Me, My Hormones and Journey to Ethical Skincare
“It wasn’t until I began to experience skin changes during menopause that I realised how important my skin was to me. I began to understand that it was a window into my wellbeing; when it was healthy and glowing, so too was my soul.”
“It wasn’t until I began to experience skin changes during menopause that I realised how important my skin was to me. I began to understand that it was a window into my wellbeing. When it was healthy and glowing, so too was my soul.”
Hello, I’m Franchine. I’m so pleased you’re here discovering more about Wonder Balm and our supporting products.
First of all, if you are suffering from skin problems just now, I want to give you some reassurance. There is help and hope.
I never imagined in a million years a severe and what seemed like incurable menopausal rash on the lower half of my face would lead me to develop my own ethical skin care brand.
When I started experiencing hormonal imbalances, I initially worried something more sinister was going on. By the time I reached 50 and due to the ever-growing list of symptoms, I was convinced I was dealing with an undiagnosed, underlying health condition.
Looking back on it, I didn’t have enough knowledge about menopause nor a support system to realise what was happening was manageable and supposedly ‘perfectly normal.’
Instead, I suffered years of physical and emotional upheaval.
Menopause is something I believe needs to be talked about a lot more. It impacts on women’s lives in a much greater and unsettling way than is given credit for.
Two things happened that changed the course of my life and well-being.
First of all, a nasty and persistent rash developed suddenly across the lower half of my face. Then I found a Gynaecologist who recognised and accurately diagnosed my symptoms.
Thanks to my skin, I was on a path towards a whole new way of thinking, living and being.
Skincare Growing Up
When we were little, my sister and I grew up watching our mum maintain a very simple daily skincare routine.
She had just two products; a cleanser and a moisturiser and that was it.
Our mum was a great role model for a no-fuss, simplistic approach to skin care. It’s something I’ve now passed on to my own two daughters.
As I grew older, I experimented a lot with skin care products trying to find exactly the right regime. I naturally gravitated towards ethical skincare and more natural products. The fewer chemicals and artificial additives, the better.
Mostly though, I never really gave my skin too much thought. It was good to me; normal and could easily take a light layering of daily make-up. Until one day, it wasn’t.
The Facial Rash
One of the symptoms of the hormonal changes I was experiencing really bothered me. An aggressive, scaly, red and hot rash had erupted on my face overnight.
It spread from the base of my nose, all around my mouth, over my lower face and down to my chin. No matter what I tried to treat it with, it would not go away.
I went to all the experts. I was prescribed treatments. Nothing worked. Not even makeup. Although the rash came from nowhere, other symptoms had been escalating for months at an alarming rate.
My body had been enduring so much and was at a tipping point. My skin made that message, loud and clear.
It transpired, I began to experience perimenopause in my 40s but at the time, I had no idea what that was. Looking back, I describe it as PMT multiplied by a hundred. By the time I reached 50, my body and well-being felt completely under siege due to hormonal imbalances.
Periods would last up to ten weeks. But it was the health anxiety and emotional lows that were the most challenging.
It became so overwhelming, I applied for extended sick leave from work. While at home, I entered into a phase of very low productivity as the menopause triggered a relapse of chronic fatigue syndrome. I had no energy.
Eventually, I was referred by my GP to a Gynaecologist. During the session I talked about symptoms that started as far back as seven years that seemed unconnected to hormones. I braced myself for bad news.
“You’re not experiencing anything I haven’t already seen many times before. I know what is happening to you. There is no over-the-counter cure. Everything you are describing is absolutely normal. Welcome to menopause,” she said.
Relief was my initial feeling. At last, it started to make sense. Someone was telling me these physical and emotional problems were not at all abnormal.
My thoughts quickly turned towards a holistic path back to better physical and mental health to assist my body through this transition.
Hormones and stress
When my periods stopped it was the end of a life phase that had required so much of my energy. I had raised children, studied and created a career.
My job was demanding as I had carved a career in the voluntary sector supporting people with disabilities.
My children were leaving home to marry and start their own families and appreciated an extra pair of hands.
My parents were entering a life phase that meant frequent trips to doctors and hospital appointments.
Life wasn’t moving into an easier phase; it was dialling up and I needed to be 100%.
There was no space to sit back and take care of me.
I was initially prescribed bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the short-term to give my body respite from the severe symptoms I had been experiencing.
Then I turned to a Nutritionist with the aim of taking a holistic approach to menopause by addressing diet, lifestyle and other issues that needed attention.
I joined a ‘life saving’ female on-line forum which proved invaluable in being able to access a pool of women with similar support needs and health concerns.
All were at different stages and ages but had a vast knowledge of hormonal imbalance symptoms and treatments they had tried that had either worked well or hadn’t.
There was always someone who knew exactly what I was going through and on hand to share their experiences and offer guidance and suggestions.
I realised my lifestyle needed a complete overhaul if I wanted better outcomes for myself.
I had always gravitated towards nature and ethical skincare products but increasingly, during the peak of symptoms, I felt an urge to simplify life as much as I could.
This thinking extended to my food, lifestyle and skincare routine and this is where we return to that angry facial rash.
Hormones and skin
No matter what I tried, the rash just would not go away. It remained the same or became more irritated. It had a terrible effect on my mood and morale.
I was prescribed typical medication but it persisted. I was advised by my GP and pharmacist it resembled adult hormonal rosacea and was quite common in women of my age experiencing hormonal highs and lows.
I soon learned that hormonal imbalances, stress, anxiety and hot flushes were all contributors in triggering this condition.
It was too angry and prominent to hide with makeup.
It got me thinking. I had dabbled in creating my own skincare creams when I was younger, particularly during pregnancy when I was very interested in ‘clean’ products.
I had also trained as a reflexologist. Perhaps I could make better than I could buy or had been prescribed?
Already empowered with a strong knowledge of essential oils and plants, I began to research more deeply.
I chose a range of organic essential oils, known for their skin healing benefits, as well as solid ingredients that for centuries had been used to treat and heal the skin in many different cultures.
In a matter of months, I tried many combinations before finding the perfect mix for my skin. Within weeks the rash on my face completely cleared up.
In the same amount of time, people began complimenting me on my appearance. Family and friends started asking for balm samples and through word of mouth, it wasn’t long before I started taking orders.
It got me thinking. This is a Wonder Balm for my skin but it’s having positive outcomes for other people as well.
Balm awareness and interest gathered momentum. Out of the blue, I received an email offering guidance and support to women with new business ideas from Women in Business NI.
What if my Wonder Balm could become something positive for those beyond my social and family circles?
What if I could reach women of all ages experiencing similar hormonal skin issues?
What if I could access many more people than my own social circles that cared about single-use plastic or ludicrous, elaborate skincare regimens?
I applied for the support. The rest is history.
Skin and mindset
For me, truly caring for my skin started when I changed my mindset.
The rash on my face was a horrendous physical symptom of menopause. However, it forced me to realise that self-care is not in a beauty jar.
It’s in all the little choices made every day to ensure I am being kind to myself including limiting my exposure to concoctions of chemicals.
Until that point, my skincare was mostly about a desire to hold back time. It was my symptoms that drove me to look closer at the damage most of these off-the-shelf products were causing.
Now I know my skin radiates good health.
I don’t need to conceal anything with a layer of make-up. My skin glows because I care for it by choosing not to smother it in moisturisers or cleansers that are filled with harmful chemicals that can so easily upset the delicate balance of hormones.
I understand now that self-care is about making informed choices that nourish. All of our suppliers of raw ingredients are certified organic but I also sought out those with values aligned to mine. Those that strive for equality; a cleaner planet and a circular economy.
This journey has taken me across the globe to source the very best organic essential oils and other ingredients known for their skin healing qualities.
As a result, I am responsible for creating my very own skincare brand which I’m now sharing with the world.