Working in the hair and beauty industry over the past 11 years has, at times, been the most fun, but also the most cruel, environment to work in - and I'm not talking about bitchy models or bossy editors. No, I'm talking about the biggest traitor of them all; my skin. Since the age of 15 I have lived with acne in varying forms: at its worst, I would look down at the floor and avoid making eye contact with people, even those closest to me. Today, it's nowhere near that, but still, it's a daily source of consternation for me, even more so since I got back from the tropical conditions of Jamaica back in August. Rather than give you an historical account of my skin, instead, I thought I'd fill you in on things I have learned, but I'd also love to know what you have learned about your own skin issues. Let me know in the comments section!
#1 What they say about drinking water is true.
I can't lie, I've always thought this was bullshit. That whole, 'drink eight cups a day' thing, never really worked for me. So, of course, I didn't believe it. It actually seems ridiculous that it's now, while I'm in my thirties, that I'm finally getting the whole water thing, but I guess you have to learn the hard way sometimes. Basically, what I've learned is, you have to drink a TON for it to have any effect on your skin. Think about it; when you drink water, is your brain gonna be like, 'damn, her skin is looking pretty crappy today guys, let's get that H20 right where it's needed'? No. That water is going to your vital organs, it's there to keep blood flowing through your veins, and it's there to get rid of waste products from your system. This means, there is a small amount - if anything - left to suit your skin's beautifying requirements. Now, over the years, I have pretty much always kept to two litres a day. Some would say that's more than enough, others would scientifically break it down in order to prove that it's way too much. So for me, I would always keep to the, 'what colour is my pee?' rule. If it's anything more colourful than clear with the faintest tint of yellow, I would drink more. (So if you're someone with acidic orange-toned wee, you'd better get gulping!). But despite following these rules for years, my skin would still continue to go up and down. Yes, a lot of that could be attributed to cocktailing products (more on that below), or diet (my thoughts on that below also) but for me, I felt that water did absolutely nothing for my outer appearance. That was, until I started watching the Great British Bake Off, or more accurately, I started watching the skin of winner Nadiya Begum. This girl eats cake (like me) which often contains dairy products, and yet her skin is smoother than a baby's behind. Everyone wanted to know her secret, and it was nothing too complicated; she just drinks FOUR litres of water a day. And so began my challenge; for the past two weeks I have upped my water to the same amount and I'm telling you it works. During this time I had invested quite a bit of cash in the Antonia Burrell skincare range but, after a hopeful week of improvement, it was completely ineffective, so I was becoming a bit depressed at the thought of my skin taking a major downturn again. But within about three days of upping my water intake to this amount, my skin was noticeably smoother. Yes, I have to go to the loo up to 10 times a day (but anyone who drinks over two litres will be familiar with that) but it has been so worth it. Perhaps you'll laugh it off or come back to me with 'you're drowning your system/washing away vital nutrients', but you'll only really know the efforts you're willing to make when something like your skin can make you feel so shitty that you don't want to leave the house.
The only negative about this skin advice? Once you lower your intake, your skin will most likely become clogged up again. For me that's a clear sign that it's vital to cleanse your system as much as possible to stand a hope of getting smoother skin.
#2 Cleanliness is next to Godliness. (Or something like that)
I'm not here to tell you what cleanser to use, because we are all so different, but, the main things to bear in mind are: choose the right type of cleanser for you, whether that's oil, cream or powder and do it right, do it twice. If you (like me) wear makeup, and often lots of it, don't kid yourself that a micellar water-infused wipe is going to take it all off. By all means, use wipes to take the makeup off, but you then need to cleanse your face, twice. What I tend to do is use La Roche Posay Makeup Remover Micellar Water Gel, £12 to take everything off. Time-wise/product-wise I can use anything up to six cotton wool pads to remove all traces of makeup. Then I will use my cleanser of choice. Lately I've been using the aforementioned Antonia Burrell Natural Glow Cleansing Oil, from £29.50, but as I do two rounds, and use 6 pumps for each round, it's definitely not delivering on cost per usage and the results are inconclusive. I might just go back to good old Soap & Glory Face Soap and Clarity Daily Detox Vitamin C Facial Wash, which, at £8 is inSANE value as it lasts forever. This advice isn't a cure-all but it is definitely one of the steps that gets me back on track.
#3 Play with a variety of masks.
Our skin goes through so many changes; age, hormones and environment are just some of the factors that affect our skin's appearance. I don't believe you should stick with the same routine every month or year - despite what our mothers say about only ever using soap, or one particular cold cream; they were growing up in very different times to us. You have to really get to know your skin - if that means seeking professional advice, go for it! I've been lucky enough to receive facials from some real industry greats, and, over time, a few of them have cited my skin issues as being related to my poor digestive system, which makes so much sense. Aside from changing my eating, and drinking habits, I've found that playing with an array treatment masks is a great way to work my skin out. Years ago, I would have steered clear of masks labelled 'radiance-enhancing' or 'hydrating' for fear that my skin would end up an oil slick. Now I've learned that even my combination skin needs moisture, but in the right formula and amount. I've also learned that homemade Bentonite Clay masks are a) super cost-effective and b) the perfect way to deep cleanse your skin. In the pictures above I'm wearing a mask that's simply a combination of Bentonite Clay, castor oil and coconut oil. It was a great post-holiday deep cleanse that didn't strip my skin or leave my skin feeling achy/twitchy. For an instant calming effect, and a gorgeous glow, I live by Trilogy's Mineral Radiance Mask , £19.50, (check out my review here) but more recently I've fallen for Lush's Cup O' Coffee, from £6.75, which, after 15 minutes, you wash and scrub off simultaneously; the result is seriously smooth skin, and if you're a coffee fiend, even better. For me, the best reason to play with masks, is the fact that they are washed off. There's none of that, 'oh damn I used a new moisturiser this morning and my skin is acting up but I still have five hours of work to get through.' Instead, a mask is something you can try for 10 minutes once you're home, and often see instant results. Just find the right one for you, and don't be afraid to ask for samples!
#4 Give it time.
As a former hair and beauty editor I can't even begin to think of how many products I have tried but one thing I know for sure is, you can't cocktail a different range every other week. Yes, some products will seduce you instantly with amazing results, but you need to give it a couple of weeks** at least to see if that range has staying power. When I got back from my holidays I forgot my own advice and blasted my poor skin with every free product I'd been sent by various PRs. The result? Thoroughly confused skin that basically had a bitch fit on me. I went back to the drawing board and dug out my Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, £12.99 and Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre Nourishing Moisturiser, £20, to just try to calm things down. I also wore zero makeup, which is easy when you work from home. I managed to stay in for about 10 days, but trust me, if I had a 9-to-5 I would have been wearing my makeup, no doubt about it.
**It should go without saying that if you experience discomfort/irritation/redness, then you don't need to go a whole two weeks! Do what makes sense for your skin.
#5 Drop the dairy.
Some of you might know that, for a while, I've been eating mostly plant-based, but one thing that has been incredibly hard to give up, is dairy. I'm the girl who makes the best mac 'n' cheese, I'm the one who stays in on a Friday night with a mega tub of Haagen-Dazs, so for anyone (particularly the BF) to tell me I can't or shouldn't eat dairy, I've always had a middle finger ready and waiting. But those HD binges came at a price; within two days my skin would become a bumpy playground and I would begin to experience post-binge guilt. Even today, I can't guarantee that those feelings of remorse will stop me from ever doing dairy again, but I do know that those feelings, and that skin reaction, is very real. If you're stronger than me, give it up.
Do you suffer with skin issues or can you share any cures that you have tried first-hand? I'd love to know!