10 years ago, I sat on the floor of my tiny Hong Kong apartment sobbing into a mirror because I had developed hyperpigmentation and I was told there is no cure. I was a fairly lucky teenager and experiencing pigmentation in my 20s was the first time I had encountered a “skin issue” that made me feel self-conscious and it hit me hard. My pigmentation, at this time, was small and appeared as two symmetrical smudges under my eyes – almost as if I had seriously misjudged where I should be applying my eyeliner, and then smudged it all over my cheeks. Despite the “no cure” diagnosis I instantly turned to google and was met with a myriad of ways to get rid of it – some natural and some wholly not; whitening creams, brightening creams, laser treatments, herbal tinctures, cider vinegar, cryotherapy, and medical peels and whatever you do… DO NOT go in the sun. Not willing to try the medical options, I explored some of the natural solutions first but to no immediate avail.
One year into my pigmentation I got engaged and I fretted so much about it on my wedding day – asking my make-up artist to cover it up as much as possible. When I was married, I started working on Hip & Healthy full time and found myself collaborating with amazing holistic wellbeing practitioners – all of whom I would quiz about my skin. And they offered some great advice “try probiotics” they’d say or “vitamin C creams can help with that” and they did – a tiny bit – one Nutritionist even got to the potential root cause of why I had it – she suggested it wasn’t sun exposure like I was led to believe but instead I had very high levels of oestrogen in my body and at hormonal points in the month (i.e. when I had my period) it would get stronger around those particular days. In fact – this nutritionist believes that the reason I first got it in Hong Kong was that I was consuming a ridiculous amount of soy in the form of soy milk ( I am lactose intolerant and there was no almond/oat milk in those days), tofu and edamame.
“I decided to start liking, no, loving my skin in all its tones.”
This theory proved true when I got pregnant for the first time and the pigmentation was stronger than ever. And just hours before I gave birth to my first son, Max, my husband commented that my dark patches had become really strong in colour. And it was at this point in my life that the most amazing thing happened, a few months after giving birth I went out for a coffee with Max strapped to me and the lady who served me said how much she loved my skin and how she hoped she’d get “the mask of pregnancy” (what pigmentation is sometimes known as) when she one day was pregnant herself. After that, another encounter with someone who worked at Space NK occurred where she told me the exact same thing. And then a few weeks later – I had lunch with someone who runs a very successful beauty brand and was asking her how to get rid of my dark spots and she said: “Why would you want to?”. I told her they made me feel self-conscious and unattractive and she simply said: “no – its the beauty industry that is doing that – fuck the beauty industry – your skin is beautiful”. It was a revelation to me. Fuck the beauty industry. I had been made to believe that clear, one-toned skin is what I should be searching for. It had me on a wild goose chase for the perfect pigmentation product for the past four years of my life and I had been an active participant in creating this dialogue around what my skin should look like. My husband had always told me it was beautiful. That I was beautiful. And I had chosen not to believe him. I then made one of the best decisions of my life (bar marrying my husband in the first place, having our two children and doing my shopping on Ocado – the time you SAVE!!) – I decided to think it was beautiful too. I decided to stop trying to correct a wrong that wasn’t there in the first place. I decided to start liking, no, loving my skin, in all its tones.
This change in mindset was so freeing. The summer when Max turned one my pigmentation was still as strong as ever but I really embraced it. It didn’t bother me one bit. I now thoroughly enjoy the sun and now I watch in marvel as the pigmentation changes shape around my face. But like a butterfly, it always remains symmetrical on both sides. Over the years it has morphed and changed in shape and colour and sometimes even disappeared completely. It even has its uses – when I gave birth to my second son it was a fantastic indicator that I was about to go into labour. I have not found any particular rhyme or reason to it – what makes it go what makes it come – although hormones definitely play a part. But it doesn’t matter anymore. In the words of a (slightly edited) Bridget Jones, I love me – just the way I am. Pigmentation and all.
words by Sadie Reid @sadie.reid
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