Beauty News

Do You Really Need To Switch Up Your Skincare Every Season?

Spring On White

As the season’s revolving door swings into spring it feels only right to embrace the change by updating our skincare routine. In the same way that layers of your clothing get lighter and airier, logic would dictate the same goes for your creams and lotions. But is it a necessity for achieving healthy and glowing skin? The good news is that you don’t need to completely overhaul your winter skincare routine in a bid to fix any problems you now face. However, the devil is in the detail when it comes to perfect skin once the mercury rises. Here’s everything you need to know about trans-seasonal skincare.

Adjust moisture levels

If you used creamy cleansers and heavy duty moisturisers to counteract the cold climate and central heating throughout winter, it’s time to give these a ghosting. This is because during the warmer months our skin is able to hold onto more water, so as a rule, you don’t need as much hydration once spring hits. Moreover, continuing to layer on thick moisturisers can actually make your skin lazy. Instead you want to give it the ‘tools’ it needs to do a good job by itself.

Look for moisturising ingredients that have skin affinity, such as hyaluronic acid (it’s naturally occurring in the skin) as well as urea and glycerin. These will provide quick relief to a dry complexion, but are also able to draw water in the skin and retain it for longer.

Forgo physical exfoliators

In spring, your natural oils are coming back to balance after a cold snap, so you’re likely to produce more sebum. If you find your skin gets too oily reach for an oil-removing cleanser such as iS Clinical Cleansing Complex, £35 to help control breakouts. If feel like you need a deeper clean, look for formulations that contain salicylic acid (Garden of Wisdom Salicylic Acid 2%, £9), and apply after cleansing. It’s also worth adding an acid to your routine to help decongest skin. Try a retinol, a topical form of vitamin A that aids healthy skin-cell turnover. It’s clever stuff: retinol binds itself to receptors in our cells, which help to normalise the production of new skin, clearing breakouts and reducing the overproduction of oil.

Up your SPF level

If you’ve down-graded your SPF, or even worse, not applied one at all this winter, then now is the time to add one to your arsenal. It’s non-negotiable for damage control. Skin ageing UVA rays don’t change much through the year, however UVB get stronger once the temperature starts to rise, so it’s a good idea to up your SPF protection to 30-50. Try Sarah Chapman Skin Insurance SPF 30, £49. It offers stellar protection from UVA, UVB, thermal and infrared radiation has a clever knack of airbrushing the face no matter your skin tone thanks to light-adapting pigments that make you look dewy and glowing no matter how unforgiving the spring sunshine is.

Supercharge your skincare with vitamin C

Supercharge your SPF with topical vitamins. Vitamin C in particular can help to combat the ageing rays that aren’t fully blocked by your SPF. LixirSkin Vitamin C Paste, £32, has a fresh-squeezed citrus scent, and provides natural sun protection while also scavenging free radicals. It’s also worth keeping a vitamin C mist handy for a quick fix throughout the day.

Keep your pH levels in check

Overloading your skin with lots of products in winter may have sent your pH level off kilter. pH stands for ‘potential hydrogen’ and is used to describe the skin barrier’s acid-alkaline ratio, which ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). If your skin is plagued by severe dryness and lines this could be a telltale sign that your acid mantle is too alkaline and falling prey to bacteria. If your skin is inflamed, oily, prone to breakouts or painful to the touch, that indicates it’s too acidic. To bring back its sweet spot of 5.5, reach for Aurelia Cell Revitalise Night Moisturiser, £58, which strengthens the protective barrier by feeding skin probiotics.

How To Take The Perfect Bath

bathroom plug

In a bid to take charge of our own wellbeing many of us have made a personal promise to try and disconnect from technology when possible. Trouble is, phones are often found perched next to us, whether it’s the desk, sofa, dinner table or bed, making it tough not to scroll idly through feeds. Bathrooms however, are proving to be gadget free sanctuaries, which may be the reason that bathing is undergoing a renaissance as more of us opt to sit in the tub, rather than take a shower.

A quick glance at Instagram reveals thousands of #bathart #bathing #bath hashtags. Here is where you’ll find images of tubs teaming with floating lemon slices and colourful petals. Candles and crystals adorn bath ledges and just out of shot will be layers of Egyptian cotton towels, twinkling apothecary bottles and a burgeoning jungle of rubber plants. These shots are inviting; they epitomise cosy and self-indulgent, and unlike complicated eyeliner trends or tricky yoga poses, they are pretty easy to recreate.

Aside from being aesthetically pleasingly, bathing has gained momentum because we’re obsessed with experiences rather than ‘things’. This, coupled with the rise of global wellness and the self-care movement means that the bathroom is no longer just a place to just to get clean, but rather a haven where we can linger until an arduous work day recedes into the world of unimportance. According to a 2018 study by the Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson, the recent fixation on bathing represents a sea change. “Even five years ago, the bath might have been seen as a form of indulgence. Now it’s recognized as a form of therapy, a tool in maintaining a healthy mental outlook,” explains Lucie Greene, a trend forecaster. Bear the below in mind, and supercharging your soak has never been more rewarding…

Body brush first

It’s wise to prep your skin for optimal soaking by buffing with a dry body brush first. This with help to slough away dead skin cells but also helps to encourage lymph flow and enhance circulation. Try Temple Spa Give It The Brush Off, £16. Start brushing at the feet and work up the legs, using gentle, sweeping movements towards the heart.

Reach for non-toxic candles

Burning some scented candles indoors releases airborne particles that can be as damaging as outdoor pollution, disrupting the skin’s barrier function and increasing sensitivity. Reach for Neom Organics Treatment Candles, £30. Formulated with just essentials oils and pure vegetable wax, their delicate fragrance gently soothes the mind, body and soul without polluting your set up.

What to add…

Tailor your bath to your needs. Bath oils containing lavender, chamomile or frankincense hit the sweet spot for deep relaxation and can be found in Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Bath & Shower Oil, £48, and Soapsmith Lavender Hill Bath Soak, £14. Better You Magnesium Oil Original Flakes, £9.95, are the perfect antidote to a strenuous gym session or fitness class as it eases tension in the muscles. While This Works Deep Sleep Bath Soak, £22, is the perfect choice for those who tend to get restless during the night, thanks to ho wood and vetiver oil.

What to do…

This may sound obvious, but for some of us just ‘laying there’ isn’t as easy as it sounds especially if you struggle to mentally wind down after a busy day. Instead, reach for a book that you can get lost in. Once you start to feel relaxed, you can begin to close your eyes and meditate or practice taking long, slow and deep breathes. You’re not likely to feel fully zen until you’re totally unplugged, so don’t forget to leave your phone outside, after you’ve taken a snap of your spa like surroundings of course.

The perfect temperature is…

Anywhere between 37-39°C because it’s the ideal temperature for muscle relaxation, yet isn’t hot enough for you to sweat and lose too much water, which can cause dizziness once you stand up. Room temperature also matters. Don’t have it colder than 24°C, else you’ll stress the body once you depart from the bath.

How long should you stay in it?

The pleasure lies in the moment so linger until you feel calm, relaxed and ready to either fall into bed or curl up on the sofa.

A Simple Guide To Reading Skincare Labels

Coloured chalk molecular formulas and diagrams

Understanding the symbols, ingredients list and claims on skincare products can be confusing and unclear. Sifting through the marketing jargon and understanding the complexity of ingredient names and functions is time-consuming and frustrating. To help you decipher it all, this is a simple guide to digesting your product labels.

First up is what a product claims to do. According to the UK government, the product labelling in the sale of goods and services requires that it is not misleading in; the quantity or size, the price, what it’s made of, how, where and when it was made, what you say it can do and the people or organisations that endorse it.

Three terms you will often see are; dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation explains exactly what they mean in The Skincare Bible:

Dermatologically Tested – This implies that the product has the endorsement of, or has passed rigorous laboratory tests carried out by a dermatologist. In the UK, there is no legal definition of the term and this testing could be as basic as a dermatologist or other qualified medical doctor giving the product to a handful of people and relaying back that there were no reports that it caused irritation

Hypoallergenic – This is a manufacturer claim that a product will cause fewer allergies than others. It is not, however, a legally binding term and is rather meaningless. Hypoallergenic products can still contain fragrances – a common cause of allergy and irritation.

Non-comedogenic – This literally means ‘will not blog pores’. Yet again, there is no industry standards or regulation. Be aware that despite the label, it can still clog pores.

Next are ten symbols you will have seen on your products and their packaging.

Leaping Bunny – This internationally recognised logo means the product has not been tested animals.

PAO – Meaning, Period After Opening, this tells you the expiration date of a product. It’s commonly found in the image of a jar with a number on it next to the letter ‘M’. For example, if the number says 6M, that mean you have six months to use it after opening, before it will expire.

Mobius – Signifying that the packaging can be recycled, sometimes there may be a number in the middle of the triangle, which represents the percentage of the packaging made using recycled materials.

Ecocert – This arrow-filled circle symbol is an organic certification and was set up in 2003 as one of the first regulatory bodies developing standards for natural and organic cosmetics.

Refer To Insert – When it’s impossible for a brand to fit all the legally required information on a product, the information can be found on the accompanying leaflet inside the packaging.

Flame – An obvious one, but important to note nonetheless, this tells you the product is flammable and should be kept away from an open flame. This is usually found on pressurised cans such as deodorant and hairspray.

Greendot – This symbol means that 95% of your product is made from plant-based ingredients and 10% of all its ingredients are organic.

Hourglass – This represents that the product has a life span of less than 30 months – even if it’s not opened.

E-Mark – The lowercase ‘e’ sometimes found on packaging means the average volume or weight of the product is the same as what’s listed on the label, as per EU law.

UVA – An important one for sun lovers, this means the product contains the minimum recommended level of UVA protection for a sunscreen.

Reading and understanding an ingredients list can be difficult without the help of an expert. Decoding the complicated names and variations in formulas is not something that’s easily done and as a result, is often dismissed. But understanding what’s in your products can help you to accurately find products that are suitable for your skin.

In the EU, cosmetic ingredients are labelled using an INCI list, which stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order from the highest to lowest concentrate. If there is less than 1% of an ingredient in a product, it is not required to be listed. Despite EU legislation dictating how ingredients are labelled, there is still confusion, in particular with fragrance, which can be described through blanket terms such as ‘parfum’ or ‘aroma’. As we know, fragrance is one of the biggest irritants for sensitive skin so if sensitivity is your concern, it’s always best to go fragrance-free.

Dr Mahto details further, “If your skin is sensitive to fragrance, or you otherwise choose to avoid it, these are the additional 26 ingredients to look out for; alpha-isomethyl ionone, amyl cinnamal, amyl cinnamyl alcohol, anise alcohol, benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, benzyl salicylate, butylphenyl methylpropional, cinnamal, cinnamyl alcohol, citral, citronellol, coumarin, eugenol, evernia furfuracea extract, evernia prunastri extract, farnesol, geraniol, hexyl cinnamal, hydroxycitronellal, hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexene-carboxaldehyde, isoeugenol, limonene, linaool, methyl 2-octynoate.

Helpful resources to assist you in understanding the EU regulations behind ingredients, product labelling and changing rules and regulations, Dr Mahto recommends the cosmetics section of the European Commission website. Here you will also find the Cosing Database, which enables you to look up cosmetic ingredients to find out what they are.

Have We Got It All Wrong About Preservatives?

have-we-got-it-all-wrong-about-preservatives

As the wave of natural beauty shows no signs of slowing down, the argument of natural vs synthetic ingredients continues, particularly when it comes to preservatives. Pick up any cosmetic product and you’ll see ‘paraben-free’ proudly listed on its packaging and advertising. Read More…

Breathe Yourself Slim

breathe-yourself-slim-new-white-background

Most of us don’t breathe the right way.  In fact, we use at most 20% of our lung capacity.  But research from Harvard credits breath work to lift depression, relieve stress and anecdotal evidence suggests you can lose weight, perhaps connecting with our breath is more powerful than we had first thought?

“Breath is quite literally life,” says Alan Dolan, Global Breath Expert, “When you breathe better, you live better.” When the breath is out of kilter – shallow and disconnected – your body automatically holds this as stress and tension. But get the breath right and you start flooding cells with oxygen and energy and the body begins to heal, recalibrate and release the toxins responsible for holding weight.

But can connecting with our breath really whittle down our waist? According to Jill Johnson, the US founder of Oxycise it can be truly transformative. This popular deep-breathing technique focuses on using the diaphragm flexing and contracting muscles to help lose weight according to Johnson who went from a size 16 to a size 6 in a six month period. “Reducing your oxygen intake slows your metabolism and deprives your cells from receiving their most basic nutrient making it impossible for your body to properly metabolise fat,” explains Johnson. “The reverse is also true – increasing your oxygen intake revs up your metabolism and allows your body to thrive, breathing well is key to a slender, healthier body,” says Johnson.

Sounds almost too good to be true but a study from the University of Southern California showed that subjects burned 140% more calories with 15 minutes of Oxycise breathing and stretching techniques that when riding a stationary bike.

So how does it work?  According to Stuart Sandeman, Founder of Breath Pod breath work can realign your physical, mental and emotional states. “When you’re in alignment physically, mentally and emotionally you feel better, move better, have more energy and make better and healthier choices – a healthy body shape is a bi-product of this,” he explains. Breathing practices can challenge our body like a physical workout. “Our diaphragm works as a pump for the lymphatic system which clears toxins from our cells,” he explains. “Losing weight requires unlocking the carbon stored in the fat cells and when the oxygen we breathe reaches fat molecular, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water, to be exhaled.”

Consciously breathing deeply can also has a profound effect on our posture too. Like so many of us, we are stuck in a shallow ‘holding’ pattern day-to-day with a typical desk posture shouldered, hunched forwards constricting our breath.  Even holding your stomach in can create tension in the body. “The breath becomes short and shallow which sends a signal of stress to the brain and you limit the oxygen to your cells,” he explains. “This can lead to physical illness, lack of energy, fatigue and can trigger stress, anxiety and even depression.”

According to the experts when we mindfully breathe deeply, expanding our lungs, you sit up taller, your stomach appears flatter and you look brighter. “We forget that the rib cage is not a rigid structure,” says Sandeman. “Most of us use our secondary breathing muscles – the upper trapezius in the chest and the scalenes in the neck, and when we start to use the primary ones which are the four layers of our abdominals, the diaphragm and the intercostals in between the ribs, our entire posture changes giving the appearance of being leaner and longer.”

So how do we better our breath? In a calm, quiet space, visualise a balloon in your abdomen. Inflate the balloon by deeply inhaling via your mouth for three seconds, then exhale for one – the aim is to create a continuous flow with no pauses. Do ten minutes every day to see results from anti-ageing benefits to easing pain and even losing a few pounds.

Would You Ditch Oils for Clearer Skin?

amy-lawrenson

Throughout my twenties I had the most awful acne along my jawline. I would hide it behind my long hair and was constantly slapping on make-up in a bid to conceal the sore, red bumps beneath. Working in beauty I would ask every skin expert I saw about my problem and, luckily, this scatter gun approach eventually came through for me. A few years ago, I met Kate Kerr, clinical facialist and founder of SkinHQ, who helped me swap oils for the clear skin I so desperately wanted.

Now, when it comes to our complexions there are two types of oil; the sebum we produce and the oils we find in skincare. Neither get glowing reports from Kerr. “The oil produced by our skin is an irritant, it no longer has a function and our bodies have evolved past the point of needing it,” explains Kerr, who links oil production to issues like acne, seborrheic dermatitis and even hyperpigmentation.

“Oils congest the skin, upsetting our own moisturising processes and preventing product penetration,” Kerr tells me. She believes people should ditch oils and moisturisers and instead load up on lightweight serums. And when you think about it, it makes sense. “By using a moisturiser our skin’s surface sends a signal down to its water reservoirs telling them that there is plenty of moisture and to halt production. This makes the skin sluggish and lacking in moisture, so we reach for more moisturiser, thus exacerbating the problem,” says Kerr.

Skin soon becomes dehydrated and produces more sebum in response. Now if your skin isn’t working as efficiently as it should (read: it’s become lazy and reliant on rich creams) dead skin cells will build up preventing the oil from escaping resulting in blackheads, whiteheads and, in my case, full blown acne. “Waking up the skin’s natural moisturising processes helps to balance oil production thus preventing skin congestion and subsequent breakouts,” says Kerr.

So, how do you trigger those natural moisturising processes—essentially your skin’s in-built moisturiser? “Urea, low to medium levels of glycerine, hyaluronic acid and water—these ingredients are part of our skin’s natural moisturising mechanisms and when applied topically they won’t upset the skin’s functionality,” explains Kerr.

During our meeting, Kerr went through the ingredient list of every product I owned before making me ditch anything with oil. She prescribed a routine that would give my skin the wake-up call it needed, along with some rules to follow:

Rule 1: Cleanse AM and PM to remove oil.

Rule 2: Exfoliate daily, to slough away any dead skin cells that could potentially shut the oil in. You can do this with a mechanical scrub or something containing AHAs, known as a chemical exfoliator.

Rule 3: Always use SPF in the morning.

Rule 4: At night apply a retinol-based product. Retinol, a Vitamin A derivative, is a wonder ingredient that does everything from gently exfoliating and repairing the skin’s barrier function, to reducing oil production and tackling pigmentation.

I layered serums instead of relying on rich creams, I looked to hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C in the day and then retinol and hyaluronic acid (again) at night. I followed Kerr’s rules to the letter and within weeks my acne had cleared up. It was a miracle.

Being a beauty editor, it’s hard to avoid oils all the time. I still swerve straight-up oils and rich, oily cleansing balms, but when it comes to other products I always give the contents a once over. On all products the ingredients are listed in order of concentration, so the first makes up the biggest proportion of the contents through to the last which is the least. So, if a product contains an oil quite far down the list then, as long as I’m exfoliating regularly, I know my skin can handle it.

There are experts and editors who will defend oils to the death, but for me giving them up and now using them very sparingly has worked. If you’re experiencing any kind of acne right now, it can’t hurt to streamline your routine, ditch the oils and rich creams and see how you get on. As long as you’re supplementing with those hydrating ingredients I can all but guarantee it will help.

Amy Lawrenson is Editorial Director of beauty and wellness website Byrdie.co.uk.