I haven’t seen my bare face without acne since I was thirteen years old. It was a bumpy nine years (literally), over which time I became very familiar with a consistent smattering of red lesions parading on and off my face.
As I forced my way through puberty, I grew accustomed to these acneic fluctuations, comforted only by the conviction that my 20s would see me arrive at the breakout finish line.
Suffice to say, I was (sorely) mistaken.
My situation came to a head, after a recent move interstate when my skin decided to tap-out altogether. À la Britney ’07, it had a complete meltdown. I’m talking huge cystic pimples that lined the perimeter of my face, dermatitis around my nose, smaller spots that littered my cheeks, forehead, lips – the lot. My face looked akin to the surface of Mars.
I put it down to the change in climate, probably exacerbated by bouts of stress that emerge from moving your whole life 1,782 kilometres away. But the severity of the acne was like nothing I’d experienced prior. This breakout was different.
After weeks of feeling restless and uneasy about the state of my skin, I was pushed incrementally toward a moment of clarity, at which point I decided that my current routine was not going to cut it any longer. It was time for an intervention.
How to talk to your skin: the importance of the expert.
Until this point, I had never identified as a person in need of a skin consultation. That was for rich people. Or people with serious cystic acne.
Mine was always pretty bad, but not serious bad. Now, I realise this was a misguided mentality. Really, I knew nothing about skin.
Up until now, I foolishly thought I could get by with whatever I had elected to use based on a combination of some internet ‘research’ (namely, YouTube vlogs), the packaging that so pleased my aesthetic sensibilities, and that which my friends had recommended based on their own experiences.
What I really needed all along was an expert.
As I am now older and infinitely wiser, I can perceive with searing clarity that my reservations about having a skin consultation were completely invalid.
In fact, I’d like to happily dismiss any whiff of hyperbole when I say that talking to skin mastermind Asha Evertsz and Naturopathic Skin Therapy pioneer was life-changing.
My initial consultation with Asha was like entering a vortex of untapped skin truths. I walked into her office confident that I was oil-prone, with a pretty hydrated complexion and a tendency to breakout, thanks to my full-time accomplice stress and its cousin atmospheric change.
I walked out, discovering that I have a normal skin type with dry acne, not caused by one or two simple things, but an assembly of factors that made my skin the perfect venue for an acne party.
Take my years of product misuse (hello, Benzoyl Peroxide) and the continued topical application of a great many creams and cosmetics containing emulsifiers and preservatives (hello, the majority of skincare solutions available readily available off a store shelf). Then couple this with stints on and off contraceptive pills that exacerbated a general hormone imbalance, pair with dietary deficiencies in iron and zinc, and finish it off with a gut dysfunction. Voila! There you have it: a destructive concoction of skin-meddling constituents, scheming against the delicate outer housing of my face.
My product misuse had cultivated a frail, lipid-less, dehydrated terrain, while my then vegetarian diet wasn’t, in fact, propelling me toward acne immunity. Instead, it was hindering my skin’s ability to wound heal. My other internal issues (hormonal and gut health) left my skin and body weaponless in the fight against inflammation and infection far too imbalanced to try and repair.
In all of this, stress and climatic factors were like the grand brass key that, once placed in the lock, opened the door to all the ensuing welts of pulsing, pus-laden, scarlet inflammation.
Asha refers to things like stress and climatic change as triggers or warning signs explaining that pimples are similar to “when a red light comes up on the dashboard of your car. You don’t try and replace the bulb in the light you open the bonnet and see what’s going on inside.”
More than just a buzzword — Holistic health
The beauty of Asha’s naturopathic approach is that it looks toward the mind and body, inside and out, to understand why your face resembles a Yayoi Kusama obliteration room. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our skin, particularly that of the skin on our faces, is attached intrinsically to the rest of our body. We speak about treating skin, enhancing skin, perfecting skin, neglecting to acknowledge its actual place on our body (which happens to be a huge one, as you, er, might have noticed, you’re entirely covered in the stuff).
Asha of course, caught on to this school of thought years ago, before #holistic and #wellness were trending. It’s how she remedied her own skin problems and it’s how she continues to heal people with sustained results.
Prior to my above skin revelations, as her first point of business for a consultation, Asha deep dives into practically every crevice of your mental, physical, internal and external health.
A torrent of questions ensue: “do you feel anxious in public places? What is your coffee intake per week? Do you need more than 8 hours sleep?” As I detail my daily culinary habits, sleeping patterns and levels of stress and energy, Asha types frantically, absorbed and invested in all the seemingly banal details of my day-to-day life.
From here, Asha equipped me with a plan of action that traversed everything from my diet – red meat, good fats, tonnes of veggies, and the exclusion of dairy, sugar and wheat – to stress management (gentle exercise, 8-10 hours of sleep) and a sparkly new skincare regimen. On which note, I’m going to take this opportunity to introduce you to Dermaviduals. I have a feeling you’ll get along nicely.
It’s the only skincare brand that Asha sells and recommends, with good reason. In all her years as a practitioner, she hasn’t found anything that parallels it.
Its ingenuity is in its approach and formulation. Pure ingredients are blended together in high-grade laboratory conditions (#science) without fragrances, preservatives, emulsifiers, colours, mineral oils, silicones and amines – all the yucky stuff that’s too often found in readily available ‘skincare’ brands. Like sugar in food, companies make these ingredients hard to avoid – particularly emulsifiers. These nasties build up in your skin, dissolve your lipids, dehydrate you and damage your skin’s barrier.
The most admirable and undeniably genius thing about Dermaviduals, is that their range is designed to be customised – mixed into bespoke serums, cleansers, even foundation – based on specific ingredients and ratios that are married especially for your skin and what it needs. Which, by the way, makes total sense because our skin, like our personalities, is uniquely ours.
For the first few days of using Dermaviduals everything was cruising along perfectly. I noticed an immediate hydration boost and a decrease in general redness.
By day three, however, some particularly disgruntled looking lesions emerged.
After a single day, I was convinced that they had come for no reason other than to exercise a series of psychological tests on my personal inability to persist with a task despite an absence of immediate and marked indicators of progress.
Simply by recalling Asha’s calming voice, I was able to dispel my irrational thoughts: “You’re likely to see some more breakouts emerging in the first week or so” she reminds me, “this is because your skin is clearing out a huge buildup of congestion that has been sitting under your skin for some time.”
So, I decided to push on.
By the fourth week of sticking religiously to my dietary guidelines, obligingly downing four fish oil tablets a day and applying my customised Dermaviduals regime, my skin is starting to heal (evidence below).
In all of this, my most valuable takeaway wasn’t discovering Dermaviduals, nor was it committing to a sustainable eating plan that has boosted my energy and transformed my day-to-day wellbeing.
What most struck me was the resounding emphasis that Asha placed on shifting harmful attitudes towards our skin, and by default, ourselves. She champions a kinder, gentler approach to treating acne (or any skin issue for that matter). She speaks with a sadness about the countless patients she’s seen who allow their self-worth to be dictated by a skin problem, and it’s clear that the most important part of her role as skin expert is to promote a shift in the way that we collectively perceive acne.
Instead of considering it in relation to how one should or shouldn’t look, she urges that we try to recognise it as an opportunity to “tune in to what’s going on in our body”.
After having witnessed this shift within myself, I can say resolutely that I have stopped placing emphasis on how I look or believe I should look, instead taking this opening to reset my internal and emotional wellbeing.
I now recognise that clear, healthy skin is a by-product of looking after yourself, inside and out, emotionally and physically, and that unwell skin shouldn’t be connected to our sense of self or identity.
Asha taught me, above everything, that experiencing acne, especially as an adult, enables us to reconnect with, and deeply honour ourselves. If we choose, “it can actually be a beautiful and empowering journey.”
Asha Evertsz is located in Melbourne and is available for consultations Australia-wide. You can find out more about her here and here.
Words, Magdalene Shapter.