Self Care Ramble: Swimsuit Edition

CW/TW: discussion of weight gain, body image, PCOS, etc.

Similar stories have been told before, and will be told in the future, but I think they need to keep being told in order to remind us of what our reality is.

Hating your body while swimsuit shopping is a tale as old as time. Folks of all genders struggle with this, but I find that myself and other friends who are female or non-binary ESPECIALLY struggle with this because of the way companies, the media, and society in general has groomed us since we popped out of our mother’s womb. I hated swimsuit shopping even when I was a thin little bebe in high school who was fairly close to the “ideal” body type. Prior to this week, the last time I had gone swimsuit shopping was over four years ago, and even then I only went because my friend worked at that store and had found a swimsuit in my size on sale that she thought would look really great on me. Even then, I put off going to visit my friend at her workplace to try on and buy this swimsuit for over a week because I really, really did not want to have to stare myself down in that mirror and see all my nooks and crannies revealed in horrific fluorescent lighting.

In present times, this seemed like an even more daunting task. Because of my polycystic ovarian syndrome I now have more body and facial hair than ever before (something that is greatly stigmatized as being “ugly” or “masculine” on a woman) and have gained a significant amount of weight. I was, and honestly still am, SO insecure about these changes in my body and what I think others will think of how I look. This insecurity is multiplied sevenfold by the industry I work in, where I have patients coming in, who are even thinner and more muscular than I am, to literally freeze the fat cells off their body, or to laser their hair off their body. Although I give my workplace enormous credit for not using body-shaming marketing or consultation tactics to make sales in an industry that is notorious for that sort of garbage, I still seem to absorb the insecurities of patients, friends, coworkers, and relatives like a sponge, and morph them into my own.

With all of these negative feelings bubbling beneath the surface, I still knew I needed to purchase a new swimsuit that actually fit my new size for the summer vacations I had coming up. I scheduled time on my day off, and the morning of I procrastinated on Instagram, watching a steady stream of Instagram stories. I follow @dothehotpants (Dana Suchow) and watched her lengthy Q & A Instagram story that talked a lot about eating disorders, body image, the media, and capitalism, and how all of these entities, ideas, and illnesses interact with each other. I had been aware of all of these things for quite awhile, but desperately needed to be reminded of them.

In case you’re in need of a reminder as well, let’s talk about it for a minute. Who stands to benefit from shaming women about their bodies? Immediately, I think “product companies” and “men”.

So many industries benefit from women feeling absolutely dismal and embarrassed by their bodies! There are entire companies built around body shaming women. Flat Tummy Co. (the name in itself is abhorrent) shills “appetite suppressant lollipops” while making women feel like crap about their weight. Razor companies push women towards a near impossible ideal of hairlessness. Fitness programs guilt women for “holiday weight gain” or “baby weight”. It is literally everywhere. Without this immense pressure and shame I’m sure many women would still buy these items because they themselves want these items or to look a certain way of their own free will, but this pressure makes women feel obligated to look a particular way and ridicules them if they don’t manage to achieve this unattainable ideal.

Men, similarly benefit from this shame. Women who are not confident are more easily manipulated. When the focus is on women’s appearance even in professional settings, it is more difficult for them to climb the ladder and make an impression on employers, clients, etc. that isn’t directly or indirectly tied to how they look.

Women are pitted against each other from childhood and made to feel as if they must compare to other women. Magazines publish “hottest” and “sexiest” lists, girls TV shows feature mean, pretty girls who judge others and characters who compare themselves to other girls, and there are pageants for females of each and every age demographic in which they face off in beauty-based competition. Because of this repeated message throughout our lives, even when we are aware of the factors that make us feel as if we must compete aesthetically, it takes years and years to unlearn this habitual behaviour.

With all of this in mind, I am so grateful for Dana’s reminder on Instagram. Sometimes, we just need that reminder that another woman’s beauty is not the absence of our own, that our beauty does not determine our worth, that there is no one-size-fits-all look that all women should want to look like, and that our shame and insecurities are implanted in us to benefit others. Keeping all of this in mind, I walked into that swimsuit store and quickly and happily found a swim suit that fit me and was heckin’ adorable, for the first time in years. I didn’t feel embarrassed for my belly, body hair, or stretch marks. I felt great and couldn’t wait to head to the pool on vacation! Who gives a damn what I look like, as long as I like what I look like?

I think for myself, a big part of my self-care going forward is to repeat these body positive mantras in one form or another over and over again until I’m able to mostly unlearn these self-destructive tendencies. It’s quite the task, considering how many times negative messages about our bodies have been repeated to us since we were young, but it is such an important task. I hope that you know that your body is absolutely fine the way it is, and you deserve to be happy with it. And if you don’t know, I hope that this is a reminder to take a little time to work on building that self-love, especially if it does not already exist within you.

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FOMO, 2018 Makeup Ban, Content Creators…Not Creating Actual Content

Well friends, in 13 minutes it will be Blue Monday here in Saskatchewan. I hope you are well, and surviving all that January brings!

I have currently gone 19 days without buying makeup, which I am quite excited about. Looking at my Sephora order history in the past I’ve had a tendency to buy makeup at least every two weeks if not every week, so I think this is progress! I recently moved and with the hassle of moving, I realized how much of my collection I don’t actually want or need. When I move I tend to unpack things as I need them, and there’s a chunk of my makeup collection still buried in a moving container somewhere that I’ve had no desire to dig up. As I was unpacking my favourite items too I found myself throwing lipsticks and mascaras out left and right, as I didn’t want them in my new space at all. I’ve been tempted a few times to place an order or check out new products as friends tag me in them, but each time I see something new my mind instantly reminds me that I already have like three of nearly the exact same product and I quickly back away from that idea. Even just scrolling through Sephora, I haven’t really felt that same “I need that!” urge in awhile. I feel that I owe that partially to social media beauty gurus, as lately I’ve felt really overwhelmed by their unboxing videos and product reviews. Lately even local MUAs have been getting more and more into unboxing videos, particularly on Instagram, and I’ve wasted so much time watching them. The one morning I sat through about five different Instagram stories that were just MUAs or makeup enthusiasts unboxing PR packages they had been sent and saying vague statements like “This is from *such and such company* in collaboration with *so and so* and I’ve heard such great things about it!”, and I just got fed up. How are these videos helping me in anyway? They’re repeating the same useless comments over and over, and just showing products that I either don’t give a damn about or I’m already aware of. It’s less informative than a professional advertisement, and far less helpful than a genuine review. There are just so many other ways in which I could be better spending my time, whether it be practicing my own makeup skills, messaging a friend, sleeping, hanging out with my tortoise, reading, writing, etc. In a way I’m almost grateful, because this product overload and spammy unboxing content has kind of scared me away from enjoying the idea of makeup shopping right now.

In fact, this sort of sponsorship overload minus actual quality content has me really sick of social media in general. Instagram is filled with product ads on personal accounts and skin clinic sponsorships, and then Twitter is filled with really horrifying political news and misogynistic posts from people who I previously considered to be admirable authors. Facebook is a strange mix of politics and memes. I guess that with makeup purchases consuming less of my addictive little brain’s focus, I’m becoming more aware of my gross social media consumption habits are. I downloaded an app that tracks how many minutes a day you spend on your phone, and ended up deleting it because I was really embarrassed. Not even 3/4 of the way through the day and I had already spent 5+hours staring at my phone. Ridiculous, really. I’ve tried to deactivate and delete in the past, but the fear of missing out (FOMO) has always dragged me back kicking and screaming. If I delete twitter then I miss out on mental health advocacy chatter, #CanLit drama, daily news, and snippets from my hometown. If I delete Facebook I miss out on family updates from family members I never see (I have too many relatives to be able to realistically text/call/write/email them all and keep up with their lives that way), my tortoise keeping groups, meme tags, and pictures of local cats that have been rescued. If I delete Instagram I lose all of the makeup and pet accounts I follow, as well as updates from long distance friends. Do I come up with a system that will enable me to keep up with all these different people and communities but allows me to go offline? Do I limit my screen time, despite numerous failed attempts to do this in the past? Do I quit cold turkey and suck it up? I don’t yet know what the right answer is.

Have any of you cut back on social media? How did you do it and what tools did you use?

Makeup Buy Ban, Minimalism, and other 2018 Resolutions

If there is any one thing in the world that makes me want to downsize and quit shopping, it is moving. It’s one of the few activities this world has to offer in which you have to come to terms with every single belonging you own. As I unpack in my apartment I find myself chucking things and piling items up to donate because I just have an overwhelming amount of stuff.

The whole moving process was a bit of a gongshow. We’ve had -35C weather and colder here the past week or so, with temperatures only beginning to warm up yesterday. Moving in this frigid weather was an exhausting experience in and of itself, and I am so relieved that I had my family and partner to help me! After going through all of that, and STILL not having unpacked everything days later, I contemplate accumulating more stuff with a sense of dread. I thought that it would kill me to not be able to buy makeup, but I just feel disgusted by the thought of bringing even more items into this apartment right now. I’m sure this resolution will be harder to keep up as time goes on, but right now, it’s an easy one.

I have so many resolutions for 2018, and I feel like most of them are achievable. I want to be more financially responsible so that I can afford to go back to Montreal with my friend this summer, I want to decrease my belongings by 25%, I want to withhold from buying makeup until 2019, and I want to take better care of myself. I just started Yoga with Adriene’s TRUE 30 day challenge and I’m determined to make it all the way through this year. I’m a day behind because of my delayed wifi activation, but that’s not the end of the world.

I feel like 2018 will be the year I trim off the excess and focus in on what I actually need and actually want to do. I’m going to quit agreeing to things to please people, and say no without feeling guilty or obligated to give a reason. It’s going to be great, friends.

What are your resolutions for 2018? I hope all is well.

Project Pan April 2018: Check In #3

I’ve noticed that I plow through skin care products, but using up makeup products has been so much slower. I’m chalking this up to the fact that I have been working so much lately that I savour every second of sleep I can get, and makeup has just not been happening lately, no matter how happy it makes me. The cool thing though about starting two new jobs is that through my work I now have so much new skin care and makeup products to try out! I’ve still got a lot of skin care products from past purchases and my recent Planet Bee order to eventually try out, but I’ve put those on hold to try out a Biophora routine and see what it can do for my acne that has popped up as of late. I’ve taken “before” pictures so that I can check in and see how it’s working for me in a few weeks. Anywho, here’s what’s new in my empties box:

  • Deciem Hylamide Pore Flush toner: Definitely not my jam. I tried to push through it but it stung, didn’t make my face feel good, and didn’t make my face look good. I used three quarters of it and then eventually gave up and dumped the rest.
  • Deciem The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA: I think this will always be my default moisturizer that I default to when I don’t know what to use or my skin is tired. It just gets the job done and is super cheap.
  • Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask: I bought this back when charcoal was the huge new trend, and it work pretty well to remove excess oil. I like to use it two to three times a week in the shower. It’s not a LOVE for me, but it’s been a good product. I’ve got one more travel size of this to use up, and then I probably won’t be repurchasing just because I have other masks that I do love.
  • Urban Decay Deslick Setting Spray: The best setting spray I have found so far for my oily skin. Not perfect, and I’ll still continue to search for something better, but pretty damn good.
  • Doctor D. Schwab Bamboo Cream Peel: I have tried quite a few Doctor D. Schwab products and they just don’t wow me. I think their brand is more aimed towards those with mature skin. Just not for me.
  • Deciem The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG: This is supposed to be used on the eye contour for pigmentation and puffiness. Because I am sleep deprived most of the time because of university and am also quite young, I can’t really say if I saw results. (I don’t have aged under eyes). However the caffeine does feel great on the skin and is nice in the mornings! It’s cheap enough too that it’s definitely worth it.
  • Touche Oxygen Serum: This is meant for acneic, exhausted skin, and it smells amaaaazzzinnngg. I really enjoy the feel of it on my skin, and have had great success with it and my acne previously. However, post PCOS diagnosis this hasn’t been working quite as well for me, and unfortunately because it is over a hundred dollars I likely won’t continue on with repurchasing it. I enjoyed every last drop while it lasted, though!
  • Doctor D. Schwab Flawless Skin Fluid: I don’t mind this, but I have resentful feelings toward this because the tube leaked while I was on vacation and ruined everything in my wallet and purse.
  • Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder: It’s kind of cool how this product gently foams, and it is a very nice albeit incredibly gentle exfoliation. However, I always wash my face in the shower and of course because this is a powder, the opening does get clogged when exposed to water. Just not a good fit for my routine and needs.
  • Last but not least we have two essential oils. A Doterra Juniper Berry 5mL and a Vitruvi Peppermint 10mL. I like the quality of Doterra oils, but can’t stand their pyramid scheme mentality. I also had a very bad experience with their Facebook Public Relations team in which my comments calling them out for their dangerous cleanse diet suggestions were deleted by the team, and my complaints to them were entirely ignored. Doterra and Young Living unfortunately do operate under a very aggressive, cult-like mentality and I don’t know any sane person who wants any part of that nonsense. I’ll be using up the oils I have from them because I paid for them, but all future essential oil purchases will be from Canadian, non-pyramid-scheme, environment-respecting companies such as Saje and Okanagan Lavender Farm. The Peppermint from Vitruvi wasn’t bad and their company has great customer service, but I just wasn’t a huge fan of their peppermint itself.

The farther I get into this project pan, the more I am convinced that I could probably go an entire year without needing to buy makeup. Other than possibly needing to restock once on foundation, concealer, and mascara (if even that), I think I could genuinely do it. If I can make it through the rest of November and December without purchasing anything, I may try to do a year long makeup no buy. Mainly to see if I’m even capable of doing it, but also to challenge myself to use what I have, and get creative with my collection. With my trip to Toronto coming up in March and the goal of moving out, saving that makeup money and putting it towards things that currently are more of a priority to me has become more important.

Tarte #seathechange campaign

If you follow Tarte Cosmetics on any social media platform you’ll have noticed that right now they are really hyping up their #seathechange PR campaign in which they offer suggestions as to how their customers can lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, and feature their beach plastics cleanup in Florida. Their campaign focuses on recycling rather than garbaging plastics, and “saying no to plastics”, and ties in with their focus on their Rainforest of the Sea products.

Now, I really enjoy Tarte as a brand and I do not want to come off as bashing them in any way. I love their products, I really enjoy their social media spokespeople and their content, and I love that the ingredients for their products are sustainably harvested. They’re cruelty-free of course, and many of their products are now vegan too. All great steps for natural/green/environment-friendly beauty!

However, it feels a bit hypocritical to me that they are promoting “saying no to plastics” when none of their products come with refill options. Many brands like Kat Von D, Elate Cosmetics, and Anastasia Beverly Hills produce product refills that you can quickly snap into your palette when you run out instead of having to purchase a brand new palette. I would really like to see permanent refill options available on the tarte website. I feel that this would not be difficult, as many of their contour and blush palettes have the same circular format and pan size already. I don’t want to have to purchase a whole new palette and waste all of that needless packaging when my old palette is just fine and I just need a new pan of bronzer.

I’ve tweeted @tartecosmetics with their hashtag #seathechange and have voiced the need for product refills to reduce plastic packaging that is just going to end up in the ocean or a landfill when we’re done. I hope that you will think about bringing this to their attention as well! I think they are a great company and are more than capable of following through with this next step and practicing what they preach.

September Ramble

Hi everyone! Hope September is treating you well so far. Most folks I know are back to school or their kids are back to school, and the hype for Halloween is in full swing.

This semester is a particularly strange semester for me as its my last semester of university, and all of my classes are either online or at night. I’ve already finished the English major and Psychology minor requirements for my degree, so I’m filling my last few elective spaces with some Public Relations courses for my certificate and a Cree language course. It’s been a really nice change, and I’m finding that I’m really liking my Ethics in Public Relations course so far. I’ve been lucky to have more time for self-care so far this semester as well. Even though I’m working more days than I previously have during the school year, I find that because I only have classes three nights a week, I can sleep in on those three days and then get a lot of stuff done throughout the day. I’m not constantly running to different classes spread throughout the day for once, which is so nice. I can spend the day with my tortoise and get a nap or two in, but still get the rest of my responsibilities done. It’s strange to think that I’ll be looking for another job in a few months if all goes as planned, and then moving, and lord knows what other changes, but I’m trying to just take each change as it presents itself and not worry myself sick over it.

Lately going to makeup school has been something I have looked into more seriously. I looked into a local school a few minutes drive from my place, and it looked promising. The property is very current and new, and the class sizes are cozy and small. Unfortunately, tuition is rather expensive, and just finishing up an undergraduate degree, it is not something I can make work for the moment. I’ve slapped it up on my dreamboard though, as it is something I’d really like to do, even if just for the sake of the hobby or as a part time gig on the side. It’s intimidating though, because even though I live in a very low-populated area of the country that is more so rural and agriculture based, there are so many incredible makeup artists who reside in the South Saskatchewan area. I follow close to two dozen of them on Instagram, or have had makeup lessons by them, and there’s far more out there who I’m sure I haven’t followed yet. The makeup industry is growing at a ridiculous rate even when so many other industries are slowing or failing, but I still worry that there would not be room for me in it.

My tortoise, Nugget, is his usual cranky self. He’s slowly getting used to the fact that I am home a lot more than I used to be. I think he got used to having the whole place to himself when I worked full time day time hours during the summer, so he seems a little miffed that I’m suddenly here during the day when he’s awake. He just sits in his enclosure, watching me run around the apartment, with the weirdest look on his face. Nugget finally met my step-kiddo the other week, and was even more confused! He pretty much ran towards the glass and just stared at her. She of course, is only two, so she was just shouting, “Tort! Tort!”, and I had to stop her from touching the glass. Eventually Nugget came to the conclusion that this tiny human was too hyped for his liking, and promptly went to bed in his log.

Hope y’all have a lovely September!

My ridiculous acne: what helped, what didn’t, what it’s like now

I used to have miserable acne, and still do have breakouts, usually during my breakdown points of the school year. I wish I had some before pictures to show you to contrast with how my skin is now, but I have very few pictures of myself from 5th to 11th grade because I was so embarrassed of my acne, and the internet does not need to get its hands on that! 

In brief, what didn’t help:

  • ProActive. It helped for awhile until it completely dried out and destroyed my combination skin!
  • Stress. This is a no-brainer, I think. Stress aggravates hormonal acne like nothing else.
  • Puberty, periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Again, all of the above messed (and continue to mess) with my hormones. 
  • Neutrogena, Clean and Clear, and every other super drying drugstore acne product out there.
  • Seeing my family doctor. I would get put on antibiotics that would help for a bit, but the acne would come back immediately after I ended the prescription. She also insisted all I needed to use was Dove soap, and bless her heart for trying, but that wreaked havoc on my skin. 
  • Not moisturizing! I thought that because my skin was so oily, that I didn’t need to moisturize. In reality, my skin was beyond dehydrated from all of the acne treatments and was overproducing oil to try and compensate.

What did help:

  • Getting ahold of my stress levels as best as I could. Once I started journaling, seeing a counsellor, getting massages at the spa I work at, walking more, and cutting out negative commitments in my life, I was much less stressed. 
  • Staying hydrated. People always flip flop back and forth between saying water helps and water does nothing. For me, my whole body feels like crap when I don’t get enough water. Drinking a decent amount of water each day helped.
  • Changing my pillow cases every week or two. I used to neeevvverrrrr change my bed sheets and pillow cases because I hated doing laundry and I didn’t know how to adult. Now I do my best to change my pillow cases every week, so I’m rubbing my face in fewer germs and less drool each night. 
  • Aloe Vera! I religiously used aloe vera for a few months and it helped immensely. I would wash my face, dab on some liquid aloe vera (that I think was actually meant for smoothies but yolo) and then wash it off after a few minutes in the shower. 
  • Hydrating my skin. Hydrating my skin has so much to balance out oil production. My skin used to feel like an oil slick, yet somehow itchy underneath the oil slick. That itchy discomfort for me is a sign that I need more hydration. My favourite moisturizers for my combo skin are Moisturizing Factors + HA by The Ordinary and Tatcha’s Water Cream. They’re hefty enough to deliver what I need but don’t feel creamy, oily, or heavy.
  • Getting older. I’m fairly sure growing up and growing out of it helped a bit too. 
  • Controlling what touches my face. I broke my habits of touching my face to some degree, and started sanitizing items like my phone and glasses, which often touch my face, a lot more. 
  • Gel cleansers, gentle toners, and serums. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide (dear god I hope I spelled that right) and Touche’s Oxygen Serum are still my go to’s.

Currently my skin is in a place where I am happy with it. It doesn’t physically hurt, like my acne used to, and I feel confident. I do have a lot of acne scarring and deep blackheads, and that’s what I’m hoping to treat next, as well as keeping the breakouts away during school year stress. I just watched Gothamista’s new video on the impact of green tea and spearmint tea on androgens and hormonal acne, so I’m going to try and make tea a more regular occurrence! I’m still doing my own little research on reducing acne scarring. It sounds like there are many products out there, as well as the option of microdermabrasion, so I’m sure I’ll find something that works for me. 

How have y’all coped with acne, or embraced your acne? Any tips for acne scars? 

Cheers ❤️