Did you know that skin is actually our body’s biggest organ? It beautifully makes us the person that we are and holds us up; quite literally. It also highly contributes to how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us as well. Our skin holds our history and past experiences too. It tells us when something is not going well in our body or when in contrast something is going well. In my case, this was primarily shown when I had acne breakouts and dry skin and when I did not.
There were many sources to my acne: hormone changes, stress in my academic and professional life, lack of sleep and dehydration. This left me with many scars on my cheeks and chin. With time, I learnt how to cope with stressors in my life. The way my skin changed and cleared is a beautiful proof of it.
I took on some precious advice on managing my goals, and life more generally as well, and started applying them. One of these advice was to self-care. I am sure you may have encountered this term numerous times but what is its true meaning? To me, it is an activity one partakes in to “recharge”; just like a battery.1 Everyone’s battery has different capacities. These capacities change with time and with the habits we acquire.1
Here is how I tricked my brain into thinking I was happier and more energized: I developed habits! One of them was to have a daily skin care routine. Making actions into habits requires much less psychological energy out of you compared to doing something you have to think whether you will do or not.1
I knew that having a clear and unified skin made me feel pretty which boosted my serotonin levels and made me feel happier. I decided to tailor a skin care routine to my needs and to make that routine become a habit. I needed it to become something I did not need to think about. I also wanted it to be something that I would be able to physically see the results of.
At first my routine was very simple. I wanted to use as little products as possible but I wanted those products to target my specific needs, i.e. prevent and treat my acne, brighten my acne scars and hydrate my dry skin.
I got many benefits from having that skin care routine. I spent some time with myself in a positive manner as I also tried to be mindful of what I did and how it made me feel better. Eventually, that routine became a habit. Once it became a habit, I had more mental space.2 I was more energized because taking care of my skin became something I did not have to choose whether it would be something to be done or not; I simply did it.
Eventually, most of my acne scars were gone. My acne became much less frequent than it used to be. I definitely believe that the products I used contributed to my skin clearing up but taking care of my mental health and gaining coping and life management skills definitely helped me as well. To deal with anything we need to deal with, whether that is clearing acne or coping with stress, we need to take a holistic approach to it. Our bodies and mind make together one. They influence one another.
Gaining better coping skills helped me manage and decrease my stress. This made me breakout less. At the same time, using the appropriate products to deal with my hyperpigmented acne scars, unifying and moisturizing my skin improved my health. This, in return, made me feel better about myself which, again, helped me cope better with stress. It became a never-ending positive feedback loop; a virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement for my skin and my brain.
1. Hyman, R. (1953). Stimulus information as a determinant of reaction time. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 45(3), 188–196.https://doi.org/10.1037/h0056940
Once our cognitive load has attained its capacity, our ability to take decisions decreases as well. This is what we call Decision Fatigue. Fun fact: decision fatigue is a reason why President Barack Obama limited the choice of his suits between only two of them; one of colour navy and the other of the color black.
2. Gollwitzer, P., Brandstätter, V. (1997). Implementation intentions and effective goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 186-199.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/37367645_Implementation_Intentions_and_Effective_Goal_Pursuit “If-Then” plans are described as increasing the chance of achieving our goals. An example of it would be the following: “if it is 8am, then I will be doing my morning skin care routine”. Doing this plan creates an “instant habit” which is an “automatic” routine. These specific habits help us reach our goals instead of having them getting in the way of success in achieving our longer-term goal.