I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right.
I have a love and hate relationship with facial therapies. I love the experience of being pampered and treated like a princess during a facial, and more so my skin condition weeks after the treatment. But, at the same time, I hate the direct aftermath that it has on my skin (hello redness, oil and patchy spots) and the process that I have to go through, especially when the lovely beauty therapists (they’re always lovely) start to do what they call an ‘extraction’, in which they patiently and relentlessly trying to squeeze blackheads out of my skin. Sometimes I suspect if they secretly take pleasure in it and have a sense of achievement if they successfully takes out those annoying debris from the customers’ pores, even though the said poor customers are crying in pain. I have been a long-standing return customer to facial therapies. I was first introduced to it when I was 11 (not even kidding), not because I came from a privileged family with parents that believe in early ageing-prevention and maintenance of a perfect skin condition, but more because I am genetically blessed with oily skin that from time to time bursts out acnes. Not just puberty acnes, mind you. I’m an adult and I still have them once in a while.
I did seek help. Worried about my worsening skin condition once I hit teenage years, my Mom took me to this supposedly famous dermatologist in Jakarta. “He’s been famous since my university days. He’ll be able to help you out. If only I had enough money back then, I would’ve taken myself to his consultation sessions as well“, she’d chime. Well he was famous… for the super long queue at his clinic’s waiting room, that is. Looking at how late his practice opens everyday and how long you have to wait for your appointment, innocent passersby may have thought that he was some magic doctor that can save people’s lives, for lack of a better comparison. And he didn’t take his time during each consultation. He spoke veeerrrry quickly; sometimes it was hard to comprehend what he said. There were always 2 nurses in the room, one would hand him all his stationery needs, one would give him tools to poke the patient’s face with or direct a light source to the patient’s face, if needed. Mumblemumblemumble-scribbles prescriptions-no questions and you were out of the consultation room heading towards the cashier. Now, believe me when I say the figures on the bill is not in proportion with the amount of time he spent on each patient (5 minutes each). Not to mention the prescribed medications and future ‘procedures’ (that’s what they call the facial sesh) that you have to commit yourself to. They were always a painful experience, both the consultations (three freaking hours waiting time) and the ‘procedures’ (THEY GO THE EXTRA MILES AT EXTRACTING THEM BLACKHEADS & to make things worse for my skin, LASERS).
Me being underage and still depending on my parents’ umbrellas for my financial needs at that time, I had no options but to go through those processes. At the start, I had hope. I believed that they were worth it, those consultations, medications and painful facials. They did have a good result. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. My acnes and blackheads kept coming back. And so, more medications and more facials, which I believed had caused my skin to depend a lot on them. Once I stopped lathering the prescribed lotions onto my skin, my skin got worse, which as you expected, brought me back to the start of the loop. It’s like a vicious cycle.
I was frustrated and decided to stop taking his prescription altogether once I moved to Melbourne. I thought to myself “Scr*w this! If it did get worse, I’d just go to a dermatologist here“. I did not care at all, and at some point did not bother to put any moisturizer on my skin even in winter. And guess what? No new acnes or whiteheads. If anything, I felt that my skin was free of all the previously heavily prescribed meds. My skin did not get much better, but at least it did not get worse. After a while, I started to buy OTC products with guidance from occasional blog walking and scouring through the beauty section of fashion magazines. I tried several brands (literally had a go at different range, from US, Japanese, Korean to Australian manufacturers) and in the process I noticed that my skin is very sensitive towards some of them. Like, once I put something on, I’d have a major breakout the day after. It was another series of painful and expensive experience.
For the second time, I was frustrated. This time, I decided to see a dermatologist in Melbourne and sought for advice. My dermatologist was an old lad with an all-white hair. Soft spoken yet efficient. I did a quick Google search on him before my first appointment, and found out that he was quite well-known in the medical community. If there’s one word to describe him based on my first visit it would be ‘strict’ (like in that-school-headmaster-that-everyone’s-afraid-of strict). Only after the second & third consultations did he become nicer (that is, after he saw a really interesting lunch bag that I was bringing to work that day). I was prescribed to intake some rhoaccutane for a good 6 months. It did not come without any drawbacks (info on what it is and what side effects it may have here), but 3 months afterwards I felt like a million dollar. My skin had never been cleaner and clearer. No more acnes, no more blackheads/whiteheads. And, to make things better, my skin was glowing. I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right. That million dollar feeling lasted for a year, before the acnes started coming back. I don’t know why but they seem to have attachment issues *grunts*.
Since then, I pretty much gave up on prescribed medications when it comes to skin care. I opt for a more holistic approach to treating my skin. Whenever a pimple (or a cluster of pimples) come out, I try to evaluate what I’ve done on the days coming to it (i.e. What did I eat? Did I clean my face before I went to bed? Did I wear any make up for an extended period? Have I been having enough sleep? Did I drink enough water?). One thing I learned by experience: consuming a lot of raw food and lots of water really improved your skin condition. I did an experiment on myself for a good 3 months (eating salad whenever I ate out, not having anything sugary or deep fried, you name it) and I saw a major improvement in my skin condition. And I thought, “Ha! All those monies spent for nothing”. So now I just try to be mindful about my lifestyle. Not that I suddenly became all organized and eat healthy food all the time. Sometimes life gets in the way, but at least now I know there’s a cure for my skin condition, without me having to spend tonnes of monies at the dermatologist’s clinic. I do have scars on my skin which sooner or later will have to be fixed by the said dermatologist. But for now, I’ll work on improving what I have first while saving up for the said dermatologist visit.
As for the beauty regimes, I’ve been using two brands that I found is the friendliest to my sensitive skin: Aesop & Shu Uemura (yep, I finally found the perfect marriage of Asian & Australian brands that actually works on my skin). Some of the stuff that I’ve been using religiously:
I can’t say enough good things about the oil cleanser by Shu Uemura. It’s just amazing at its job: cleanses your skin after a long day, works as an emergency make-up remover (also good if you’re travelling and want to minimize baggage), and most importantly it doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry after I rinse it like several other cleanser brands. Another product that I fell in love with was the Aesop Fabulous Face Oil. The beauty therapist at Aesop told me to apply it only once a week before bed. It wasn’t love at first sight, I have to say, because when I first tried it on my face I felt that my skin was oilier than usual. But the next morning, I found that my skin loved it, all supple and moist.
All the above, plus mindful eating, plus recent visits to facial sessions in Melbourne leave me adequately happy about my skin for the time being. Acnes still come up here and there once in a while, and when this happens I take a deep breath and say to myself, “It’s okay. You will look like a million dollar if you feel like a million dollar”. And so I feel like a million dollar. Teehee! I try to squeeze in yoga and running as well to the former routine but I’m struggling! If any of you who are reading this right now are a committed runner or yogi practitioner, PLEASE GUIDE ME! I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU!
Anyway, enough with my incessant ramblings. It’s now your turn to share, what do you use for your beauty regime? Do you have any skin problems and what do you do to cope with it?
Right then and there, I could see a surprised look on your face, as if I were the first person to ever have asked you such question.
“I’ll let you have a think about it, and in the mean time I’ll scour through these papers”, I said getting back to the weekend newspaper, smiling, feeling proud (perhaps?) of myself, knowing that I’ve asked the right question, ball’s in my court now.
I’ve honestly forgotten what your answer was that morning. Maybe it was something about your parents? Or how you had to take all sorts of extracurricular work after school? Or how you and your parents always go to a holiday house in the outskirt of town, and tend to the garden, ’cause that was your Dad’s favourite thing to do. I don’t know.
It’s funny how some memories seep through or slip through your mind just like that. No matter how hard you try to retrieve it back, you just can’t. Your brain just won’t cooperate. It’s like trying to look for a folder in your computer drive, which you know you’ve (accidentally/subconsciously/consciously) deleted for good. Done and dusted. Recycle bin emptied.
Some other memories, though, stick for longer. Like how you took my hand in yours for the first time when, funnily enough, we were about to walk in different directions. And we decided not to let go of each others’ hands from then on. Or so I thought. Or how you like to loop your feet around mine in bed, early in the morning when you were deep asleep.
Those memories, fondest memories; what relevance do they have now? Some (my best of friends) say that I should bury them deep at the back of my head and forget them altogether. I chose to believe that, however counterintuitively, remembering those memories actually help me to get better and get ahead. For who wouldn’t find joy in reminiscing happy memories? I may be wrong altogether. My friends would have been right. I may have chosen not to listen to them just because I found comfort in knowing that those sweet memories were once real. Pathetic.
I’m forever indebted to this experience, nevertheless. Knowing where you went wrong, and more importantly, getting to know yourself better are the biggest lessons in life that will help you grow. It was a steep learning curve, but it was worth it.
“We finally met. My name’s _____. Nice to meet you.”
We shook hands a little bit awkwardly as I jumped into the car. I fastened my seatbelt and sat behind the driver’s seat, trying to steal a glimpse of your face through the rearview mirror.
“All set?” you said.
“Yes!” screamed everyone in the car.
Off we go to the north eastern part of the town, scurrying our way through to catch the last view of the Christmas lights show before they wrapped up for the year. The traffic was quite bad, everyone didn’t want to miss the annual light show, so it seemed And everyone had exactly the same idea as us, which is going on the very last day of the show! I don’t blame them. The lights were quite spectacular this year. A lot more houses chipped in to the festivities hence we could see a lot more hanging Santa’s on the roofs and more buskers singing Christmas carols on the neighbourhood’s sidewalks.
“I went to your concert. You played really well”, you said.
I could only reply to it with a little “Thanks” and sheepish smile.
The street grew busier as the night loomed in. We stumbled upon some interesting sights during our walks; Homer Simpson dancing on the porch of a house, a real life family having dinner in their front yard as passersby peek through the shrubberies trying to see the scene, crowds singing to a Christmas tune played by a busker trumpeter. As soon as we finished walking down and up the whole lit up street, we decided to take leave as it got quite late. But I left my heart right there, in the outskirt of the buzzing Melbourne town, where carols is playing on the backdrop and the street lit up with incandescent blinking lights.
It’s not often that I come across a dapper-looking gent in my work area , so when I saw one in my local coffee shop today, I was quite surprised. What struck me the most was his colorful socks and a tiny red pin on his left breast. I love how he put these extra details to his overall outfit. Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference 👌
Happy birthday! Another year older, another year wiser. I wish you nothing but the best that life can offer. Hope all your dreams come true. Hope all your hard work pays off. Hope all your goals and plans are fulfilled. Stay healthy. Eat lots of veggies. Don’t stay up late at night. Don’t push yourself too far beyond your limits. Don’t injure yourself when you’re playing sports. Pay more attention to your right shoulder. Eat well. Don’t binge on alcohol. When you’re feeling that recurring itch on your legs or back, don’t scratch your skin too harshly till it bleeds. Stay safe when you’re running to and from work. Stay safe when you’re driving. Moisturise regularly. Don’t miss your prescribed medications. Be strong. Face whatever problems that lie ahead of you bravely. Get through them one by one, one step at a time. Love your family and friends. Call your parents often. Be a good kid. Have no fear. Be confident and have faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. Laugh a lot. Read a lot. Pray a lot. Stay happy. If you ever find someone to love, hold on tight to her. Make it work. Always try to make it work. Don’t give up. Be kind. Stay kind. You have a good heart. Don’t ever change that. Stay true to what you believe in.
Hope you’re getting spoilt rotten and having a lovely and eventful one today.