Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 24 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

Skincare

(Subtitle – A very long essay on extreme acne treatments.)

I don’t have very good skin. I’ve discussed it before on the blog– I have eczema, allergies and sensitive skin. It’s been like this my whole life. When I reached my late teens, my body decided all this wasn’t enough – I started to suffer from acne. It got worse in university, I suppose as my hormones got worse, my stress increased, and my diet worsened. I felt really self-conscious going to interviews for jobs looking like a spotty teenager, and I feel even more self-conscious going to work with it. My skin was flushed, with red marks and red, inflamed, lumps (spots sitting under the skin) and little scabs from where ok, I picked, and the subsequent scars. I had clogged pores and blackheads. My skin felt lumpy and uneven.

Armed with a salary, I decided I wanted to do something about my skin. I wanted my acne gone. It would be an investment in my professional image, I told myself.

Unfortunately after visiting a skin clinic for a consultation I was told that they could only treat me after a doctor had officially diagnosed me with acne. I really didn’t want to go to a doctor for this, after terrible experiences with going to them for my eczema. It was for that reason I had gone straight to a privately run skin business as my first port of call. But I swallowed my fear and went to the GP to get my diagnosis. The doctor was nice enough, she agreed it was acne, prescribed me something, and I went home knowing I wasn’t going to use it. I do not trust doctors with my skin and nothing will change that. I went back to the skin clinic and ended up dropping a large sum of money on eight sessions of laser treatment. I had never spent so much money on something so…so…intangible in my life. And it was only on the chance it could work. Honestly, I spent nearly half a grand on hope.

But that was one of the reasons I decided I really liked the clinic; the esthetician was honest with me that it could improve things to any degree or not at all. That and their little forms detailing exactly what side effects could be experienced, advice on how to handle your skin when undergoing treatment etc. I felt that I had been briefed so well on this treatment and given all the right expectations for it. So I went for it.

Laser treatment started out painful and my skin never really got used to it, although I got used to enduring the pain. I would lie there on the world’s comfiest bed, the esthetician would clean my face, put on the special gel, cover my eyes, then place the laser around my face. It was like a sharp burst of stabbing pain, followed by another, and another. It hurt like hell. Especially on the sensitive skin around the nose and mouth. My eyes would water. I cried once. It was not a nice treatment. It was sharp and painful, afterwards my skin felt sensitive. I’d be smothered in sunscreen and sent on my way, and my skin would be bright red from the laser and slimy from the amount of sunscreen needed to protect it. (Bet I looked really sexy on the bus ride home.) I paid a further £100+ for some products recommended to use alongside the laser – a super strong sunscreen, a gentle every day exfoliant, a tougher weekly exfoliant and a clay based mask. My skin became dry, irritated. I stopped the tough exfoliant and started to moisturise more. Had more treatments. My skin…

Was clearing up.

I had a lot of painful spots that sat under the skin, red and inflamed. I had clogged pores. I had blemishes and blackheads. Scabs and scars.

I was left with flushed skin and blemishes. My skin felt smoother, looked less angry and red, and was less clogged up.

It was kind of amazing that it had done something, but still my heart sunk a little that it hadn’t been a miracle. It still wasn’t completely gone. My blackheads remained. I still had blemishes and scars. Was still too red. Even though I knew better than to have expectations for a miracle, I still wanted it so badly. You have no idea how much I long for beautiful, healthy skin. I want my face to have that translucent glow that the Korean celebrities have.

Following the laser, I took a little break, still using the products I’d been given, and then I started on a course of chemical peels.

This was a war and I was going all out. I’d already dropped over half a grand to go from spotty to blemish-y, I was willing to keep shelling out to see the next transformation. Please let there be another transformation, I thought.

I lay on the same bed, had my face cleaned, was handed a fan, then had a substance that smelled and felt exactly like nail polish remover dragged over my face. I didn’t understand why I needed the fan – the esthetician said it would get hot. How could that be?

I soon got it. The stuff sinks in and I could feel my face growing hot, then it began to get hotter, then it began to burn. The laser was a sharp, severe pain concentrated in a small area. This was an intense all over sensation of heat. It felt like my entire face was on fire. I fanned away at myself and waited for it to be over. After the first peel I had to go to work the next day and it was not pretty- my skin was peeling off in great big chunks, it was completely raw. What have I done?! I freaked out and went to boots and spent a stupid amount on an extra hydrating moisturiser, smothered myself in if, and after a few days, my skin emerged, smooth and trying to glow. Still blemishes, still scars, still so dry.

I had two more peels. One two weeks after the first and the last a month after that. My skin never peeled as intensely as the first time and I’m not sure why or if I should be disappointed by that.

During this time I started using retinol and it scares me a bit but it is working on that redness, the blemishes and the scars.

Whilst drying my skin out.

Even more. It was getting so dry. I was trying to moisturise but everything I used never seemed to be hydrating enough, whilst at the same time clogging my pores back up. (The money I spent on that supposedly super hydrating moisturiser from boots was a complete waste, I could have stuck with the creams I already had and been in the same position. They were all useless.)

Another break.

Then I went back for a facial. This was a startling experience. The same room, same bed, but candles and low lighting, and no pain. Afterwards my skin felt soft and soothed. My esthetician recommended me a moisturiser to buy to counteract the retinol without clogging my pores and I did – another stupid amount of money – and finally my skin felt calm.

It’s not red. It’s not spotty. It’s soft and not as dry. But I’ve got a couple of clogged pores (not as bad as before though, this moisturiser is quite good), a scattering of blemishes remain, and those scars, those stupid scars are still there. It’s better, but not completely gone and I’m almost a grand poorer and I want more.

What do I do next, I wonder? More laser? More peels? More facials? I think I want more facials, but I feel reluctant to ever go through laser or a chemical peel again.

I am thinking of focusing on skincare. Facials every few months paired with a strong skincare routine. Actually I’ve had a rigid morning and evening skincare routine for years now – but I still don’t think I’ve found what really works for me. I have a few products I love and a whole bunch sitting in my drawers, gathering dust because I can’t return them and don’t want to use them.

I first tried Korean and Japanese products, then I played around with more western products, then I tried more organic and less synthesised products. After it all I think my skin looked the best when I used Korean skincare, and and I enjoyed that the most. So I’m going back to that now. Well, I never really left it…but I was drifting away. I thought for a time that I was using too many products, because Korean skincare routines tend to involve many steps, which was causing my bad skin and so I tried to simplify. But that didn’t work. I tried to go even simpler, with products that were less synthesised the so called “natural beauty” but that really didn’t work. So I’m going back to the Korean layering approach. So more serums, more essences, more masks and treatments. I’m going to smother my skin with care and hope it responds.

As for other things? I’ve tried diet and drinking water…drinking green tea… and that does nothing. Stopping eating dairy has done me some good, except I still eat chocolate. I go a few months with no chocolate, then can’t handle it anymore and start eating it again, then go without and rinse, repeat. I would like to get a handle of that to see if full and proper no dairy for the longterm will really help. I do get flare ups around the time of month, which was an interesting discovery (I was so spotty before I couldn’t notice when it got worse cos it was always so bad. Now it’s milder it’s easier to tell when things are getting bad) but that one I can’t do much about that. (I tried the pill at one point, and I’m never doing that again. It didn’t do anything for my skin and it just made me feel angry and depressed 24/7. No thanks).

I will win this battle, somehow. And I fear I’ve stopped caring about the price. I really hope that in the long term things are going to work out for me and my skin, and I’m not just ultimately making it worse.

P.S Changed the no poo category to beauty and lifestyle! :o

Two Years

Renewed my domain for another two years! I honestly cannot believe how old this site is – I think I’m close to ten years of blogging now? (I lost track and cannot verify this.) I am not sure why I’m still blogging. A combination of working and growing older has made me a lot more aware of what I put on the web. (That and what happens on the web matters a lot more than it did back when I discovered the internet, which has its good sides and bad sides, and can either way be a bit of a downer to personal blogging.) But I don’t feel like giving it up just yet either. So I put the money on the table.

And then, I’ll see how I feel in another two years…

New Year

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Needless Alley, Birmingham

Christmas turned out to be as expected – very quiet, but nice. We followed our plans – Christmas morning, my parents and I packed up the presents in bags, boxed up the food and drove to my sister’s house. My sister had put a lot of effort into making up her house for our family celebrations: she’d put up a tree, and set the table beautifully.

We opened presents and then set about making lunch, eating lunch, and then lazing around after lunch and finishing up with a family game of scrabble, where my sister won over me by 3 points. (3 points!) My sister’s cat was at first overwhelmed, but then quite happy to hang around us, which was cute. By the end of the day she even tentatively came to sit next to me. I got some good presents this year – mostly stuff for my home, as usual. (That’s not an unhappy as usual. I usually request things for my home – it’s interesting to see how people interpret it, and adding those different touches to my house. I like filling my house with things that have an association with a loved one, and/or a pleasant memory.) It was a nice day, but I was exhausted by the evening; as an introvert I can’t take so long spent around people, even my own family. Usually on Christmas I try to retreat in the afternoon, and reappear in the evening. As I was at my sisters house I didn’t feel comfortable roaming around, or retreating, and I felt a pressure to socialise. So I did not get my retreat and recharge time, and it was a little uncomfortable.

Thankfully, for boxing day I could stay at home and ignore everyone. :P

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Turtle in a Santa Hat

The next day my sister and I went to Birmingham together. We shopped the sales a bit, had a meal and then went to Sea Life aquarium! It was awesome. Quite a small aquarium, but plenty to see. It was not too busy either, which was really nice. It was especially good being able to enjoy their 360 shark tunnel without the pressure to keep moving to accommodate the crowds. My sister and I spent ages watching the sharks, and trying to spot their turtle (Surprisingly, even a giant turtle can do what my fish do – hide themselves away perfectly, not a trace.) The aquarium had been done up for Christmas – with lights in the decorative palm trees in the aquarium, a Santa hat on one of their statues, and a plastic Christmas tree in their main tank with the sharks. It was kind of adorable. It was another long, tiring day, but lots of fun and it’s easier to be around just my sister rather than dealing with the whole family. (Not including the cat.)

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Shark not bothered by Christmas tree in his tank

Since then I’ve come back to the flat and reunited with the fish, who probably didn’t even know I was gone, and met up with my sister in Manchester for more sales shopping. Between those two outings I have managed to buy a lot of nice work stuff at reduced prices, which is awesome. I basically bought several sweaters of similar colors and different styles, but as I live in sweaters+pants/skirt combos at work I think I can justify it. And I finally found a nice smart coat I can wear for my meetings! There’s nothing like putting on your formal wear only to cover it up in a casual coat…Which I’ve been doing for over a year now as coats being expensive, I struggled to commit to buying something nicer. But I found a good formal coat and a good price on it in the sales this time. It was still painful to hand it over at the till, but I can live with it. (And finally I can package myself properly for my meetings, which is pretty priceless to be honest.) I then had a driving lesson today. But mostly I’ve been relaxing and enjoying not having to go to work.

I have to go back to work eventually, of course. I have mixed feelings on it. But whatever, still got a couple of days to myself, and I plan to do nothing and enjoy it thoroughly.

Happy new year!!!

(Pictures are from the trip to Birmingham!)

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The Birmingham Bullring shopping center Bull dressed up as a Christmas pudding, because why not

So this is Christmas

I ventured back home to my parents today for Christmas. Christmas seemed to come around awful fast this year, although the past week has been a drag, waiting for that last Friday at work. Work is going relatively well and I like my job, but I’m still finding it tough settling into the 9-5 routine. I get tired. Commuting by public transport is a pain. I end up spending too much on taxis to make up for its shortfalls. I’m so glad to not have to deal with commuting in particular for the next week or so.

This Christmas is going to be a particularly quiet and subdued one: although big celebrations have never been a thing in our family, as we live so far from our relatives, this year we are one fewer following the loss of our cat and it’s noticeable. As such we are jumping ship and celebrating Christmas at my sister’s house.(Rather than at my parents home as per usual.) She bought a house early this year, and recently got herself a little cat. As she hasn’t had the cat for long, and the cat is a rescue cat, she doesn’t want to leave her alone. We will thus bring ourselves (my parents, myself), the presents and the food and celebrate there with her and the little kitty. It’s a bit different, it feels a bit wierd after several years of pretty much doing the same thing, of several years with a particular cat, but hopefully it should turn out ok. (Her new cat is pretty adorable, to be honest…)

After Christmas, a quiet boxing day, then my sister is taking me to the aquarium.(yay!) Then I’m heading back to the flat; I can’t stay away too long because of the fish. They are doing well, although I’ve had some mysterious disappearances recently…I’m supposed to have 19 fish but I’m fairly sure I don’t. It’s hard to count them when there are so many, moving constantly, and all looking fairly similar. I did find a dead body yesterday which, to put it simply, was quite far gone in decomposition, which makes an obvious likely conclusion for where the others are. My tank is stable, with reasonable nitrate levels, and no ammonia or nitrite so I’ve decided not to tear apart the tank for the bodies and let nature do her thing. My remaining fish seem quite ok. Today my male minnows were displaying…It was beautiful and interesting to watch. Two of my males were swimming together with their fins stuck out and they were swimming in a very particular way…Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture :(

I feel fairly ambivalent about the new year. I’m already working so hard to change- with trying to get my anxiety under control- and I don’t believe in that magical reset upon the new year’s like some do. I do hope work continues to go well, or maybe even better (see: settling into 9-5 routine),that my fish don’t keep decreasing, and that I can finally get my driver’s licence (please?)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, no matter where you are or who you are celebrating it with, and even if you aren’t celebrating it in the way you want, I hope it all turns out ok.

(Note I’m writing this at 1am, so it’s 25th December but nothing has happened yet! I’m still writing this on Christmas Eve, in my mind…)

Copenhagen Day 3

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Monday 10th October, 10.31pm

Today it was raining heavily, but at least it was slightly warmer. My sister and I started our day by visiting the National Museum. Or rather, trying to. It was unexpectedly closed. My sister was so bummed, because she had done the research and nowhere had told her this would happen. Seeing her feeling so responsible, I tried to cheer her up by suggesting a visit to a nearby church that was mentioned on the walking tour as being worth visiting. Alas, it was closed too. Wet and now both bummed out, we headed on to Rosenborg Castle, which was thankfully open. It is older than Christiansborg, and was much more dour, but still interesting. We got to see the crown jewels!

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Rosenborg Castle from the outside

Then we made our way to Nørreport Station where we would part ways, my sister to go and pack and get ready to go to the airport, and myself to the National Aquarium Denmark. My sister was heading back home to the UK whilst I would be carrying on my holiday in Germany. Before that, we hunted down someplace to get lunch and found ourselves at an amazing cafe “Cafe au Lait”. I had crispy ciabatta with egg, salad, crispy bacon and dressing. It was a hefty amount of food, but utterly delicious. I also broke my diet in four ways (milk, coffee, alcohol and cream) to have a Bailey’s latte which was amazing and probably all the more amazing by being so sinful. The cafe was quiet and the woman who was running it was very friendly. She recommended us the apple pie as a dessert, and we shared it as we were both quite full – but too tempted to say no! We then parted ways which was pretty sad. I was enjoying spending time with my sister and wished she was going to Germany with me :(

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Delicious Lunch from Cafe au Lait

I took the train from Nørreport Station to the aquarium – which was actually pretty close to the airport… really quite far out. The aquarium was amazing though. They had these digital touch displays where you could explore what habit they had modelled the aquarium on and what fish were in it. I saw a lot of fish you can buy as a home aquarist like cichlids, discus and tetras! They, of course, had a shark tunnel you could walk through. I had so much fun. (Also, outside the aquarium you could look across and see, just about, The Bridge to Malmo i.e. the one from the TV show. YES)

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National Aquarium Denmark

Getting back was not as much fun as the train was a little delayed (only 3 minutes, but still this is Europe I didn’t know they could get delays here! ;) ) I went back to the hotel…I was staying in the same hotel but in a different room. The new room in the hotel is so much better. To no one’s surprise a more expensive room is of higher quality. Although being right above the bar meant I would face a lot of noise later on. Anyway, I got to see my sister again! I got back to the hotel and her stuff was there. Which freaked me out a little, as I couldn’t see her anywhere. Then I remembered she said she wanted to go eat at the hotel bar before leaving. I ran down to restaurant downstairs and found her preparing to eat supper. As she has no checked in luggage and the trains are frequent she was having a relaxed start to her travels back/was leaving later. (Imagine trying to pull the same thing off in the UK…no chance! A 3 minute delay would be magical, here.) We ate supper together then I walked her to station to actually say goodbye :(

I am off to Hamburg tomorrow…no idea how the journey is going to work and quite nervous :/

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