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I had just come back from the Christmas break and was standing in line for chapel when a girl broke the sombre morning silence and announced that ‘Andrea wears makeup’. A little weak for an opening sentence, I know, but I was ten and probably the first out of my year to experiment with anything beyond body glitter and clear mascara. I had a whole arsenal of ‘acne-friendly’ makeup, dubbed as hypoallergenic, which really made zero difference to my breakouts. My skin was so bad and getting increasingly so that I had to think of ways to cover it up. At that age, as most of you can relate, doing anything out of the ordinary was bound to attract attention and interestingly, apart from the observation about my new beauty regime that was so gracefully broadcasted, I didn’t face any nasty comments targeted at my skin condition. They say kids can be cruel but I think I was lucky that my school wasn’t full of assholes.
Nevertheless, growing up with acne on top of all the other pains one experiences as a teenager (omg I still hate that word to this day), I was always acutely and painfully aware that I was the ugliest person I knew. That’s a very bold statement to make but it is the truth. I hated my skin so much that I started to have a very self destructive attitude towards it. I slacked on my skincare routine because nothing seemed to work anyway, and I picked at my spots until my face was scarred with dark spots and minor craters. When I was about 13, my mother started sending me for weekly facials where I would leave with a puffy red face, sore and overworked from the extensive extraction. Almost a year of that, combined with antibiotics from the GP didn’t do much to solve the issue either. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I had a better grip of my skin (the best thing you can do without medicine is drown yourself with water, which I had learnt to do) that I started on roaccutane. Officially, I was on it for about two years on a high dosage when my skin improved. Being on that kind of aggressive medicine is kind of traumatic for your body, even though it’s ‘curing’ you of your problem. My skin got so dry it would flake off like a snake, especially my lips, which I could peel off in one go and that trick really grossed my friends out! Thankfully, I didn’t experience the side effect of bad mood swings akin to depression or what a friend of mine went through, where her eyes were so dry that they would become inflamed if she applied any makeup to the area. For someone with blonde eyelashes, life was hard for her for a year.
At around the age of 19, in my first year of university, I no longer had acne. Cue the second major issue – my horrendous skincare regime. And I am not exaggerating. I would use shower gel or hand soap to wash my face and well, that’s it. If my skin got visibly dry out came the Vaseline, which I’d use liberally. I used makeup but not very much, so the cost of my beauty upkeep was incredibly low. When I moved to Singapore after graduation, a lot changed. My boyfriend was aghast at my skincare and would moisturise my face for me when I was asleep. He introduced me to this foreign entity called ‘night cream’. Also, living in a tropical country for so long, you’re bound to have to adjust your regime and I figured out within my first six months there that SPF was a thing and it is incredibly important. Obvious, right? Well from talking to my friends, more than half of them in the UK don’t use sun protection as part of their usual morning routine. The differences between how women in Asia and those in the UK approach their skin is shockingly vast. Not just working ladies but students in Singapore go for facials regularly and rank SPF highly amongst their most critical skincare products. I have a friend that is scared to sleep with her window blinds open because her bed faces a huge pane of glass and she doesn’t want her face to toast in the UV rays as the sun comes up!
My skincare journey comes to a close when I started writing beauty, for like, magazines. I know, me, the what-is-toner? girl. Scary, right?! When I was approached my Preen Me to do a partnership with Dermalogica and talk about my story, I knew I had an interesting one to tell. In my video, I could practically hear the violins in the background and it is so unintentional that I sound like I’m about to burst into tears. I almost didn’t publish it for that reason. Talking about my experience aloud brought back a lot of emotions and I’m grateful that I was able to tackle my acne efficiently, although there were some pretty ugly side effects. During my Face Mapping experience at Earth Spa (Victoria, London) the analysis showed that I had dehydration and congested skin on my cheeks and forehead. The skincare specialist recommended that I use an oil-based pre-cleanser, as oil picks up oil (and is more effective as opposed to micellar water which is, well, water-based). Next, she suggested the Special Cleansing Gel that I can mix with the Daily Microfoliant, an exfoliating powder.
I protested against dehydration, claiming that I drink well over three litres but the beautician suggested another reason reason for why people may have dehydrated skin. A lot of exfoliators can be too aggressive, stripping the skin of its natural oil. Using the soft, dissolvable powder would mean that I wouldn’t use something too harsh. For hydration, the Dermalogica specialist highlighted the Skin Smoothening Cream, which is surprisingly light and settles beautifully into the skin. As someone who is used to overcompensating the dryness the old school way with thick creams, I was pleasantly surprised that the texture of the moisturiser worked for my skin so well. The Skin Hydrating Masque is a thicker formula, yet notably a lot more light-weight than most on the market and I use this every night.
Blitz Remix top | Urban Outfitters leather bralette | Jaxks duster coat | Chanel bag