NAME: Amanda Megrya
OCCUPATION: Accountant and beauty/skincare influencer @glowbyamgy
More than a decade of struggling with severe acne and a crushed self-image led Amanda Megrya, known to her Instagram followers as Glowbyamgy, to redefining her relationship with her skin and educate herself on skincare. Here, she shares her story – and the ingredients that she can't live without.
Tell us about your acne journey!
– My first skin memory is my first day in 6th grade. I had gotten so much acne over the summer holidays and didn't want to go back to school looking like that. My mom bought a Benzoyl Peroxide wash and a spot treatment. After that I tried literally everything that was available in Sweden at the time. For many years I was desperate to find the best cure for my acne. I spent thousands of kronor until I was finally helped by a dermatologist. But the joy didn't last long as the acne found its way back in no time. Somewhere along the way I met a friend who worked in the beauty industry and is a skin care guru. She made me feel like I was still a person behind the acne, which many people can forget (especially those who look at your acne with a disgusted look), while extending a helping hand. She is very "you do you - live for you, honor yourself, but stay humble", which has rubbed off on me in all aspects of my life. Not only was she understanding and comforting, but she also helped me make smarter decisions by educating me about how skin works. She explained how the acne products (think drying alcohols, etc.) I was using destroyed my barrier, leading to more acne. She introduced me to the right products and ingredients like AHAs, BHAs and vitamin C, and helped me feel comfortable in my own skin. I realised that acne is treatable, but cannot be cured for good. It's all about understanding your skin and learning how to manage breakouts.
How did your skincare obsession begin?
– I spent an entire summer researching skin care and a whole new world opened up to me. I'm originally from Egypt and realised that ancient Egyptians used SO MANY of today's trendy ingredients to prevent wrinkles and keep their skin healthy and glow-y. Obsessed with beauty, they indulged in high-quality makeup and skin care. Many of our beauty rituals come from ancient Egypt and who wouldn't want to look like beautiful Cleopatra? Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with oils, using olive, almond, moringa, castor and sesame oils to keep their skin healthy and youthful. These oils were also popular for hair care; they mixed them with coconut milk and shea butter to soften and strengthen hair! They cleansed their skin with a mixture made of clay and olive oil and used milk, baking soda and honey to make masks. Queen Cleopatra bathed in milk (usually donkey's milk, it's becoming really popular in the beauty world these days!) to exfoliate (hello lactic acid!) and used salt from the Dead Sea to soften her body. They also used aloe vera for EVERYTHING.
How has acne affected you?
– I’ve suffered from acne for 15 years, which has shattered my self-confidence. It has contributed to major issues with my self-esteem throughout my life and been a constant struggle. My skin has made me hate myself several times to the point where I literally thought I was too ugly to live. I was afraid to look into other people's eyes, thinking how my acne must disgust them. The more aggressive my acne became, the more withdrawn I became. I turned down job offers, stopped going to school and lost the will to do anything. My life became really dark, and I lost my personality and myself. That happy person everyone was used to was no longer there. All that joy was replaced with severe anxiety that I still struggle with today. I was never the type of person who cared about wearing makeup – I'm not a morning person and my sleep was more important to me. But it got to the point where I could barely leave the house anymore, let alone without makeup. Full coverage foundation became my only weapon, but within an hour I would feel the panic: "I'm clogging my pores and making it worse". I wiped everything off on the bus, which irritated my skin even more. So with red and irritated skin, I turned around and went home.
Does your history with acne affect your self-image today?
– Yes, although thanks to my Instagram account I’ve overcome the fear of showing my skin when I have pimples, I can still find it stressful and mentally taxing. Depending on who I'm meeting, I still feel a discomfort throughout my body when I talk to some. I can't stop thinking that the person only sees the acne, do they even see the person behind the acne? Are they disgusted by my complexion? Then I remind myself that acne always goes away with the right treatments and a little patience. But I'm definitely more withdrawn and quiet if my skin is messing up. I feel exposed and a little afraid of some people who I know are judgmental. However, it’s not surprising that I feel this way considering that I’ve always received comments about my complexion. Friends who’ve told me that they are grateful they don't have my skin problems, that they would have died if they had my skin, friends who think I should wash my face more often, and so on… Those comments will stay with me for the rest of my life.
When and how do you use Cloud Patch?
– When I have a pus-filled pimple, I usually slap on a cloud right after cleansing in the morning and then I change, if necessary, after my evening cleanse. They work so well under makeup, and are great to wear at work. No one rarely notices – apart from the physio who massages away my tension headaches!
Do you have any skincare no-no’s
– Sleeping with make-up, drying cleansers (especially if you have oily skin!) and over-exfoliation. You can always have too much of a good thing and then it can take 6-12 months to repair the skin!
What are your top 3 beauty hacks?
– Apart from sun protection, which is a no-brainer (any other skin care is a waste of money if you don't protect the skin), the following are my best beauty hacks for my skin type:
MAINTAIN THE BARRIER
Your skin barrier is the most important thing you have. It keeps bacteria out and keeps moisture in. A disrupted barrier can lead to surface dryness, acne, redness and itchy skin. The most important thing for me on my skin care journey was neither retinol or acids –although they’ve played key roles – but barrier strengthening and moisturising ingredients. A healthy, strong barrier can more easily keep bacteria away and that way reduce the risk of new outbreaks. Look for ingredients such as ceramides (and other lipids), niacinamide, squalane, glycerin, peptides, urea, linoleic acid (and other essential fatty acids), lauric acid, and centella asiatica.
Azelaic acid is the skin's best friend and acne's worst enemy. The ingredient can be bought over the counter in several different products or prescribed by a doctor depending on the concentration (Finacea/Skinoren). Azelaic acid works on acne partly by inhibiting the growth of the acne bacterium p.acnes and by having an anti-inflammatory effect. Long-term use of azelaic acid usually results in a reduction of comedones, papules and pustules. It is much gentler on the skin than other ingredients and can therefore be used on a daily basis. It also promotes a more even skin tone. I don't go anywhere without azelaic acid, I've been using it daily for almost 4 years and it doesn't matter how tired or sick I am – I always dab some azelaic acid on before going to bed every night.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), meaning it’s a fat-soluble acid and therefore penetrates deeper into the pores, unlike AHA, which is water-soluble and works more on the surface of the skin. The BHA is like a vacuum cleaner for your pores! The acid gets into the pores and dissolves any dead skin cells and sebum. Acne-prone skin usually doesn't get rid of dead skin cells in the pores as quickly as "normal skin", instead they stay and fester until they clog the pores. This, in combination with acne bacteria and increased sebum production, leads to acne breakouts. Salicylic acid also reduces sebum production and has antibacterial properties. By slowing sebum production and exfoliating away dead skin cells, BHA prevents new acne from forming!
For more skincare tips, follow Amanda on @glowbyamgy