Healthy Skin – Luck? Genes? Or something else?

I have never been grateful for having awesome skin but I’ve realised that more than ever, now is the time to be grateful.

a) because of my age

b) because more than ever people are using microdermabrasion, miracle creams, lotions, make up and foundations to cover up dryness, wrinkles and blemishes so they look like they’ve been photoshopped and I haven’t yet had to go there.  Phew! and

c) because I have awesome skin now that I am grateful for!

Sure I put make up on for special occasions but other than that, my daily skin routine is to wash with facewash, dry and then put moisturiser on.  Finito!

For my body, it’s just wash with bodywash.  If I have time, I’ll moisturise just my arms and legs but this will probably happen only once a month.

So when people see me they just assume that I’ve always had good skin because I’m Asian.  I know it’s what they think ’cause many people have said it.

This reasoning also extends to being skinny and getting good grades at school… because you’re Asian.  And you know what?  It really annoys me to hear it.  Have you seen the number of Asians out there with bad skin?  And are fat? And yes, there are really really stupid Asians out there too.

I’ve had to work hard to have good skin thank you very much and also work hard to keep the weight off!  And I’m not really smart, I’m just good at regurgitating the answers you want to hear.  So it does irk me when people put my healthy skin or slimness down to genetics or luck especially knowing the following:

My mum told me that as babies, me and my siblings all had rashes and eczema.  I wasn’t old enough to remember mine but I remember my sister having lots of red bumps all over her body when she was little.

I remember as a child, from around the age of 3 (which is as far as I can consciously remember), all the way through to my teenage years, my fingers would get itchy and when I’d scratch them, they would become red, bumpy and then small bubbles would form on them.  These bubbles were tiny blisters which would form on the sides of my fingers and then merge with each other to become bigger blisters which would at first itch but then become really sore when they burst.  Then the skin would start hardening and peeling and the process would start all over again.

At one stage, I formed blisters on my legs.  They were ugly bubbles of water that would grow quite large (1-2 cm diameter) and be itchy on my shins and thighs.  Again, if several formed close to each other, they’d eventually merge together to become one large bubble.  I’d usually have at least one big bubble on each leg.  This happened in my younger years, up to about 4-5 years old.  I remember eating Minties and then trying to stick the wrappers on my legs to cover the bubbles.  The bubbles would be so big that sometimes the Minties wrappers would barely cover them.

When I was about 6 years old, I burned myself on the lid of a rice cooker.  To warm up day-old rice, I had to pour it into the rice cooker just as the cooker had finished cooking the new rice.  This was one of the regular tasks my parents set me to do but I was too short to reach the lid of the cooker on the counter without going on my tippy tippy toes or pushing a chair to the cupboard and climbing on to it.

 On this day, I just stood on my toes and reached the lid but the steam had sucked the lid on tighter than usual and the angle was too difficult to lift it.  When I finally managed to jerk the lid off, it tilted and burned and stuck to the entire width of my inner right arm.  It took me what felt like an agonising eternity to get the lid off my arm but I managed it and put the rice in the pot, closed the lid and wrapped my arm in a tea towel.  

I didn’t tell my parents about it because I thought I’d get in trouble.  I used to get in trouble for everything.

I managed to hide my burnt arm from my parents for a day or two.  Until I was playing, my sleeve rolled up and my dad saw my arm, freaked out and asked me what it was.  I responded, “Mosquito bites” (because most of my mosquito bites would be very red, swollen and would form little blisters on them).  Remember, I was 6 so it seemed perfectly feasible to me to explain it away as mosquito bites.  I could see the panic in his face “No it’s not!  What did you do?  Did you burn yourself?!”  I stared at him blankly.

He called to my mother, who was a nurse and asked her what it was.  She took a look and responded “Looks like a burn to me.”  He quickly turns to me and says “Quick! Run it under some cold water!”

My mother responds, “Eh! That’s not going to help.  It’s not a new burn, that’s an old one, it’s already started blistering.  She probably did that yesterday.”

My dad says, “Yesterday? When? Why didn’t you tell me?” and I replied, “Because you’d just put Vicks on it.” He always put Vicks on everything that was red and swollen (insect stings, mosquito bites, bumps on the head) and he’d rub Vicks all over us every time we got sick.  Funny enough, at that age, I’d already drawn the conclusion that Vicks didn’t fix anything and it certainly wasn’t going to fix my burn.

My mum looked at my arm and says “Well, it’s your fault for burning yourself and not telling anyone about it.  Now you’ll just have to leave it and let it sort itself out.  You’ll end up with a big scar on your arm but that will remind you not to do anything stupid like that ever again.”

Over days, I remember the blisters forming, getting bigger and merging together into one huge one which my mother said I shouldn’t pop because if I did, the skin would turn loose and it would turn into the worst scar ever.  I was so scared that I’d have some ugly, bumpy arm that I balanced this bubble of water on my arm all day and would wake up in the middle of the night just to check that I’d kept my inner arm facing up all night.

I managed this for a few days, even at school, until, one morning I woke up, my Ragedy Anne doll’s leg was stained and my arm had hanging off it the loose skin of a popped giant blister, raw red underneath.   Beautiful.

During my teens, I got a lot of pimples on my face and back.  So many in fact that I used to pick them while I studied and I would want them to go away so much, I’d wash my face with cleanser and toner twice a day and not put the moisturiser on because my face was always so oily.  My mum would tell me over and over that if I picked my pimples they would scar and form craters all over my face.  It didn’t stop me!  I’d pick my pimples until they bled and then would put toothpaste or alcoholic toner on them until they stung like crazy.

When I was a teenager all the way through adulthood, I got these pimply bumps / rashes on my arms and back and a little bit on my face.  I looked it up and this is what it is Keratosis Pilaris.  I used to scrub these with a pumice stone (not my face just my arms) until they started bleeding and scabbing!  I wanted them to go away and thought I could scrub them off… I obviously scrubbed too hard.

And now for the piece de resistance.  I grew up on a leper colony.  Although born in Australia, my mum sent me to live with her mother on Culion Island in the Philippines, an established leper colony.  I lived there  since I was 6 months old through to the age of 4 years old.  My grandfather had leprosy and so did my Uncle.  Everyone on that island was either a leper or related to one.  So I was exposed to contracting skin diseases that don’t even exist in the Western world!

So why then do people assume I have good skin and have ALWAYS had good skin?  Because they don’t see the pimples, I don’t have leprosy and I don’t have bumps all over my arms and cheeks and back anymore and most importantly, they don’t see the scars or any evidence of what was before.

So is it genes?  Well, no, just check out my mum and you’ll see all her scars from childhood still on her legs and if it were genetic, I wouldn’t have suffered from all those ailments from childhood to adulthood and then just stopped all of a sudden.

So what is it?  Pretty simple…. it’s my diet and exercise.

I am very big on health and on up-keeping my body (because it’s my one and only in this lifetime).  Cleaning it inside as well as out, fueling it well by consuming nutrient rich food, drinking a lot of water, avoiding alcohol, avoiding drugs and avoiding smoking and then going to Bikram Yoga as much as possible is pretty much what I do every day to keep the weight off and have good skin.

I put a lot of effort into maintaining the inside of my body and now it shows on the only thing people can see on the outside, my skin.

I also don’t put anything on my skin to clog my pores, so I let it keep breathing and doing its thing each and every day.

So you know what’s good about my skin not being a result of genetics, upbringing or being Asian?  It means, you can get yours healthy too!!!

If you want healthy skin, all you need to do is eat the food that will help your body to heal and repair itself.  Drink a lot of water and then go sweat the crap out of it in some Bikram Yoga classes!!  After 6 months to a year of doing this, everyone will think your skin’s been that way forever and you’ll start getting the “but you’ve always had good skin” comment too.

This is a photo I shared 2 years ago.  The photos are of the exact same section of my right calf / shin.  As you can see, I haven’t always had good skin!!

Top: Skin before any yoga classes    Left Bottom: Skin after a few yoga sessions    Right Bottom: Skin after 100 classes  (no lotion used before any of the pictures were taken)
Top: Skin before any yoga classes Left Bottom: Skin after a few yoga sessions Right Bottom: Skin after 100 classes (no lotion used before any of the pictures were taken)

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