Beauty News

Lip Fillers In A Tube?

lip injection closeup

There aren’t many specific products I MUST have in my washbag at all times. Except one, and it’s a bizarre item to get so het up over on the few occasions it’s missing. It’s an antioxidant ‘lip complex’ by SkinCeuticals, and I’ve taken to using it as an antiageing lip cream overnight (which is technically incorrect, as antioxidants are primarily supposed to shield you from the day’s environmental attacks).

It’s been the last thing I’ve put on my face at night it for years, as it makes me wake up in the morning with full-looking lips. More importantly, the fine ‘lipstick’ line (there was one) that I spotted above my top lip 20 years ago is still, give or take, just one minor line. How could that be? Genes, perhaps, but I think it’s the ‘lip complex’. And so I’ve become devoted to it. What if it’s delivered me from aged lips all these years? I’m not prepared to give it up just to find out. Read More…

The Case For Toners

plastic toner bottle with cleansing cotton pads

Maligned, abused and mis-used, toners are among the least understood items in the skincare aisle. But Ingeborg van Lotringen thinks it’s time to give them another chance.

Ask the average person what their idea of a skincare regime is and they will say ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise.’ They won’t actually practise such a routine – most of us have no idea why you would have to ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’. We just think that maybe we should, because the phrase has been hammered into our brains for generations.

Back when face cleansers weren’t the most sophisticated – think Pond’s Cold Cream or a nice 1980’s mineral oil-based cleansing milk, moved around your face and rubbed off with a dry cotton pad – a toner’s USP, on the face of it at least, made sense. It was ‘to remove all traces of cleanser residue’ and ‘treat oiliness’.

1980’s Toners (or ‘tonics’) were pretty effective at the former, being, as they were, rather lethal alcohol solutions. They also made mincemeat of any oil slicks, but unfortunately, only for a bit. Oils would come back with a vengeance after every use, with added redness and irritation over time, thanks to the barrier-stripping powers of the alcohol and astringent, ‘refreshing’ (read: irritating) menthol and eucalyptus essential oils. No matter what your skin type, it couldn’t fail to get pretty parched with regular toner use. I’ve still got a 25-year-old bottle of Johnson & Johnson Clean & Clear Lotion in my bathroom cabinet: I use it to disinfect my tweezers.

That other staple tonic, Clinique Clarifying Lotion, of the brand’s famous cleanse/tone/moisturise ‘3-Step Skincare System’, hasn’t helped rid toner of its associations with uncomfortable-feeling skin. Basically a mild liquid exfoliant for oily skin (its key ingredient is salicylic acid), in its original guise it also contained a hefty dose of alcohol, and was supposed to be used after Clinique’s Facial bar Soap. So you had an alkaline (for it was that) soap, followed by an alcohol-and-salicylic acid solution: not a recipe for hydrated skin. Things have improved since, with an alcohol-free Clarifying Lotion and a sulphate-free Liquid Facial Soap among the options, but judging from the number of people that wince when the 3-Step is mentioned, its inaugural drying prowess didn’t go unnoticed. And the toner took the brunt of the blame.

It’s no wonder, then, that toners were largely consigned to the back of the bathroom cabinet in recent decades – until K- and, latterly, J-Beauty became a thing. The Koreans and Japanese may have an annoying predilection for 10-step skincare routines, but there is a point to those, and it’s balancing, calming and irrigating the skin. Cleansing, even with the very mildest products, causes a slight, temporary imbalance to the skin’s pH (remember that even tap water is more alkaline than the skin barrier, and therefore slightly drying). Thanks to its liquid texture, a ‘modern’ toner of the type long used in Asian countries, featuring humectants, ferments, micronutrients, probiotics, mild acids, anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants (you could have any or all of the above), is designed to instantly quench skin and re-set its pH to its comfort level of about 4.7. It also supercharges any serums and moisturisers you care to apply after, as the moisture opens channels that helps actives sink in deeper. So instead of freaking skin out, a proper toner is, frankly, its best friend, and over the past three years or so, I’ve come to think of them as indispensable.

They still mightily confuse people though, and that’s partly to do with semantics. The types of toners described above are variously called toner, tonic, essence, softener, lotion, and even ‘face vinegar’, which isn’t helpful. Technically, essences, or skin softeners, are different from toners in Asia, where toners are mildly astringent and wiped across the face, followed by treatment essences that are pressed into the skin. Over here in the West, I would say all these liquids, which vary in viscosity from water-like to slippery gels, are roughly the same thing. You press or wipe them on (the oilier-skinned probably prefer the wipe-off gesture while the dehydrated might prefer the idea of a splash of moisture) after cleansing and before any other skincare. Except if you use a liquid exfoliant, which brings me to another point of confusion about modern toners.

As said, some toners feature a low level of acids (often lactic, which is naturally present in the skin barrier) to help restore skin to its own mildly acidic pH level. But if you’re talking those ‘5% glycolic glow tonics’ or ‘10% acid solutions’, you’re no longer dealing with a toner, you’re applying a liquid exfoliant (in most cases, these products mention exfoliation or resurfacing on the front of the pack). Personally, I wouldn’t use those every day for extended periods of time (peeling skin twice or three times a week is enough), whether the stuff calls itself ‘toner’ or not. If you wanted to use both a liquid exfoliator and a calming, barrier-restoring toner, use them in that order, and make sure your toner doesn’t also have acids in it.

As for me, I’ve become addicted to the instant quenching of my glycerine-and-prebiotic-based favourite toner, which has helped make my skin less reactive and less quick to dehydrate as the day wears on. I’m thrilled to see the wave of toners and essences currently being launched by little boutique brands and massive skincare brands alike; I think these humble liquids can add something positive to any skincare routine. If you balk at the idea to adding another step to said routine, consider that often, toners are so packed with healthy, regenerative actives that they can stand in for a serum. And for those who hate using moisturiser, a toner or essence with humectants can be all the hydration you need. Just keep an eye out for high levels of alcohol, as there are still far too many toners that sneak the stuff in. As a child of the ‘80’s I’m well aware of the decade’s many delights, but its toners weren’t one of them.

Choose your toner

For dehydrated skin
We Are Wild Solid Water, £22
Glycerin, ferments and probiotics irrigate and settle skin in seconds

For sagging skin
Derma-E Firming DMAE Toner, £14.50
Proven elasticity-restorers DMAE, alpha lipoic acid and vitamin c make this a truly toning toner that battles enlarged pores to boot

For lifeless skin
Aurelia Brightening Botanical Essence, £10
If you have no sensitivity to essential oils, this anti-inflammatory, ferment and probiotic-rich mist will add a bit of glow

For dull skin
Nanette de Gaspé Essence Noir Tonic, £65
Superfruits, ferments and niacinamide balance and restore, but a powerful acid complex gives this peeling and brightening properties that require careful dosing and a high SPF during the day.

What Is Milia And How Can You Treat It?

Syringe with Blue background

If you’ve ever examined your skin up close in the bathroom mirror and spotted small white bumps, dotted under your eyes or across your cheeks, that won’t pop despite your many attempts, you may have milia. Often mistaken for whiteheads, the bumps are mostly undetectable and can cause little issue day-to-day.

But whether you have it or are unsure, or want to know the treatments that work and are available to remove them, I spoke to two skin specialists, Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at Skin55, and Pamela Marshall, Clinical Aesthetician and founder of Mortar & Milk, who share their expertise to help you in the pursuit for the healthiest skin possible.

What is milia?

Dr Mahto explains, “Milia are small white bumps or cysts that appear on the surface of the skin when dead skin cells become trapped. They are made up of keratin, a protein on the outer layer of the skin, and whilst they resemble whiteheads, they are not related to acne or infection and are simply a pocket of normal skin.”

Because milia and whiteheads differ, how they develop and therefore be effectively treated contrasts too. Marshall shares that a whitehead is a dome-shaped lesion that can turn into a larger pustule. “Milia, on the other hand, do not generally get infected and are more difficult to remove,” she says.

Milia also sticks around longer on the skin says Marshall. This is because of the build-up of keratin in a pore becomes sealed-off by epidermal cells, the outer layer of skin, and this seal is what makes the removal process more complex than simply squeezing it like you would a spot.

What causes milia?

“Milia on the face are usually formed spontaneously, and there are a number of factors that contribute,” Mahto states, who goes on to say, “Milia found around the eye area can be caused by heavy creams, where the skin around the eye is much thinner than other areas of the face. It can also occur on the nose and other areas of the body.”

Milia tends to occur as a result of skin damage – predominantly sun damage – as well as rashes and excessive use of harsh products on the skin.”

How can it be treated?

While milia can create a bumpy texture on the skin, Dr Mahto advises that it doesn’t need to be treated unless you are concerned about them, and there are products you can use at home to help minimise it. “Fewer dead cells means fewer unsightly bumps, gentle exfoliation allows the dead skin cells to be removed, resulting in much less build up,” says Mahto, recommending superficial peels containing non-abrasive AHA’s and BHA’s, including glycolic and salicylic acid as a first step. “They provide accelerated, chemical exfoliation without the need to aggressively scrub your skin and only lift off the top layer of skin.” Retinoid creams can also be used for widespread problem areas, as can chemical peels.

However, to have milia completely removed can be done in a professional setting and is not something that should be attempted at home. Marshall reveals that often people at home will use a needle to puncture the skin and then squeeze out the bumps, but as there is no guarantee that the needle is totally disinfected, so you’re at risk of infection while also squeezing out something so hard, could cause scarring.

There is also a menu of treatments to choose from in a clinic, but all should be undertaken by a qualified dermatologist or aesthetician, as they can recommend the most appropriate route to take. “The best type of treatment will also depend on the type of milia you have, as well as the number and location on the face,” Mahto says. “Before having any procedure done, especially an extraction, it is best to book a consultation with a qualified dermatologist (check their credentials on the General Medical Council Register beforehand), to see what will be best for you and your skin type.”

According to Mahto, the most common removal is via ‘de-roofing’, where a sterile needle is used to create an incision in the skin, making way for careful extraction. ‘If you have tried the usual exfoliation, chemical peels and retinol methods then electrodessication treatment is also available. This process uses electricity, and a fine metal electrode or probe to heat the skin and to destroy the milia.”

Natural alternatives to your favourite skincare ingredients

Fork made of vegetables piercing a golden capsule

The appetite for natural beauty has grown exponentially in 2019, and there’s zero sign of it slowing down. This past year has been largely about subbing in synthetic formulations for those that are natural, going ‘clean,’ and re-focusing on organic options. But why exactly are we so taken by all things natural, and why now? “Customers are mindful of the impact that skincare has on the environment, and want to do their part to try to use brands that are more sustainable and that are not full of ingredients that will harm their skin,” explains Ksenia Selivanova, co-founder of expert-led skincare consultancy Lion/ne. “There is also a fear of chemicals, and consumers want more transparency, so have gravitated towards ingredients that they recognise and can understand,” she continues.

Our new-found obsession with going natural can have definite benefits for our skin; another reason why we so often seek out products that keep it simple and are largely chemical-free. Many of us are beginning to notice a real difference in the way our skin — and our conscience — feels when choosing to go natural rather than synthetic. “How our skin responds to natural botanicals is very different to how our skin responds to synthetic ingredients or plants that have been sprayed with pesticides,” says Tara O’Rourke, Esthetician Trainer and Brand Ambassador at Dr. Hauschka. “Natural botanicals have an affinity with the skin when they are hand harvested with good intentions all the way through the process. It is something that is felt and cannot be replicated or produced synthetically in a lab,” she adds.

While natural ingredients are not for everybody (sensitive skin types may want to go slowly), there are some great options out there for those who want to give them a go. The following are the most interesting alternatives to some of our favourite synthetic ingredients, from retinol to salicylic acid.

Retinol alternatives

If you’re into retinol (a beloved vitamin A derivative), chances are you’ll have heard about the bakuchiol buzz in recent months. Bakuchiol has been praised as the ultimate natural alternative to retinol as it requires zero down time, has no side effects, and can be used on sensitive skin or on those who are pregnant. Bakuchiol is derived from the babchi plant, and is a phytochemical ingredient that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Much like retinol, it aids in anti-ageing, and while there is still work to do on establishing if it is as effective as retinol, there have been studies (including the one by the Society of Cosmetic Scientists in 2014), which suggest bakuchiol has similar results in terms of an increase in cell turnover, collagen production stimulation, reduced hyperpigmentation, and smoother fine lines and wrinkles.

Interestingly, bakuchiol is not the only ingredient that has potential to work with the skin in similar ways to retinol. Apricot kernel oil can also be praised for its retinol-like properties, thanks to its level of vitamin A. The vitamin A within the oil can help with fine lines and wrinkles, as well as roughness and dehydration. Interestingly, it also aids in UV-related skin damage, which sets it apart from retinol, which makes the skin more sun-sensitive. It’s important to note, however, that little research has been undertaken to determine whether apricot kernel oil is as effective as retinol, or whether it has many similarities on the whole, so don’t expect miracles with this one.

Try: Super Bakuchiol Serum by Garden of Wisdom.

Exfoliant alternatives

We all love a good exfoliating session, but some skin types don’t cope as well as others with synthetic formulations. Sensitive skin, for example, could benefit from trying ingredients such as clary sage, which has similar effects to salicylic acid. Featuring keratolytic properties, it can gently exfoliate the surface of the skin, and “is an antioxidant, meaning it can be beneficial in the fight against free radical damage,” notes Selivanova.

However, this is another one that isn’t backed by a whole lot of science, so it can’t be guaranteed to work or have results comparable to salicylic acid. It’s worth giving a go though, notes Dr Ismat – dermatology specialist at Pulse Light Clinic: “Salicylic acid can be very helpful as a re-surfacing agent for acne or congested skin- I am not aware of any good studies that shows clary sage is as effective — but again, a good brand/product should be safe and worth trying, and may well be effective for many.”

Other ingredients that have been seen to have results similar to traditional exfoliants are organic raw cane sugar (rich in glycolic alpha-hydroxy acids), and of course, natural fruit enzymes such as those derived from pineapples and papayas. Natural brand Dr Haushka also uses wild English daisy and Nasturtium in their products, which have astringent properties and oil-balancing properties respectively. They are therefore both great for helping oily and/or blemish-prone skin.

Try: Green People Fruit Scrub Exfoliator.

Nourishing alternatives

So we’ve covered exfoliation and retinols, but what about nourishment? In truth, there are a seemingly endless number of natural ingredients that nourish and moisturise, but mango seed butter is the one that experts love, and one that takes the place of a well-known ingredient often used in products like balms: petroleum.

“Mango butter has a similar consistency to cocoa butter. It nourishes the skin, providing fatty acids, and can make even stressed, dehydrated skin soft and supple again,” says O’Rourke. Mango butter is a natural antioxidant, and can also help skin prone to eczema and psoriasis, whereas petroleum-based products “are more likely to clog the skin as they provide a barrier effect,” says Dr Ismat. “Petroleum is so processed that it doesn’t contain any nutritive ingredients,” adds Selivanova. “Mango on the other hand, is rich in vitamins A, C , E, which are essential in protecting the skin from free radicals and excellent to promote cellular regeneration.”

Try: Eye Revive Cream, Firming Mask and Lip Balm by Dr. Hauschka.

What Does Central Heating Do To Your Skin?

central heating with pink wall

With the turn in temperature comes a dial-up of central heating in our workplaces, homes and social settings. As cosy as it feels, it’s not doing our skin any favours, with increased dehydration and dryness on the horizon.

But instead of simply enduring lacklustre skin, clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar & Milk Pamela Marshall along with consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk, reveal that there are preventative measures you can take, as well as the ingredients to prioritise in your routine to help ward off the effects of central heating amidst a winter chill.

What are the effects of central heating on our skin?

As Marshall explains, central heating, much like air conditioning in the summer, draws moisture from the skin which causes the outer stratum corneum to become dry and irritated. “The change from central heating to being out in the cold, going from work to home, will also affect our capillary network, causing the capillaries to become dilated.” Dry skin can then exacerbate acne, rosacea and eczema, she adds.

While increased dryness is particularly prominent across our lips and hands, keep a close eye on your cheeks as according to Marshall, the apples of our cheeks and nose tend to become more sensitised and flushed, and the skin often becomes dry and irritated too.

What preventative steps can you take to keep help avoid irritation?

While we’re all well-versed in the age-old solution to maintaining hydration levels by drinking water, you can also take extra measures to ensure skin health throughout the temperamental temperatures inside and outside.

In environments like your home, where you can control the central heating, Dr Kluk recommends using a timer so your heating comes on for a couple of hours in the evening and switches off again until morning. Not only will this help with your bills, but it won’t aggravate your skin with excessive heat. If you’re in a particularly cold place and prefer to keep your heating on overnight, turn the thermostat down and aim for a temperature around 20 degrees Celsius, says Dr Kluk to minimise its impact on the skin.

“Avoid marathon sessions in the bath or shower and keep the water lukewarm,” says Dr Kluk, who advises something as simple as trapping humidity in the bathroom while you wash by keeping the door shut. To minimise the loss of moisture from your skin, pat your face and body dry with a soft towel and apply moisturiser while it’s still a little damp.

It’s also important to steer clear of known irritants in skin care products; fragrance being one of the worst offenders. Stick to unscented shower gels, and avoid foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) in your products too. Dr Kluk recommends an emollient soap as a substitute instead.

What ingredients should you introduce to your skincare?

As for the steps to take within your skincare routine, there are a handful of ingredients that will aid recovery of damage done by central heating and increase hydration levels.

Firstly, polyhydroxy acids (PHA’s) are the best at deeply hydrating the skin beyond the stratum corneum, as well as reducing inflammation says Marshall, who makes sure her patients in her clinic use it topically all year round too.

“Look to other known humectants too, such as glycerin, urea, lactic acid and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr Kluk, which will attract water to your skin and help boost hydration. “Occlusive ingredients such as lanolin or petrolatum will also create a seal to reduce transepidermal water loss,” she adds, commonly found in lip balms and will help keep dry, chapped lips at bay.

Don’t forget to consider your diet too. According to Marshall, taking omegas and essential fatty acids are essential as our inner skin is both hydrophilic and lipophilic, and needs water hydration as much as lipid hydration. And of course, continue to keep drinking water regularly.

What I Have Learnt Since Having Psoriasis

simple illustrated diagram of the layers of skin and psoriasis

It’s a skin condition that affects just two per cent of the UK population, but if you have ever endured the eye-watering itchiness and discomfort that psoriasis causes then you’ll know just how debilitating it can be. Mine started back when I was in my 20’s with dry, itchy red patches developing along the left side of my neck.

For the first few weeks I blamed the change in season and higher-than-usual stress levels. But the patches didn’t ease up, instead they blistered and spread up to my scalp, behind my ears, along my forehead and over my neck. Putting it down to an allergic reaction, my doctor prescribed me Hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines.

While these helped to calm down the itchiness, but they did little to ease the redness around my neck and face. Psoriasis can be tricky to diagnose and if you haven’t experienced a severe bout of it before, then it’s not uncommon to assume that it is an allergic reaction to something you’ve eaten or used.

Flare-ups come and go in cycles. In its mildest form it can be confused with eczema as the patches are red, dry and itchy, while the severest attacks can look like reactions to food or creams. During the first six months, I was given several different diagnoses, including acute eczema, dermatitis and allergic reactions.

The NHS defines psoriasis as: ‘a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body.’

Admittedly this sounds very similar to eczema, however psoriasis is an autoimmune disease where your skin cells multiply at a faster rate than usual and don’t shed, which results in bumpy, inflamed skin and can lead to infections. “Our skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four weeks,” says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahoto. With psoriasis this process can take just three to seven days.

First and foremost, if you think you might have psoriasis it is key to ask your doctor or a dermatologist for a skin biopsy to rule out any other skin conditions. While it’s a chronic skin condition that you will always have, there are ways to make it more manageable.

It’s thought that genetics plays a role in psoriasis and it can run in families. When it comes to managing your condition though, anything from what you eat to the lotions and potions you use can exacerbate the rashes and blisters. Like most things in life stress is a common trigger for flare-ups.

For me, the best thing I ever did was to start a skin diary. I documented everything I ate and drank, how much exercise I’d done, which skincare products I was using, as well as how I felt on a day-to-day basis. While not everything that worked for me will work for everyone suffering with psoriasis, it might give you some food for thought. I found that stripping my beauty routine right back to the very basics made a huge difference. Out went any foaming cleansers as they dried out my skin, along with acid-based formulas and peels.

Instead, my skin relished in soothing, hydrating formulas that helped mute the itchiness without feeling heavy or clogging my pores. For my scalp, I found coal tar shampoo helped reduce the scaling endless white flakes. Although I appreciate not everyone will be willing to catch a whiff of tarmac every time you move your hair.

In terms of my diet I was advised to try cancelling out different food groups to see if they had any impact on my skin. For me, cutting out dairy, wheat and alcohol made the biggest difference. I would wake up and my skin wouldn’t look or feel red-raw and my hair didn’t look like I’d slept-walked through a snow blizzard.

After months of trial and error, constantly scribbling down in my skin diary and making small tweaks to my day-to-day routine, I can finally say that while the psoriasis on my scalp and behind my ears persists, the red scaling from my face and neck has gone. It’s not necessarily gone for good and I’m still a work-in progress, but I feel more in control of it.

As it stands there is no cure no psoriasis and I would be lying if I said I had never battled with a dark moment, but my biggest piece of advice to anyone suffering with psoriasis is to stay positive and stick with your skin diary.