The Pores They Are a-Changin’

Posted on July 13, 2011


aka, Lifesaver.

Moving abroad makes your body go whack.

Of course there’s the obvious stuff the Travel Nurse warns you of: bacteria in the water, don’t eat the lettuce, yada yada.  Sure enough, upon arriving to El Salvador I ate something iffy (everything’s iffy) and got sick.  Went to the hospital.  Came back.  Had bouts of not being able to … you know… carry out my business as usual.  Got sick again.  Lost 10 pounds.

But the changes caused by big moves go beyond the typical (and to-be-expected) “Moctezuma’s Revenge” scenarios. Broad themes related to overall environment come into play. Take El Salvador’s context compared to Minnesota.  The air is dirtier.  Wayyy dirtier, and your lungs don’t know how to deal with the pollution.  Typical food possesses copious amounts of oil, and your liver doesn’t know how to process all the grease (do livers process grease?).  The hotter sun makes your shoulders burn.  The day starts and ends at a different time, and your sleep schedule changes.  The air is humid, and your sinuses, hair follicles, and skin don’t know what to do.  Etc.

Give it a few months, and your body mostly settles down.  You adapt.  Your stomach becomes accustomed to the distinct flora of its new environment, and you no longer get sick.  Your digestion adjusts to dietary tendencies and becomes more regular.  Responding to smoke and car exhaust, your nose generates more mucous.  You develop a tan and aren’t quite as sensitive to the sun.  You body clock sets itself to the rhythm of your new time zone.

If your body adapts, it should follow that your traditional beauty and hygiene routines do as well.  For example, with shampooing.  In those long Minnesota winters, I was leery harsh, strong shampoos for fear of frizz. Often I’d wash my hair only every-other day, and when I did, I’d employ palmfuls of conditioner to keep my hair from standing on end or electrocuting passers-by.  Here in El Salvador, my hair can handle “clarifying” (read: killer!) shampoos, and conditioner is often irrelevant — my locks are moistened simply from the humid air.

Since I modified my shampooing regimen, why did I not *DUH* think to tweak my skin care?  This Swedish skin does not know how to handle all El Salvador’s moisture!  It was intended for dry Viking winters, not lush tropical rainforests. Apparently my skin thinks the acceptable adaptation technique for this phenomenon is to produce bucketloads of grease.  Yuck.  Lately I’ve been finding myself having to rinse my face — with handsoap! — every time I go to the restroom.  Which doesn’t exactly bode well for wearing makeup.  But there is nothing worse than going into a meeting with a sleek forehead.  For the time we’ve lived here, I’ve been at a desperate loss for how to handle my overzealous pores.

That is, until Juan brought home Neutrogena’s facial cleansing bar"" .

It’s exactly the kind of product I would shy away from in the U.S.  That strong, astringent soap?  No way!  Formerly, that would have just dried out my face til it peeled, cracked, and fell right off.  But here in El Salvador, it’s worked wonders.  I’ve been able to wash my face in the morning and make it through nearly the whole day without feeling a film of oil over my skin!  I sing its praises.

So for those of you also living abroad, give it a whirl.  And for the rest, it’ll make a great travel companion.  =)  Happy cleansing!