It has been a whirlwind month since I officially joined the VH inner sanctum and I still can’t get over it. One of the reasons this new role is so special to me is because Victoria Health saved my life and not figuratively, I mean that literally. Gill, Shabir and the dearly missed Sally Brampton helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life and their collective help, knowledge and support changed me in so many ways. Without them I wouldn’t have a blog, wouldn’t be as passionate about skincare and certainly wouldn’t be here writing this. I know many of you will have only just discovered me through the articles I’ve written on here or from my blog or Instagram, but I have been here with you as a fellow VH Addict for years, and today I want to share my journey with you.
We have all heard the cliché adage regarding health, wellness and skin, how it’s all connected and that you can’t have one without the other, but for me that was never true. For most of my life I existed in the realm of “generally” – generally good health, generally good skin and generally active (but not really), all while eating whatever I wanted and generally looking very well.
The flip side of that and the sad truth is I was also generally unwell, but not enough to cause concern, so I ignored it. I carried on like this for years, until something happened in my life and it all came crashing down. I got sicker with each passing month, my skin started to breakout like crazy, my hair was falling out and my hormones were all over the place. I was seeing countless doctors, found myself in and out of the hospital with pain so bad I genuinely thought I was dying and it got to the point where I didn’t think I could go on, and might not have if it wasn’t for Sally’s courageous and moving words (Suicide). Then one day during a lucid moment, spurred on by the fear of my impending invasive surgery, I decided to take matters into my own hands and that’s where Victoria Health came in.
I somehow stumbled on to the site after googling women’s health or vitamins and that night read countless articles written by Shabir and Gill until my eyes hurt and the sun was shining again. This was a pivotal tipping point for me. I suddenly felt determined, hopeful and in control again, as well as sure that if I had done this to myself, I could undo it myself. I read and research as much as I could on everything from vitamins, hormones, skincare, ingredients, food, sleep, emotions, astrology (yes, really) and what I eventually realized is not only is the clichéd adage true, it is the basis of everything.
The connection between our health, wellness (mental, emotional, spiritual) and skin is a cyclical balancing act with each one relying on the others to function harmoniously. For most of my life I had been juggling these three generally quite well, but when one fell (wellness), the others were quick to follow (health/skin). Stress lead to poor health, which lead to bad skin, which lead to more stress and round and round that circle I went, getting worse each time.
One of the most challenging ways my stress manifested itself was through my skin. I became obsessed with checking my face in the mirror and couldn’t stop looking and touching the new breakouts that were popping up every single day. It was like I had tunnel vision and predictably that lead to compulsive picking, which just savaged my skin further and caused yet more stress. I know, understand and completely believe that beauty is not just skin deep, but until you have stood in front of the mirror hating what you see, it is hard to understand the connection between how we look and how we feel. The pain was visceral, crushing and completely uncontrollable and made everything else I was going through feel so much harder to cope with. I had reached my limit and something had to change, and thankfully it did.
My first two orders are ones I will never forget because they made the biggest difference and changed everything for me. The first contained a mix of vitamins I had picked for myself based on Shabir’s brilliant articles and the second was for iS Clinical’s Sheald Recovery Balm that Gill had raved about when it first launched. Of course, with the vitamins I didn’t see or feel results for weeks, but with Sheald I was crying with happiness in just three days.
When I started using it my face was covered with big red, raw and painful “wounds” as a result of my picking and this product helped to heal them faster and better than anything else I had ever used. I couldn’t believe it and realized there were skincare products out there that actually worked. On that third day I was so overcome with relief at how well each wound had scabbed over and was healing that I just burst into tears, because as I said, it’s deeply painful to hate what you see in the mirror and worse when you’ve done it to yourself. I used Sheald pretty much daily (then CAIS when it launched) and was diligent with my vitamins, taking them for months (as well as healthy eating and exercising etc) until I had pretty much completely healed myself and didn’t need surgery. I continued to focus on my health and wellness, my skin got much better (thanks also to the more informed purchases I was making), I delved deeper in to my new found love and appreciation for skincare, eventually started my blog and now here I am.
One of the first things I tell people when they ask me for advice about their skin is to stay calm. Not easy I know, but as far as I am concerned, stress (aka inflammation) acts like a poison and has such a detrimental effect on every aspect of our being. It is crucial to get it as under control as possible as soon as possible, because it affects everything. Luckily, when it comes to healing, because each element is connected, the improvements you make to your skin and health will in turn improve your wellness, which will continue to improve your health and skin and that’s exactly what happened to me.
No matter what anyone says, skin health goes far beyond what we put on our face and if you are struggling with yours then you must take a look at how your lifestyle may be contributing to the issues. My skin got so bad because my body was crying out for help, so pay attention, but also don’t get too stressed about it. Thankfully, the industry has dramatically changed over the past few years (mostly due to Deciem/NIOD/The Ordinary) and there is a wealth of knowledge out there like never before, so don’t feel like your situation is hopeless.
This experience right here is the reason I started my blog. Until this happened I knew nothing about skincare, products, ingredients or how they should work because I didn’t need to and when I did need help, it just wasn’t there. I desperately bought and used pretty much every product out there for acne, believed everything I was told from people whose only goal is to make a sale and wasted thousands of pounds while my skin got worse. This incident taught me so much (the hard way) and I want to share what I have learned in case any of you are as lost, desperate and frustrated as I was back then, and because it should not be this way.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but this is exactly why working with Victoria Health now means so much to me. They were there (without even knowing it) when I needed help the most and I can’t even imagine what my life would be like now without them. I want to be here for you in the same way, so whatever you are going through, please don’t give up. We are all in this together and stronger for it.