21-Day Experiment: When your skin looks like hell from the stress of your divorce.

Each year, February is the time when my skin looks its worst.  Dry, wrinkles that look like they belong to someone 20 years older, plus red and splotchy skin.

This made me think:  What about my divorcees?  If your situation is anything like mine during my divorce years, my stress only started with my husband's extracurricular activities.  My decision to divorce was swiftly followed one tragedy after another.  (You can read the whole saga here.)

At first, friends and family may tell us how great we look as we experience the first flush of freedom, but when some of the harsh realities start to sink in, and other parts of our lives start to fall apart, our faces can't help but show the evidence.

I've never written on this topic, so three days ago, on a whim, I queried my facebook communities about skin-care advice for stressed-out divorcees -- and thought that maybe I'd pick up a tip or two myself.  

More than 60 responses later, I was faced with how to make sense of an enormous range of product recommendations.  

Since my own skin currently looks . . . well . . . ugh! . . . as it usually does in the middle of February, I decided to start with the one product that more women recommended than any other.  Coconut oil.

Follow along with me as I spend 21 days on a regimen for which I already have all of the ingredients:  coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda, essential oils (frankincense, lavender, lemon, and tea tree), Roc retinol (day and night), Cetaphil Intensive Moisturizing Cream (for the body, but used on the face), and a cheap derma roller knock off that I've already been using for about a week to try to coax my products deeper into the skin.

It's been sunny here in Chicago, and direct sunlight was relentless yesterday, as I looked at the condition of my skin.  Best to start right away, I thought, so today is day 2 of 21.  I'm using the lowest-cost options of those I received, and will be reporting on results, from time to time, on The Dynamic Divorcee facebook page, so if you want to follow along, that's the place to be.

The products I'll be using:

(Links to purchase all the products are above.  The links below give background information on the products used from independent  bloggers.)

Derma Roller knockoff (I paid $14 for this little gadget on Amazon).  Mine is the "starter" version with needles of just .25mm.  A little table with information on needle lengths and their uses is here.  I want to emphasize that I'm not suggesting any of you try this; just documenting what I'm doing.

Coconut oil (on its own, or with baking soda) as an oil-cleanser.  Most of the women who commented said that they didn't have problems with clogged pores while using coconut oil, and many use coconut oil not only as a oil-cleanser, but as a moisturizer.*  A couple of commenters mentioned the importance of extra attention to exfoliation during times of stress; hence, the baking soda.  Experiment to find the ratio of coconut oil to baking soda that feels right to you.  I started with a 2:1 ratio, but that felt a little too gritty to me.

*Several women also mentioned almond oil (as a cleanser and also as a moisturizer) and rose-hip oil (as a moisturizer/serum).  

Shea butter. One of my friends gave me a homemade Christmas gift of coconut oil mixed with shea butter as a moisturizer. Although I started this experiment using only coconut oil with baking soda, pretty soon, I switched to using my friend’s homemade moisturizer, combined with baking soda, as my go-to winter cleanser. See my follow-up post for details.

Frankincense.  I have been using frankincense essential oil for years, and have saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in dermatologist visits.  By applying it directly to the skin as a spot treatment, several times a day, I've removed skin tags, keratoses, moles, and age spots -- all of which used to require doctor's appointments at a cost of at least $200 per visit.  So, I was happy to see that many of my facebook friends recommended it for use in their moisturizers, and also in the serum recipe below.

My new essential oil serum, recommended in a comment on my facebook post: "1 drop frankincense, 1 drop lavender, and 1 drop lemon essential oils. It's like magic for wrinkles. Rub on morning and night around eyes."  If you plan to try this (I'm patting it all over my face morning and night), do a patch test first to be sure that you don't have a reaction.  Some women may need to dilute this combination with a carrier oil.  If your skin reacts to citrus oils in sunlight, you may want to save this for night application only.

Tea tree oil.  This has been my go-to antibacterial oil for many years, and it works great on congested skin and blackheads.  So, I'm going to keep using tea tree as I always do.  I use it undiluted, but please do a patch test first, to be sure your skin likes it.

ROC retinol day (with SPF30) and night -- containing a combination of vitamin C, glycolic acid, and retinol.  It's #10 in this round-up of best retinol creams for 2017, but as these raters say, "you really can't find one as good as this for the price."  While researching this post, I ran into a wrinkle-cream round-up for 2016 that has Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum -- combination of retinol and hyaluronic acid -- as their top drug store pick, having a higher percentage of retinol at a similar price.

Cetaphil.  My correspondent says, "It seems to be the only thing that never fails me. Not the lotion, has to be the cream. It comes in big jars at CVS or Walgreens. The generic brands seem to be fine as well." I agree.  This is the best moisturizer ever for my dry, lifeless February face.  A 16oz tub of the cream is less than $12.  As far as I know, this is not meant to be a facial cream, but it does say "non-comedogenic" on the label.  Right now, I already happen to have a tube of the lotion (which is a lighter consistency than the cream), so that's what I'm using.

Honey.  Or, as one of my facebook friends specifies, "raw, organic, unfiltered honey as a face mask". I'd forgotten all about using honey as a mask.  When I've used it in the past, it seems to draw out all sorts of impurities and leaves my skin looking radiant (and I've never even sprung for organic honey).  Here are some of the many amazing beautifying uses for honey.

And a homemade sheet mask from one my correspondents:  "Coconut water soaked in paper towel, poke holes for eyes, nose, mouth . . . apply to face 5 minutes and rinse. Voila, rejuvenation -- celebration!"  If you've ever purchased Korean or Japanese sheet masks, you know that they're expensive!  I thought my friend's idea was so cool, that I poked around on the internet for a bit, and found lots more DIY suggestions.  Check these out.  However, I'll be sticking with the simplicity of coconut water.  My challenge is to see a big, beautiful change in my skin by using as few consumer products as possible.

Just to recap:  The main things that are new to me during these 21 days are coconut oil, baking soda, the frankincense/lavender/lemon oil blend, and the occasional honey or coconut water mask.  I've dropped my standby, Strivectin, for the duration, and am no longer using any sort of soap-based facial cleanser or exfoliating scrub (it's now just coconut oil/baking soda and a wash cloth for three weeks).

So, now, for my disclaimers:

  • I am not a beauty blogger. I will not be doing before and after photos, but simply reporting my subjective results and reactions on my facebook page during the 21 days, and in a results post afterwards.

  • Try any of these ideas at your own risk. If there's one thing we all know from reading beauty blogs and online product reviews, skincare is a very individual matter -- one product does not work for everyone (or even for most).

  • I'll be careful not to make any life changes during my 21-day experiment except for the skincare above. (That is, I won't up my water intake, do additional exercise or yoga, or make any dietary changes. I'll try to keep everything the same as it has been over the past few months.)

In case you want to consider your diet instead of (or along with) your skincare:

I found this facebook comment very interesting: "I am 49, and while I think I was genetically fortunate, my biggest anti aging secrets are sleep, 64oz of water everyday, minimum of 70 grams of protein everyday, and 2,000mg of lysine everyday. If I do those things, it doesn't seem to matter which moisturizer I use. I buy the cheapest retinol containing product that I can find -- usually from Marshall's."

Yes!  During times of stress, one of the first things that starts to go is healthy eating habits.  Healthy diet disappears to be replaced with lots of coffee, sugary drinks, or alcohol, along with junk food and sweets.  For the purpose of this experiment, I won't be changing my diet, but I can't wait to up my protein and water intake as soon as I finish my natural skincare testing.

If you're curious about my results and recommendations after the 21-day experiment, here's my follow up post, where I dish about my findings (which were pretty amazing!). You’ll also find out about two gadgets that I love (in addition to the derma roller).

Herbs and plants for post-divorce emotional healing

There are a lot of places we can go to for emotional support -- and not all of them involve humans, or even beloved animals. 

One of the reasons so many of my clients feel absolutely desperate about finding a MAN is that they want someone else to take over.  They feel they need someone who can take charge, because they feel powerless themselves.

It's so common to feel lonely after divorce.  Most women lose at least some of the close friends they had while married.  And the first wave of post-divorce dating relationships is often fraught with problems, and leaves divorcees with even less self-confidence than before.

Yet, it's important to find ways to have our emotional needs met -- even though it's likely we may not have someone available to provide the unconditional love we need.  

Healing plants can be the answer.  They're are always ready to help, and they're happy to become your friends.

Before you laugh and shake your head, I invite you to give this a try. It's wonderful.

Finding out which plants have a special relationship with you 

Plants have healing life force energy, and it's fun (and comforting) to learn about various herbs to see which ones call you closer, and seem to want to have a relationship with you.  Just as you may have a favorite flower that makes you feel happy every time you encounter it, certain aromatic herbs can also have a profoundly healing effect on you.

Now is a wonderful time to visit a garden center and make friends with all of the varieties of herbs you can get to know.  Smell, gently touch, and see which ones draw you in.  Take a few home and, if this doesn't sound too far out to you, meditate with them and ask them to be your allies in the healing of your heart and spirit.  You can also look into their history and find out what healing and metaphysical uses these plants may have had for hundreds (or thousands) of years.

I bet you may already have a few favorite plants that you have loved since childhood.  For me, special plants that have called out to me over and over again in my life include lavender, rosemary, basil, lilac, violet, lily of the valley, and sunflower. 

Beloved plants give so much:  You can enjoy the beauty of having them grow in or outside your home, you can enjoy many of them in cooking, and they assist your mood and strengthen your spirit at the same time.  Using them in essential oil form can keep them with you, supporting you, throughout the day and night.  You can turn to them when you need more energy, when you want to lift your mood, and even when you need a transformation from deep sorrow to the joy of simply being alive.

Not sure which plants are your special ones?  You'll find out when you take that drive to your nearest garden center and see which herbs draw you in. The ones that appeal to you most have something special to share with you -- they have just what you need most.

How to get started with herbs to help you heal after divorce: 

  • Go to a garden center that will have many varieties of herbs on offer.
  • Look, sniff, and gently touch.  
  • After touching, sniff your hands.  
  • Which herbs give you a special feeling of attraction (by the way they look, their scent, or just something you can't quite explain)? 
  • Choose one or two that you like especially well and take them home with you. 
  • Search online for the medicinal uses of these plants. You'll probably be astounded to find that they are offering to you exactly what you need right now. 
  • Meditate with the plant, and ask its advice on areas of concern right now.  Sit quietly and see what comes into your mind.  Do you receive an inspiration that helps you? 

Let the plant queendom support you while you're sorting out the wayward humans in your life.  Enjoy their calming and supporting influence.

Let me know if you try this!

The space between what we desire and what we don't have

Today's guest blog post is from my friend Dorine Nafziger, and it's about acknowledging life traumas on the way to experiencing breakthroughs to your deepest desires.  Dorine also talks about how practices as simple as use of essential oils can be such lifesavers on the journey.

Dorine Nafziger
Have you ever wanted something SO badly but felt like you’d never get it?  Maybe you were even afraid to admit that you even wanted it?  

After 11 years of marriage, I find myself still shaking my head in wonder. 

Fourteen years ago, I was absolutely, positively certain I’d never find love.  No husband.  No kids.  Not for me, it just wasn’t meant to be.  I wasn’t lovable.  

What I noticed is that when I don’t immediately get what I want, it can be tempting to blame myself.  I wonder if maybe I’m not good enough, smart enough -- whatever enough.

It can be really hard to sit in the place of unknowing, struggling to believe in the possibility of receiving what we desire deep down.   It’s much easier to lose faith and only feel the tension. 

The space between what we desire and what we don’t have is probably one of the most dreaded and avoided spaces in the world.  But what if you could appreciate the tension of living in between wanting what you want and not having it? 

Appreciate the tension – whaaaaaa?!

Yes. Instead of trying to control the situation or berating ourselves for not being perfect already, we can appreciate the process.

For instance, when I met my husband, I didn’t like him.  He irritated me.  We were in the same circle of friends though, so we saw each other often.  I remember thinking more than once, “Who does that guy think he is?” and it came out as anger.  Not surprisingly, he thought on more than one occasion, “What’s up with that girl?”  We repelled each other. 

But without the tension pulling between two things, nothing new can be born.  (Ever given birth?)

Tension is a powerful process that pushes and shapes our desires into being. 
When you feel that tension, you can celebrate because it means things are really cooking!!  What you want is on its way!  Just like in cooking, some things need to simmer all day before yielding succulent flavors (stew), while others require no cooking (fresh berries off the vine) to give us an instant rush of taste.

So, imagine my surprise when a year after I had first met him, this guy who irritated me so much confronted my anger. 

He just asked, “Why? Why are you so angry?”  And for whatever reason (divine timing!) all my pretenses and angry defenses fell away.   My whole body remembered why I was so angry.  The reason I thought I was so unlovable.  I had blocked out the memory of my childhood sexual abuse.

While it was scary to remember something so excruciating, so devastating, that I had worked so hard all my life to forget, it also put all the puzzle pieces of my life in place.  Everything suddenly made sense.  I truly believe that my biggest grief -- this trauma, opened the way to my greatest joy.   

Through my tears, there before me I saw my greatest ally.  We walked outside and I saw color for the first time. We walked slowly, like caterpillars, taking it all in.

Shortly after, to support myself in between therapy sessions, I discovered doTERRA therapeutic grade essential oils.  These pure plant medicines supported me in the places where I got triggered and spun out, when everything felt scary and I wanted to hide. 

I developed a practice of putting a grounding essential oil blend called Balance on my feet in the morning.  Next, I’d think of my intention for healing and place a drop of joyful essential oil blend called Elevation on my heart. 

This simple daily practice of consciously calling in and receiving support with the intention for joy and healing changed me.  Now, 11 happily wedded years later with two beautiful sons, I know for certain that just beyond your greatest grief, is your greatest joy. 

I am forever grateful to both my husband and doTERRA essential oils for being some of my greatest allies of this journey of healing.

Dorine Nafziger has offered my readers a free 30-minute consultation on how essential oils can support your physical and emotional well-being as you move through your divorce recovery experience.  See her fun Dorine's Cooking with Essential Oils page on facebook, or contact her directly at dorinnenafziger@gmail.com.