In light of my recent post, Woman's Skin, a few readers have requested that I share some of my beauty secrets. I am more than happy to do that, especially since it seems that people are interested. In fact, I love sharing the knowledge I have acquired over my years in the beauty industry. I am just wary of appearing a little materialistic - not that I have a problem with beauty blogs at all, I read them all the time myself - but I just like to use my blog to delve a little deeper than sharing my favourite beauty products, on the whole. So just be aware that I am saying all of this in response to people who have expressed interest in my beauty knowledge, not because I want to pressure people to buy things they don't want or need, or to promote a narrow or restrictive ideal of beauty, because that is not what I am about at all!
With that aside, I love cosmetics. I think they are so much fun, and they are a way of exploring our identities and nurturing ourselves in a playful way. I have a simply enormous beauty collection. Some products I have been given, some I bought for myself. Although I do work for a beauty company (I cannot divulge which, on here at least!), please trust that I am not biased towards any one brand. Obviously, some brands I have worked with more than others as a result of where I work and this advice will somewhat reflect that, but every one of the products I am recommending here are absolutely loved by my clients, my friends, my family and myself!
This will be a 7(!)-part series: skincare (regime), skincare (products), makeup (complexion), makeup (colour), haircare, bodycare and other. I hope you enjoy!
Rather than skipping straight to products, I thought that I would provide a little summary on how to go about assembling your own skincare regime. There is so much contradiction and misinformation out there that it can all get incredibly confusing. So I would like to provide a short, simple explanation as a way of introduction.
1. First things first: you have to figure out what your skin type is. Skin type is something that your skincare products, no matter how good they are, cannot change, and refers to the oil levels in your skin. So, for example, if you are oily, your skincare will not make you less oily, although ideally it will help you to appear less oily - because your oil production is dictated by your hormones.
The four basic skin types are as follows, and are quite simple to discern:
Dry: Dry skin all over. (Usually reserved for elderly women.)
Dry-Combination: Dry cheeks, oily T-zone.
Oily-Combination: Oily T-zone, normal cheeks.
Oily: Oily all over.
Please note: If you have dryness AND oiliness (even in the slightest) on your T-zone, then you are still oily. The fact that you have oil coming through means that you are dehydrated (which means that your skin lacks water), not dry (where your skin lacks oil) - and these conditions have different remedies. (Have you ever told the lady at the counter that you were feeling dry, so she gave you a thick cream, which made you break out? Don't let that happen again!)
2. Next, you have to identify your skin conditions. These are things that your skincare can fix or improve - hurrah!
Skin conditions are as follows:
Dehydration: As I said before, this is often confused with dryness. Dehydration is characterised by flaking and crepiness, especially on the forehead and around the nose. If you are dehydrated, you need to look for products that contain water-binding properties like hyaluronic acid (also known as sodium hyaluronate), which is like a big glass of water for your skin. Also, drinking lots of water is wonderful but it won't do anything for the uppermost layers of your skin, as there is no blood flow. That is why it is so important to use hydrating products that will treat and replenish the water levels in your skin!
Uneven pigmentation: Over-exposure to environmental aggressors like the sun, pollution, smoking and alcohol can cause free radical damage to our skin cells, which, in turn, leads to sporadic melanin production. This surfaces in the form of sunspots and uneven skintone, especially as we get older. A lot of women also experience uneven pigmentation as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy. The most effective ingredients to look for are retinol (pure, active Vitamin A) and Vitamin C, which help to disperse clumps of melanin for a more uniform skintone. If you would like to prevent uneven pigmentation, then you should also look for ingredients that inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that stimulates melanin production, such as arbutin (also known as bearberry extract), kojic acid, licorice extract and uva ursi extract. But most importantly - wear a broad-spectrum, SPF30+ sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY, and sunglasses as well - when your retinas are exposed to UV rays, your skin cells assume that they are also being exposed and start producing melanin in their own defence.
Dullness: Free radical damage can also cause the skin cells to be produced and layered unevenly, which means that the light does not bounce off them in a way that gives your skin that beautiful, healthy glow. The best way to remedy dullness is to use products full of antioxidants, and exfoliate regularly. There are also, of course, many makeup tricks you can use to add radiance to your skin, which I will explain later.
Redness: Redness seems to be an issue that plagues a lot of women, yet they have no idea what to do about it. Don't despair! There are plenty of products on the market that are designed to soothe and calm easily irritated, sensitive skin. If you are chronically red, and have visible capillaries on your cheeks, then perhaps think about seeing a dermatologist - you may have rosacea.
Lines and Wrinkles: Aging is inevitable, but so many people are surprised by the difference a hydrating serum and/or cream can make! Superficial lines can be plumped and softened with the use of hyaluronic acids and rich (non-greasy) oils. Products with high concentrations of retinol and Vitamin C can also repair and stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibres, which improve the firmness and elasticity of the skin.
Eczema: Eczema and psoriasis are conditions that a lot of women, and men, suffer from. It is difficult to treat, but the best advice I have is to keep things simple and gentle. A soothing milk cleanser and a hydrating, fragrance-free, light moisturiser is the best way to go.
Acne: Acne is probably one of the most misunderstood skin conditions. It really gets my goat when people (a) blame the sufferer for their breakouts or (b) tell them to let it run its course because there is nothing that can be done. It is NOT your fault, and skincare CAN help, a lot. Let me break it down for you. (Warning: graphic language!)
I Your skin is producing too much oil, as a result of hormonal imbalance. This can occur at any time in your life: adolescence, in your twenties and thirties, during and after pregnancy, menopause, during extremely stressful periods in your life (surprisingly enough, scientific studies show that mild stress levels do not have any affect upon your skin). As I mentioned before, your oil production cannot be changed by skincare, but the skincare you are using may be worsening or contributing to it. Make sure your cleanser and toner are not stripping your skin (try to avoid alcohol and sulphates) - if they are too harsh, they will take away too much oil and your skin will think it is dry, producing even more oil, which is the last thing you want!
II The oil is trying to make its way to the surface of your skin, but it is getting blocked in your pores. This may be because your pores are unevenly shaped or there are dead skin cells clogging its passage. Sometimes the process stops there, resulting in blackheads and whiteheads. In order to prevent this blockage, it is important to use chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is particularly helpful because it is lipid soluble, which means that it can penetrate the hydro-lipidic barrier of the skin to exfoliate the pore itself. A scrub will not help to prevent breakouts at all - in fact, I don't recommend using a scrub on acne because the granules can break the skin and spread the bacteria around, causing additional breakouts.
III The redness and inflammation is caused by the clogged pores being infected by p. acne bacteria. It doesn't mean you are dirty - it is natural to have a balance of good and bacteria on your skin! This is where those zit-zappers come in handy, which are ideally used overnight to reduce the redness and inflammation of the pimple, usually containing sulfur to kill the germs. I have also found that using products with pre and probiotics really, really helps - which I will explain later, when I get to products!
Now, please note that this explanation applies to pimples that come to a head. If you are experiencing those nasty pustules that exist underneath the skin, you are suffering from cystic acne which, unfortunately, skincare cannot treat because it is the result of a blood infection in the sebaceous (sweat) gland. If you recognise the symptoms, please see a dermatologist, or at least your GP! There is a lot that can be done with prescription medication. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but acne, particularly cystic acne, can scar. So please see a doctor before it gets to that stage - you don't need to suffer through it! Also, skincare can still help to improve the overall condition of your skin - keeping the skin smooth and hydrated so that your makeup sits a lot better - so don't despair.
3. Finally, you must choose which kind of skincare regime you want to go for: basic or advanced.
A basic regime consists of a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. This is something that you would use if were already happy with your skin and just wanted to maintain and protect it from damage. You choose these products according to your skin type.
An advanced regime, on the other hand, involves a few additional products, including an exfoliant, serum, masks and eye cream. These products are chosen according to your skin conditions and will aid in improving the tone, texture and hydration of your skin.
Please note that diet and lifestyle factors can impact upon the condition of your skin. Science shows that excess sugar, for example, can accelerate aging by stimulating the process of glycation, which snaps and breaks down collagen and elastin fibres, those lovely proteins that keep your skin plump and wrinkle-free. Antioxidant-rich food, on the other hand, can help to improve the overall health and radiance of your skin. As I mentioned before, however, there is no blood flow to the outermost layers of your skin, which means that it is important to use at least a basic regime, to maintain the balance and hydration of your skin. AND DON'T FORGET SUNSCREEN! It is the single most important product to use consistently. More in my next post!
Phew! You can see why I needed to break this into sections. Don't worry, this was the most unexciting of the lot, the rest will be a lot more fun! Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments sections or - if you would like privacy - just email me via my About Me page. Part 2 should be posted in a couple of days.