Roses For Thorns

Roses For Thorns: Cindy Alfino

I am not the skin I am in. I am my voice. My heart. My soul. My art; I am a canvas for possibility and the scars and tears do not define me.

To most people I’m known as Cindy Alfino, but to the three most demanding people in my life, I’m called Mom.

Between juggling three kids and all the taxiing, cuddling and disciplining involved in raising them alongside my husband, I also co-own my own insurance brokerage called Incompass Insurance Consultants and run a semi successful parenting blog called 3 Kids, 2 Dogs and 1 Old House.  We like to spend our time together exploring our home town of Cape Town and occasionally other parts of SA too.  When I’m not actively involved with any of those things you’ll probably find me hiding behind a good book, in front of a great series or stalking people on social media:
Instagram  | Facebook | Twitter

As you can imagine, our family life with three kids can be hectic on a good day.  It takes a lot of planning, plotting and good time keeping to keep our ship afloat everyday.  The problem is that despite my ability to nail that all at work, I’m totally shocking at this at home.  So very often you’ll find us running in late, with half the goodies organised but generally with a smile on our faces.

Our kids are Kyla, who just turned 8.  Riya-Ray who was a bit of a surprise baby that joined her sister just a year and two weeks later and has just turned 7.  Then there’s our little boy Knox who is 5.  It’s often a bit crazy but we would not have it any other way.

I think there are loads of little moments that have shaped my life, but there have been a few big ones…like my skin.

I’ve always had issues that I wanted to hide when I was a teenager but it was pretty standard, you know?  I looked like everyone else.  I was self conscious about it but not debilitatingly so.  Then I got pregnant with Kyla and my skin basically exploded.  My face was raw and red every day, it went mental.  I started using make up every single day and would not go out without it.  Then I had her and things sort of calmed down until 3 months later when I was pregnant again.  Wash, rinse repeat.  Exactly the same thing happened.  It was not fun.  Not at all.  The whole pregnancy glow other people get is not what I got, I literally glowed with my red face.

Then it calmed down enough but I still couldn’t go without make up.  I had this thing about my skin.  A couple of years later I was pregnant with Knox and it got out of control but not even delivering Knox stopped it.  It got worse.  So very bad.

I tried everything – Extended rounds of Antibiotics, which only sort of worked.  A homeopath that encouraged me to talk to my inner child – Needless to say that was a waste of money.  Then finally I did a round of Roaccutane.  Wow, it worked like a bomb.  I was getting so many comments on how amazing my skin was.  It was a euphoric feeling after hating it for so long.  But Roaccutane comes with it’s own side effects.  Everything was dry, my lips bled regularly and my eyes eventually got so dry that I’m sure I was going blind.  So I stopped.  And guess what happened?  It all came back again.  So a year later I went back on another course, which helped again but, after I stopped it all came back.

It’s a truly debilitating thing.  My kids look at it and notice it, other people notice it even under make up.  It’s another level of crazy. 

I hate the way I look.

It got to the point that I cried and got angry every single time I looked in the mirror.

It set my tone for the day and it made me a miserable and depressed woman.  Consistently.  I just couldn’t find the happy.  Even with my husband who loves me unconditionally I felt ugly and unattractive and that affected my desire to um, get jiggy with it.  I thought he’d be turned off and I didn’t want to face that rejection even though I was already putting it on myself all the time.
On the positive side
, since joining up with Skin Renewal and stopping eating dairy, sugar and grains things have started looking up and naturally now,  I don’t hate myself quite as much and I feel like I’m getting some of my self confidence back.  You still won’t catch me without make up, but at least the insides are starting to feel good again.

I know this affects my parenting quite badly as it has a direct impact on my mood.  If my skin is looking good, I’m in a great mood.  If it’s bad, it’s another story.

I wish people knew how cripplingly self conscious I am about it.

I wish they knew how any slightly negative comment will be taken and stored in my mind file to replay over and over when I’m having a real low.

I think my kids seeing me place that much of my life on something that is in the greater scheme of things so insignificant, is not great.  I’m inadvertently teaching them that it’s OK to put that much value in the way you look.  So it is something I try and curb when I am around them.  But they do know that until Mommy has her make up on she will not be seen by another person.  At all ever.  Even the pizza delivery man.

I am daily trying to show my kids that they shouldn’t be placing so much on their physical appearance.  We are so much more than that.

By opening up about my “thorns”, on my own blog a couple years ago, it made a big difference.  At first it was hard to bare my naked face to the world, but I needed to do it to get over myself.  And it worked.  It helped me to see that I am not the only one struggling, that I am not the only one with issues.  But also sharing is therapeutic in and of itself too.

I was keen to join this series because it’s carrying on with this, it’s showing other people who struggle that it is OK, despite what we look like.

For those in a similar situation…

Get help.  Even if you can’t fix your actual condition, then get some meds that may help you to feel better about it.  I haven’t had to go down that road yet, but I can tell you if the treatment from Skin Renewal ever stops working, that will be the first thing I do.

You are so much more than what you look like – you give so much of yourself in so many other ways, this is really the least important of everything.  Which I know even as I say it, is great to hear but will have very little effect on you if you are anything like me.  But sometimes we have to repeat these things to ourselves regularly and it will eventually settle in our brains.

My skin has become a defining feature for me. 

It’s how a lot of women identify with me through our blog which can often come across like a lot of nice things (if you haven’t been following along for a while).  No life is perfect.  Why should mine be?

The concept:

Cindy is very open about her skin, and in a world obsessed with beauty, the exhaustive efforts she makes every day to feel almost “worthy” are a battle that I know many women can relate to. The balance of feeling okay in oneself and trying to show our children that beauty is more than just our outward experience is ongoing – it’s hard to get it right when you’re getting flack from the media, and from those around you.

Our vision was to translate Cindy’s daily battle against herself, into a prison of mirrors, encircling her, inescapable; every day she pulls on a “face”, one that makes her feel comfortable, secure, sexy even. We wanted to have her painting these mirrors, drawing on her expressed need to make herself fit in. We loved the use of the veiling to cover her, to keep her locked away, and the stunning diadem that echoed the reflective quality of the mirrors. But, makeup or no makeup, she is a beautiful, inviting soul and we wanted to really help express her femininity, to portray this inner beauty. There may be days when she doesn’t feel sexy, but a face does not make you female and in a celebration of all that she is, we crowned her in a beautiful headpiece and had her embracing flowers and the nature of a woman.

This shoot wouldn’t have been possible without:

Styling and concept development: Tapestry

Dresses: Jacoba Clothing

Custom Crowns Headpieces and Bespoke Accessories: Magpie Calls

Vintage Mirrors & Props: My Pretty Vintage

Veiling & Flower crown: Epanouir Floral Studio

Hair and Makeup: Madeleine Hair and Makeup

Photos shot with Canon 5DIII & 24-70 f2.8 lens.

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  • Reply Kim Muller January 15, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Wow!!! Beautiful photography and Cindy is just the most amazing person. Wow!

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 15, 2018 at 6:30 am

      Thank you lovely! Isn’t Cindy just…WOW

  • Reply Maz January 15, 2018 at 6:24 am

    I actually cannot breathe… Cindy, you are beautiful. Shante, you are amazing… wow!

  • Reply Debs January 15, 2018 at 6:38 am

    This, is just breathtaking. Cindy, I hope you read this and know that all that lives inside of you, shone our through these pictures. Not just the beautiful make up and gorgeous dress, or even the magical flower crown, the love for you family and the struggles and the kindness and the hope, all those things are so visible in these pics. Well done Shante, gosh what a great shoot. xxx

  • Reply Carla M VD Westhuizen January 15, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Cindy is the most beautiful person that I cyber stalk! Her hair, her body and her face! Even when she isn’t wearing make up I think she is so so pretty! And as a person, and a mother, and a wife…. well I would love to be even half as awesome as she is 🙂 These pics are so incredible I just can’t choose my favourite!

  • Reply Kathryn January 15, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Such a beautiful concept and amazing pictures!! Well done to you all!

  • Reply Luchae Williams January 15, 2018 at 8:23 am


  • Reply Mandy Lee Miller January 15, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Oh Shanté. You captured this so beautifully. Well done to you and Our gorgeous Cindy for this xxx

  • Reply Tamsyn January 15, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Absolutely stunning Cindy, you look beautiful with and without make up. I can relate completely I have not gone a day facing public without base on since I was around 13. I too will not even take a delivery until I’m made up with my mask and I totally relate to feeling good when it looks good and bad and Moody when it doesn’t. Well done kn being transparent about it all and inspiring others like me x

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 15, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your thorns Tamsyn – I believe it can be quite liberating to realize we are not alone in our darkness

  • Reply Belinda Mountain January 15, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Sublime! Amazing effort you powerful and talented woman/women!

  • Reply Juwayra January 15, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Powerful message. Awesome photographs of the beautiful Cindy. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

  • Reply Simone Cameron January 15, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Wow…wow…wow! These pictures are EVERYTHING! I felt as if I was right there…this haunting sort of forest movie playing out.

    Great article Shante and Cindy! I had the same issues with skin during my last pregnancy, but I’m realising it’s not as bad. My ‘thing’ though, would be my weight. It’s always made me feel as if it defines me and what people think of me….well they think nothing besides: Wow she’s fat. It has limited me from accepting social invitations, from wearing nice clothes. Always frumpy, hiding. Also I was a success story a few years ago and lost a lot of weight…all regained now. In 2017 I definitely tried to get rid of the shackles I had put on myself.

    I’m not happy with my weight, but it doesn;t mean I’m not worthy of being a person and that I have to stop existing until I one day lose the weight…AGAIN….

    Such a great article. It’s amazing whenever I see Cindy’s pictures I think, what a stunning woman…that hair! Those cute kids! It was only when she opened up about her skin I realised…wow…we all have our demons I guess.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Thank you so much Simone for the compliments and for sharing your thorns!

  • Reply Jackie Katzen January 15, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Cindy radiates beauty from her soul

  • Reply Ella January 15, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Wow ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Cisca January 15, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Amazingly beautiful and I have absolutely no words as to how you captured this. I’m speechless at the beauty of it.

  • Reply Natasha January 15, 2018 at 10:33 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVE my friend!!! So important in today’s world for Woman to realise that there is no Perfect!!!
    And Cindy well you are BEAUTIFUL!!!!

    Cant wait to see more…….

  • Reply Melissa Javan January 15, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Interesting post – Cindy, thank you for sharing. Good work Shante.

  • Reply Mariska Goussard January 15, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Your incredible pictures took my breath away! Like literally! I immediately switched to my laptop as these pictures are way too gorgeous to look at on a tiny mobile device. You are an incredibly, insanely talented photographer and Cindy is the most gorgeous model! I am still speechless! Cannot wait for for the rest of the series.

  • Reply Shaney Vijendranath January 16, 2018 at 10:36 am

    This shoot is stunning! WOW and Cindy – you are GORGEOUS!

  • Reply Megan January 16, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Cindy you are so beautiful and helping so many other women by openly sharing your story. Shante, everything about this is just exquisite!

  • Reply Leanie January 17, 2018 at 7:51 am

    WOW Cindy you are looking gorgeous here! I have to admit the photographer really knows her stuff!

  • Reply Celeste January 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you for this series. It’s very inspiring.

    Cindy you are gorgeous!

  • Reply Steph June 28, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I loved this article about Cindy, I read her blog every now and then, so I went to her article first. I suffer from Alopecia, and whilst my personnal journey is about accepting – as there is no known cure – it definitely resonated with me about how I am trying to teach my children to not be body conscious, and to accept difference..

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