Tomorrow was the day.
After eight weeks of learning about hormones, studying nutrition and discovering more about the relationship between oily skin and homeostasis than 99.9% of the world will ever know, Ashley’s last task was to get herself sleepy enough to go to bed.
But with the bags packed, her speech written and rehearsed, and the kids tucked in bed there was nothing left to do.
Shoot, already 11pm and I’ve still got nervous energy to burn – there’s always the SIBO thing…
She wandered over to the laptop and sat down. SIBO stands for Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth, and it was one of the last things she’d come across in this final week.
Typing SIBO in the computer, Ashley watched as Google immediately gave her what she already knew, that SIBO was one of several conditions related to healthy gut flora.
Ashley clicked a link: “The small intestine isn’t supposed to have much bacteria in it, but with low stomach acid, it opens the door for bacterial from the colon to creep into the small intestine and colonize it. The result is food, specifically carbohydrates, gets partially digested before they should, creating toxic byproducts which are introduced to the body.”
“Hmm…” Ashley murmured rubbing her chin.
She already knew the treatment for SIBO involved multiple steps; killing the bacteria that had colonized the small intestine, removing the biofilm protecting some of the bacteria, rebuilding the intestinal lining and then recolonizing with the appropriate bacteria. And as she scanned the site, her eyes went wide when she saw peppermint listed as one of the most common treatments, “Ah, my old burning friend Mr. Peppermint, we meet again!”
Ashley stepped away from the computer and walked to the window, gazing at the yellow glow of the streetlamp lit street. What if, in the end, the entire mystery of oily skin came down to the condition of you microbiome or gut flora?
What if the difference between someone who has to fight oily skin each and every day of their life vs someone that never spent a single second experiencing it was simply a matter of what one’s bacteria in their gut did with the food that arrived there? The SIBO case was interesting because it wasn’t something obvious – which helped explain why a connection between the condition and oily skin (not to mention the randomness involved with it) hadn’t been drawn before.
Tapping her nails against the glass, Ashley watched as a silver Mercedes cruised past her house. As of now she was only taking moisturizer on the trip, but she couldn’t see the harm in taking a little extra something like a peppermint supplement to help her out…
Looks like I’m doing a little more testing this weekend…
Walking to the nightstand, Ashley added the final rule to her detox:
Oily Skin Detox Rule #15: Focus On Healthy Microbiome
At noon the next day, Ashley hurried to the store to grab the peppermint supplement she needed, swung back home, picked up the husband and kids, and it was off to the airport to catch the 3pm flight.
A bumpy flight, a smooth ride to the hotel, and just seven short hours later Ashley had survived the rehearsal dinner.
It was a big wedding and the dinner had at least a couple of hundred people at it. Ashley had glimpsed Star across the crowded hotel lobby before the dinner and at her table with Laura’s other miscellaneous friends towards the end of the rehearsal, and as everyone filtered out of the hall, she caught up to her free-spirited mentor and gave her a hug.
“You’ve come a long way, Ashley,” Star said smiling.
“Thanks, Star. I feel like I’m still not there yet though. Everything is a lot better, for sure, but I wish my skin was just like… perfect, you know?”
Star nodded and her eyes lit up like she was looking at a house she’d just renovated. “Believe me, Ashley, you’ve done great. Real healing, the kind that knocks your oily skin out for good takes time - trust me, you’re going to get there.”
Ashley waved at her sister as she came out in a crowd of laughing, tipsy relatives and friends, “I know, I just keep finding myself wishing there was a quicker fix,” she said with a smile knowing exactly how Star would react.
Star’s eyes narrowed and the corners of her mouth turned down, “That’s only natural for someone who’s a product of their environment. You live in a world that dangles instant gratification in front of you constantly.”
Star never disappointed.
Ashley sighed, “Yeah, I know. It’s just a strong pull…”
“I know it is, Ash,” Star said with her smile returning, “I know.”
As the crowd thinned out, they kept chatting about the things Ashley had learned over the last eight weeks and after about 10 minutes, Star folded her arms,
“Okay, teaching time is over, tell me your theory of everything for oily skin.”
Ashley’s heart jumped. “What do you mean?”
Star laughed and held her hands in front of her like a movie director guiding an actor through a scene, “when you first came to see me, your theory of everything concluded that you were just fine, you just needed that one magic thing to make your skin normal. Now, relax, take a moment, and tell me your new theory.
“But I don’t know if it’s right,” Ashley said.
“Doesn’t matter, Ashley. There’s no ultimate right, there’s just what you know right now.”
Star walked over to a couple of girls who’d been at her table and Ashley tapped her iPhone, her list of oily skin detox rules came up:
Ashley read them out loud. Then she read them a second time.
Then a third.
See the big picture…
And it came together.
Her skin was oily because... hmm.
Her skin was oily because her body was out of balance. The wrong fats, too much stress, both emotional and physical, and not enough healthy practices – it was all connected, everything contributed.
Star walked back up to her and waited.
Ashley told her the overall vision of her understanding. “Is that right?” she asked.
The corner of Star’s mouth curled up in a little smile, “It’s right for you, Ashley. It’s where you are on your journey.”
Ashley nodded; two months ago she wouldn’t have understood Star’s answer, but now she did.
“I know. But is there anything else I can do?”
“Of course there is,” Star said.
“What!?” Ashley asked, her heart beating a little harder, “What can I do??”
“I don’t know, Ashley. You have to discover these things. It’s your journey.”
“You drive me crazy, Star.”
“Ashley, you’re doing great. Are you happy with your skin?”
“I am,” Ashley said – it was just so easy to get flustered over this, “but I know it could be better. I just want to know your secrets.”
Star stepped forward and Ashely noticed for the first time that Star’s eyes were slightly different colors, “there’s only one secret and I told you it the first day. You’ve got to learn how to get control of your body and bring it back into balance. If you do that, everything else takes care of itself.”
Ashley heard her brother’s voice and looked over to see him chatting it up with one of the cute, blonde 20-somethings from the groom’s side. She sighed. Ashley knew Star was right – she just wanted all the answers now.
“Ashley,” Star said setting her hand on the side of Ashley’s shoulder, “I said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re doing great – you’ve been one of my best students.”
“Thanks, Star,” Ashley said watching her brother for a few more seconds then looking back over.
Star was gone.
Ashley touched her cheek.
Her skin really did feel pretty good.
And it stayed pretty good during the entire wedding the next day.
With her skin behaving itself in a way it hadn’t done in years, Ashley not only enjoyed herself during the ceremony, but her concentration was sharper than it’d ever been at an event like this. Maybe it was the peppermint, and maybe it was everything she’d done for the past eight weeks, but her body had changed.
Her body really was on its way to balance.
An hour later at the reception, Ashley was hanging out at her table, watching the band play the old Backstreet Boys song, I Want It That Way, to the half-filled dance floor, when Rachel, one of Laura’s friends, came up to her with a grin and a half empty glass of champagne. “So you saw Star too?!”
“I did,” Ashley laughed.
“She sure is something,” Rachel said holding the glass up in a half toast. “What did you get help with?”
“Star helped me with my oily skin. How about you?”
“Cystic acne. The girl’s amazing,” Rachel said and took a sip of champagne.
Ashley studied Rachel’s skin, other than a couple mild blemishes mostly hidden by a light foundation, it looked really good, “Honestly, you look great, Rachel.”
“Thanks, it’s a lot better now. But to tell you the truth, I didn’t think I’d ever get to this point - Star’s a tough fortune cookie to crack!”
“Ha, well, if you got answers from her, you’re more persuasive than me. Star told me I had to get my own answers.”
“Ah, well, I wouldn’t really call them answers,” Rachel said, “just guidance towards more stuff I’m trying now. There’s always something new that pops up that pulls me in a slightly different direction. But I’ve now got a good base to go off of and I understand so much more than I did before I met her.”
“Yeah, it took me a while to get traction too,” Ashley said as she slid her fingers across her impressively non-oily forehead, “but slowly and surely I started to understand the world as it relates to my body.”
“Did Star ask you for your theory of everything?” Rachel asked.
“She sure did, and I came up with an answer; but I’m still not sure if it was that good.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Rachel said, “this all keeps evolving. And whatever your answer was, I’m sure it was a hundred times better than what you would have given when you started this thing,” Rachel drank away the last of her champagne and set the glass on the table, “I’ll give you a tip though, the more detailed you can make your answer, the clearer everything becomes.”
The Backstreet Boys song ended, and the bouncy piano of Abba’s Dancing Queen suddenly swirled from the stage, causing damn near everyone from the lean and laughing 20-somethings to the graying Baby Boomers to flood the dance floor. Ashley then saw the girl her brother had been talking to before cutting between the crowd towards her table. She smiled as she approached and a few seconds later had her hand out, “Hi, Ashley? I’m Stacy. Laura said you could recommend something for my oily skin; it’s driving me crazy!”
Ashley flashed a wide smile, “Oh, she did, did she…?”
“Yep! Now,” Laura said clapping her hands together like a cheerleader whose team just scored a touchdown, “I do already have skincare that I like to use, but if you could just tell me a really good product that I could add to my routine, that would be great!”
Ashley smiled and Rachel shot her a wink.
“Okay… one really good extra product… well… let me first ask you this, do you know anything about homeostasis?”
“Nope, not a thing,” Stacey said.
“Ah, I see… maybe we start there.”
“Awesome!” Stacey said, “Laura also told me about a friend of hers’, it was a strange name… like moon or sky or something, do you know who I mean???”
“Oh," Ashley and Rachel said laughing harder, "I think we do...”
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