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Leah’s Skin Journey

This month at Shop Good we’re talking all things #skinpositive and saying “see ya!” to restrictive and toxic beauty standards — because there is no such thing as *perfect* skin!

I sat down with our Founder + CEO, Leah Kirpalani, to learn more about her own long + twisty skin journey… and how it led her to create the clean beauty haven we all know and love today! After battling chronic health issues that led to skin concerns like psoriasis, cystic acne, scarring and more, Leah has ultimately found tools to seek balance, find confidence, practice self love and has been able to uncover real results along the way. But one thing she wants to remain clear? It’s absolutely a journey… not a destination.

Read her interview below!

SG: What has your skin journey been like through the past decade? Has it ever impacted your self esteem/confidence?

Leah: My skin journey has been quite the long haul and all through my twenties was a battle. Not only did I experience severe hormone fluctuations (lost my period for 2 years), chronic hair loss, debilitating food allergies, fluctuations of weight loss/gain and depression, but my skin issues also greatly affected my confidence and self-esteem. At my low point in my health and skin journey, I dealt with psoriasis on my back, covering eyelids and nose bridge, cystic pustules and chronic breakouts cycling about every 14 days, thinning and desensitizing of the skin, causing immediate and long-term acne scarring, dull complexion and severe dehydration + loss of moisture in my skin barrier. Ugh.

 

So, not only did I physically feel miserable, but I was so conscious of how I looked; ashamed to walk into work or go to social gatherings with friends. I remember getting out of the shower in the morning and staring at my skin in the mirror, horrified, wishing I could just crawl back under my pillow for the day. And because I so wished for balance in my skin, I gave up a lot of things I loved in hopes the elimination approach would work — including limiting tons of foods from my diet and forgoing social wine nights with my friends — and lots of other aspects of my life that naturally brought me joy. I’m now convinced that living this life of limitation and restriction totally stalled my path to finally feeling better. Joy, endorphins and surrounding yourself with those that love you are some of the most powerful treatments when it comes to our health + wellness. 

SG: What were some of the game-changers in your skin journey? When did you start to see results or relief? 

Leah: Along with eating a whole-food, unprocessed diet, serious stress management and a few key holistic healers, honestly one of the biggest turning points in my skin was my switch to all-natural skincare and makeup. After reading the book “Not Just a Pretty Face” by Stacy Malkan, I was shocked to learn that while I was focusing so intently on what I was putting in my body, here I was slathering chemicals every day ON it!  While I don’t necessarily recommend it, I switched out everything out at once – shampoo, foundation, toothpaste, you name it. And while, back in 2008, products weren’t nearly as performance-based and results oriented as they are now – I saw real results. I noticed my skin calming, my eyes burning less and less, and even my brain fog start to lift. It was truly amazing, and it inspired some big passions going forward… *wink!*  Another big game changer? Getting regular facials. Working with Justine, the Founder of Botnia, (Shop Good’s best-selling skincare line and current spa back bar) as my esthetician when I lived in San Francisco, we were able to bring my chronic inflammation down, build my moisture barrier back up and began to slowly break my acne cycle. I can’t recommend this enough. Find a skin partner or Holistic Esthetician (like any of our incredible Estheticians @ Shop Good!) that approaches the skin by building it back up, not stripping it away… and addresses internal health while treating the skin, too. 

SG: Is your skin journey the reason why Shop Good is here today?

Leah: Yes, 100%!  Shop Good is the place I wish existed when I was sick. I dreamed of a place I could go to seek recommendations, talk to people that could relate to and discover products that I didn’t have to fear would make my symptoms worse. This is exactly what we strive to provide at Shop Good every day; a safe space where our customers can openly share their skin and health journeys… and not feel ashamed or alone. A space where they don’t have to flip over bottles and read labels to make sure it’s safe – we’ve done that work for you. 

SG: As a long time Shop Good customer before I began my position on the #shopgoodgang, I think it’s so incredible that you were able to turn your own pain and struggle into a safe place + resource for so many others. Do you have any advice for anyone currently in the emotionally dark moments of their own skin journey?

Leah: Yes. I want to clarify that, just like our health — it really is all a journey, rather than a destination. There’s oftentimes no “finish line” or “end” to the fluid, ever-changing relationship with our skin and our body, as much as we may wish otherwise. I wish I had known this 15 years ago, because it would have taken a ton of pressure off me to “finally get healthy” or “cure my skin”. Removing the unrealistic expectations to have “perfect skin” takes away so much of the stress – which in turn, can be the culprit of the acne in the first place! This isn’t to say that you won’t see progress by doing the work – internally and topically — you will! There are so many amazing healing modalities, stress-reducing techniques and supportive products out there. But, above all else, I believe the most healing thing you can do for yourself is simply LOVE YOURSELF, no matter what stage of the process you are in. No matter if your skin has a major flare up one day, or finally appears clear the next. I think we’ll get to this more later in the interview! But, I believe sending the energy of LOVE to your skin can be more healing than anything you’ll find on any shelf, anywhere. This may sound trite, but placing a post-it note on your bathroom mirror with the skin-loving mantra of your choice can actually super impactful for repetition and consistency without it feeling like extra effort throughout your day. 

SG: What products/practices helped you get to where you are?

Leah: Aside from that self love we just talked about… breathing and drinking water were my next two critical tools for true skin healing. The 4,7,8 breath and deep belly breathing (i.e you can actually see your belly fill with each deep breath you take) were huge game changers for me.  Also, putting a high-quality sea salt in my water bottle helped me with water absorption since my body had such a hard time assimilating hydration at the cellular level. (If you don’t know this by now, hydration is absolutely key for skin health). Product wise, the more simplified the ingredient list was, the better for me. After switching to all-natural skincare, it seemed that the gentler the approach, the more quickly I saw results. My skin wanted to breathe! To rebuild its protective layers! I have used Botnia products as my foundational skincare for about a decade now, (even before they were Botnia!) and this skincare line has truly saved my skin. 

SG: How would you define “skin positivity”?

Leah: Skin positivity to me is giving yourself permission to love yourself no matter what your skin looks like. It’s first becoming aware of the stigmas we are bound by, and then letting go of them. Once we can release this as a false, made-up ideology, we can begin to define ourselves in other, more liberating ways. I know this is easier said than done. How can I look in the mirror and love myself without seeing my skin and all its flaws? I’m very actively still working on this. But, just the simple awareness that YOU ARE NOT YOUR SKIN is such an important part of removing the barriers to accessing complete self love. I hope that there is more discussion about this in the skincare space going forward. It’s why the conversation this month at Shop Good is so very important to me. 

SG: Can you tell us about your relationship with your skin now?

Leah: It varies every day. Some days, when I am well rested, have carved out time to exercise and am good about my water intake, it’s easier for me to send love to myself and my skin. Other days, when my 10-month old has a tough night of sleep or when work is extra busy, it’s harder for me to be in a loving relationship with my skin. I think if we are kind to ourselves and practice understanding for changes in seasons, schedules, sleep-patterns, peaks in stress and more, it can open possibilities of having a deeper or unwavering relationship with your skin. TBH, owning a skincare store has definitely placed added pressure on me to “have good skin days”, but I remind myself that the gift in my skin struggles is the privilege to be able to share it openly with all of you. 

SG: What product are you *most* excited about in your current routine?

Leah: Today, my skin is in a much different place than it was.  Now that I have been able to maintain a more healthy skin barrier, I have loved using super gentle exfoliators in the form of enzyme-based cleansers, like goop’s Malachite + Fruit Refining Cleanser, softening and balancing toners like Berlin Skin’s Rose + Geranium Toner, and now that I’m moving into my late thirties (eek!) incorporating Vitamin C and natural forms of Vitamin A like Agent Nateur’s Holi(C) and Josh Rosebrook’s Active Infusion Oil. Finally, my secret acne-fighting weapon that I will never exist without literally ever again? Botnia’s Clarity Oil. There’s a reason why there’s mega-hype around this product. It freaking works.

Internally, I swear by Yin Power as my hormone-balancer, which has helped break my hormonal-acne cycles and regulate my periods. I’m also LOVING Holi(Mane) as my collagen booster in coffee, smoothies and oatmeal. I’ve been using it for 2 weeks and I’m starting to see little baby hairs begin to regrow! (yep, postpartum hair loss is so real for me right now!).

SG: If you could change one thing about the health/beauty industry, what would it be?

Leah: I think the changes we are currently seeing are all providing hope, but we have a long way to go. At long last there is strong pressure being placed on brands to include all skin types and tones in their offerings and marketing, including skin of color, which has been very much left out of the white-dominated beauty and skin conversation in the past. I am excited to see brands focus on extending their shade ranges, showcasing inclusive imagery and speaking to the BIPOC community so that everyone can participate in the conversation. Shop Good hopes to be a part of this change. We’ve focused diligently on increasing our Black and minority owned brands on our shelves, ensure we offer skincare lines and entire shade offerings catered specifically to our customers of color, and we’ve provided trainings for our team in skincare knowledge and makeup application, ensuring we are able to provide exceptional service for all skin types and tones. 

I also hope to see the beauty and skin industry begin to peel back and dismantle the stigma that “good skin” means I can access love and appreciation for myself and acquire love and respect from others. Decades of the beauty industry drilling this fallacy into our brains by airbrushing models and promoting this idea of perfect skin equating to power has been detrimental in monumental ways. Today’s social media filters blurring out “real” skin is another widespread example that’s further propagating this stigma. It’s unfortunate and incredibly dangerous for our younger generations. One of the solutions is industry leaders and beauty editors showing real skin, talking about real skin and censoring false realities around what skin “should” look like. I hope Shop Good can be part of this important conversation to create change. 

SG: Just for fun, what is your favorite daily wellness or indulgent practice at the moment?

Leah: Chocolate in the morning. Yep. Said it. I’ll have my cup of coffee (local Heartwork espresso beans, Sunpotion Yin Power, Coconut Butter, Agent Nateur Holi(Mane) and Ghee, blended!) and then grab a square (or two) of frozen Moody Girl Chocolate on the side. The combo of the two is a serious spirit lifter to start my day. Try it. 

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You heard it here, beauties: you don’t need to trade out your abundant life for healthy skin. As Leah herself knows, you can have BOTH! Real skin that you feel confident in and a rich + full life.

If your skin is making you feel like you want to crawl back under the covers, just know that skin conditions are NORMAL and you are not your skin. Our Product Experts, Holistic Estheticians, and even our Founder have all been there before and we are here to offer support + a listening ear. Swing by our San Diego shops or book a free virtual skin consult for one-on-one support!

xo,

Emily + the entire #shopgoodgang

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