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A Gentle Solution: Anna Fusco

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Earlier this year, Lauren dealt with a bad acne breakout for the first time in her life at age 30. Thankfully, she turned to her friend Anna for some sage skincare advice. Anna is an amazing artist with a passion for skincare and was kind enough to share these insights with us and the whole LAPS community! What she gave us is something that everyone in the wellness world needs to hear. Read below for her gems of wisdom. <3

At a young age, I became keenly aware of my body and the inevitable changes it would endure. I pulled from a myriad of sources: my mother, my aunts, babysitters, health teachers, TV shows on the WB, and Seventeen Magazine. I knew I would meet puberty, I knew I would get my period, I knew that teenagers usually got depressed and got acne (or the other way around), and I knew that someday down the line I would get something called menopause--whatever that was. Because these milestones were included in the collective conversation that I was exposed to, I anticipated them, and when they struck (which they all did except for the big M), they weren’t so scary. I had been fairly warned and it helped to imagine that everyone else was going through the same things too.

Years later when I entered my twenties, a “what to expect” conversation didn’t happen. I assumed I had made it through the worst of it and I naively interpreted the silent gap between the teen years and menopause to indicate a generally smooth ride that didn’t warrant a conversation. The “How to Deal with Pimples/Cramps/Mean girl at School” articles were replaced with “How to Blow His Mind” tutorials. I was ready for at least a decade of clear skin, balanced periods, and uninterrupted sex.

With the exception of a few close friends, I can only speak for my body and its experiences. With that said, as I begin the last year of my twenties, I’d like to officially set the record that the physical and mental flux of adolescence didn’t end with high school, and I’m unsatisfied that nobody warned me to steer clear of hasty decisions and trending movements when it came to managing my own health for the first time. To be fair, I was told one thing about my twenties: that I would hardly remember them. I actually wonder if the seismic gap of useful information I mentioned earlier is just due to one collective blackout. Nobody remembered their twenties, and I wasn’t supposed to either. Instead I was to anticipate the shit-show of a drunken, hedonistic haze - and lots of hangovers. In fact, my twenties were a shit-show, but not in that way.  While I certainly drank my fair share of all the alcohols and tried every drug without a reputation for overdoses, for the most part my twenties marked the beginning of my relationship with control.

The idea is hard to stomach in the wellness obsessed society I relate to, but it occurs to me now that perhaps it would have served me better to just continue the tradition of generations prior and party on. It’s possible the last five years would have been easier on me had I been too busy with the silly to scrutinize every aspect of my physical body. Instead, I fell victim to a new religion that worshipped the quest for cures. Cures for what, it didn’t matter. The health and wellbeing movement that was finessed in the late 90’s and catered specifically to those in my generation took hold of me and there was a never-ending supply of advertising, blog testimonials, and social media posts to tell me what underlying ailment I had and what I needed (to buy) to fix it. I was convinced I had an optimal performance level, but that I couldn’t get there without the perfect regimen of ancient root powders, supplements, and skincare. Translation: I had the potential to be well, but I wasn’t well yet, and I had to stick to the program faithfully without any slips in order to be really well.

What did wellness mean to me?

It began harmlessly with avoiding cigarettes and the sun, taking a probiotic, devotion to 8 hours of sleep, exercising, and drinking less than everyone around me.

Then, it meant pulling myself off of 8 years of birth control at 23 without consulting a doctor in order to “clean out my body” and “get to know the real me.” I don’t regret this decision, but I do regret that there was nobody to tell me to calmly hold on to my fucking hat while my body adjusted and that changes neither happen overnight nor do they last forever.  In retrospect, I wish this were the point at which I trusted that I was doing enough and started tuning out everything that was still to come.

Instead, the onslaught of side effects that came from quitting contraceptives (mainly confidence-shattering acne) compelled me to dive headfirst into an obsessive need to fix everything, or as I called it, “balance my body,” as quickly as possible. Enter the acupuncture, full body detox mud-masks, luxury facial serums, entirely organic diet, more improved face chemicals, turning entire food groups into contraband ad hoc, and a nutritionist who convinced me to spend $900 on supplements and electrolyte powders because the dots in my iris’s implied imminent decay (not to mention the hours spent counting individual pimples or comparing reviews on wellness and beauty websites).

When Lauren first invited me to write for her blog, I initially set out to write a “skincare article” including “the things that worked for me” after she had commented on how nice my skin was one day. I’ve since realized it’s those kinds of articles that sabotage my relationship with myself and don’t foster an attitude of acceptance or patience with my body. I’ll read about something and immediately think I should try it; perhaps this is the thing I’ve been missing all along that will carry me into acne and wrinkle-free oblivion. I’m not ashamed of this impulse as it is so clearly a side effect of living in New York, living under capitalism, and living within the reach of the tentacles of the beauty and wellness industry. I’m susceptible and sometimes I cave to the trends. Sometimes I even find things that really work, a few of which I’ll carry to my grave. But I’m not going to tell you what they are, because what is the point? We are all different and no two bodies will respond the same way, even to the best face cocktail or supplement stash. The only thing we share is the power of our minds. When I realized that I was stuck in a perpetual cycle of trying and fixing, I sensed that in order to get the root of the problem, which was my addiction to fixing myself from the outside in instead of the other way around, I would need to just stop. Stop looking, stop clicking, stop comparing, stop acquiring. I had to just start doing something else with my time, including practicing the belief that I already have everything I need. Sure, I had to tell my boyfriend to be on high alert for sneaky computer browsing with my wallet in one hand, but I also considered what my mother would say whenever I felt the cosmic pull to stock up on collagen power and lactic acid: go read a book. And so that’s what I do. Today my wellness routine is a gentle, simple, and remarkably cost-effective approach: chilling the fuck out. 

~Check out more of Anna Fusco's work here