The View Point

2018: An Accidental Year Off

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Somehow, we are already at the point in the year where, like clockwork, it feels like December 31st is rushing towards us, yet we have no idea how we got here so quickly (at least I don’t). Most of this year has felt painfully long for me and now all of a sudden it’s almost over and I can’t quite believe it, largely because upon looking back, I see that I accidentally took most of it “off” and I don’t know how to feel about that.

As many of you will know by now from my previous articles (this one in particular), I have been as open as I can be about my struggles this year. One of the feelings that has weighed heavy on me with each passing month is the massive disappointment in myself for all the things I did not and could not do, despite wanting to and even saying I would. Looking back over the past twelve months has been tough because everywhere I look I see all the ways and times I failed myself and other people.

Until recently, I had always relished this time between December into January because I loved looking back at everything that I had accomplished and enjoyed setting new goals and plans for what I would do next. In my article for this year’s January newsletter, I had lots of big plans and ideas that got tossed out the window from the very first day, so this time I want to do things differently. Even though my eternal optimist is somehow still hanging in there (just), I want to go into the last month of this year and the first month of next year just relaxed and open.

I want to try and not judge myself so harshly for the way 2018 turned out and accept whatever may come in 2019. Of course, I have loosely held plans, goals, ideas and dreams, but I am also ready to go with the flow. I am doing this because I realised that the source of my disappointment was the pressure of not being able to live up to the high expectations I had set for myself and I know I’m not the only one that does this.

The social media and comparison obsessed culture we currently live in has made doing our best look and feel completely inadequate. Now it’s like if you don’t blog/vlog every day, constantly churn out “content”, or have multiple ventures and collaborations on the go (a podcast, jewellery/clothes line, book deal, speaking engagement) then you’re not living your best, most fulfilled life. Busyness is still being glorified, yet has anyone else noticed the number of “influencers” and just people who have felt compelled to speak out about much they have struggled this year? It’s all become so exhaustive and I personally cannot continue in this way.

Besides negatively contributing to how I feel about myself, this lifestyle has led me to be the least productive I think I have ever been and it’s mostly because many a time I have been so mentally paralyzed and emotionally overwhelmed with all the things I should and need to be doing that I simply can’t do any of it. My mental health issues this year has meant that instead of throwing myself in to every task until it’s completed like I normally would, I have basically walked away from most obligations and responsibilities in favour of hiding in the comfort of my bed, feeling awful and getting nothing done.

If you find yourself feeling anything like this (exhausted/dejected/overwhelmed etc) as the year comes to an end I can only say, don’t be too hard on yourself. I know so many people who feel like this in some way and we must be kinder to ourselves and each other. Things like taking a social media break, rediscovering my love of reading, taking long walks to clear my head and of course, binge-watching a show on Netflix or Amazon has been helpful this year. It’s all about self-care again (original article here) for me — being mindful, present and listening to my body.

And this is what I mean by accidentally taking the year off. In almost every single area of my life I just “checked out” and I didn’t mean to. Each new week and month I told myself today I would get back to it, but that never happened and now I have to accept that and stop dwelling on all that was not done. It feels massive when I think about it too much. A whole year. Twelve whole months where I didn’t participate in society like I “should” have, but at the same time, if I had, I don’t know what kind of state I would be in right now. Even though this time off was unexpected, it was definitely needed.

Sometimes it can be hard to give ourselves the time we need to be whole and doing things to support our mental and emotional health can seem indulgent and even silly, but I promise you it isn’t. In my time off this year I have done a great deal of thinking (and feeling) and while I have struggled a lot, I know I have gained so much important insight in to my past and who I am. This year has certainly been difficult in more ways than I can talk about at the moment, but I have also learned a great deal and while I’m not at all satisfied with how the year turned out, I managed to make it through and that has to be enough for now.

The Wellness Formula That Helped Me Heal The Past

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At the end of last month’s article I mentioned some metaphysical “work” I had been doing to help with my current physical and mental health struggles and today I want to dive in to exactly what I have been doing and why because it has helped me so much. Everything I have been doing is completely new to me and will probably be to you too, but I have had such a profound experience with it that I had to share.

I consider myself to be a plausible believer (I’m a Leo) when it comes to my approach to life’s mysteries. I like a balance of science and philosophy, but tend to err towards philosophy as my experiences have taught me that science can only teach us so much about the human condition. A lot of the things we think, feel and believe, which make up who we are as people cannot be explained or fixed by doctors and medicine, at least that’s what I have found.

Saying that, I was skeptical of the new techniques my sister had discovered and very reluctant to give them a try. On the surface they seemed no different to every other new age/spiritual self-help jargon out there, but my sister (who is a Pisces) felt like she had found something special and she wasn’t wrong. The community is called Free & Native and the founder, Lacy Phillips, calls herself a Manifestation Advisor. I know exactly what you’re thinking because I thought them too, but bear with me.

One of the things I really liked about Phillips’ theories and approach is how different it is to popular “law of attraction” philosophies, which I found too contradictory to be reasonable. On the one hand the Universe is this all-knowing, magical entity, but on the other it doesn’t know the difference between what you do or do not want. Or my favourite one, positive thoughts are a thousand times more powerful than negative ones, yet one negative thought can stop anything good that was about to happen to you. Confusing, right?

Even though The Formula is essentially about manifestation, it goes far beyond using visualisation and positivity or gratitude to get what you want. It delves in to the core of our experiences and programming as children (0-14 years old) and how they shape who we are as adults. This is what really made a difference to me. My sister bought three “workshops”, but the one I want to talk about is “Reparenting”, which focuses on dealing with childhood trauma or negative experiences.

“Reparent” is a workshop “centered on filling the biggest gaps of limiting beliefs, lack and dimmed magnetism stemming from childhood” specifically between the ages of 0-14 years old, which Phillips believes is where a lot of low self worth conditioning and imprinting comes from. It includes journal prompts and “Deep Imaginings”, where she guides you into a hypnotic state to really open up your subconscious and re-programme neural pathways. This neuroplasticity is described as “forming new pathways by weakening old ones” and that “repeated and directed attention towards one’s desired change” can rewire one’s brain. The idea of rewiring my brain through the Deep Imaginings was something that seemed impossible, but it happened to me.

My experience with “neuroplasticity” came completely out of the blue. One afternoon a few months ago when I was feeling particularly sick, my sister set up a mediation room for me so I could rest until the pain had passed. I lied down and decided to listen to ‘Being Loved’ from Soul Medicine, which is one of my favourite of the tracks from the brilliant founder of ila and ilapothecary. As the sounds began to play I found my mind wondering to my Grandmother, a deeply damaged woman and someone who had caused me great pain up until her death and even beyond. Then without even meaning to I was seeing an alternative reality of her life where I picked her up at the hospital as a newborn, took her home, cared for her and raised her.

I have no idea where all that came from and I know it sounds pretty unremarkable in the limited way I can described it in this space, but it was truly one of the most profound and transformative experiences of my life. What I saw felt real/true and the emotions it evoked were vivid and authentic. I suddenly understood and knew so much more about her and our lives that years of logic and conventional therapies never touched.

Most importantly, my feelings about her and what she had done had completely changed. I still had the same thoughts and memories, but I couldn’t connect with them in the same way. They were detached from me and even now, when I think of her and what happened between us I know all the same things, but I just can’t feel the same way about them anymore.

I know this probably sounds very “woo woo”, but there is science behind this, especially when it comes to Soul Medicine. I believe it was the catalyst to my Deep Imagining because it’s based on energy, vibrations and frequencies. Not only that, the Sanskrit sound ‘ma’ is an ancient syllable of healing. You can read more about that here and if you haven’t tried sound therapy I highly recommend it. Soul Medicine has incorporated healing frequencies that deal with many issues like conflict resolution, deep relaxation, hormonal changes and more.

Going back to my change in “neuroplasticity” I can certainly say that something within me regarding this particular issue in my life has changed. It hasn’t been some mystical quick fix or anything like that, but there has been a palpable shift that has allowed me to let go of this past trauma. To use the language of Free & Native, I feel reprogrammed, unblocked and healed.

My experience created a significant change allowing me to work through parts of my childhood (and my adult life) which needed forgiveness, maturity, compassion and a new perspective. As I have done more of the work I have been able to “rewire” everything from a deep betrayal to life after death, to my relationships with the people who mean the most to me. And some of the most healing work has involved my adult self reparenting my younger self — working though traumatic experiences and being the source of understanding and compassion that I did not have at the time.

Sometimes I journal, which has been really healing but often times I imagine myself as I am now — with all the knowledge and life I have, explaining moments to myself as a child and rewiring my experience of each triggering instance, reprogramming it and allowing myself to heal and move on from it. It is definitely “outside the box”, but I don’t think it is that much different to practices like writing down your thoughts and feelings or breathing exercises that might be prescribed by a traditional counsellor.

Of course, this won’t be for everyone and it isn’t perfect (the price may be prohibitive to many people although there is a lot of free content), but the wellness trend is not stopping. Like Victoria just wrote about here, the concept of self-care is evolving into total wellbeing. For me, this is exactly that — another complementary tool to aid my innate desire to feel well, inside and out, in mind and body.

Overall, what I’ve found incredibly helpful and insightful in Phillip’s work is her focus on self worth, reparenting and working through any aspects of yourself that have been rejected and how that relates to the way you live your life. I have only just started my journey and I have already learned and experienced so much, which is why even if you have no interest in “manifesting” or new age self-help, the tools in this program are excellent for dealing with old issues in new ways.

Why Do I Feel So Ashamed To Be Struggling?

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Shame. It’s probably one of my least favourite words, yet it has been on my mind for the last few months. The reason, I think, is because I am currently feeling it more than I ever have in my entire life. It is a scary thing for me to see these words typed out on my screen, but it’s a truth I need to talk about because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with mental health issues and felt ashamed over it.

This constant feeling of passive shame is something that has been building for the past couple of years. As a woman, I have definitely experienced short-lived bursts of large and small shame throughout my life, but this has been completely different. This feeling is now something that has become so much a part of who I am and I think part of the reason I wanted to share this is so I can finally face it.

For context, this all began in 2016 where things in my life started to very slowly, but surely spiral in a way I had absolutely no control of. I had multiple family members die in quick succession, I was moving around a lot for work and also dealing with a long term relationship break-up. At that time I would have said that I was managing things ok, but I wasn’t. I was depressed without even fully realising it and even though I was able to carry on as “normal” for the most part, I remember feeling increasingly sadder and disillusioned as the months progressed. Then of course the election happened and I cannot pretend that this did not affect me because it did and still does today.

With everything going on personally and globally, I suddenly found that I no longer felt like myself. I looked around at my life and my world and I just could not believe what I was seeing. Every day I tried to tell myself, “tomorrow I will feel better” or “next week will be different”, but I never seemed to be able to get to that sunnier place. I wrote about my struggles a few times last year in The Serious Side of Self-Care, Time – The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself and 28,000 Retweets Later: Letting Go and Looking Forward and it has been interesting to look back at those articles now.

Re-reading the last one in particular, I have to laugh a little bit. Besides not giving up my Twitter addiction (I’m currently at just over 41k retweets), this year has somehow managed to be worse than last! I don’t know why I find that funny, but in this moment I do. I think it’s because I remember having all these grand ideas about how to make this year a good one (I’m an eternal optimist), but it all went wrong from the first second as we rung in the New Year at the hospital because my mum badly broke her wrist three hours before midnight.

If I thought last year was a challenging one, 2018 has superseded that in spectacular fashion. Besides all the global/political events, I now feel worse than I ever have, but not just mentally, I’m also physically ill (it relates to the reproductive health issues I dealt with a few years ago) and have been since March. This year has been a blur of weekly hospital visits and doctor’s appointments, first for my mum and then for me.

As a result of my health and everything going on, this year I have worked less (shame), missed birthdays and weddings (shame), avoided social gatherings (shame), struggled with my skin (shame), haven’t made time to dye my newly sprouted grey hairs (shame), watched too much Netflix (shame) and not really done much of anything “normal” (shame) as well as more things I’m not comfortable mentioning (shame, shame, shame), which has lead to a lot of awkward conversations with friends and colleagues about what I’m “up to” (more shame).

This has also been my most unproductive year ever and of course I can’t help but feel ashamed about that. I have let a lot of people down and said yes to things in the hopes that having an activity or getting back out there would help me feel better, only to find myself unable to go through with them. Home has been a source of safety and comfort for me, but that has meant that I have increasingly withdrawn from socialising both online and in real life.

On the beauty related side of things, I have the longest list of unfinished blog posts and unreviewed products. I know that I am not a professional blogger, but I do feel a sense of responsibility once I accept a product. I hate the idea that I am letting the brands/PR agencies down as well as my readers by abandoning my blog and Instagram account. I also haven’t been able to produce an article for every newsletter this year and when I have done, they’ve usually been late, which I always feel ashamed about when it happens.

I am disappointed in myself (more shame) on top of all the other things I already feel and overall I think I feel ashamed that I can’t just snap out of it. In this fast paced world, having a problem for more than a week feels like a lifetime. I hate how much time I have “wasted” feeling like this and a recent conversation with a colleague just reinforced how impatient we can be when others are struggling. When asked how I was I mentioned that I was still not feeling great and the response was, “oh, you’re still sick?”. This was accompanied by a confused look that instantly made me feel ashamed, which then made me angry for reacting in that way over something that is happening to me.

Society does not give women enough credit for the things we have to deal with on a daily basis and one of them is managing our reproductive cycle and how it relates to our mental health. Depression affects more women than men, but not only that, our monthly cycle affects our hormones and thus our moods, thoughts and emotions. Linked to that, we have the pain associated with our reproductive system like cramps, endometriosis (please read the brilliant article Endometriosis And Me by the lovely Bianca Presto), cysts (what I’m dealing with) or heavy bleeding. Often times we are not facing the world as whole, healthy, happy people, yet we are too ashamed to admit it. I know I was.

I have never been comfortable speaking about private subjects publicly, but that reluctance to open up has also led to more shame and stress as I evasively try to explain my social absence or lack of communication with people without getting too personal. Saying that, those I have spoken to have been immeasurably helpful with their words, support and understanding. If you find yourself in this position in any way for whatever reason, please talk to someone. I truly believe I got as sick as I am now because I tried to hold in everything I was thinking and feeling.

In the end, what these past couple of years have taught me is that I need to communicate more and also be kinder to myself. These things happen and putting so much pressure on myself to carry on like normal just made things worse. I’ll likely (and hopefully) never have a period of time like this again where everything goes wrong all at once, one after the other for so long (coincidentally at the same time as a two year series of eclipses in my sign and opposite sign for all you astrology buffs out there), but if it does, I will not feel ashamed about whatever I am dealing with or for needing help.

Shame is a word I hate because it is almost always unfairly assigned to women and for unjustified reasons. We will all struggle at some point in our lives and that has to be ok because it’s happening to so many people out there right now. Collectively we all need to do better, for ourselves and each other. More kindness, compassion and understanding and less commitment to the wildly outdated and impossible to live up to societal measurements for happiness and success.

I don’t know if I have fully made it out of my “shame spiral” yet or if I can say I feel like myself again, but I am doing some really interesting metaphysical work that has been extremely enlightening and I will talk more about in my next article. I am slowly getting better and I will say that talking does help so if you can, please confide in someone. From the people I have chatted to it is clear that I am far from alone in feeling this way and if you’re feeling the same right now, then you’re not alone either.

How I Found My Skincare Style

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All this recent talk about “skincare wardrobes” courtesy of Lisa Armstrong in her GoW article (here) and Gill in last month’s newsletter got me thinking about my own skincare style and how I found it. I get asked all the time about how to curate the perfect set of products, aka a skincare wardrobe and it is something I like to think I have pretty much perfected now, although it wasn’t an easy process. It took a lot of time, a lot of money spent and wasted and a lot of bad skin days before I truly realized what worked for me and why. Knowing this is what allowed me to formulate my current results driven skincare style, which is focused on ingredients and formulas that do the most for my skin.

I went through a lot of different phases before I found my personal skincare style. In the beginning it was non-existent as I only used face wipes and a moisturizer. Then I went overboard and jumped on any new trend, launch and brand I could get my hands on. There was no structure and my skin was not happy. I also copied a lot of what I saw other people using, but that didn’t help either. Neither did using only products from one brand, it just wasn’t for me. Eventually I found my way to green beauty where I primarily used only organic and plant based products, but there was always something missing, which brings me to where I am now.

My product style is focused on ingredients and results. Sounds simple enough and when it comes to results you would think that’s what most people are after, but that isn’t always the case. For example, some people are looking for an “experience” from their products, which I can relate to in terms of self-care and others are more concerned with how a product will look on an Instagram #topshelfie post, which I don’t recommend doing. For me, after struggling with my skin for so long my number one concern is if a product actually works. I don’t care about the price (to a point) or the packaging (as long as it’s functional I’m happy) and I am not “loyal” to any brand. I want results and having a luxurious experience or pretty branding is not a major deciding factor when it comes to what I use.

What I learned over the years is that while no one brand has been able to completely cater to my combination skin, certain ingredients work really well for me and I seek them out in as many products as I can. My skin loves green tea (soothing antioxidant), salicylic and mandelic acids (generally gentle exfoliants), aloe vera (anti-inflammatory), zinc (wound healing), fruit enzymes (natural exfoliants), retinol (anti-ageing and anti-acne) and PHAs (more on this wonder ingredient soon). On the other hand, my skin doesn’t like lactic acid, some forms/strengths of Vit C and too much fragrance – synthetic or naturally occurring, so I try to avoid those. Now I can pretty much tell without even using something if it will work for me or cause a break out. Of course, I still get excited by new launches, but now I find them easier to resist the majority of them as my purchases are much more educated and less hopeful guesses nowadays.

How did I find all this out? Through trial and lots of error and finally playing attention to the information on the back of the product box (the inci list) instead of the claims being made on the front. For the longest time I had no idea what worked for my skin and most importantly, why until I started educating myself. This is also when I started to see the best results and after dealing with acne for so many years that’s really all I care about. Beautiful packaging, gorgeous scents/textures and “all natural” ingredients are meaningless to me if they don’t provide results worth paying extra for (yes extra, because that’s exactly how it works). We pay more for all the bells and whistles, as well as the fantastical claims about purity and wellness, which are usually just a marketing smoke screen for grossly overpriced subpar products. Be warned – expensive doesn’t always mean better.

If you are still struggling to hone in on your own personal skincare style then I have a few pointers that might help. In general, once you have figured out your skin type and/or major concerns you are then free to decide what factors are most important when it comes to choosing your skincare products. It could be refined textures, certain ingredients like me or you can choose to go the more clinical route with cosmeceutical brands or stick to more “natural” products from “green” companies. You can also decide on being a minimalist with just 2-4 steps or going all out with a full Asian skincare inspired 10+ step routine.

You can also take in to account how much you want to spend on skincare. I know that for many buying skincare products is more of a treat than a necessity and not everyone can afford to have multiple cleansers, eye serums and moisturizers (trust me, it’s probably better if you don’t). Luckily the industry has a skincare line to suit every budget and you can spend as little as under £10 on a product all the way up to thousands. Just be sure you’re getting your money’s worth and that being frugal isn’t costing you in the long run. Whether it’s cheap and cheerful or advanced science and luxurious, it has to give results to be worth buying.

When people ask me how to put together a skincare wardrobe I generally recommend mixing it up in a way where the most money is being spent on the most important areas or steps. The high-low approach that Lisa mentioned is a great place to start because it allows you to save on steps like cleansers and toners where you’re not likely to see visible changes (unless you’re using the wrong one) and invest in targeted treatments that will actually make a difference to your skin. Your skin style should be personal to you and your wardrobe should include products that you enjoy using and see results with.

Luckily, like with fashion there’s not really a wrong way to do it. Whether you go all out and spend a small fortune or opt for the budget friendly brands, or even stick to one brand because the products work that well for you, as long as you and your skin are happy then that’s all that matters. The only thing I would be wary of is the changing season as most people will need more hydration during the winter and then lighter layers in the summer, but those are easy to make small tweaks. Definitely pay attention to how your skin responds to what you’re using and try and do as much research as you can before buying (get samples!). This way you should find your skincare style will naturally evolve the more you begin to understand your skin.

My Skincare And Wellness Supplement Routine

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After last month’s article all about how I use supplements as part of my skincare routine (here), I decided it was time to share exactly what I use and why. Like skincare, I fully believe that supplemental therapy is very personal, but there are so many vitamins, minerals, herbs and plants to choose from that it can be very confusing and overwhelming. I wanted to explain my routine in the hopes that it will help anyone out there experiencing the same health issues or skin concerns that I am.

My supplement routine revolves around three key linked elements that I believe are essential for overall wellness and healthy skin. I aim to support the gut and liver, balance my hormones and reduce inflammation. Generally most women (and even men) could benefit from focusing on these three areas as modern life can really have an affect on all of them. Things like stress, an unbalanced diet, lack of sleep and not enough exercise have really been taking a toll on my health this year and the supplements I take have helped support my body from the inside out.

As I said in my previous article, one of the most important things to remember when choosing supplements is deciding which delivery method is right for you. For me, after many years of taking supplements in pill or capsule form and not liking the process one bit, I found that switching to liquids or powders has changed everything. It has made things quick, easy and painless and as a result, staying consistent is virtually effortless, which is paramount in order to get the most out of what you’re taking and to see tangible results.

For me, the gut is one of the most important organs in the body and how well it operates can affect our whole body, inside and out. Not only that, how well and how often we “eliminate” the waste from our bodies can make all the difference in our overall wellness and the health of our skin. I also think that without actively looking after your gut, taking vitamins could be a waste of time and money. An unbalanced and improperly functioning gut microbiome usually leads to poor digestion, which means the supplements won’t be absorbed making them useless.

Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes work to break down the different compounds in generally hard to digest foods like dairy, red meat and sugar helping them pass through the gut in the best way. They also help reduce inflammation and could help improve food sensitivities or intolerances. I choose a supplement that focused on my specific food issues and now I find that when I eat foods I previously didn’t digest well, I don’t experience the same negative side effects.

My supplement is a capsule (which I don’t mind in this case) and that is pretty standard for enzymes as many have to be taken around meal times. I keep some in my bag so if I happen to go out for lunch or dinner I won’t forget to take them. So far these are one of the best additions I have made to my supplement routine and I highly recommend trying these if you often experience food sensitivities, bloating, gas/belching or indigestion.

Probiotics
The main benefits of probiotics is their ability to boost the “good” bacteria that will help promote a healthy gut and improve digestion, but that is just the beginning. I have been taking them on and off for years, and now in conjunction with the enzymes I am seeing the best results. I have always had quite a sensitive stomach and probiotics have helped soothe and strengthen my gut microbiome. I have tried capsules, powder and liquid probiotics with different strains and strengths and it’s all about finding the right combination for you.

Glutamine
This is a relatively new supplement for me, but over the past few weeks alone it has made such a big difference. It supports the GI tract, boosts gut cell regeneration, improves gut barrier function and aids gut repair. This is so important for better digestion as well as proper absorption of vitamins from food or supplements. I would recommend starting with this to make sure your gut is healed and ready for everything else. Most glutamine comes in powder form and this is what I use.

Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Glutathione
For liver support my go-to supplements are milk thistle, turmeric and glutathione. These three help reduce inflammation, aid detoxification and support optimal functioning. Not only that, I saw the biggest improvement in my skin when I started supporting my liver and it’s because the body was now properly dealing with waste removal. All three supplements are good for the body and skin, but glutathione has the added benefit of reducing excess melanin production, so it is worth investing in. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your liver. It is the largest internal organ beyond the important “cleansing” role it plays, it also impacts our hormones, which brings me nicely to my next category.

Hormonal Support
Supporting and balancing hormone function has been a big priority for me over the past few years for a number of reasons. They function as the messengers relaying information all over the body, which means it is a big deal when they are imbalanced or disrupted. I started to have hormonal issues in my mid-twenties and even now it is still literally a balancing act (no pun intended) because daily stressors like diet, lack of exercise, sleep and stress can impact how well they function.

Agnus Castus
Known as vitex or chaste berry, this medicinal herb has been key in improving my PMS symptoms and I have recommended it to so many people. I used to take capsules of this for years, but I am currently testing out tinctures to further reduce my pill intake. I cannot recommend this enough and swear by it for better menstrual cycles as well as less hormonal breakouts.

Thyroid Complex
The thyroid is one of the largest hormonal glands and is actually linked to digestion because it “regulates how fast your intestines process food”. When it is not functioning properly you could experience issues like heavy periods, disturbed sleep, fatigue and dry hair. I take a capsule supplement which also contains a mix of nutrients and minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc and olive leaf to support optimal thyroid function and improve my general health.

Vitamin D
Technically more of a hormone than a vitamin, this is important due to the links between chronic illnesses, depression, immune function and cell mutation. When I was at my sickest, test results revealed extremely low levels of vitamin D, so now I use a quick and easy to administer oral spray and I have seen a big difference in my stress management.

Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins are another supplement that provide more than one health benefit. They are involved in the production of hormones, but also release energy from food and support overall health. For example, B2, B6 and B12 work with the liver, Niacin boosts skin health and estrogen metabolism, B5 aids production of steroid hormones and B9 can be mood boosting. I take a liquid form that goes in to water or juice and is quick and easy to swallow.

Magnolia Rhodiola
This adaptogen works on stress reduction by balancing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body. Magnolia extract and rhodiola rosea work together to lower stress and promote a more calm/relaxed feeling. Reducing stress could help the skin a lot as cortisol can affect other hormones, possibly leading to acne. Not only that, in a roundabout way this supplement is excellent for inflammation because that isone of the effects stress can have on the body. I have been taking this as a capsule for years and it has made a big difference to my skin and mental health.

Inflammation Reduction
For many years I had no idea what inflammation really meant or why it was so important to reduce the levels in my body. When I used to think of inflammation I typically imagined angry red spots or back/head pain as seen in typical pain medicine ads. I never realised that inflammation could be occurring all over my body, affecting everything from digestion, menstrual issues and general wellness. I also never really paid attention to how the foods I ate either increased or decreased inflammation. Now I know better and believe that reducing inflammation is vitally important for long lasting great health and skin.

Omega 3
I have been taking some form of Omega 3 for years and can personally attest to how well they can work for the skin and general wellness. When I used to suffer from cystic or stubborn hormonal breakouts this supplement helped so much to calm everything down quickly. I saw my blemishes heal better and over time I actually stopped breaking out with the same level of severity and frequency. I am now taking a liquid Omega 3 form and if liquid oil supplements make you gag then opt for the traditional gel capsules. This is one of my top three vitamins that I recommend to everyone, especially for healthy skin.

Turmeric
This ancient Ayurvedic medicine has been used in India for many years as a fabric dye, in food and drinks and as a natural remedy to a variety of ailments, and I take it for the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits it provides the body. I feel like this just helps me to feel well and especially when it comes to my digestive system I find there is less uncomfortableness and pain. There are many ways you can incorporate this potent supplement depending on if you like the taste or how much you want to take. I have an oral spray and that works very well for me as turmeric isn’t my favourite spice.

This year I have finally found my “groove” with supplemental therapy and now actually enjoy this previously gag-inducing step in my routine. That alone is a very meaningful change to me because I genuinely feel good about what I am doing. I know this might seem like a lot to take, but for me my health is my number one priority that I would much rather invest in over topical products.

What I use is just a tiny tip of the iceberg and there are many more great ingredients out there and it’s all about finding what’s right for you. As always, please do your research and talk to a doctor before starting on any supplements. It’s what I did and I feel so much more informed and confident in my choices. Shabir is also a wealth of knowledge and besides having already written about every supplement here, he has also written about almost every health concern under the sun.

Of course, the most ideal way to take care of your skin and health is through a well rounded diet full of colourful, fibrous and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, while limiting inflammation causing and stomach upsetting (for some and most definitely me) foods like red meat, dairy, sugar and grains. Pretty straightforward in theory, but not always easy to stick to even with the best of intentions, which is where supplements like a good multi-vitamin (which I also take in liquid form) comes in.

I know that a full supplement routine can be expensive to maintain, but compromised health isn’t cheap either. If I was to recommend one area to start with I would say any of the digestive support supplements because the gut really does influence just about everything and a healthy gut can be the first step to overall wellness. There are lots of other things you can do too like get more sleep and exercise, work on your diet, drink plenty of water and practice self-care. Supplements are just one way to improve your health and skin.

How Supplements Became The Best Step In My Skincare Routine

spoon of fruit and vegetables

After my health issues a few years ago it became pretty obvious that what was happening on my skin had a lot to do with what was going on inside my body. In fact, how my skin changed was the first sign that something was wrong, although I did not realize this at the time. As my health deteriorated, my skin progressively got worse until I felt like I looked just as badly as I was feeling (which was pretty awful). The funny thing is, I remember being obsessed with fixing my skin and wasted so much time and money on products and treatments when what I needed to do was focus on my health – the root cause of my skin problems.

 

My discovery of how important supplements can be for the skin happened completely by accident. In order to avoid surgery to remove a large cyst I began researching alternative medicines and from there I learned about the different vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies that would help me naturally balance my hormones, support the digestive system and lower my stress levels. The supplements I began taking had nothing to do with the skin as far as I was concerned, but a very happy “side effect” I started to notice after a couple of months was that my skin was improving, all without having any kind of skincare routine.

 

That’s when I realized that for many of us skincare junkies out there, products can only do so much and to really care for our skin we need to look after our bodies as a whole. For me that included taking my supplements, but also eating well (things like sugar, dairy, meat and grains really upset my stomach), regular exercise, plenty of rest, less stress and more mindfulness. Basically, all the boring things we know we need to do, but often find it difficult to make time for these days. I ultimately made a complete lifestyle shift with my supplements at the centre of it all and the difference in how I felt and looked was like night and day.

 

Despite all this, once I was well enough to get back to my normal life I was quick to forget everything I had learned. Ridiculous, I know, but I think I rushed my recovery because I felt like I had wasted so much time being ill and I just wanted to move on from it all. It was a dark time for me and instead of seeing the things I had done to get well as a new way of life to stay that way, I saw them as a reminder of how sick I had been. Over the years I eventually stopped doing everything, even taking supplements. As a result, about six years later I am dealing with the same issue again, which brings me to my current round of supplement therapy.

 

I thought it was important to finally share my experiences with supplements and talk about my current journey because I know that in general most people are quite skeptical of them and I was too. Even after I had seen how well they had worked for me I still doubted if they had really had an effect. I wondered if they were just giving me “expensive pee”, but after tracking my health and skin with supplements alone, only using skincare products and just exercise and healthy eating, as well as different combinations of these things, I know that supplements make a difference for me and that they are worth trying.

 

Currently I am focusing on reducing inflammation, repairing my gut and balancing my hormones. As I have said many times, I believe inflammation is the root cause of pretty much every issue with the body and skin and in my experience it affects and is linked to my digestive and reproductive health. I am also working on improving cellular waste/toxin removal, which I hope will help my issue resolve itself without any surgical intervention. As for my skin, the biggest concerns I am trying to address are dullness, hyperpigmentation and inflammation, which the supplements I am taking have already begun to help with.

 

Even though supplements are very personal and it’s important to tailor them to your own specific needs and issues, there are a few that I think pretty much everyone could benefit from for overall health and good skin. The main supplement that I have felt and seen the most improvement from are digestive enzymes/probiotics. These are the staples in my supplement regime and sort of form the basis for general good health because without proper gut function you’ll likely not be able to absorb and reap the full benefits of any vitamins you take, as well as the food you are eating. Not only that, more and more research and studies are coming out that show just how important it is to look after our gut and many issues, especially with the skin, could be a result of conditions like leaky gut (Shabir has written about that more here) or gut bacteria related food sensitivities. 

 

Once you have taken care of your gut you can move on to tackling specific issues and even when it comes to the skin there is pretty much a supplement for everything. If inflammation (internal and/or external) or acne (especially cystic) is a chronic issue for you then try Omega 3. It has worked really well for me over the years and helped reduce the size and frequency of the cystic acne I was getting the first time I was ill. Another good supplement for the skin is zinc, which helped my blemishes heal quicker by improving wound healing and boosting my immune system.

 

If like me pigmentation or dullness is an issue then check out Glutathione, which not only works to reduce melanin production, but also supports the liver and kidneys (also great for the skin). If you find that your skin is affected by your menstrual cycle then try Agnus Castus, which has worked wonders for me and many of my female family members and friends. Stress management is also extremely important for your skin and overall health. If you find you frequently suffer from feeling anxious, low mood or mood swings then something like Rhiodola Rosea can help reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. This hormone affects how we respond to stress, but it also impacts our skin, which is why we often get blemishes during stressful times.

 

All these supplements have been written about extensively on here by the extremely knowledgeable and incredibly helpful Shabir and I encourage you to read up on any issue you are having because it’s likely you will find a way to deal with them through supplement therapy like I did. As many of you will know, I found my way to Victoria Health thanks to googling alternative ways to help with my cyst and the supplements I bought as a result of reading Shabir’s articles were why I was able to get well without conventional medicine or surgery.

 

I know that taking supplements probably seems less exciting and more of a hassle than using a face mask or getting a facial, but for me (and I am sure many of you), what is happening on my skin is just a symptom of something else going on in my body. Skincare products can help a lot, but only to a point and what I have found is that by taking a 360 approach to my health and including supplements as part of my skincare routine my skin is way more calm and balanced, even when I barely use anything on it like I have been for the past few weeks.

 

Of course, like everything (but especially all things beauty/skin related) supplements are extremely personal and there is no one magic pill that will cure everything, nor is there one perfect regime that will work for everyone. It’s all about what your body needs and the right combination and dosage to get the best results. Even so, I truly believe that if you are dealing with persistent health or skin issues then supplements could be worth investing in over an expensive serum or “miracle” cream.

 

Being that this is a health and wellness platform, I know a vast majority of VH readers are dedicated supplement users, but if you are a newbie then there are some guidelines that can help. First and foremost, there are many factors that go in to what supplements to take (age, sex, lifestyle, medication, allergies, contradictions etc), so it is very important that you do as much research as possible and consult your doctor. Shabir has written thousands of articles and those are a great place to start. The first time I discovered them I was reading until the sun came up and it was the first time I felt truly empowered in my illness.

 

Next, like skincare it’s all about finding what works for you and that also includes how the supplements will be administered. I have found that I pretty much hate the feeling of swallowing pills or capsules and have now focused on liquid/spray supplements from brands like Biocare, BetterYou and LivOn Labs in my regime. By doing this I now actually enjoy taking my supplements and again like with skincare products, great ingredients can only work if you actually use them. 

 

Not only that, in the same way that you have to stay consistent with your skincare products to see the best results, the same goes for your supplements. I usually start to feel a difference within a month (what my period is like is generally a good indicator) and see results around the 10-12 week mark. I would also recommend starting slowly (just like you wouldn’t start using too many products at once) and documenting how you feel day-to-day.. Right now I am taking all the supplements mentioned and a few more that I will explain in more detail on my blog to share my journey.

 

For some of you simple changes like switching to a non-drying cleanser, or incorporating a retinol product will be all you need to see a difference in your skin, but for others the issues are more than skin deep and need to be addressed from the inside out. Sometimes our skin can act like a mirror reflecting what’s going on internally and if you find that you have the same recurring issues or can never quite get a handle on your skin then incorporating supplements could be the best step your skincare routine has been missing out on.