Beauty and the beast: Skincare

(“The beast” being me, of course!)

Until a few years ago I had a rather lackadaisical approach to my skincare regime; the occasional bit of sunscreen, ditto budget brand of moisturiser, not a cleanser or toner in sight (make-up remover, yes, gotta get those Tammy Faye lashes off somehow). In my defence, I had never had any problems with my skin, no pimples/acne in adolescence, no dryness or oiliness, the epitome of boring normalcy, in fact. However when I hit 35 I figured that although this had worked for me so far, particularly because I have great genes and look about 25 (comes of being baby-faced and small), I’d better make sure things stayed that way. I had also had a couple of “age spots” (Age Spots!!!) frozen off by the dermatologist, and seeing my mother after her trips to the dermatologist was a major wake up call. My skin was also looking very dull and blah due to chronic illness and nasty medication.

So, what to do? I love beauty products, but at the same time I am very very cynical and sceptical when it comes to the cosmeceutical industry, as I call it (my background in science tends to kill wonder), so anything I went for had to be a reputable dermatological designed and approved line, with scientific ingredients and no PR crapola about unspecified miracle age-reversal formulations, patent pending. Some research and queries across the internets led me to NeoStrata, MD Formulations, and recently to Philosophy, and I’ve been pretty ecstatic about the results. And it all takes just a few more extra minutes after tooth-brushing – you don’t have to spend an additional five hours in yer boudoir, being a slave to Higher Beauty.

NeoStrata Ultra Smoothing Day Cream AHA 10%. The one thing I was adamant about was including a glycolic acid component in the regime, of at least 10%. Partly because this is what my dermatologist specifically recommended, and because it makes good chemical sense and is backed up by scientific evidence. Again, this is designed to reduce pigmentation and lines, to moisturise, refine and smooth and brighten skin. 10% might be a bit much for some people, so if you haven’t used glycolic acid products before, or have sensitive skin, start with a lower percentage.

My skin felt a great deal smoother and brighter after a couple of days; after a couple of weeks my skin definitely showed obvious benefits, a much more even tone and fading of pigmentation and freckles. The couple of deep vertical lines above and between my eyebrows have actually reduced, which I wouldn’t have thought possible – my best case scenario was to stop them getting worse. I use this in the morning post-shower/cleanser and pre-moisturiser; you can use it twice a day if you wish.

MD Formulations is not the cheapest brand out there, but it is a damn good dermatologist-designed/approved line, and like many other salon-brands, actually works well and isn’t as horrifically expensive as some of the department store brands. MD Formulations Vit-A Plus Night Recovery Complex is a really lovely night cream that I’ve been using a while now; it lasts for ages as you don’t need to use much; being a lightish gel/lotion consistency I sometimes feel like I could do with something creamier/heavier, it generally suits me perfectly. It smoothes and brightens skin and has lots of antioxidant goodies in it. When I first started using it I really noticed a definite improvement in my skin’s texture and degree of redness. (But again, as I’d been doing nothing – probably worse than nothing – to care for my skin, any help was going to be a big help, if you see what I mean.)

As mentioned above, MD Formulations Vit-A Plus Eye Crème is not the cheapest eye cream out there, but it is certainly not the most expensive I have some fine lines at the outer corners (laugh lines) and slight crépiness (my spell-checker keeps changing that to creepiness which is, well, accurate but a little depressing) at the inner corners, and wasn’t expecting much from any eye cream, apart from a purely cosmetic plumping effect. However this eye cream is gorgeous, it is creamy but not too thick and gluggy, it smoothes on and absorbs beautifully, and there is a noticeable difference particularly at the inner corners, all crépiness gone and the skin around my eyes – and therefore my eyes themselves – look much brighter and more fresh.

Which brings me, finally, to Philosophy … Here’s the thing; as said above I am rampantly against cosmetic companies’ hype (including that via beauty editors in glossy magazines) but I have been using sundry items from the philosophy line, many from the “Make Up Optional” range, for just a couple of weeks, and you know what? The other day I went into town, and while I applied eye-shadow, liner, mascara, and a teensy weensy bit of translucent powder, I did not apply, nor did I feel the need for, foundation and concealer.

Considering I usually look at myself in the mirror and go BLEAAAAUUURRRRGHHH AAAAAHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOO and then apply the full maquillage (that’s French! for make up!) in the attempt to not feel so fugly as to be an arrestable offence, this was a Moment. Especially given a certain upcoming 37th birthday … (I would like to thank the Academy – I mean, the always sweet, kind, honest, no bullshit, staff at Mecca Cosmetica – for their help and advice – love ‘em.)

Real Purity cleanser (sometimes in the shower in the a.m.; mostly in the evenings to remove make up and gunge, if I’m feeling gunge-y). This is a truly delightful cleanser – and I’ve never been “into” cleansers in a big way. It cleans off eye make-up too, with zero smarting or glugging of sensitive eyes, which is pretty damn unique. The nicest thing about it, aside from doing a bang-up job of cleansing and removing all traces of a full make-up, is skin feels super-soft and hydrated – not the usual paint-stripper effect.

Hope In A Jar moisturiser is my favourite product, the real winner so far of the philosophy range. It’s a lovely lush, rich – but not heavy – moisturiser, that seems to really soak in, soothe and plump up my winter-dry skin. It gives a nice dewey finish but, strangely, also manages to calm down the red blotchy areas and even out skin tone. LOVE.

In the “Make Up Optional” kit you also get the Hope In A Tube eye and lip cream and When Hope is Not Enough serum – I like both these products a lot, the eye cream in particular may be equal to or better than the MD Formulations eye cream, but I need to do a controlled test over a number of weeks before commenting. I also intend to buy the “Exfoliate” kit which includes Greatest Love and Greatest Mystery. “Love” is a delicious-sounding scrub, whilst “Mystery” is a kind of semi-daily facial dealie, that cleanses, exfoliates gently, makes skin feel all radiant and fresh.

Other brands and their products I officially cannot live without:

Nivea Age Defence Moisturising Facial Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+ is simply THE best sunscreen I’ve found, and it took a long time to find (and several hundred binned products). It doesn’t have that icky sunscreen smell, and doesn’t make you look all greasy and ghostly; it does have a really nice mattifying effect so works nicely underneath make-up, a decent moisturising effect (but I use a little moisturiser first all the same, unless to do so would result in a total oil-slick), lots of yummy antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E, and best of all has a decent SPF of 30+ – UVA and UVB. For the love of mitochondrial DNA, give this facial sunscreen a try and never ever use a crappy 2-in-1 moisturiser-with-SPF, let alone one with only SPF 15,

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm was a total cult/must have product back in the 80s and 90s – every single beauty editor raved and swooned and put it at No. 1 on their favourites list. Despite the fact that the rabid frothing regarding this product has died down somewhat, in favour of the latest La Mer and any gloop that includes the word “Radiance”, this remains a favourite, simply because it actually works. Really. A winner for those mornings when you really feel – and look – dull and blah, or before heading out at night, this product moisturises, brightens without looking greasy, and generally gives skin a lift, a bit of glow. It’s also lovely used thickly as a mask treatment every now and then.

Which brings us to lip care. I am a lip balm junkie – but a highly discerning one. The three products to which I turn are Bonne Bell Lip Therapy Gel SPF 30+; Chapstick Overnight Treatment; and Carmex Lip Salve. Each of these serves a different purpose and is terrific in it’s own way. The Bonne Bell is a great summertime/anytime balm as it is high-gloss without being gloopy thus great over lipstick – gloss with a super-high SPF, what more do you want? Oh yeah it’s also very soothing, moisturising and waterproof. The Chapstick Overnight Treatment is a very pleasant, non-medicinal, creamy balm for dry lips – I don’t restrict it’s usage to night-time, just anytime I want a slick of creamy moisturising salve. And lastly, the hero product Carmex, which is Numero Uno for healing chapped lips – I swipe it on as thick as possible at night. Not only does it heal poor hurt-y lips, but is the best thing for winter/post-cold red chapped nostrils (unattractive, but a reality), ripped and dry cuticles and nails, and probably space-borne plagues as well.

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  • Dermacia  On Thursday 18 January 2007 at 6:57 pm

    This post, however off-topic it may be, is about Internet freedom. \”Network Neutrality\” — the First Amendment of the Internet — ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

    But Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut Net Neutrality. If Congress doesn\’t take action now to implement meaningful Net Neutrality provisions, the future of the Internet is at risk.

    In the end game, only large companies will afford domains if the communications monopolies have their way with this. This of course isnt new news, but its coming to a head and blogs like this one will be a ghosttown unless all of us figure it our pretty darn quick. I wont post any links, but advise that if you value the internet, and blogs likw this one, that you search Google for \”Network Neutrality\” and educate yourself on this issue as it effects all of us.

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