I have been discussing self-care for the better part of two years now, and it’s varied from coping with mental illnesses, fighting toxic urges and avoiding toxic people, fitting in morsels of time into a busy day to help rejuvenate one’s mind and emotional capacities, and a few more other topics. However, the one thing I have rarely discussed—and arguably one of the most important aspects of self-care—is self-love.
My confidence is below average. I am overweight due to my congenital conditions and trying to lose said weight has been a challenge because of all the physical restrictions that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. Couple that with my accent, brown skin with its scars and marks, and naturally timid disposition, I’ve had a lot going against me in terms of trying to find and accept love of myself. It took me a really long time to learn that physical beauty isn’t as important as society makes it out to be.
We as humans deal with a lot of things in life that make it extremely challenging to fit a preposterous mould of beauty 1000% percent of the time. Between stress of various sorts, illnesses, genetics, the weather, and the tricky little bit called ageing, losing the glow of youthful vibrancy and perfection is inevitable. Let’s also not forget that not all of us are born or grow to be the tiny mould of sexy and gorgeous that everyone shoves into our faces constantly. Taking the pressure we tend to put upon ourselves and slamming it head-on with the robustly grotesque pressures that society likes to throw around like drugged-up confetti—how is a person ever supposed to find comfort and security within ourselves?
Suffice to say that I have been contemplating all of these things for a very long time and because of it, I have avoided the mirror like it was a gargantuan, hairy, black spider. But you know, I’m going to turn 34 this year and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hating myself and being afraid of my own reflection just because it’s not deemed attractive by the masses of people I really couldn’t give two shites about (aka racists, ableists, homophobes, fatphobes, and other rude ass individuals). I want to be able to live the rest of my life being comfortable in my own skin and being able to love the individual I already am, the outside as much of the inside.
A supremely wise and awesome friend once told me that the first step to self-love is finding something about ourselves to focus all of our energies on. It can be our fingernails, our hair, our eyes, or even our toes. The point is to start somewhere small and then work to the next part. With these baby steps, it becomes easier to learn to love all of ourselves as a whole. I’ll admit that I initially thought this idea was ridiculous and would never work. But I gave it a try anyway because I was desperate to stop feeling miserable and trapped in my body—gender complications notwithstanding.
I started with my hair because it had grown pretty long by the time I started this experiment. I began brushing it every morning and night and kept it in neat braids. I looked up the best products to use that were all-natural. I stopped using harsh chemicals like dyes, hair spray, and things like that. Overtime, my hair began to grow longer at a slightly faster rate and the texture of it also improved. Additionally, I created a habit of trimming off the split ends every three to four months like clockwork.
After that, I moved on to my fingernails, which was tough because I have a bad habit of chewing on my nails when I’m suffering from extreme bouts of duress from life things and events. The first thing I did was make a habit of applying lotion after each time that I washed my hands (I do this often because I’m a germaphobe, more so since the pandemic began, so my hands were constantly drying out). Then I began to keep my cuticles trimmed. If I spent a lot of time working on the computer, then I use a mango oil treatment on my fingers and palms and massage down to my wrists to help alleviate the ache from tendinitis. After that I began to paint them, and I’d change the polish once every two weeks. When my nails became long enough, I stated to Google fun nail art designs for beginners, and found a routine to help care for my nails and hands more regularly. Now, my hands are super soft, and my nails are healthier than they’ve ever been, and I try to change the polish every week so I can keep an eye on any chipping, drying, or other icky issues.
While I never believed in my friend’s advice upon hearing about it, my scepticism ended up down the drain because their advice was perfect for someone like me that was intensely struggling to find self-love for themselves. My hair and my nails are some things that I’m pretty proud of because of the effort and care and time that I take in loving them and the process, or journey that that care entailed.
This wasn’t just an act of discipline for my physical confidence either. I noticed that once I settled into a routine to care for these two parts of my body, I also started to apply it to my mental health in an array of ways. For example, while brushing my hair before bed, I say out loud five good things that happened to me in the day. It could be as simple as having a cup of my favourite hot chocolate or completing an essay that I was struggling with, or something much bigger like getting a promotion or getting accepted into a programme I’ve been working towards for years, and everything in between. Another example is that after I massage my palms and my hands, I take a moment to do the nembutsu and to focus on my emotions so that if there’s anything negative clouding my mind and heart, I can replace it with compassion and positivity. There are other mental health activities, but there are most commonly done.
The next step in this self-love journey was skincare. This is a humongous step for me because it would require me to look in the mirror, the one thing that I absolutely detest due to how much I hated my face. But the point of the baby steps was to take the bigger ones as they came along. If I turned around and ran away at this point, I feel like everything I worked hard for over the last year to year and a half would become null and pointless.
Finding and establishing a skincare routine was the most difficult part of my self-love journey, but it’s also been the most rewarding. It has taught me to be more disciplined in other aspects outside of physical self-care, such as my work routine and schedules and even my interpersonal relationships with friends and family members. I can actually look in the mirror every morning and night. Granted, I can only stand it for a handful of minutes at a time, but considering that I couldn’t do it at all for many years, this is a humongous step forward and it’s something I’m proud to celebrate as it comes.
I know that skincare is something tons of people have a difficult time with, and it can contribute quite heavily to how we perceive ourselves, especially since our face is typically what other people notice first. I wanted to share my journey, as well as my daily and nightly skincare routine, because I’m hoping it will give some ideas to people who are searching for their own routines. Or maybe it’s a notion you’ve been toying around with but have felt too nervous or self-conscious to start. My own personal experience with it has been certainly rocky. As a teenager, I was too busy focusing on racing and sports to pay attention to it, so my mum shouted at me to do this and that, but now as an adult who is ageing, my skin has become more prone to scarring and drying out; things that make me feel indescribably uncomfortable when I’m anywhere other than the confines of my own home. I tried out numerous different products and routines until I finally found one that was simple and manageable for me that also yielded the results I was searching for without costing me a heart and a lung.
Now, I’d just like to point out that because I’m talking about all this stuff, it doesn’t mean it’s a requirement for learning to love oneself or for practising self-care. These are just things that I’ve been battling for years and years, and it’s unique to my own sense of worthlessness and frustration. Everyone is very different in how they approach things like confidence and self-love, and I’m hoping that this post shall help like-minded folx in similar situations and things of the sort. It’s just one person’s journey and intimate experiences, and may not necessarily work for everyone out there. At the very least, it’s something to try if one is feeling stuck or looking for a place to begin with regards to these sorts of challenges.
Anyhoo, here are the daytime and night-time skincare routines that I began. I have been doing them for approximately two months. Some of the things that I have noticed thus far include: softness of my skin, significantly less drying out, little to no flaking, decreased blackheads, the tone and texture has started to even out, and the old acne scars and marks are starting to fade out as well. I’ve only had really miniscule amounts of fine lines, so I can’t say for certain if there has been a decrease in that or not yet, but considering how soft and even everything looks, I’d say there may have been some minimising of said lines.
- After brushing my teeth, I use lukewarm water to wash my face, first with the Bioré Daily Detox Exfoliator, then followed by the Bioré Daily Detox Cleanser (I use the Organic Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil variations).
- I pat my face dry with a super soft towel, then lightly apply a thin layer of Vitamin E oil. I massage it into my skin.
- I wait a couple of minutes and then apply a moisturiser to my cheeks, forehead, and neck. I use the Earth to Skin Tea Time White Tea Day Cream. The texture is creamy without being sticky or having gross residue. After massaging it into my skin, my face feels hydrated without feeling like I’m “wearing” lotion.
- For my lips, I apply a thin layer of the Burt’s Bees Hydrating Passion Fruit Lip Oil (I mostly use this in the Spring and Summer as that’s when I tend to have the most irritation on and around my lips due to allergies).
- Lastly, I apply an eye cream to my under eyes and around my eyes as well. (I don’t use this every day, I only use the eye cream in the mornings if my skin is particularly dry or irritated, or if I’m dealing with itchiness from allergies. I use Burt’s Bees Eye Cream with Cotton Extract.)
- For acne breakouts: If I’m having breakouts, then I’ll apply a toner, wait fifteen minutes and apply a very thin layer of Vitamin E oil and Avocado Oil mixed together. The toner I use is Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner
- I use a purifying facial towelette (Burt’s Bees Purifying Towelette with White Tea) to remove all the sweat and dirt from my face. If I’m wearing makeup then I use a makeup removing wipe instead (Burt’s Bees Micellar Makeup Removing Wipes with Rose Water).
- After brushing my teeth, I use lukewarm water to wash my face with Earth to Skin Tea Time White Tea Cleanser.
- I pat my face dry gently with a super soft towel, then I apply Earth to Skin Tea Time Black Tea Night Cream and lightly massage it into my skin.
- If my skin is excessively dry: After patting my face with the towel, I’ll apply a very light and thin layer of avocado oil onto my face and massage until it’s been absorbed. I wait a few minutes and then apply the Black Tea night cream.
- I dab a little bit of the Earth to Skin Tea Time Chamomile Eye Cream on my under eyes until it’s been absorbed.
- Lastly, I apply a thin layer of Carmex to my lips since my lips get super dried out and chapped at night.
That does it for my skincare routine. I know it seems like a lot of steps, but once I got into the habit of doing it regularly, it started to take less and less time. Now, it’s about ten to fifteen minutes of my morning and evening, which isn’t a lot of time at all considering all the benefits I’ve seen. My skin has reached a point where once I moisturise, I don’t even need makeup, just a little bit of eyeliner on the waterline for cultural reasons.
Having a disciplined practise to do every single day has helped me feel more grounded with my mental health as well. I notice that I have fewer anxiety attacks and am more able to breathe my way through any attacks that do arise. The regularity of practising something helps me to focus on those routines when I start to feel like I’m losing control in my life and it helps to show me that, yes, sometimes life is unpredictable and out of my hands, but it doesn’t mean that everything is hopeless and chaotic.
In terms of self-love, having the knowledge that I am making a point to nurture and appreciate the body and skin that I have—literally and figuratively—gives me comfort in knowing that my body and spirit will then take care of me. It also just feels really nice when people look at me and tell me that I look like I’m glowing, like I’m happier and doing better internally and psychologically because in a lot of ways I am, and it feels really fucking fantastic. It makes me understand that progress does indeed take time, and it helps me appreciate the process and patience with more gratitude.