It all started with this little Korean drama called Crash Landing On You (you might have heard of it). Coincidentally, the girlfriend and I were watching it in April last year, two months after it had finished airing, on Netflix at the same time.
“Wah, that Son Ye-Jin looks really good,” I texted the girlfriend.
“Yah. Can you believe she is just one year younger than we are?” Girlfriend replied almost instantly. “We need to work harder to look better at our age. Maybe we need to explore K-beauty.”
And thus our journey down the skincare rabbit hole begun.
Neither of us has been very good at taking care of our skin and it was starting to show. She had what she called “crepe-y eyes” (ie. hello extensive crow’s feet) and I had confused skin that was oily and yet dehydrated. Years of abuse have caused vascular damage, which explains all the red patches I have on my cheeks, and there was hyperpigmentation. Oh, and my pores are always popping out to say CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO!
And most importantly, this was something that kept us sane during the whole COVID-19 shit storm that was blowing across. The. Entire. World. We were in “circuit breaker” mode and were juggling so many different balls at the same time: keeping up with the kids’ home-based learning (her three and my two are of the same ages), feeding our families, pivoting from a face-to-face curriculum to a 50/50 to (finally) a fully online one (me), worrying about our parents, anxiety over our kids’ emotional well-being etc. I have always been someone who is a little worried in situations in which I have very little control over so the pandemic was not great for my mental health at all.
And so, skincare. After talking about how many tears we had shed for that day or how there was a deep inexplicable ache in our hearts, we started discussing skincare brands and sharing reviews of the products we were trying.
For me, it became something that kept me occupied during my down time. I started reading up about ingredients, understanding my skin’s behaviour and putting together a routine of sorts. I used to be a cleanser-moisturiser-eye cream-sunblock kinda girl and the lack of care was starting to show. Immersing myself into the science of it all – and it really was science, when it came down to understanding what sort of UV filter Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine was – helped to take the edge off my anxiety.
And having a good, solid routine to start and end the day really, really helped. Since we were all stuck at home anyway, I could take the time to properly layer the different serums and essences on my face without having to drop the kids off at school at the ungodly hour of 7am. I channeled calm and peace during my routines in an unhurried manner and knowing what I will do in the mornings and evenings has helped tremendously in managing my stress.
Later in the year, we received even more sombre news. The girlfriend discovered a lump in her breast and she quickly made an appointment to see a doctor. After scans and tests and biopsies, the diagnosis was dire: it was malignant and it needed to be taken out, fast. In the lead up to the fast-approaching surgery, the girlfriend was understandably on a roller coaster ride. Some days were good, and some days made her fear her mortality. And it was on those scary days that we used skincare as a form of distraction. She would share her fears and worries and we would grieve a little. And then we would move on. We would discuss the products that she could bring to the hospital, wonder how her skin would change after chemotherapy and postulate what would make her feel good about herself after she had removed her breast. Inevitably, the mood would lighten, a little, and then just like that, another day’s passed and we were still alive and sane.
And because both of us became fans of Sulwhasoo after jumping into the deep end of K-beauty, I bought a Sulwhasoo lip serum for her birthday – so that she could put it on during her chemotherapy days and feel good about herself.
I am sitting here, typing at my iPad with a sheet mask (My Beauty Diary, Moisture DUO Brightening Black Pearl EX+) on right at this moment (talk about multi-tasking). It is 2021 and clearly the pandemic is far from over. We won’t know when this will ever be over – if it ever blows over – and the world is no longer the same as we knew it. This is a new world and it can be scary sometimes.
But I have learnt to deal with it. I am in a better place now, both physically and mentally (thanks to the pandemic allowing me to have a fitness regime – but that’s another story for another day!). And I don’t even drink that much these days! After eight months of paying close attention to my skincare, I can see that my skin has definitely improved. I no longer have dry patches on my cheeks, my skin doesn’t go tight and scratchy on me in the middle of the day and I no longer produce sebum like the oil fields in the Middle Eastern countries. There are mornings when I would unwillingly crawl out of bed at 6am, look into the mirror and think, damn today is a good skin day. Talk about instant perk up!
So yes, ironically, the pandemic has given me the time and space and excuse to improve my skincare routine. At the end of the day, you do you, boo. Whatever it takes to stay mentally healthy!