Ashley stared in the mirror and sighed. It’d only been about 2 hours since she’d last washed her face and the oil had already started up again.
She shook her head, how’s it possible that Laura gets to be 28 with perfect skin and I’m a 35 year old who looks like she rubs donuts on her face? We’re sisters, shouldn’t we have the same kind of skin???
Ashley touched her cheek and the usual hot rush of frustration flooded her mind. Maybe washing it was doing more harm than good? But even if that was true, what was she supposed to do, not wash her face?
Feeling her eyes water, she let out a quick laugh and ran her hand against her greasy forehead. She’d heard something about triggers causing oily skin, but who cared when everything for her seemed to be a trigger.
Her oily skin never stopped.
And Laura’s wedding was only 8 weeks away.
Lots of people, photos, her speech…
She needed help.
But with what? From who?
This depressing oily skin battle was now going on 20 years and other than spending a not-so-small fortune on skincare, all she had to show for it was irritated skin, a gazillion used blotting papers and chronic anxiety.
Ashley’s cell rang and she took it off the counter.
Laura’s name flashed on the screen.
She always calls at the worst times. Ashley tapped the screen. “Hi, Laura.”
“Hey Ash, what’s going on?" Laura’s always chipper voice piped through.
“The usual, just trying to figure out how to stop my face from looking like a glistening oil spill."
“Ash, I know it's eating you up inside, I want you to talk to my friend Star."
“Thanks, but staring at the sun and meditating isn't really my thing,” Ashley said.
“Look, I know she’s seems a little out there, but Star knows a ton about how the body works, Ash. Seriously, you’ve seen her, her skin is immaculate. She's helped others too. I bet if you gave her a ring she’d help you out.”
Ashley said nothing for a few seconds as she envisioned a wedding where her sister dazzled the crowd while her older sister ran to the bathroom every 20 minutes to dab her face.
“Okay, give me her number," Ashley said.
Laura gave it to her and after a couple of minutes of random chitchat, Ashley hung up.
A few seconds later she was dialing Star.
A few seconds later she was dialing Star.
Four or five rings went by and just as Ashley got ready for the voice mail there was a click at the other end.
“Hello?” said someone who sounded like she was floating on air.
“Hi, Star? This is Laura’s sister, Ashley.”
“Hey, Ashley!,” Star’s soft voice sharpened up like she’d returned to Earth. I’ve been waiting for your call."
“Really, how? I mean…"
“I’m telepathic, Ashley."
“I’m joking!” Star laughed, “Laura told me yesterday she was going to have you call me.”
“Ah, okay,” Ashley said as she walked to the window – it wouldn’t have surprised her at all if Star thought she could read minds.
“Thanks, you’d be amazed at how many people fall for that one with me,” Star said.
“Yeah, I bet...” Ashley said watching a couple of kids ride their bikes past her house.
“Well, Laura already briefed me on your oily skin issues, and I’ve got some time this afternoon if you want to stop by and go over some stuff.”
“Yeah, I mean I could do that…or you could just tell me over the-
“Great! How’s 2 work for you?”
“Um, sure…I guess I could swing by before my ki…”
“Perfect, you know where I’m at right?”
“I do,” Ashley said. She’d been to Star’s beach house a couple of times before with Laura. Nice place actually, on the top of its own hill, lots of glass, great views, you just had to get past all her rather interesting artwork.
“Awesome, see you at 2 then!” Star said and with a click she was gone.
It was already almost 1:30 and Ashley walked into the kitchen, grabbed her keys off the little green dish next to the fridge and headed out to her jeep.
20 minutes later she was swerving up the sandy trail that led to Star’s house.
When she got to the top, Star was standing outside.
Oh boy, Ashley thought as she swung the jeep onto the open space at the edge of the hill. She got out and Star gave her a wave.
“Hi, so glad you came!”
Ashely wasn’t sure what to expect, she really just wanted to get the skincare product info she needed and get out of here before Star started chanting or doing strange yoga poses. Star nudged her head towards the ocean, “Come on, let’s talk over here”.
Ashley followed her to a big gray boulder that sat at the far side of the hill a few feet from a bumpy trail that led down to the beach. Star leaned against the boulder, folded her arms and looked at Ashley.
“So, thanks again for helping me,” Ashley said, “if you could just let me know which products to use for my oily skin, I’ll go pick them up. I have to say though that I’m on a bit of a budget, so hopefully it’s not going to be a huge invest-"
“Sorry, it doesn’t work like that,” Star said with a small smile.
“Oh, okay, well, how does it work?”
“Well for starters, you’ve got to understand that it’s your body that’s produces oily skin.”
Star folded her hands. “So you need to first figure out what’s keeping your body in a state that produces oily skin.”
Ashley gave a look of confusion, “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to tell me?”
Star’s smile spread wider, “No, I’m just here to start you on your journey, you’ve got to take the steps yourself. It’s your body, you need to take back control of it, not me.”
Ashley gazed past Star at the endless blue ocean - maybe sitting at home googling up the same old skincare products wasn’t so bad after all… She stared at the low rolling tide for a few seconds and then reluctantly asked, “So...how do I figure out my body?”
“Good question. You’re going to do an oily skin detox.”
“An oily skin detox,” Ashley said in a voice as flat as cardboard as she struggled to keep her eyes from rolling.
“Yep. Each week you’re going to figure out something to remove from your current lifestyle that’s contributing to oily skin, and the only things you’re allowed to add back are things that support your body’s innate desire to return to a state of balance.” Star paused, then offered. “Do this this correctly and in 8 weeks you’re free of the constraints of oily skin – a whole new person.”
New person, sure whatever. Ashley studied the 4 turquoise earrings in Star’s left ear, the color matched the ocean perfectly. “So I’ll be cured of oily skin?”
Star laughed, “You’ve got a lot to learn, Ashley”.
Ashley took a deep breath and exhaled. “I don’t get it. What’s an oily skin detox? Do you want me to just remove all oil from my life for the next 8 weeks?”
Argh! “Why not?”
Star folded her arms as a warm breeze swept across the hilltop, “Because that’s not what your body needs to heal.”
“But can I keep using my skincare?”
“Only if it helps your body return to a state of balance.”
I’m talking to a damn fortune cookie! “And what if I don’t know if it helps???”
“Then don’t use it, Ashley.”
A cold sweat broke out over Ashley’s back; the mere idea of going into public without her products was terrifying. “Look Star, I just can’t do that, my face will be a total mess. All I really need is to get my skin good enough to go to this wedding in a couple weeks, that’s it.”
Star stood up and took a step towards Ashley, “Then you should start now. I suggest you go do your research.”
Star turned, walked over to the trail and started heading down it. Ashley shook her head, the girl was like a spacey combination of Tinker Bell and Obi-Wan-Kenobi and she just didn’t know if she should trust her.
Heading back to the jeep, Ashley fired up the engine and drove off. As she rumbled down the hill, she couldn’t help but feel a little let down from the experience. She’d spent 20 long, tiring years trying to overcome oily skin and now she was supposed to suddenly figure it out by herself in 8 weeks???
Where did she even start?
When Ashley got home she went straight to the computer. Oily skin, detoxes, your body produces oil – in ten minutes she’d hit total confusion and was back on her same old sites. She shut the laptop down, slumped back in the chair and rubbed her index finger over the side of her nose.
Her fingertip was now covered in oil.
This was going nowhere and her life was too busy to waste time tumbling down some kind of new age rabbit hole.
Still, she didn’t want to give up…
The thought of an oily wedding, let alone, an oily rest of her life was too much to bear. "What are the chances I grow out of this by the wedding?" she thought.
She could call her brother Tommy… he was a fitness trainer and maybe he’d have some insight that could help her?
Tapping his number, Ashley got up from the desk and walked to the kitchen.
“Hey Ash," Tommy answered.
“Hey Tommy, listen, what do you know about detoxes?”
“They’re tough, Ash.”
“Well, Laura’s friend, Star, says I need to do one to fix my skin problem. But I have no idea where to start and she didn’t give me any details. I already checked the web and found zero info about detoxes for oily skin, and even though I could give up the usual stuff like sugar, gluten and dairy, I’ve already done all that and it didn’t do a thing to help me. I’m lost, Tommy.”
“Check out PUFAs.”
“Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids. Check out what happens when they go bad and become oxidized. It’s a no-brainer if you’re doing a detox. It’s what I tell all of my clients.”
Ashley’s stressed neck muscles relaxed a bit. “Okay, thanks bro. I’ll go check them out.”
Ashley hung up and then went back to the computer. “The never-ending search,” she said staring at the purple screen. She then typed in “PUFAs”.
About 3 million sites popped up.
Fats are bad. Fats are good. Fats are dangerous. Fats are vital. Fats will save your life. Fats will ruin your life.
Ashley’s head spun and her neck tightened right back up, “thanks a lot, Tommy,” she muttered.
Oxidized PUFAs. Ashley refined her search and a new string of sites came up.
“Ah, much better,” Ashley whispered as started opening tabs.
The research on oxidized PUFAs was overwhelmingly negative. PUFAs are highly unstable which meant you had to be very careful how you treated them – which unfortunately we aren’t. The oils are cheap to produce and abused through deep frying and processed foods. When these babies were oxidized, your health suffers big time.
Ashley set her elbows on the table and leaned forward, resting her chin on her knuckles. So what’s the reason so many people have oily skin? Could it be related to oxidized PUFAs?
Had she actually made some progress?
She made a quick call to Star and a half hour later was back at the strange artist’s house by the sea.
“So I think I figured out the cure to oily skin,” Ashley said.
“Do tell.” Star said taking a sip of tea.
“It’s PUFAs. They oxidize, make a mess out of our bodies, which ultimately leads to oily skin.”
“So what should you do with this information?” Star asked setting her cup down.
“Well, I think the key for my detox is to stay away from processed foods, cooking oils, fried foods, cheap oils, stuff like that.”
“Very interesting. Write it down in your notepad.”
“It’s 2017, how ‘bout I save it in my phone?” Ashely asked waving her iPhone at Star.
Oily Skin Detox Rule #1: Avoid Oxidized PUFAs
“Okay, you’re off to a great start,” Star said.
“Oh yeah, this is just the start. Not that we’ve removed a secretly harmful part of your diet, you have to figure out how to support your body to bring it back into balance. Like you figured out, oxidized PUFAs are definitely bad for you, however, non-oxidized PUFAs contain omega 6 and omega 3, both of which are essential to healing your body.” Star stood up and waved at Ashley to follow her out of the house and into the hazy late afternoon light. “So do you know what ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 you take during the day?”
Ashley tilted her head sideways, “What do you think?”
Star stretched her arms out and looked up at the sky, “What did you have for lunch?”
“A cesar salad.”
"My guess is the first ingredient in that salad dressing is most likely soybean oil, followed by other cheap mass produced vegetable oils high in omega 6. If you look at the rest of your diet, you may just find the same trend, a whole lot of omega 6, but not much omega 3.”
“So I’ve got to fix that, right?” Ashley asked.
Star stopped. “Right, giving up oxidized omega 6 and omega 3 is the perfect start to your detox, but if you don’t fix your omega 3 to omega 6 RATIO, you’ll never achieve balance in your body.”
Ashley thought through her diet and realized Star was probably right. "So how do I do that? Ashley asked.
“Simple. Just eat one high quality source of omega 3 each day: wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies, grass fed animals, whichever one floats your boat.”
“Actually I don’t like any of that stuff.”
“Ash, Ash, Ash. You have 8 weeks left. Just add one source a day, you can get creative if you have to.
“Could I take a supplement?”
“I wouldn’t. Odds are your standard health store fish oil is loaded with oxidized omega 3 oils, don't undermine the de-oxidation part of the detox.” Star walked past Ashley, and went back into the house. “Just eat healthy, you can do it!” she called out as she closed the door.
Ashley bit down on her lip and glanced up at the streams of orange sunset cutting through darkening blue sky. Guess I’ll keep going with it for now…
Ten minutes later as she cruised down Shea Blvd to pick up her kids’ from their after-school programs, she gave her brother another call.
“Hey Tommy, thanks for the tip on the PUFAs! I checked them out and found my first item for the detox, oxidized PUFAs.”
“That’s great, Ash. Are you cutting back on the omega 6s as well?”
“Yeah, it turned out my diet was loaded with omega 6 but it lacked omega 3; to be honest, I’m still not sure why that matters though,” Ashley said as she turned into the school parking lot.
“It’s about chronic inflammation,” Tommy said, “The omega 6s and 3s work in tandem for healing. 6 is pro-inflammatory, 3 is anti-inflammatory. If all you eat is omega 6, which EVERYBODY does, your body is charged up with an endless supply of inflammation causing material. So you need to get some omega 3 fatty acids in there to cool it down, otherwise your body is going to be ripe for all kinds of nasty chronic conditions.”
“I get it. The only thing is that I don’t like any of the omega 3 food options, do you know if there’s any way I can work around that?” Ashley said pulling up to the front of the school.
“Yeah, but remember you don’t have to eat a lot of these foods, just find ones you can tolerate and make them your staple. If you really are stuck, try out Krill oil. It’s the most stable supplement of the omega 3s and is highly sustainable, that’d be your best bet.”
“Awesome, krill oil it is,” Ashley said as the rear jeep door popped opened and the kids scrambled in. “Hey, kids!” Ashley said as she updated her phone:
Oily Skin Detox Rule #2: Balance Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio By Adding One Source of High Quality Omega 3 Daily.
Ten minutes later they were back at the house - feeling upbeat since she’d actually accomplished something today, Ashley ran upstairs to see how her face was doing.
Oily as ever.
“All that d*mn research and running around,” Ashley said as she snatched a blotting paper. She still this big oily mess to deal with and couldn’t even wash her face. I doubt there’s enough blotting papers in the entire state to get me through these 8 weeks!
Ashley didn’t have time to dwell on it though, she’d made plans to take the kids over to her neighbor Jessica’s so she dabbed her skin with the paper, tossed it in the garbage and went to round the gang back up.
A few minutes later they were walking down the sidewalk and as the kids bounced up and down in front of her, Ashley felt conflicted. Her discovery of oxidized fats and learning about the proper omega ratios had had her feeling better, but seeing her face flooded with oil again had knocked the wind out of her sails. Maybe she should talk to a dermatologist...after all, it wasn’t like Star – or her brother – were actual skin professionals…
When they got to Jessica’s, the kids ran to play in the backyard while Ashley and Jessica went into the living room for some small talk – of course it only took a few minutes for Ashley to bring up her skin.
“... So I’m going to cut out oxidized omega 3s and 6s, reduce the amount of overall omega 6s and increase the amount of omega 3s,” Ashley said as she rapidly tapped her fingers against her chair’s armrest.
“Wow, sounds... hard, and scientific,” Jessica said.
“Yeah, but it’s definitely more than I knew before. It has to work fast though, because I’m not supposed to use any skincare that doesn’t support my body.”
Jessica’s eyes went wide, “No skincare at all???”
“Nope. Not until I can figure out something that will support ‘my body’s desire to return to balance,’” Ashley said.
“But you need to wash your face, Ashley.”
“Thanks, I know.”
“No, I mean with oily skin, if it’s not kept clean, it’s going to clog your pores and cause acne.”
“Believe me, I know. But besides it's what I’ve been told to do, my face was starting to get sensitive anyways.” Ashley gazed over at the aquarium as some small fish swam past. “I just wish there was another way to get rid of this oil for good.”
Jessica sat up in her chair a bit, having remembered something she saw online, “speaking of oil, want to know something odd?”
“Sure,” Ashley said.
“I recently read on the acne.org website that your face, as oily as it is right now, is actually deficient in oil.”
“What??? There’s no way that’s possible,” Ashley said.
“According to some research cited on acne.org, it is. In fact, I think the deficient oil is from an omega 6 fatty acid called linoleic acid." Jessica showed Ashley the article she was referencing.
“You’re kidding?” Ashley flipped her eyes back to Jessica, “Linoleic acid is omega 6 - the fatty acid I’m supposed to cut out???”
“I think so, Ash! Apparently oily and acne prone skin has less linoleic acid that normal skin, so from a pure skincare perspective you need to actually try and get more linoleic acid to your skin.”
Ashley opened her arms wide and leaned back like she was ready to slide out of the chair, “This makes no sense. How the heck can my body be getting way too much linoleic acid while my skin is deficient in it? This is sooo confusing!”
“I don’t know, Ash, but it looks like you need to get some of those omega 6s onto your skin. It says that should definitely help. I'd just try it out for a little while and see what happens, it’s not like you’ve got anything to lose.”
Ashley pushed herself back up and chuckled, “sure, what’s one more trip out today?
Besides, my husband loves watching the kids!”
Ashley and Jessica chatted for another ten or so minutes and then Ashley got up and called the kids inside. Sean and Amy hopped off the swing set and a few minutes later the three of them were halfway up their walkway when Ashley’s husband Joe swung up the driveway.
“Gotta run back out for a bit,” Ashley said as Joe stepped out of the car and the kids ran to their dad, there’s leftovers in the fridge you guys can heat up for dinner!” Joe just nodded and gave her a little wave – he knew exactly where she was going.
10 minutes later Ashley was scoping the Whole Foods skincare section.
“Can I help you find something,?” A thin, young twenty-something wearing a Whole Foods apron asked.
“Yeah, actually you can. I need to find a linoleic acid-rich skincare.”
“Follow me,” he said. He led her down the aisle to a section of oils.
“Any suggestions?” Ashley asked.
The twenty-something rubbed his chain and then grabbed a white box with blue lettering off the shelf. “This should do the trick,” he said handing her a facial oil. "You can also try this cleanser as well."
Ashley looked at the back of the products; hemp oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil were among the first set of ingredients.
She thanked the employee and twenty minutes later was back home splashing water on her face.
What a day.
She then ripped the plastic off the oil, pressed down on the nozzle and a quarter sized blob of oil fell onto her palm. As she raised her hand to her face, she suddenly cringed at the idea of using another new skincare.
But she was too tired to really get herself worked up over it.
What was another addition to her collection of failed skincare products if it didn’t work anyways?
The defeatist thought somehow soothed her edginess and she started to rub the oil onto her skin. Ha, maybe the key to dealing with oiliness is just to accept it?
After she’d finished with the oil, she flipped off the bathroom light, set the phone on her nightstand and crawled into bed. It was still early, but she felt like she’d run a marathon. Staring at the ceiling, she took a few deep breaths and cleared her mind.
She then noticed her face felt slightly different than with the other products she’d used.
Reaching out, she slid her phone off the nightstand and made one final detox note for the day:
Oily Skin Detox Rule #3: Skincare – Only Use Oils With the Proper Ratio, Higher in Linoleic Acid than Oleic Acid.
Ashley’s dropped the phone on the bed and closed her eyes, she wondered if she should change the ending period to a question mark?
Nah, it’s probably fine.
Feeling the glow of accomplishment, she reached out and turned the light off.
Maybe this will be easier than I thought.
With that she began her decent into a sound sleep...
Oblivious to the villain that foils even the best intentioned plans for escaping oily skin…
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