I’m no backpacker. The concept of making one outfit work for three days or going without hair conditioner is unfathomable to me, which is why I end up taking the largest Samsonite I have everywhere I go. I’m just one of those people who are five seconds away from appearing on Hoarders. Maybe it’s insecurity, but I just have to pack everything I might need on top of the daily essentials.

Just for context: my makeup bag weights 7kg, and my toiletries bag 12kg.

And I’ve been travelling a bit this year, which means that even though I hate packing, I was kinda getting good at it. I used to stand around pondering: do I need a backup body lotion? What about my serum that isn’t that hydrating but smells so pretty it makes me happy? I might need it if the food sucks… Yeah and that would go on and on in circles. But now I’m just like chuck chuck chuck regular-routine-extra-sunscreen-shampoo-conditioner and I’m done.

So it could be complacency that led to my great skincare bust in Melbourne. Last week, I spent about 7 days in hipster city with my family and it was beautiful, great bonding time, et cetera, but for my skin, it was just hell.
To be fair, my skin hasn’t been in the best state for weeks. First, after weeks of daily acid heaven, my skin finally threw in the towel overnight and retaliated with raw, bumpy skin. It was overexfoliated, painful, and hypersensitive, and I got so desperate I slathered Cerave cream moisturiser all over my face. Without. Patch. Testing. To my surprise, it worked and I was raving about Cerave (early thoughts only of course) to friends. My skin calmed down, regained some of the softness, and I was back on track again. At that point I have been off AHAs and BHAs for about two weeks. I’m still not back on them.

Then the haze came. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s due to the slash-and-burn thing Indonesian farmers do to clear plantations and farms quickly and cheaply, and we get that residual haze this time of the year, every year.

I have super sensitive skin that reacts insanely to environmental elements, and within days I had hive-like bumps all over my face. They were itchy, slightly raised, and very red. They also come and go, and I just avoid mirrors till they’re gone. What’s the alternative? Wearing a fish tank on my head?

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Even in overexposed iPhone front camera pixel view, my skin still looked rough and dry. I may be smiling but both my skin and confidence were really hurting. I had people telling me I looked fine, normal, and if my face weren’t burning, I would be really flattered. Years of practice with my best friend – the concealer – have paid off!

So back to Melbourne. Since Cerave was working okay for me, I decanted mini pots of it to bring along. One was for the flight, because I hate how bad my skin gets after a flight, so I armed myself with a sheet mask and Cerave for the eight hours. In my head I was feeling really smug. I’m super well prepared this time, mwahaha. No flight shall make me ugly.

Then twenty minutes before boarding, I was like HELL NO. The hivey stuff was back, and I looked like I had been attacked by an ant colony. It was bad, I got sad, but I tried to comfort myself with my mask. It’ll be gone the next day! Koala bears! Happy thoughts!

And it did go away. However, on the second day of the trip, boy, it came back with a vengeance and didn’t disappear this time. I was peeling, itchy, with eczema patches all over my face. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was possibly one of the Worst Skin MomentsTM in my life. I wanted to smash every mirror I saw (and there were five mirrors in our apartment.) I also resembled a snake more than a human. When I washed my face, it hurt, and there was not a single spot on my face that didn’t feel like sandpaper.

WHERE I WENT WRONG

The worst part was, I thought I had finally graduated to jetsetting experienced packer but the reality was that I was still seated firmly in the noob section. Cerave didn’t help at all – it wasn’t moisturising enough for the extremely dry weather and made the itchy bits sting and itch even more. It was also the only moisturiser I brought (mistake #1).

I didn’t bring an oil cleanser, because I had a travel size bottle of Koh Gen Do micellar water that was so convenient to lug around (mistake #2).

I skipped on serums as my Mizon Snail Ampoule had ran out, and I was lazy to try out the new products while travelling (mistake #3).

It was possibly the worst combination ever. Not one of the steps were nourishing or going gentle on my ravaged skin. I had large skin flakes peeling off my cheeks, my nose, and my chin. We were travelling on the Great Ocean Road, and the crazy gale chapped my skin even further.

Out of desperation, I grabbed moisturisers from drugstores we went into. I tried a Natio moisturiser and an Aveeno day lotion – neither stung, but nor did they help my poor skin (by this point, it was screaming bloody murder.) I even tried pure Vitamin E oil, to hopefully get some repair action going ASAP. It got to a point where I wasn’t even patching testing. I was just slathering things on and praying that they don’t explode my face in pustules.

Nothing worked. I carried on, puffing makeup on to hide red, flaky skin, crying on the inside as I did. I don’t think my skin has ever been so bad before.

Then I stumbled upon this placenta cream (in the Sovereign Hill gold museum, of all places). It was AU$12. I just wanted my face to not hurt anymore, so I gave it a whirl the same night.

Lo and behold, my skin wasn’t blotchy or peeling or hurting the next morning. IT WAS A MIRACLE. By the time I flew back to Singapore, my face wasn’t hurting anymore. I’m still using it, though it smells kind of weird. Maybe because it has pictures of sheep on the box.

Anyways, after the painfully longwinded post, the moral of the story is… when it comes to travel, there is no such thing as over-packing. You never know when your skin will suddenly freak out. I packed lots of shit, but I had underestimated the dryness of a foreign country after being in our humid climate for so long. In short, I wasn’t careful enough and now my skin is unfortunately paying the price for it.

Oh well. You live and learn, right? While I’m waiting for my skin to recover, I’ll be posting up some of the backlogged reviews that took a backseat when life happened. Watch this space!

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