Facing It

an exercise in generous narcissism

Put some products on your face

Here’s something we all can enjoy! I’ve been using different potions on my face since I was about 14 years old. I remember having a consultation at a small skincare boutique in the skywalk at Portage Place Mall. It was called “visage” and a beautiful woman touched my face.

My first ever cleanser was yellow and had a light, pleasant egg-ish smell. Maybe I just remember it being eggish because of the frothy yellow. In any case, I enjoyed not only the product but the experience of finding the right product.

This is where I discovered two of my greatest passions: talking about myself and having other people wash my face.

I’ve played around a lot with product. Given the fact that I now suffer from both eczema and adult acne, I have to effectively hydrate my skin without smothering it. Here are some things that have been helping me out:

  1. Going Naked


for a brighter, pinker, less honest version of this photo check out my instagram @sugardahling


Going foundation free, my skin started clearing up almost immediately. Sorry, makeup industry. I love your products but I’m just not buying the hype. Even if a cover-up is full of great and nourishing and gluten free and blah blah blah ingredients, it’s stressful for your skin to keep getting pulled at and tugged at and fussed with. Let it breathe!

2. The DIY option

Being a thrifty girl in need of a great exfoliant, I grabbed my blender to see what I could come up with. Inspired by Lush’s Ocean Salt, I wanted something that could scruff away my dry flakes without leaving me parched.

I got some course sea salt from the dollar store and blended it up with coconut oil (never without the stuff), an avocado and some lemon. I added a little local honey to make it last longer, and I’ve been enjoying it for a few weeks now!

At the end of the night, I swish this all over my face in little circles before doing anything else. It takes off mascara, eyeliner and brow pencil (a gal’s got to have some fun with her features!)

So far it has left my skin as soft as the Ocean Salt scrub, it just isn’t as flawlessly blended up and the colour is nowhere near as pretty.

Pro tips:

-maybe heat the coconut oil before blending so that it doesn’t make little chunkies.

-go easy on the lemon. I used it in place of the vodka in Ocean Salt for its similar properties but that stuff really stings if you get it in your eye holes! who knew?

-I’ve been thinking a mortar and pestle  would help evenly distribute the sea salt. I didn’t find any til halfway down the jar!

3. Find a gentle toner

I used to think that tingly sensation I got from my sea breeze astringent meant it was really working. More likely it was giving me a mild chemical burn. I recommend something you can spritz on and leave on. It helps your moisturiser go father, and the right one can really balance you out. I like Lush’s Tea Tree Water. It lasts forever and feels real nice.

Lush doesn’t pay me to talk about their products, but if they want to I’m down. I had a seasonal gig over the winter with them, and now I’m hooked.

4. Switch up your moisturisers

To every lotion turn, turn, turn. I have a few different finishing products for my face. I am pretty intuitive with what I use when, and there’s no set formula. Sometimes I like to give my mug a good scrubbing then let it be itself for a while. Sometimes I slather it in lotion or serum. As you tune in and get to know your face, you’ll have a good idea of what it wants. Here’s some stuff I like:

Lush’s full of grace

I’m almost out of the stuff and I could cry. It’s great for before bed because it’s a little stickier and shinier, but I also like it as a protective layer on extra cold days.

Lush’s Imperialis

More of a traditional lotion, but definitely not greasy and a little goes a long way!

Polysporin‘s eczema essentials

Has that same kinda salve texture that polysporin does, but it’s a bit thinner and my skin drinks it up. I like this stuff for days when I’m flaring up real bad, or if it feels like I’m about to.

What I love about all this is I never get in the way of these products by slathering on foundation. They can do their good work all day long.

5. Honorable mention

When I’m feeling lazy, and I wasn’t wearing any make-up at all, I just use a good quality wash and call it a day. Pacifica doesn’t test on animals, plus their stuff smells fantastic. Easy peasy. This tube has lasted me ages.

So that’s my outside. Next let’s go in.



The Slippery Slope

I have such a love/hate relationship with myself in the above photo. A friend of mine took it in Toronto.

They were laughing at me because I was so tickled by how many duplexes had this side by side paint job. It makes for such a playful aesthetic and reminds me of this urgent need we all have to go “This is my part of the building. See? It’s yellow. I’m not the blue house.”

I was laughing because my friend told me to stop taking pictures of houses and to actually get in a picture. We were having a fun day, eating good food and wandering the city.

But I look chubby.

So every time I go to post this and talk about that fun day, I look at my thighs and my big ol’ cheeks and go “best not.”

I’m working on that.

I used to have pretty effed up eating patterns. I was either overeating or being very restrictive, and when I was at my “fittest” I was obsessively working out in a way I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with.

So this skin care thing is tough because part of it involves a healthy diet.

One of my favourite things about the body positive people I follow on Instagram is that a lot of them are recovering from disordered eating patterns and they’ll often feature themselves enjoying their favourite snacks, guilt free! It’s so healing to see this.

When the above photo was taken, I was finally beginning to repair my broken relationship with food. After a lot of false starts and stops, I finally went “hey, what if I just didn’t think about my diet for a while? what if I just gave myself what I wanted?”

For the first couple years of granting myself permission, I gained weight.

It was enthralling to eat without guilt. I suggest trying it. I’ve naturally shed a few pounds since eating became less of a novelty, but I may gain it again one day. I try not to define myself by my size.

Food is becoming a natural part of my life again. I’m pretty balanced and I try not to regress every time I see a photo of a girl with a flat tummy.

Still, everything I read about healthy skin has something to do with what I put in my body. And as much as I can accept my face, I’d like to no longer have to deal with acne and itchy eczema.

That’s where my constant struggle lies. Self-improvement versus self-acceptance. I wholeheartedly believe in both and want to hang out in the space between.

Based on a few things I’ve read and some conversations with peers, I’ve learned that I should avoid yeast, gluten, refined sugars, processed foods and dairy.

Plus there’s the fact that I become increasingly drawn to the vegan lifestyle. I’m a hippy at heart and I love making magic with chickpeas.

but all this restriction sounds a lot like dieting. And it is for an aesthetic purpose, and it’s hard to think of ways to do this while continuing to be a beacon of body positivity and face positivity.

So it only took me three posts, but we’ve arrived at the reason I’m writing this dang blog! Moving forward you’ll see me enjoy products, recipes and lifestyle changes while trying to be aware that I am improving on myself, not perfecting myself, and that I’m just fine right now.

Easier said than done? Maybe!

Face Positivity

So what is face positivity, one wonders?

You’ve probably heard of body positivity, which I am a huge fan of. I’m trying not to go off on side tangents too much here, so I’ll just say that body positivity saved me in many ways. It’s the notion that you should be able to love and accept yourself as you are. Some days that could look like flaunting a feature you’ve been told you should cover up, some days it could be more about going “hey, I don’t love myself today.”

I find the more I love my body for what it is and what it does for me, the more taking care of myself comes naturally. Because I’m no longer “results driven” I can relax and give my body what it needs. I’ve started to settle into my natural weight and body type, and I’m not interested in making a part-time job out of trying to fit into someone else’s ideal. If you’d like to read more about body positivity, try Body Positivity Panda. She’s wunnerful.

Face positivity has been little more tricky to master. I’ve had a life-long love affair with glamour, which lead me to cosmetics. There’s nothing inherently wrong with primping yourself up, but my personal story begins with baring it.

About 3 months ago I was in too much of a rush to put on makeup before work. I was feeling pretty self-conscious about it. I’d gone make-up free before, but normally in the summer when I have a naturally radiant complexion, or when I’ve had a lot of sleep.

This day I looked every bit as tired as I felt. So I did what anyone would do. I took a selfie. There were certain lights that obscured the things I felt so bad about, but I decided to own my face. I posted a photo that, to me, was extremely unflattering.


good look for Ringo, not necessarily for me.

I revealed the things that bother me about this photo. I’m pale, I have pigmentation from acne, a little moustache shadow, some eczema, dark circles under my eyes, frown lines and sparse eyebrows.

You can also see the wrinkles on my forehead here. I have those from constantly raising my eyebrows. It’s a habit that’s become part of my personality, but I started doing it because I got teased a lot about my deep set eyes. People would look at me as a kid and make pouty faces as if to say “hey, cheer up!” but I wasn’t frowning. I have low eyebrows and shadowy eyes  (a lot of high fashion models do, too!). I’ve thought about getting surgery on it, but I’ve never had the kind of money to take a thought like that seriously, so I just try to smile a lot and let my plucky personality dominate my mysterious face. Good camera angles help, too!

I’ve thought about getting surgery on it, but I’ve never had the kind of money to take a thought like that seriously, so I just try to smile a lot and let my plucky personality dominate my mysterious face. Good camera angles help, too!

A lot of people responded very kindly to the photo. So I thought hey- how did I get to this point where makeup is the norm, and my natural face is my “other” face? Shouldn’t I learn to get used to this? Maybe if I reserved make-up for special occasions it would feel… well… special.

I’ve been experimenting since then with going naked, or nearly naked. Sometimes I like a little eyeliner and I’ll often fill in my brows.

Getting used to my face as is has been changing me. I’m not horrified by all the things I listed above because I see them, plain as day every time I look in the mirror.

I can’t tell if my skin is improving from being able to breath, or if I’ve just gotten more accepting of myself, or both. But it’s interesting!

An acting teacher once told me that you should find something about you that’s ugly and just bare it. Just get it over with. And see that the world doesn’t end when you do it. As far as I can tell, even without all the foundation, highlighter and bronzer people still enjoy my company. So maybe she was right.



Meet me

My name’s Melanie Dahling, and this is kind of a science experiment. I’ve decided to share my process in the search for balance.

I’ve always wondered, how does a person straddle the line between self-improvement and self-acceptance? Going too far into one has been toxic, while the other side makes me lazy, and neither is fun.

So this is a health and lifestyle blog. Hopefully a not preachy one. I mostly want to focus on my skin issues. I’ve had eczema on my face on and off since childhood, and since going off the pill (TWO YEARS AGO) I’ve had a charming case of adult acne to go with it.

I feel like on one hand, I’ve got to accept that my skin is what it is and love it this way. But I’m also curious. In my research, a person’s skin has a lot to do with their environment, diet, and the things they put on their bodies.

Can I remain #facepositive while trying to rid myself of itchy red dragon scales and angry red dots on my cheeks?

Will anyone find it? Will they read it? Will they care?

I guess we’re about to find out.


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