger!
Though I was busy in between engagements and studies, I made sure to TRIPLE CLEANSE my face at the end of the day! But leh, that diligence stopped there. I was just randomly using whatever skincare product that was sent to me for reviews. Well, I enjoyed trying out a lot of new products (it was like Christmas every day, haha!), so I didn’t really pay attention to what each product was really doing to my skin. Sometimes, I got lazy after a long day to bother about my skincare routine. #oops
The discovery of harmful skincare ingredients
I remembered one day, I was shown images of dead wild animals having anything and EVERYTHING in their stomachs but food. And does anyone remember that image of the turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nostrils? Omg, it looked painful and I felt so sad for the poor turtle! I love animals, and I hate to see how they are suffering because of our humanly actions!
I got curious about this cruelty-free movement, so I Googled and researched more. Wow, there’s so much that I can do! I realised I can make a change by just changing the selection of skincare I use. It never really crossed my mind that what you applied on your skin really matters, to yourself and the environment!
Turns out that my previous skincare routine was not helping my skin because of the chemical contents found in them. Basically, whenever you read a product label and you do not understand what the ingredients are – high likely they are chemicals!
Alcohol was the biggest ingredients that stood out to me, as I read that it dries out both sebum and moisture from your skin – no wonder my skin just stayed dry all the time! Wasted all that money on so many hydrating moisturizers. #sigh
Another bad ingredient I discovered was SLS – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. I learnt that it causes your skin to dry out and it is actually an irritant to sensitive skin. It is also known to permeate your skin and get absorbed into your bloodstream. Now that is scary since SLS is a chemical. Imagine it getting stuck in your brain? Terrible outcome!
Aside from the skin side effects, the effects of SLS in the beauty industry is so harmful to the environment that it hit me really hard! To give you that foamy texture for a clean feeling, manufacturers with SLS production are polluting the waters and our air. Whatever that gets washed to the sea are being consumed by poor sea creatures – no wonder they are dying at a much faster rate than before!
Changing in skincare options
Since that day, I started my quest of seeking products that are of natural and clean ingredients. Wah, it is as if I found a whole new world to skincare! Vegan, cruelty-free, no added chemicals, paraben-free, SLS-free, organic, natural… terms that were once foreign but now part of what I represent!
I found a range of natural & organic brands to try out and even became selective with the skincare brands that I would review for. I went drastic and threw out every skincare product that had harmful skincare ingredients. I was determined to make a change, not only for myself but for these poor creatures!
Across a period of a couple of years, I was trying out various natural & organic brands from online sites such as iHerb & LoveLula (You know lah, organic brands can be really expensive!). During my student days was harder to spend a lot. Not until I started working full time that I paid attention to what is available in the local Singapore market. That’s kind of how I got into Black Paint Microbiome Skincare products. And stuck to the idea of “treat your skin well, and it will treat you well in return!”, and I have definitely seen a difference and improvement to my skin!
I should say that I have a pretty standard, comfortable regime now.
Every morning, all I do now is just rinse my face with tap water and apply FANCL sun guard. Before heading out to start my day, if needed I will apply some concealer, add a tinge of pink to my cheeks with my favourite blusher, and eyeliner to complete my look. That’s how good my skin is now – no serums or hydrating moisturizers needed! Even foundation is not required, so my bare face is literally clean!
At night or at the end of the day, I will use FANCL Cleansing Oil as the makeup remover. Although I don’t use foundation, dirt and grime still build-up on your face throughout the day, so no play-play. Thereafter I will use BLACK PAINT’s Chamomile soap cleanser. Just take note that as it is an organic product, this soap doesn’t foam up (foam is what SLS creates!) but instead is a creamy texture. Feels soothing and clean after using, trust me. Super love this soap!
On days that I find my face feeling a little drier than usual, I will use BLACK PAINT’s Best Water to replenish the minerals to my skin. To finish off my night regime, I use BLACK PAINT’s Water Cream moisturizer. It’s rose & lavender scent is really strong, so it helps me feel relaxed when I sleep 😊
Now I did mention that I have rather good skin health now and that my complexion is definitely much better than in the past. However, beauty is not only skin deep. There’s so much more to your body than just the surface.
Is my skin connected to my emotional state?
I had a moment in my working life where I noticed patches of dry, itchy skin around my forehead and arms. Turns out it was hives that I was having, which is an allergic reaction but to unknown causes. I was prescribed antihistamines, and they would go away. However, sometime later it returned, and yet again I just relied on antihistamines.
My usually ok complexion was filled with red patches. Even after they subside, the hives leave behind blemish marks which are so annoying to look at! Concerned, a colleague of mine asked if I was feeling stressed. I didn’t think I was stressed, but it made me think if there was a deeper cause to just a skin allergy.
My research brought me to Dr Josh Axe’s page which explained in detail what causes hives and its natural remedies. Perfect, exactly what I need! Reading on, I came to a realization that maybe I was stressed. Thinking deeper, I figured that whenever I have either a writer’s block or stuck on an idea, I’d get all frowny and, yes, stressed. So no wonder the hives are appearing quite frequently!
To drive home the point further about skin and mental health, I found this YouTube video by Claudia Aguirre, who is a neuroscientist and skincare expert. One of the stories she shared was about this pilot, who whenever he flew his plane over this canyon, he would get breakouts on his forehead. This happened every time. Turns out it was because of his fear of the canyon that caused his immune system to dip, and acne appeared.
Now that blew my mind – how much stress or our emotional state really can affect our skin’s health so greatly! Well, looks like I had better start meditating and learning ways to deal with my stresses. And I chose yoga! One of the most self-fulfilling activities I’ve done for myself.
Exercising is key to a healthier mind and skin
I have always been dancing since my younger days – that was my form of exercise. I love it so much I even went on to teach kiddie ballet classes at one point in my life. However, an old injury made it hard for me to continue dancing, and I stopped dancing altogether.
For a period of time, I did nothing in regard to exercise, other than walking everywhere to get to places. That includes walking from home to the MRT station, to work, and back again. Standard. I don’t think I was even reaching 10,000 steps a day, as recommended by the Health Promotion Board. (Ya, I failed that challenge haha!)
However, I noticed that without exercise (meaning actually sweating it out!), my skin wasn’t doing too good as well. What I understood is that if you aren’t sweating, you are not letting the toxins inside your body come out! Sweat glands actually carry out toxins from your skin, like how your urinary gland expels pee, with are your body’s waste products! So because I wasn’t sweating enough, all the waste accumulate on my skin, reducing moisture to it. Making my skin extra dry!
So after understanding that, I started back on exercising with lighter options like yoga (I highly recommend hot yoga! Sweat it out, girl!). Yoga not only helped with my flexibility, but it also worked on getting my internal organs moving, and improve toxin clearance! Of course after every session of yoga, good skin cleansing and nourishing it important.
Some days when I am really stressed or need some time alone, I will just go for a run. I noticed it helps me feel much better on those down days like the wind blew away my stress. Running also helps sweat more, too, clearing my system of baddies.
The importance of beauty sleep
The more I read and understand my body, the more I find things to change, especially in lifestyle! So aside from meditating, I noticed how much I have been lacking in sleep. (All those Korean dramas are too addictive!)
With the lack of sleep, means I have not been giving my skin enough rest time to heal naturally or to even have a calm mind to properly rest.
There is so much written out there about how to manage sleep, but this is how I dealt with it myself.
- Change bedroom lights to yellow lights.
- Stop eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime!
- Stop looking at my phone or laptop at least an hour before bedtime (have to be really strict with myself on this! Means cut down on drama time for the sake of my beauty!)
- Place my phone away from my head area of the bed. Radiative waves from your phone actually dry out your skin.
- Meditate before sleeping – it really helps rest a racing mind!
Also! Just before you sleep, use all the beauty masks you can get! The best time to soothe and moisturize your skin is when you are relaxed – the perfect way to wind down after a long day at work!
Skin problems from fungal overgrowth
Ever heard of candida overgrowth? If you haven’t, good. I don’t wish it upon anyone. Basically, it’s a fungal overgrowth problem within your body. What was I experiencing during a candida attack? Sore throat, stomach bloating, general inflammation, itchy ears, internal itching, and even itchy eyes! Worst of all was itchy skin, causing more dryness and irritation.
How did it happen? Many factors are involved but the main thing was the use of antibiotics every time I catch a cold or have a cough. Antibiotics not only wipe out bad bacteria, but they also clear out the good bacteria in your tummy that regulates your immune system. No wonder I never seem to improve!
To heal, you have to take the best probiotic you can find – this is so that after a course of antibiotic, you are replacing good bacteria back into your system. This is very important, and I cannot stress enough how much I think everyone SHOULD be on probiotics, even when you are healthy!
Beyond the use of antibiotics, poor diet plays a huge role, too. I had to cut out a lot of food to manage the symptoms of candida overgrowth and eventually eliminating it out of me. It’s a long and continuous journey to clear it out of my system. As candida overgrowth is from fungal overgrowth, I decided to reduce the amount of mushroom I was eating and made sure I do not eat overnight food (high chance of mould or bacterial growth!).
Fungus feeds on sugar to grow, so all these while I have been feeding a parasite! Being a sweet tooth means I had to eliminate sugary foods from my diet. This includes the obvious ones like cakes and biscuits, but I also cut down on rice and bread.
After about 2 months on a consistent elimination of sugar-based foods and taking lots of probiotics, my skin improved so much! Less irritation and red itchy patches, and also feeling less bloated in the tummy. It is not completely clear, but I’m on the way to improving!
Eating well for better skin health
While handling candida overgrowth, I took note of other health issues as well. Things like stomach bloating, constant tiredness, and not going to the toilet enough – indications that I am actually not in a healthy state!
So from my experience of managing my diet because of candida overgrowth, I decided to take my diet seriously. As they always say, “you are what you eat”, so I don’t want to end up looking like the Michelin-tyre mascot if I don’t stop eating McDonald’s! Makes me feel like I’m obsessed over my food choices, but it’s for the better of me!
Essentially, stomach bloating and not going to the toilet frequent enough meant that I was “keeping” toxins internally. Doesn’t sound good, hor? I believe then my body wasn’t detoxing properly or naturally. Time for me to take action!
Detoxing my system
First thing is to reduce the acidity in my body. By balancing the pH level of my body, I know I can increase good moisture levels inside of me, then it will be reflected on my skin! These are what I did to naturally cleanse my diet:
- Drink more plain water! Like really getting 8 glasses of water at least. More if I’m going for yoga or running!
- Say no to sugar, yeast and gluten-containing foods! These are the acidic foods that increase inflammation.
- Say no to processed meats. High in nitrates that just makes the ham look good, but in fact it can be cancerous, dangerous!
- A glass of water every morning with 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar or a glass of lemon juice. This balances the acidity in my system to be alkaline.
Choosing the right foods to eat
For keeping skin healthy, I have learnt that it is important to consume a balanced diet. This seemed like a huge challenge because I don’t know much about nutrition! Thankfully there are a lot of resources online (thank you Google!), and many experts & skin condition sufferers share their stories and experiences. YouTube is another great source of information! So read up a lot, and you will know what to do for your health. However, I will continue sharing my own methods.
As I mentioned before, I highly recommend everyone to take probiotics daily! It has really reduced my chances of bloating, and I’m going to the toilet frequently! Constipation is no longer an issue, and I feel myself having a flatter tummy, too. For probiotics, I take it through supplements (capsules!) or yoghurt from the supermarket. I recommend choosing organic and unsweetened yoghurts, then you won’t be feeding sugar to the wrong bacteria. If you don’t like yoghurt, get Yakult! Easy and quick to have. Kimchi is also another way to have probiotic. Perfect for me, because I really love Korean food, especially kimchi!
But why probiotics? Because it helps to strengthen our skin’s natural moisturizing factor! I have noticed a huge difference in my skin’s health, especially with the clearing of candida overgrowth patches. To prove that probiotics work, I stopped taking it for a week, and oh, I was suffering! I had to continue with it. My body is just not healthy enough to handle on its own, still, need the internal army of good bacteria!
Now let’s talk about breakfast. I used to not bother too much about this meal because I am always rushing to work. There didn’t seem to be enough time in a day! But with my new food plan, I made sure I have my breakfast. So nowadays I have organic rolled oats with nuts & fresh fruits. Sometimes I switch it up and use nut butter as the flavouring in my morning oats.
On to lunch! A balanced meal requires a 50% portion of vegetables, 25% portion of protein and maximum 25% portion of carbohydrate.
- Vegetables – I always go for green leafy vegetables (I love lettuce & spinach!). If I do cook them, I will make sure it is a simple stir-fry with garlic, and it’s done! No need for extra seasoning.
- Protein – My choices would be salmon (you get Omega-3 from salmon for nourishing skin, too!), egg, and chicken. For chicken, always choose the lean options. You don’t want to have to deal with extra fat in your system!
- Carbohydrate – If you read online, it will explain that carbohydrates convert to sugar in our body, and you might think “oh no, it’s bad for me!” and completely cut out. Actually, no, never cut it out completely! You still need carbohydrate as your body’s source of energy is that! So, what you do? Choose “complex carbohydrates”, meaning no white bread or white rice. Choose brown rice instead.
Lastly, dinner! This is simple, I eat the same stuff as lunch. With one exception, that I tend to have more soupy options, especially bone-broth soup. I am blessed to have family cooking for me, so I get my home-cooked nutritious meals. However, if you were to go out to eat, then it would be “bak kut teh” to eat.
So why bone-broth soups specifically? Bone broth is rich in natural collagen! Collagen, like the one you see them marketing in skincare? Yes, and you get it naturally! So that means I am nourishing my skin naturally while eating well, the best thing to do for myself!
Aside from eating right, I also reduced dairy from my diet. Turns out it is very acidic to my body, and it was making my skin worse. Dairy options are like milk, cheese (goodbye my favourite cheddar!), and yoghurt (so I will choose non-dairy options).
An ongoing process of healing
The changes that I have made to my diet and lifestyle has been going on for about half a year already, and I am so proud of myself for sticking to it! So, if you do want to start your healing journey, make sure you are ready and dedicated to starting!
Always remember and focus on your goal – as you know good skin just doesn’t happen overnight. It requires you to be diligent in caring for it, like caring for a baby! My journey of getting better is never-ending, and I am still finding new ways & tricks to improve my own health. Little by little, sure can do it!