Happy new year to everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic festive season and an excellent start to the new year. January 8th marked one whole year since I kicked the contraceptive pill to the curb, which means it’s time for another post-pill update. This feels like a real milestone for me because the last time I went off the pill, I reverted back to it not even three months later. This time round, I stuck to my guns and pulled through even the worst breakout. It’s not easy dealing with acne in your twenties, something that should be a thing of your teenage past. I really did feel like I was going through puberty all over again. Now a year into my pill-free existence, I want to share with you my experiences since my 5 month update. (If you’re new to my post-pill chronicles: I suggest reading this post first. I talk at length about why I went on the pill, why I went off, why I went back on, and why I’m off it for good now.)
2017 was a year of personal growth, and I owe a large part of this to my imperfections. I’ve learned powerful lessons in self-love, acceptance, tuning out the negative thoughts and focusing on my virtues rather than fixating on my vices. And funny enough, the less I obsessed over my skin, the less acne I got. But it wasn’t all inner peace and aligned chakras; I went through some pretty low times in which I felt so incredibly ugly and would spend many hours staring at myself in the mirror and crying. I’d wake up and the first thing I’d do was assess my skin for more pimples and blemishes. There’d always be at least one new mark and it would immediately taint my day. I thought I was prepared for it, and to some extent I was. You’ll remember from my last update how confident and okay I was with my skin at that point. I knew why I was breaking out and I was prepared to wait it out. But after the 9th month of battling my problem skin while comparing myself to other girls with flawless skin really killed whatever confidence I had.
My acne began to rule my life again, and when I admitted that to myself, I finally let go. I made the decision to stop trying to control everything. I let my body work itself out, stopped stressing myself out about which skincare regime I needed to follow, which supplements I needed to take, and what foods I should be avoiding. I stopped washing my face, indulged in sugary treats when I felt like it, and did my utmost to avoid mirrors at all cost. I concentrated on the things I love about myself, on the inside and outside, and did my best to remember those things when the self loathing resurfaced. My skin didn’t clear up, and I endured another round of breakouts through the festive season, but I was okay. I took back control. Upon my return to Johannesburg, and I say this with one hand on my wooden desk, my skin cleared up. I’m not sure why or how, but it felt like as soon as I hit the year mark, my skin calmed down.
Admittedly, I was quite saddened by this picture. I never look at my face from this angle, so I was unpleasantly surprised with the amount of spots hiding in the corners of my face. I’m obviously contradicting what I’ve said above, but I’m human and I’m not 100% confident or okay with myself all the time, and I think it would be idealistic to think that we aren’t affected by our appearance in some way or another. My skin isn’t clear; I have many scars and blemishes and a couple red spots that won’t go away, but I haven’t been getting any new pimples which is great. I know that I will experience breakouts before and during my period, but hopefully they are minor and disappear as quickly as they appear.
There are a few minor changes to my otherwise ‘zero-faff’ skincare regime that I thought worth mentioning. Firstly, Apple Cider vinegar has been a real game changer. I don’t wash my face anymore, other than a few splashes of water, so I use ACV to cleanse and tone my skin. It’s amazing for reducing redness and evening out my skin tone a bit.
Remember that weird pink liquid that your mom put on your spots when you had chicken pox? It’s called Calamine lotion and it’s not only good for chicken pox. Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide which is traditionally used to treat mild skin itchiness from things like insect bites and, of course, chicken pox. But it is also excellent for drying out skin irritation and I have found it to be helpful in drying out my pimples. The zinc oxide calms inflammation, soothes redness, decreases the size of the pimple and helps dry out excess oil production. I just dab on with a cotton bud before I go to bed and leave overnight. I wake up to a relatively shrunken pimple in the morning.
Possibly the best thing I’ve started doing for my skin (and general well-being) is making kombutcha. Essentially fermented tea, kombutcha is high in probiotics. A healthy gut is needed to break down foods, absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins. When our gut flora is not healthy, meaning more bad bacteria than good, problems like chronic inflammation can occur which will in turn cause acne. Kombutcha is good for my gut and my bank account because it’s so cheap to make. I’ll do a post on how to make it if anyone is interested.
Skin drama aside, I’ve been very fortunate to not have experienced any complications with my period and little to no cramps whatsoever. However I did have severe backache during my last period. I thought I had pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve, but the pain disappeared as soon as my period stopped (or when my mother finally convinced me to take a Gen-Payne). I do have mood swings but they occur too often to be PMS. My anxiety is still rife, but I think it’s more a habit than a condition. I am so used to being anxious. I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember and I actually don’t know how not to be. Sure, it was sparked by something, but the emotional habit of feeling anxious and then acting based on my anxiety prolongs it’s existence in my head. Feeling nervous, socially awkward, uncomfortable with trying new things and feeling unhappy with my appearance all stems from my anxiety habit that I need to break.
Going off the pill is an experience that I believe helped me reconnect with my body. It made me think about the things I consume, the products I use and how my feelings, stress and anxiety affect it. I take care of myself a lot more, and when I do something wrong, my body is sure to let me know.2