After 2020 transformed the way we live, it’s time to approach wellness and beauty with a clean slate this year
“We should not hoard knowledge; we should be free from our knowledge.” A quote from the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryū Suzuki proposes that everything must be approached with the unburdened perspective of a beginner’s mind. I’m never one for New Year resolutions, but after 2020 transformed the way we live, we cannot go into ’21 with the patina of yesteryear. So freeing myself from previous knowledge, thereby keeping my mind fresh is my only resolution. And just a month into this year, my new perspective is already making me reassess my health and beauty goals.
This year began with a cold, winter downpour in Delhi, which meant I had to forsake regular walks — my only exercise in 2020 — and go back to yoga. Last year, I’d stopped my asana practise completely. After multiple surgeries for endometriosis, it became a trigger that caused pain. But life has a way of bringing back things that are meant for you. Because of the continuous downpour, I restarted yoga. Slowly, gently, respecting every signal to pull back, getting reacquainted with my body, with a beginner’s mind.
Learning anew is the theme of this year. Since I need to build muscle as I shift closer to 50, a weekly weight-training session is on the agenda. If yoga doesn’t work out, I may take up running — something I never wanted to do because it makes the glutes less flexible. But as my priorities shift from grounding my heels in downward dog to ageing with grace and strength, I prefer to work on muscle, balance and stamina, instead of flexibility, which isn’t very useful in everyday life.
My goals are changing in skincare, too. From using gentle formulations, I now want something stronger to reduce the first signs of sagging. For this I’m revisiting tretinoin, retinol’s most potent and effective version, which dramatically improves texture, tone and elasticity. Just like yoga, my previous experience with it was marred with rookie mistakes such as over-applying, too much, too often. But now that I’m researching the ingredient with fresh eyes I know how to use it better.
One of the things I learnt after going down the rabbit hole of Reddit threads was that tretinoin has a gentler, micronised version. In Retino-A Micro, the tretinoin is released slowly over the night as compared to Retino-A, the old variation, which releases it all at once, causing dryness, sensitivity and purging. My dermatologist recommends that all forms of tretinoin must be used as ‘short contact therapy’. So I started by applying the 0.04% strength for 20 minutes and slowly increased the time till now when I can apply it every alternate night.
After vitamin C, this is the second time that I’ve been surprised by a skincare ingredient. In just over a month, my skin is smoother, clearer and perhaps, even a bit tauter. With tretinoin, I’m also learning that effective skincare needn’t be more expensive. Retino-A Micro costs about ₹350, Emolene an excellent, basic moisturiser around ₹200, and Re’quil, my new favourite sunscreen, less than ₹500. Could this be the year I start budgeting my skincare? Now that would be a real transformation.
Whatever 2021 may bring, one thing is certain, we cannot be blindfolded by the things that we knew before. Does this mean we should discount our previous learnings? No, but we must be prepared for the unpredictable by reworking important aspects — health, beauty, careers and relationships — with a fresh perspective, suitable for this brand new world. So, as we enter the year, I want to leave you with this quote: “If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”
A column to remind you about all things skin deep.