Beauty News

How ‘Well’ Is Your Hair?

hair-article

According to 2020 trend reports, hair ‘wellness’ is the next big thing we need to be aware of. Just like skin can reflect how healthy your insides are, so too can hair and is why more and more supplements and personalised haircare routines that focus specifically on hair nutrition are popping up. “Brands and indeed consumers are making the connection between digestive health, stress, hormonal balance and nutrition and health and beauty,” explains Lucie Greene, founder of trends agency, Light Years. “Beyond loss, hair health in general is something consumers will invest in correcting.”

What’s impacting your hair?

When it comes to how ‘well’ your hair is, it’s not as clear cut as one might hope. Heat styling, colouring and pulling or yanking hair are the more obvious culprits but sun, minerals from hard water and increasingly, pollution are the latest saboteurs. In fact, if you are an urban dweller, take heed because recent studies show that pollution can cause hair loss as it kills the protein cells needed for healthy hair growth.

Stress and diet will also impact how swishy and strong your hair is and is why brands are looking to supplements as your hair’s saving grace. That’s because if your gut is off kilter (whether it’s down to poor diet or stress) your body – including your hair – won’t be able to absorb the nutrients it needs to produce thicker, stronger and more resilient hair.

How to give your hair a health check

“If the outer cuticle layer becomes damaged or raised, the strand will become porous, allowing natural moisture to leach out which leaves hair dehydrated and brittle,” explains Dr Joe Cincotta, Product Development and Formulator at Color Wow. “This means there will be a visible, unhealthy appearance and the surface texture will look rough, dull, dry and get frizzy easily.”

As well as eyeballing your hair, there are two tests Cincotta recommends. The Porosity test where you take two inches of hair and drop them in a glass of warm water. After a couple of minutes, if any of the hair fibres sink, your hair is porous. If the fibres remain on your hair, the cuticle layer is sealed and in tip top condition. There’s also the elasticity test. Take a strand, soak it in warm water for ten minutes and then slowly stretch the hair. You should be able to stretch the hair 40-50% before it snaps he says. If it falls short, you’re in the danger zone.

Rectify and rehabilitate

Topical products like Ameliorate’s Scalp Care Regime Kit is a great way to boost scalp health as they not only contain ingredients that improve circulation and stimulate hair growth, they get rid of build up from pollution and product that suffocate the follicles. Moisture treatments and masks are another sure-fire way to strengthen the outside layers and ensure your locks remain hydrated, fluid and easy-on-the-eye.

However, it’s the new breed of supplements that will really make a difference to how our hair looks, feels and acts according to the pro’s. “Most hair is protein so a diet that incorporates this is essential,” explains Dr Megan Ross who specialises in gut health. “Iron, vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins are all essential to stop hair fall out and omega 3’s provide healthy fats that keep hair healthy and well hydrated.”

Of course, you can find these essential vitamins and minerals from food – a Mediterranean diet with plenty of fish, seeds and nuts is a great place to start but that’s where brands like Hairgain, Nutrafol, Better Not Younger and Superior Hair are here to help. Cocktailing a specific blend of essential nutrients to feed your hair and help the gut, hair follicles get a fighting chance of staying intact and remaining healthy.

If you feel like you pop enough pills already, brands like Fulvic Acid have even produced an Elixir that can be glugged straight down or mixed with juice or water. Containing Ioniplex, a scientifically sound complex that improves cellular energy and neutralises toxins, it also increases collagen production – another essential protein needed for fabulous hair.

Other top tips to keep your ‘do en pointe? Tread carefully with finishing products like hairspray or dry shampoo as pollution sticks to them like glue. Don’t go overboard on protein shampoos and conditioners as they can make your locks feel brittle, try moisturising products instead. And always use a thermal protectant like Color Wow’s Speed Blow Dry Spray before styling your hair.

You never know, a re-think from the inside out might just be the tweak you need to take your hair from limp to lustrous.

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.

Do You Need A Super Serum?

Serum Bottles with a dropper lid on pink background

Applying a serum has become a regular protocol in most people’s beauty routines and while stats show that many of us are eschewing multi-step routines, serums are sticking. “A need for simplicity has pushed UK women towards minimalist skincare products with more intense active ingredients, such as serums,” explains Alex Fisher, Global Skincare Analyst at Mintel. “Serums are also a well-liked format, perceived as brightening and nourishing and often include ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants that are said to illuminate skin.” Read More…

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.