By Georgia Strong
+ founder of @flowskinfood
I now love and appreciate all of my imperfections - the breakouts, the itchy dryness, that strange rash - even the lines and wrinkles. For many years I tried my best to externally heal and hide these things, so what has steered me to this significant shift in perspective?
My name is Georgia. I am a qualified Remedial Massage and Beauty (skin) Therapist. I am the owner/founder of Flow Skin Food- a holistic facial and massage clinic located in the coastal town of Margaret River, Western Australia. I opened my own practice when I started creating my own skincare products, in an attempt to reduce packaging waste and exposure to harmful, unnecessary ingredients.
I now offer intuitive massage treatments/trigger point therapy, and tailored facials from my whole plant, herbal skin food pantry.
My holistic understanding of the body all started when my own skin started to teach me that skin health is a complex subject, and external care is only one part that contributes to overall harmony.
We all know it is important to live a healthy lifestyle - eating wholesome food, practicing self-care rituals, spending time outdoors, exercising and all of the other good stuff that keeps the human body happy.
Sometimes we also enjoy decadent desserts, beer and wine, ordering takeaway, watching Netflix, and all the other things that aren't so good for the human body. And that’s ok! Our body loves us wholeheartedly, and will send us friendly reminders when we indulge a little too much.
When we lack the discipline it takes to maintain a balanced lifestyle, we can rely on our discomfort to show us that our health is falling too low on our list of priorities. Without discomfort, we can get stuck in an unhealthy, habitual lifestyle. But with it, we are constantly encouraged to grow, learn and heal. The thing is, we have now created the means to treat our discomfort so that we don’t have to change at all.
When suppressing symptoms becomes the norm, we tend to get lazy. Without that rash, headache or digestive complaint, we can carry on, business as usual, blissfully unaware of the dysfunction brewing within. We can ignore and manage pain, fatigue and other types of discomfort to a degree. When it comes to distressed skin, we might seek treatment/healing a lot sooner than we would with other ailments simply because it is visible. Well played, skin.
Yes, most people will try steroid creams and expensive procedures at first. Whatever will make it go away, right? If and when this route fails and the problem keeps returning, we are invited to look a little deeper, a little broader and are eventually encouraged to begin a journey of holistic healing. It is at this point that we start to listen to what our body might be communicating to us.
Do you want to remain comfortable in your routine or are you ready to explore what is best for your heart and soul?
Throughout my perspective shift over the last year or two, I have talked a lot about self-love, not really knowing what this term means. I wasn’t truly ‘practicing what I preach’, and so my body decided to show me the real meaning of unconditional self-love. I don’t know about you, but I can only learn and understand so much from reading. The real, rich lessons come in the form of experience.
Giving myself unconditional love was a difficult transition to make at first, especially when my reflection was showing angry breakouts and inflammation. In my head I said ‘I love myself no matter what’ but it felt like a lie - it was a lie.
To really love myself unconditionally, I had to understand the purpose behind my skin problems and health concerns. What I eventually understood was this: they are simply messengers, warning lights.
“THE SKIN FREQUENTLY SERVES AS A MARKER FOR UNDERLYING INTERNAL DISEASE. THE TYPE OF LESION TYPICALLY RELATES TO A SPECIFIC DISEASE OR TYPE OF DISEASE”. -JULIA BENEDETTI, MD, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Imagine you’re driving your car and a warning light illuminates, what do you do? Cover it up with some tape? Ignore it? Surely not. Well, maybe for a little while. Eventually the reality of driving around in an unsafe vehicle encourages us to inspect the engine or call the mechanic to avoid a breakdown, or worse. We can look at our skin concerns in the same way. While skin issues can also be the result of external factors, we mustn’t forget to consider what is going on within, especially when the condition becomes chronic.
My whole world transformed when I understood that my skin ‘problems’ were just friendly messengers sent to my skins surface from within so that I could be made aware of the disharmony I was avoiding. Without wholesome change, the issue could potentially manifest into something far worse. If that’s not something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is!
How could I not love this function of my skin? Filled with so much appreciation for the wisdom and intelligence of my body, my perception shifted.
I so badly wanted that turmeric and honey mask to heal my skin, looking back now I couldn’t be more grateful that it didn’t. Skincare products certainly have their place, and an important place at that. Eventually I had to realise that products weren't the only answer in this particular circumstance. My skin was sending me early warning signs, it didn’t want another facemask, a different oil or a new cleanser. I experimented with almost every ingredient I could until I finally understood what my skin was communicating. What it wanted was to be understood; it wanted me to look deeper and to stop avoiding the lessons that would only eventually lead to more happiness and freedom in my life.
It wanted me to learn that my spleen and liver were suffering, it wanted me to learn self-trust, it wanted me to prioritise internal self-care as much as I do external. And that’s what I did.
After listening to my skin I am now far better off than I would have been suppressing my imperfections.
I now hope to inspire others to look at their own skin in a new light, to comprehend the magnificence and wisdom of the organ that covers our entire being. Your skin is your best friend, and while it may tell you things you don’t want to/are not ready to hear...it is important to listen, learn and respond before something more drastic manifests in order to gain your attention.
Here is a rough guideline that I pieced together after studying my own habits and patterns:
- When I don't get enough sleep and rest, I get bags under my eyes, they start to droop and I notice more lines and wrinkles. I listen to these signals and prioritise rest, sleep, meditation and alone time. I take a break from squinting at screens.
- When I am spending too much time thinking and worrying, I notice lines across my forehead and between my eyebrows. I see this as a reminder to be aware of how much energy I am giving to thoughts, and a suggestion to be more present. Focus on the breath and give the mind a break.
- When I experience breakouts I am reminded that perhaps I have been consuming too much sugar, and that a good dose of veggies would be beneficial! I also check in with my digestive, urinary and lymphatic systems, why is this waste being removed through my skin when it could be eliminated via these systems? Could they use some extra support? What about trapped emotions - perhaps there is something within me that needs to be expressed or released? Am I suppressing any anger, frustration or shame?
- When my skin is red and dry, I check in with my skincare practices. Am I being too aggressive with the products I am using or the way I apply them? What is my intention behind product use, supportive or invasive? Maybe my skin’s barrier is vulnerable and I need to take a break from exfoliating. Have I been humiliated/ashamed and do I need to forgive myself/others?
What could your skin be communicating to you? Let this guideline inspire you and point you in the right direction. Remember to always trust your own intuition and experience when it comes to listening to your skin.
Continue on to Part 2 of this series where Georgia shares more about how you can start to listen skin's inner wisdom.
1. Image at top of blog post of Georgia Strong by Georgia Strong, @flowskinfood