Maneesha on the IVF Journey and How it Changed her Skin
Maneesha talks about her fertility treatment journey and her IVF-safe skincare routine.
Below the Surface is an ongoing series featuring friends of Motif, who are on their path to greatness doing things they love. We sat down with our friend, Maneesha Mukhi – a content creator specializing in immigration and marketing. Maneesha lives in Greenwich, CT with her husband and is currently undergoing fertility treatments.
Who are you? Where are you from? And where are you going?
A lot of times when we think of who we are, people immediately jump to what they do for a living. I don't really identify with all those things, especially in this day and age, when what you do can be so many different things. It's not as traditional as it was when I worked nine to five in a corporate job. Today, I'm a creator, a news junkie, a dog mom and an aspiring mom. A friend, a wife, an explorer, so many things.
As for where I'm from - I am originally from India, but I was born in France and grew up in Belgium, Switzerland, South Korea, Ivory Coast, West Africa and India, and landed in the US for college. I have been here for half my life and now I’m a US citizen. So the question, where are you from is also multifaceted.
I took a little bit from every single country that I went to, and not to be cliche, but I do feel a little bit of a citizen of the world.
Where are you going?
That's actually a really good question. I first and foremost, identify as a content creator. I like to connect the dots for other people. And I think that is what my life has been about and will be about as far as impact and profession. And I hope I'm on my way to motherhood, because that's an experience I would like in life. And part of what led me to discover Motif, because I was looking for things that were safe to use during IVF and pregnancy-safe which is really hard to figure out.
What about motherhood do you aspire towards?
Up until I was 35 (I'm now 40), I wasn't even sure I wanted children. I'm not one of those people who since she was a little girl was like, Oh, I can't wait to be a mom, I never felt that. And some of it might have been out of fear of what type of mother I will be, but now that I'm older, I’m more comfortable in my skin. I feel like I started being drawn to the idea of being a mother when my friends and family started having kids and I started spending a lot of time with them. One thing I love is that, as you watch a child grow, you get to relive your childhood, and to see the world through their eyes, and they have such a nice way of looking at the world.
What has your IVF and fertility journey been like so far?
My husband and I started trying in spring 2021. I was in my late 30s so I decided to go to a fertility specialist and a lot of issues surfaced, for example, that I had endometriosis, which, in retrospect, is so obvious now when I think back to all the discreet symptoms I've had including GI issues, recurrent infections, cysts and random pelvic pain. It wasn't excruciating, and if it's not excruciating, you think it's normal to have pain here and there as a woman, but none of it was actually normal. For many people, their endometriosis diagnosis surfaces when they have issues with fertility, and that's what happened with me.
For anyone who doesn't know, IVF is really a journey. After doing all these tests to check your blood work, your uterus, checking if your fallopian tubes are open, etc. They inject hormones to stimulate your follicles to produce more than one egg a month. In a natural cycle, most women produce one egg a month so the goal is to try to get more. The simulation lasts 10 to 14 days and those hormones don't feel great and they wreak havoc on your skin, you can’t work out, and you start to feel like a lab rat. After the retrieval, they get eggs, and then you can go one of two ways. If you have, either a sperm donor or a partner, you fertilize those eggs and make embryos and prepare your body for the implantation. If you are just doing this for the future, you can just freeze your eggs. So I did three rounds of retrieval, which got me two genetically normal embryos. And then at age 40, my body was put in menopause to suppress the estrogen because endometriosis thrives on estrogen to give me the best shot of the embryo transfer being successful.
How have fertility treatments affected your skin?
So I've gone from having hormones swing from one way to another. Earlier last year, I kept changing the types of skincare I was using to address everything going wrong with my skin because I was dramatically fluctuating between feeling too dry or too oily. I never had dry skin before and now my skin was flaking and felt taut which was very unusual for me. My pores felt big and different. I felt there was a lot of swelling on my face. If I look at pictures of me last year, I can very clearly see that I look puffy.
In the middle of my IVF journey, in July of 2022, I started using the Abundance Cleanser and I found it’s given me consistency as my body and hormones have yo-yoed.
My skin actually feels supple and balanced and remained really even the rest of the year. I've gifted the Abundance Cleanser to some of my girlfriends and they've all said the same thing even though we all have very different skin types. It's pretty rare to find a product that can work for so many different people with so many different skin types.
What was your experience like when you were looking for IVF or pregnancy-safe products?
For people that get pregnant naturally after a few months of trying, you may not be as laser-focused on every little minute thing. But when you're spending so much time and money on IVF, it becomes a multi-year journey and you try to control as many variables as you can.
If you follow folks online who document their fertility journeys, especially those who have been at it for years, you'll see that they're meticulous about what they're eating, the products they're using, trying to go clean (which is such a buzzword).
For example, there was a serum that I loved that had CBD extract but there wasn’t enough information out there about whether it’s safe or not, so I cut it out. For a lot of people, this cutting out happens AFTER they get pregnant. You ask yourself - what do I need to cut out of my skincare? We know that you can't use Accutane and the extreme stuff, but we don't know a lot about the everyday stuff – what's safe or not safe. So that's what I struggled with a little bit. It’s also really hard when everything is labeled as clean. What does that mean? For example, I learned from Motif that natural fragrance containing essential oils can be irritating. Just because it is clean or natural, doesn’t mean it’s a good product. I think the only way to combat skincare misinformation is by brands providing facts and research in a digestible way, like evidence-backed skincare as you guys call it.
What do you look for from brands now?
I find myself more attracted these days to smaller brands that have founders or co-founders that are pretty vocal themselves online, who share information about what actually goes into products in a way that is not daunting. We're not chemists, we're not dermatologists but it’s nice to understand how and why a certain ingredient is included in a product. So I find I'm following a lot of founders who are authentic and are busting a lot of myths. I expect a brand to be honest and ethical about what it can and cannot do. Whether it's skincare or what you eat, I find that there's just so much misinformation out there (and even more with social media because everybody's an expert). There's so much fear-based marketing.
I also love niche skincare brands. And love to support those which are women- or other minority-owned.
For me, the perfect skincare brand is one where science meets nature and those are the brands I'm paying attention to when it comes to skincare, especially as someone going through IVF and trying to get pregnant.
What do you like most about the Motif Abundance Cleanser?
You never think of a cleanser as being luxurious or that important as long as it cleans your face. So that was a shift for me and this actually does feel luxurious. My favorite thing about it is the way my skin feels right after I've used it, because it is a very soft, supple, balanced feeling.
I will say that it has made my daily showers just more enjoyable. I love the texture and those couple of minutes that I leave it on. I don’t like a lot of fragrance in my skincare products but this has just a teeny tiny bit of a scent I’ve started to look forward to. And then there are those fibers that offer just a little gentle exfoliation. It's the perfect blend of something that kind of feels like a mask, but is also a cleanser. I have sensitive skin and I feel like I'm able to clean and exfoliate it without hurting it. I don't like scrubs. This is super gentle.
I’m careful about what products I use on my face and my skincare routine is very simple. And right now because of Motif, it's gotten even simpler. I use the Abundance Cleanser in the morning in the shower, and also at night before I go to bed. I don't even mask anymore because I get mask benefits from leaving this on. During the day I put on some Korean sunscreen and at night, I use a regular moisturizer depending on the season. That’s it. That's my skincare routine. There are a few things I do every day. And this has become one of those things. Like going to my favorite coffee shop in the morning and getting in the shower and using this as the last thing I do at night before I go to bed. I feel like I've done something for myself. Something that's just for me.