Even the most level-headed parents can fall prey to the Comparison Monster. It pricks at you when you see someone else who seems to have it all together, smiling brightly with kids in tow, clothes pristine and smoothie (homemade, obviously) clutched in hand. Suddenly, you feel incredibly inadequate.
For Ashley Tisdale, the Comparison Monster arrived full force in the form of a social media spiral, right after she gave birth to her daughter Jupiter last March. “Instagram shows the best highlights of everybody's life and there's all these amazing models who had babies this year, who were able to just look exactly the same way as before they had their baby,” she tells Romper. “And that was just not my journey.”
Since the start of her pregnancy, the High School Musical alum, who has become a mental-health advocate, has been disarmingly honest about the less-than-picture-perfect parts of new motherhood, from grappling with body changes (“I haven’t gotten the whole warm and fuzzy feeling about my pregnant body being beautiful,” she admits) to coping with diastasis recti, a condition that can occur after pregnancy when the abdominal muscles separate.
I half expect her to sound tired or defeated during our interview to discuss her new partnership with Bio-Oil, but Tisdale is as sunny as her Cali-blonde highlights, her voice a cheerful lilt. “Everything about being a mom is surprising,” she says with a laugh. “The challenge is just finding your feet in it. [Jupiter] is just the best thing ever, so it's so much fun.”
Tisdale’s remedy for keeping the Comparison Monster at bay is simple, at least in theory: a Venti-sized dose of patience. (That, and deleting Instagram whenever you need to.) “I didn't like what I was communicating to my body [right after pregnancy],” she says. “I think I was communicating that it wasn’t good enough, when it just went through this amazing thing, and was able to bring this beautiful baby into the world. It really made me think: why am I being hard on myself?”
Ahead, Tisdale shares her post-pregnancy beauty staples, favorite workouts, and why a bath bomb can soothe the soul.
How did Bio-Oil first become a part of your pregnancy beauty routine?
I actually learned about it from a friend who had just had a baby. I'm all about skin care, and then when you get pregnant, your body's fast-growing and rapidly changing. I wanted to use something to help correct stretch marks and reduce the appearance of them. I fell in love with it after my friend introduced me. It smells so, so good. It’s just really amazing on the skin and it's become such a huge part of my life — even after being pregnant, I still use it.
You can use it in different areas as well. I’ve been using it in my hair, because I've had such dry postpartum hair. From the hormone changes, I also got keratosis pilaris, which are little bumps on my arms and legs. The Bio-Oil has been so, so helpful with that too.
How has your beauty routine changed since you gave birth to your daughter?
I think the biggest changes came before I was pregnant, so I don't want to say it's because of having a baby. When I started my blog Frenshe, which is about my journey through mental health and non-toxic living, I started getting on the train of clean beauty.
I feel like the biggest change is that I really do make an effort to take care of my body. It's something that, at the end of the day, makes me feel good. I like to do these little rituals in my home. I have a sauna here, so I just am able to do that, and I like to go swimming. And even lighting a candle and opening a window changes the energy in the room. It just makes me feel so much better.
What part of parenthood has surprised you the most?
My husband and I have been married for seven years, and now there’s a new little person, so we're just trying to find the balance between each other and taking care of this little beautiful baby. It's obviously challenging in ways, finding your balance. But it's also the best challenge.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since you’ve become a parent?
I had to learn to be patient. Even my daughter teaches me this. I feel like when something is coming into your life, multiple times, in multiple areas, it means that you need to work on it. And patience is one of those things. There was a little bit of pressure, thinking I had to immediately get back into my old-size jeans. We were in a pandemic for months before I got pregnant, so I was already wearing sweats for a long time and not leaving the house. I was just excited at the thought of wearing my old clothes again after having the baby! But I haven’t been able to wear them all year.
I love to work out — I love doing Pilates, and yoga, and Peloton, and hikes, because I love feeling strong. But then I have to give my body patience, because it's just been through so much.
You recently shared that you experienced diastasis recti during your pregnancy. What was that like for you and how has your healing process been?
It’s something that a lot of people don't even know they have. It's not something that the doctors really look for at your six week checkup. I only found out because a chiropractor who was working on my back said let's just check to see if you have this. If you find out about it early, you can actually do something to help heal it, versus people who go back to working out and don't know, which can actually make it worse. And so I just felt like it was important to share that.
Pilates has been so helpful. It's just working the pelvic floor, and all of those things that you just would normally not focus on at a typical workout. So I am a huge believer in that. And then I just love yoga because, mentally, it helps me. Right now, just because of everything, I've been doing workouts at home. I'll do mat Pilates and yoga over Zoom three times a week. I like to go walking, or hikes. I love going out in nature.
Are there any new products, beauty and otherwise, that you've discovered during your pregnancy that you now can't live without?
I love Olaplex’s Bond Intense Moisture Mask as a deep conditioner for my hair. These days, I could care less about blowing out my hair when I’m at home, so I just throw on a mask and slick back my hair. It looks chic still, but it's also really hydrating and good for your hair. I'm also a huge fan of the haircare brand Virtue. I'm also really into bath bombs, and have recently gotten into magnesium bath salts. Whenever I’m worn down and I'm feeling kind of like, oh, it's been a little bit of a day, I'll do a nice soak in a bath. My body just went through something so amazing and I'm really proud of it. I think we have to start treating our bodies like how we would treat our best friends. We need to start giving more self-love.