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Caring for an imbalanced body: What PCOS has Taught me about Self-Care.

With the rise of skinfluencers, That Girls, and that one girl you hate on Facebook shilling her MLM, there has been an equal rise of the critiques of the self-care movement. Many have stated that they think self-care trend has become a capitalist vehicle to sell us more products to add to our routines and lifestyle.

So where does that leave me- a blogger who is also quite cynical and lives with chronic health issues? If I’m inclined to be critical about how much a product can improve my life, how do I reconcile that with my genuine interest in skincare?

For a long time, self-care was a chore. As I scrubbed and scrubbed at my skin and hair in my teenaged years, I remember being so distressed. It wouldn’t matter in 24 hours anyway, because it would simply become oily again no matter what I did. Puberty is perilous for everyone, but when you have a condition that messes with your hormones, it can be positively hellish.

PCOS can take a massive toll on your mental health, and the visibility of the symptoms don’t help with this. Every time I saw I had a new breakout, or that my hair had thinned, or that my body hair got thicker and darker, I was reminded that my body was not working the same as everybody else’s.

Obviously, using the right shampoo is not a substitute for proper medical care. Finally being on the correct hormones and actually coming into the right side of being a teenager has been invaluable. However, something definitely changed in my attitude towards my condition independent of medication.

As beauty influencing came into the height of its powers in the mid-2010s, I started to do more research into what went into the skincare I was using. I started to approach my skin and hair like an academic problem I could solve, and once I began, I think it started to change how I thought about self-care and then how I thought about myself.

Choosing my ingredients carefully and “what was best for me,” started to influence my thought patterns in a positive way. It took time to move away from the harshest and clarifying products, such as using too many AHAs and BHAs or using masks too frequently, but eventually I got the hang of it.

By getting the balance of what my skin needed, I eventually understood how to be gentle towards it. Once I learnt this, I started to see my skin as less of problem to be fixed and more something that needed to be looked after. My hair followed a similar pattern- once caring for it became the goal, it got a lot better, and then I started liking it a little bit more.

Building a gentle and nourishing routine started ebbing its way into other spheres of my life. My approach to food and exercise changed too, as I stopped trying to change my body, but started to look after the one I already had.

Building habits in a healthy way was a massive step in changing my relationship with the rest of my body. Committing a kinder routine allowed me to internalise more self-compassion and to look at my PCOS as less of a personal fault and more of a difference in my biology that I had to manage with consideration. I’m not arguing that skincare or haircare can save the world, or even yourself, but it can be a positive first step in figuring out how to look after yourself.

Written by Emily Mannock