My name may sound familiar from the cards you receive alongside your Osmia goodies in the mail. One of my favorite parts of customer service is handwriting the little notes that go along with every order I pack. Lately, I’ve found myself gravitating towards one message in particular: you are beautiful.
It seems like such a superficial phrase. But beautiful is a word that can carry such power over how we perceive ourselves and our worth. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and told yourself you’re beautiful? Yeah. That’s a daily ritual that I’ve struggled to maintain in the past two years since I developed cystic acne.
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HAVE YOU ALWAYS KNOWN A LOT ABOUT SKINCARE?
Growing up I was skincare-clueless. My teenage routine consisted of insisting that I needed whatever acne product my older sister was using at the time and then forgetting to use it. The only time I’d remember to put some actual care into my skincare was when an occasional pimple or two appeared.
Lather, rinse and repeat for ten years.
WHEN DID YOUR SKINCARE JOURNEY START?
I got my first bout of real acne early in my junior year of college. My interest in skincare went from “the skin is the body’s largest organ” to “what’s a pore and how do I stop having them?”. My previous two-step regime evolved into a layered event that could take up to an hour to complete. It included every type of product filled with every type of chemical I had read about on every type of acne blog.
Despite doing all that research, I wasn’t really looking to learn. I was looking for quick fixes; a way back to my previous skin and minimal care. While my breakouts didn’t go away with my new regimen, they did seem to get a bit better. That is, until I had my first cystic acne flare up in the spring of my junior year.
This was just months after investing in an obsessive amount of new skincare - and it was obsessive. I can see that now. In one year, I spent more on products than all my other expenses combined. There was always a new cleanser or toner or mask that I simply had to buy. It never crossed my mind that I should take a look at the ingredients in the products I was using or scale back how often I was using them. No, I knew I needed to do more.
Does 10% benzoyl peroxide and daily exfoliation on top of the hour-long facial circus I had established sound like an awful idea to anyone else? ‘Cause you’re completely right. I’ll skip the gory details, but it was the first time I broke down sobbing over my skin. My classically red, angry cystic acne became worse than my worst nightmares, and more painful than I could have imagined. I avoided mirrors and reflective surfaces. The pictures I have of myself from this time period are sparse. The pictures I have of myself barefaced are sparser. Makeup became a requirement for being in public.
I was spiraling without any outlets. My junior and senior years were full of jaunting transitions with graduation approaching, the bitter severance of a four-year relationship, and the passing of two close family members. The balancing act of my undergraduate dissertation, two internships, a part-time job, leadership positions, and social engagements certainly didn’t help. Stress, admittedly, also makes me an awful eater. I didn’t feel I like had the time to eat and when I did I often chose restaurants of the fast chain variety.
I can’t remember what exactly made me realize I couldn’t continue with this cycle. I do know that it brought me to the healing realization that I needed to stop and listen to what my body had been telling me all along: slow down and breathe.
The summer after I graduated, I made the resolution to start taking better care of myself mentally and physically. For me, that meant becoming conscious of my need for breaks. Projects were set aside three times a day to prepare well-balanced meals with a focus on gut health. Time was made for hikes, exploring new trails, and, yes, taking my shoes off to feel the dirt between my toes. I stopped wearing makeup as a social crutch and started looking in mirrors again. These were simple changes, but together they felt like a new start.
The most impactful decision I made in contribution to my healing process, though, was moving to Colorado to be closer to my immediate and extended family. With this move, I found myself applying for a position at a local small business, Osmia Organics.
Their mission resonated with me. Osmia positively approached skincare and beauty in a way that I wasn’t used to seeing. They didn’t use shame to sell products. Instead, there was a focus on educating and empowering consumers to live a healthier lifestyle. On top of that, they also sought to impact the world with their business practices and gave back with donations to One Tree Planted to support tree planting. Cue the swooning here, because I was in love.
I remember writing a horribly vulnerable cover letter and dreading that I had been too personal as soon as it was sent. I nearly toppled over with joy after hanging up from my initial phone conversation with Sarah - literally and figuratively, since I was standing on top of my family’s “phone booth” ladder to get cell service! Osmia wanted me to come in for an interview the next day.
This was in July of 2018. Despite my continuing cystic acne, I was only rinsing with water and applying sunscreen. I was afraid to use any products. A skincare ritual should be a time to slow down and energize at the beginning of the day or decompress at the end. I, however, had twisted it instead into a morbid daily punishment for not having clear skin, and I wanted to stop the madness.
After my interview, the Osmia team sent me home with samples of their Balancing Starter Set, and I reconsidered my stance on skincare rituals. They recommended these four simple steps: wash with Black Clay Facial Soap, apply Balance Facial Serum to damp skin, use Spotless Blemish Oil on acne, and breathe in deeply. This didn’t feel like punishment. This felt like another step in my self-care journey. And it smelled really, really good.
It has now been about six months since I introduced these products into my routine. After the first month, I began to notice that my angry red clusters were becoming singular spots. The visual was heartening but, more importantly, those singular spots weren’t painful. Each month since then seems to have gone by with tortoise-like improvement: slow but steady.
Self-care is a resolution I am still building on and working to define for myself. The central mentality connecting it all for me is simply listening to my body and being kind to myself. I have learned from my skincare journey that while skin is the first thing people often notice, it’s not the most important part of who I am. I’m biased when it comes to how I view myself - we all are. We see ourselves as static images caught in mirrors or pictures which makes it easier to hyperfocus on all our perceived imperfections. Others, meanwhile, get to see us in constant lively and lovely action.
So promise me this: next time you find yourself staring in the mirror with nothing good to say remember that you are vibrant, you are passionate, you are kind, and you are beautiful.
The information contained in this post is for educational interest only and is not intended to represent claims for actions of our Balancing Starter Set or the products within it. This information is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any physical or mental illness or disease.