This past month I was presented with a challenge. Not long after I wrote the last blog post I looked in the mirror one morning and was shock greeted by a breakout the likes of which I haven't seen or suffered for a very long time. From one day to the next, my skin had gone up in flames and looked fairly ruined. I immediately thought about what I had been doing. Diet? Nothing changed, in fact I had given up sugar at the beginning of January; but that was supposed to have enhanced my skin. Detox from sugar? I should have been way beyond that. Too much tea? Maybe, but that has never been a problem, although now I've switched to herbal by the early afternoon. I like answers and the not knowing was agony.
Slowly I came to it--slowly because I was in panic mode and nothing useful comes from that. Step one: A week prior I had cut bangs, which must have been the coup de grace. I thought about my shampoo and conditioner. They were ok as far as I remember. I purchased a new natural one around Thanksgiving to change up my clay as shampoo and clay as conditioner washing act ( I am happily and safely back to this) But then I thought back further. I had felt in the last few weeks--tiny bumps around my hairline that I absentmindedly tolerated--again as sugar detox--and well, the odd blemish around my chin...annoying, but I was one track minded: it was the sugar detox. I had overdone it with the sugar for years, hadn't I? It wasn't just going to let me off the hook like that, right? It turns out that a sugar detox is actually quite friendly. Life without sugar is quickly better, not a punishment. So hang on, let me just check on that shampoo again--and that conditioner.
I took the bottles from the shower where I place them every night after use. First I cleanse and moisturize my skin, then I wash my hair before bed time. I looked at the teeny tiny print--forget it. Even with my glasses on it was too much of a strain after the first two ingredients. I pulled up the website on line so I could see the ingredients writ large. I know I checked this at the salon, I told myself. I know there was no gluten (which had broken me out in the past). Or wait a minute. Did I have someone check it for me because the print was so tiny? I'm looking now, and indeed there is no hydrolyzed wheat protein. But there--not at the beginning of the list and not at the end: Cocos nucifera.
Delicious and healthy Cocos nucifera--coconut oil that I use to prepare food and drink. Cocos nucifera that rates 4 on the comedogenic scale and the one I always warn my acne prone customers to steer clear of because of its popularity and ubiquity in natural skincare and makeup. I would never, ever put this on my skin--except that I did--for three months as I washed and conditioned my hair. I had speed read the ingredients looking for one thing ignoring the rest and essentially neglected to read the label. Coconut oil does not fully rinse out with water. So night after night, on it went to my pillowcase and from there to my pores, and all the while I was trusting that there was nothing comedogenic in my skincare and makeup universe.
I had forgotten how sensitive my skin is. I had forgotten that I always called myself the canary. Because all of the Balbec ingredients adhere to very strict parameters (which includes they do not clog pores) I had become used to not worrying. I'm thankfully on the mend now and my appreciation for all the ingredients in Balbec-- their ability to soothe, regenerate, cleanse is renewed. For several years I have been using the cleansers and oils and hydrosols day in and day out; they have nourished and protected my skin and as Marie Kondo would say, sparked joy every time. And I appreciate my skin. As it tried to manage the coconut congestion, it kept trying to balance and heal--constantly moving toward homeostasis.
The funny thing: When a friend of mine heard what happened she sent me not one but two hand held magnifying glasses in the mail, to keep at opposite ends of the house. When I saw her a few days later my skin was still in crisis and she slipped another smaller magnifier into my handbag. But I realize what happened is not just about not paying attention or not reading the labels. It was about a mindset. I was looking for one thing--one ingredient, and when I didn't see it, I couldn't see anything else. Had I been looking more openly at the ingredients, I would have been able to register what I was reading. The mind sees and believes one thing, and it isn't necessarily what the eye sees.
Going through it was not pleasant--especially before I understood the cause. And so I forced myself to focus on other things as much as possible. When it came to beauty and wellbeing, I made myself dress more carefully and worked on strengthening inner radiance. This meant a lot of kundalini yoga, renewing appreciation of all of the Balbec ingredients; drinking much more water; adding borage oil as a supplement (which I had been meaning to do for some time), and finally, and this is key...trying not to panic--to trust that my body was healing and not overthink it or second guess it. So my skin is finally clearing and the good news is I'm planning on keeping all of the above--more kundalini, the borage oil, more water, better dressing, and the more relaxed stance. Perhaps it was worth it.
Because there are going to be times when Venus is not direct, here are a few quotes...
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." ~John Muir
"As we walk through an allée of topiaried cypress, [Dries] Van Noten says that he and his longtime partner in both business and life, Patrick Vangheluwe, often joke that they’ll someday write a book titled “The Depressed Gardener,” about all the things that can go wrong in a garden, no matter the allowances made for changing climates, unpredictable weather, rapacious insects and on and on. You plan and plan, he says, and something always goes awry anyway. The depressed gardener knows that. He also knows, however, that it is simply what happens when you try to control what cannot be controlled — to be a depressed gardener is to live in a state of constant humility. But it also means a heightened ability to appreciate the strange gifts that circumstance sometimes affords. It means living a life of unknowns, large and small, and yet never ceasing in one’s attempts to coax beauty from even the most forbidding, the meanest of places: the spots of earth that everyone else has overlooked" ~"Dries Van Noten, Icon of Creative Freedom" 10/16/17NYTimes
“If you are trapped in the dream of the other, you're fucked.” ~ Gilles Deleuze
"Life is given to you like a flat piece of land and everything has to be done. I hope that when I'm finished, my piece of land will be a beautiful garden." ~ Jeanne Moreau
“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.” ~ Diana Vreeland
"According to the ancient Vedic seers, there are three basic forces in existence. First is a principle of energy that gives movement, velocity, direction, animation and motivation. Life is nothing but a play of forces, continually chaining and interacting. As modern science confirms, matter is energy and what seems solid is a static appearance of innumerable, subtle moving currents" ~ David Frawley, Ayurvedic Healing.
"Chotti comes before the target with light and fast footsteps. And tells everyone. No fear y'all. Then he shoots, into the target. Then he waits, unarmed. As he waits he mingles with all time and becomes river, folklore, eternal. What only the human can be..." Mahasweta Devi, Chotti Munda and His Arrow
"For something to be beautiful it doesn't have to be pretty" ~Rei Kawakubo