Beauty Bible

How To Create A Skin-Friendly Environment

Old Barometer inset in stone

Even when you’re doing everything ‘right’ for sensitive skin – calming creams, no perfume – it can still act touchy. As many as 40% of women who apply to become testers for our Beauty Bible Awards self-identify as having sensitive skin. But the truth is, it may not be your beauty regime that’s triggering flare-ups – other factors can come into play. Over the years, we’ve identified many lifestyle shifts that may help skin to ‘chill’ out, whether you have occasional flare-ups or even more entrenched skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne.

Remember: soap is too harsh for the face. End of. We recommend a specific facial cleanser (balms can be particularly gentle). But if the skin on your body is also sensitive, try using an emollient wash, instead, such as Ameliorate Nourishing Body Wash, which gently cleanses while protecting against moisture loss with skin-friendly Essential Fatty Acids. If you prefer to stick with soap, seek out a natural version, which retains the glycerine – the natural, moisturising element which is removed from most commercially-produced soap bars. An oat-based product can often help calm touchy skin. For an instant bath time skin-calmer, simply put a handful of oats in a cotton cloth, tie up and hang under a running tap.

Never use very hot water on sensitive skin.Use cool or tepid for washing face and hands and warm for showering/bathing.

Use the minimum amount of washing powder. Better still, try Soapods, which are natural cleansing ‘nuts’ that you throw in the wash in a special bag, and which do get washing white, honest! NB We have experimented and found that most clothes get perfectly clean at a temperature of 30°C – far lower than is often recommended. Try for yourself. (Not if you have eczema, however, and need to exterminate house mites via washing in high temperatures.)

Use cider vinegar instead of fabric conditioner.You don’t get that spring-like smell (which of course is entirely synthetic), but believe it or not cider vinegar does leave clothes just as snugglesomely soft. (And no whiff of vinegar, amazingly.) In warm weather, we dry clothes outside – also the greenest option. You can always throw them in the drier for five minutes at the end, to soften them up.

Switch to household products that don’t use harsh chemicals. This may help alleviate allergies, too. Sarah’s decades-long eczema disappeared when she started using Ecover and Bio-D. Avoid clothes washing powder with biological actions, which often end up irritating skin.

Avoid bubble baths and use bath oils, instead.The aforementioned Ameliorate – who built their skincare empire by offering TLC to touchy skins –also offer a great bath oil in the range.

Keep the air around you humid. Dry air can dry the skin – although air that is too damp can cause mould and dust mite growth, both of which irritate eczema. The key is to keep humidity at around 50%. Can’t figure out what that’s like? We have a little Dial Hygrometer (um, that’s the technical term) that we bought online for under a fiver, which sits on a shelf and measures the humidity level in home and/or office. If the humidity’s in the ‘green zone’, you’re fine and dandy – but if not, improve humidity levels by placing bowls of water around the house, near heat sources – or dry your washing over the radiator, which humidifies brilliantly! If you’re not on a budget, you could consider investing in an electric humidifier – the Dyson is the top-of-the-range (and obviously the sexiest-looking), but others are more accessibly-priced.

Keep the temperature down in your house.Easier at this time of year, of course, when the central heating’s on lower (or even off, we hope). Central heating dramatically dries out air – and you’ll also save on fuel bills if you keep it on lower. If you feel cold, that’s what cardigans and vests are for, we always think! Or go for a walk, which will boost your circulation and make you feel warmer.

Avoid exposure to passive smoke. It will inflame skin, just as it irritates the rest of your body.

Keep a symptom/lifestyle diary. It can be hard to figure out what works. So take brief notes of what you do, in lifestyle terms, to deal with your sensitive skin each day – and see if you can spot patterns. Having both suffered from itchy skin at various times, we know how fiendish it is – but honestly, the above have worked for us. Good luck.

The Best Face And Body Scrubs For Your Skin

Pink Body Scrub top down view

To paraphrase the Daleks, there is one beauty action more important than any other, this month. ‘Exfoliate, Exfoliate!!!’

Because by now, the central heating’s been on for months. And did you know that your clothes have actually been acting as a wick these past few months, extracting moisture from your body? The problem with dry skin is that it starts to look flat and sometimes flaky. Dry skin doesn’t refract light in the way healthy, dewy, plumped-up skin does. (Which is why our skin rarely looks better than on holiday.) Simply piling on moisturiser, though, doesn’t cut it. Dusty, dry surface cells just don’t soak up nourishment and moisture (never mind all those pricey anti-ageing ingredients you’ve sprung for) the way that new cells do.

We have a positive arsenal of scrubs and exfoliators in our bathrooms. They’re among our favourite products because over the years, we’ve figured out that they really are the fast-track to better-looking skin. So this month, we thought we’d point you in the direction of some of the best face and body scrubs.

Let’s start with the aptly-named Neom Organics Real Luxury Body Scrub, a sugar-grained confection which is infused with the most blissful blend of jasmine, Brazilian rosewood and lavender, working to transform tired, dull-looking skin with its natural blend of jojoba and sunflower oils. Another longstanding favourite buffer is Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Natural Exfoliating Scrub; the exfoliating ingredients here are salt – and, more unusually, coffee grains, which are terrific for scruffing skin without scratching. It also has the most sublime frankincense and grapefruit scent. (And it’s a fact that when we love a product’s smell and texture, we’re more likely to use it diligently and often.) We also definitely need to give a shout-out to the product which so impressed our testers for the Beauty Bible Awards 2019: Temple Spa Sugar Buff, infused with uplifting oils of lavender, eucalyptus, patchouli, clove, rosemary and grapefruit, suspended in a skin-nourishing base of olive oil, grapeseed oil, fig and pomegranate extracts.

Its unisex scent means Sugar Buff is a good one for the kitchen sink, where anyone in the household might like to scrub up after grubby tasks. On which note, we also rate Margaret Dabbs Exfoliating Hand Scrub, a brilliant prelude to a lavish slather of hand cream, when hands need some serious, transformative TLC. And with the day soon to dawn when we’re going to stash away our opaques for a few months, we’d point you in the direction of This Works Perfect Legs 100% Natural Scrub, which is great for making legs – literally – bare-able, with a single treatment. After the Himalayan salt’s done its stuff, it leaves even the most lacklustre legs looking gleamingly healthy, thanks to the base blend of sweet almond, crambe and blackcurrant oils.

The past couple of years have seen eco-developments on the scrub front, meanwhile. Happily, plastic ‘microbeads’ have now been outlawed– for ecological reasons; they were building up in the marine environment. There was really no need for them, to deliver perfectly good results, and our oceans will be the cleaner for it. But you might notice that none of our own ‘hot tip’ scrubs contain hard, crushed particles like pumice or nut shells. There are two reasons for this: a) these can scratch skin, if used over-zealously, and b) we personally find nothing alluring about having a gritty bottom from sitting on a layer of particles that don’t dissolve in water.

Salt and sugar scrubs do dissolve. The reason we sometimes choose sugar over salt is simply that we’re gardeners, and salty scrubs sting wounds acquired when (for instance) pruning roses or blitzing brambles. (As long as we haven’t been in the wars with secateurs in hand, though, salt’s fine.) Personally, we also like it when our scrubs come in an oil base, which not only makes for easy application – small, gentle circles should be fine, NB – but also leaves skin nourished with a veil of oil. We can then smooth on body butter afterwards, for a skin-quenching double-whammy.

If scrubs aren’t your thing, you can buff skin with a loofah or a mitt – but the ultimate skin-blitzer is the now-legendary Dermasuri Deep Exfoliating Mitt, which you use damp, on the body. As beauty experiences go, it’s extraordinary – and ‘ewwwww’-inducing, in a sort of irresistible way: you literally watch balls of grey skin build up as you slough, ready to be sluiced away in the shower or bath. (You might have a little temporary pinkness afterwards, but the brightness of the newly-revealed skin is extraordinary.)

Faces, meanwhile, need exfoliation just as badly as what’s below the vest-line. Again, we have a wide range of weapons at our disposal. (Jo’s bathroom shelf generally resembles one of those arcade games – to be found at the end of her street in Hastings – where pennies are meant to cascade off the front as you roll yours down the slot.) The watchword here, though, should always be: ‘gently’. If you’re over-zealous, skin can suffer – so we always abide by a tip given to us years ago that facial exfoliants should always be massaged in with the ring finger, as it’s harder to apply over-zealous pressure.

In terms of facial exfoliators, we’d recommend, however, that even scrubs recommended for daily usage are actually used two or three times a week. (Nobody needs more exfoliation than that.) Still, gentle enough for our liking is Green People Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator, which features bamboo stem and bentonite clay particles, to help clear clogged pores. It’s formulated with enzyme exfoliants, too, which are optimal for faces because they deliver radiance via an enzymatic action which dissolves the dead cells rather than physically scrubs them away. We also love the skin-brightening effect that LIXIRSKIN Soft Clay Rubber has; this dual-action ‘no-bits exfoliant’ and mask features keratolytic enzymes to break down the dead cells, which are drawn to the white clay in the formula. Remove immediately with warm water (like a normal facial scrub), or leave on for five minutes as a skin-refining mask. And let’s give a shout-out to iS Clinical Tri-Active Exfoliant, which offers the triple-whammy of botanical enzymes, salicylic acid and eco-friendly microbeads – it ticks the box of being kind to skin, but is impressively powerful.

So don’t leave it till the bikini season’s looming (aaaaaargh!) to get in the habit of blitzing your skin. Face or body, regularly removing those cells – and the watchword, always, is ‘gently’ – is one of the best favours you can do to your skin. We promise you’ll almost hear your ‘new skin’ slurping up whatever you choose to smooth into it, afterwards…

How To Spring Clean Your Beauty Stash

Beauty Bible Makeup

Time flies. And the evidence of that is almost certainly there, in your make-up bag/on the bathroom shelf or your dressing table. It’s ridiculously easy to let expiration dates on cosmetics fly by, or say to yourself: ‘I’ll get round to washing my make-up brushes at the weekend.’ Only – invariably – you get a much, much better offer. (Let’s face it: almost anything is a better offer…)

But just as reorganising your clothes seasonally allows you to identify gaps and make room for new finds by disposing away older items, so it can be hugely satisfying to spend an hour or two cleaning, caring for and organising the beauty products you’ve lavished your hard-earned money on and figuring out what’s missing from the line-up. So: this is the perfect time to edit your kit – and prepare your beauty stash for spring. (Before the sun really comes out and all anyone wants to do is loll around outside. )

First off, check expiry dates. You’ll probably need specs for this – or maybe even a magnifying glass – but this should really be done twice a year. Beauty products do go ‘off’ and lose effectiveness. Beyond that, there’s a potential risk of bacterial infections or breakouts. If anything’s gone beyond its best-before date (or you’re in doubt), throw it out. Use your nose: does anything smell ‘off’? And use your eyes, too: anything which has separated really needs to go. Mascaras, meanwhile, should always be ditched after no more than three months – or sooner if you have any kind of eye infection.

As a little PS, we also like to reassess what our skin may need whenever we finish a bottle or jar of anything. Are we restocking on autopilot? Have the needs of our complexion/hair changed? Beauty habits are all very well – but beauty ruts aren’t.

Be ruthless about disposing of products you haven’t used in a while

Fact: if it’s more than six months since you put a product on your face or body or hair, the realistic chances are you’re never going to use it again. This can be a really hard thing to tussle with; it seems like such a waste. A half-way house, if you feel torn about throwing something out, is to put it centre-stage on the shelf of products that you use every darned day: cleanser, toner, moisturiser. If you still haven’t opened the jar or bottle after a week passes and it’s been staring you in the face, consider it to have signed its death warrant.

Don’t put packaging straight in the bin, though

Be sure to recycle wherever you can – glass jars and plastic containers can often be put in with your other recyclables. Again, you’ll probably need a magnifying glass for this (we’re never without one!), but look on the bottom for the numbers identifying what kind of plastic it is, for recycling. (Although many councils nowadays do all the hard work for us and recycle what they can, without the need to separate. Or the need to go blind figuring out WHAT to separate).

Dispose of last year’s suncare

Sun protection isn’t cheap – so this can definitely hurt. But not as much as sunburn hurts. SPFs should never be ‘over-wintered’, but bought afresh each season to ensure optimum protection. This is the time to invest in a new SPF 30 minimum, for the coming sunlight season. (It is coming, we promise.)

Organise a ‘kit-to-go’

This is a good time to assemble a travel kit-bag with small pots of the products you like to use – for face, body and hair – so that you’re packed for any emergencies. Just add cotton pads, a needle and thread and you’re good for any last-minute getaway invites. Ditto to save time before your next trip, put together in-flight essentials and stow them in a zip-top, security-friendly plastic bag. Job done. Several Brownie points awarded.

Clean your brushes

Brushes are prime breeding grounds for germs – and every make-up artist we’ve ever spoken to recommends washing them once a week. Use just a little gentle shampoo on the bristles and swirl against the side of the sink till the water runs clean. Alternatively, you can use a professional brush cleaner which will be solvent-based – but to be honest, even though most of the solvents evaporate after you’ve done this, we still prefer the old-fashioned washing-in-warm-water technique, which feels more thorough when done correctly.

Let the brushes fully air-dry before using; leave them to dry with their ends over-hanging the edge of the counter, resting on towel so they don’t roll off. (And maybe set a diary reminder on your phone for you to do this more regularly than oh, once every spring…)

Reorganise what you have

Harness spring time’s glorious throw-the-windows-open energy to take an honest look at what’s left, and figure out how to display it more attractively. Group like with like. (It’s easier to see what you have that way.) Find pretty containers: upcycled candle jars, hand-painted vintage teacups, trays and acrylic beauty organisers.

It’s all too easy, though, for a bathroom shelf to become like one of those arcade games where you roll a penny down a lot and small change cascades off the front of the shelf. (Are we the only people to have bruised our toes with products that have fallen off when we’ve tried to add one product too many to an overcrowded…?)

So we suggest that for the Zen feeling it gives you, tidy away anything you don’t use every day, tidy away – face masks, perhaps, or depilatories/razors (as well as any medical non-necessities). Notwithstanding this neatnik advice, Jo’s tip is to keep this ‘non-everyday’ beauty stash in a glass-fronted cabinet – as all too easily out of sight can be out of mind.

The 2019 Beauty Bible Awards

Beauty Bible Awards 2019

For the past 21 years, our mission at Beauty Bible has been to cut through the hype and help women take a short-cut to products that really, really do what they say on the tin/jar/tube. We began by publishing the results in our Beauty Bible series of books, then last year put the awards online (Beautybible.com) for the first time.

The Beauty Bible Awards are judged by real women – in panels of 10 – trialling full-size products in real-time over a period of up to four months, then feeding back. Results are always amazingly consistent – and after what feels like an epic year of sending out products to over 1,000 testers, we’re delighted to declare the winners of the Beauty Bible Awards for 2019!

It comes as no surprise to us that so very, very many winners can be found right here on VH – so here’s just a small selection of the Gold winners (and one rather special Silver!) that are showcased on Gill and Shabir’s site, with a handful of the real-life rave reviews from testers’ detailed feedback. (You’ll find many more in-depth comments on our own site.)

Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Facial

Cue drumroll, cue trumpets: a spectacularly splendiferous score (an average of 9.3/10 across our tester panel) for one of this superfacialist’s star products, designed to ‘recreate the effects of a Skinesis facial overnight.’

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘This oil is totally amazeballs! Within 24 hours skin felt ridiculously smooth, plump and moisturised. After using for a while, it looks smoother and plumper – so much better – and I have had compliments. Just lead me to the next bottle…’
‘Loved the product a lot. It smelt absolutely amazingly relaxing and helped me sleep. Within 30 minutes my skin felt softer, plumped, silky and brighter. Promised to lift, firm and make skin feel like cashmere – it did all of that’
‘People have commented how well my skin looks on make up free days, which is amazing.’

Aurelia Repair & Brighten Hand Cream

The second Gold in a row for Aurelia in the hand cream category for this rich but swiftly-absorbed product, with its glorious blend of vetiver, ylang ylang, lavender and patchouli.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘This was like no other hand cream I have ever tried. For a start, it smells like you’ve just walked into a spa. The application in unreal, as it instantly absorbs into the skin. Results leave you with hands so soft they could rival a two-year-old’s. And my nails are in brilliant condition’
‘10/10! This lovely hand cream moisturised my old crêpe-y hands, LOL! Definitely has anti ageing properties. I will definitely be purchasing once this runs out’
‘I have never paid this amount for a hand cream before but I do think its worth the price.’

Lanolips Lemonaid Lip Treatment

This little tube of whipped balm is a thirst-quencher for dry lips, slicking on via an angled dispenser to deliver a zestily lemony treat.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘My lips get very dry and I use lip balms all the time usually every 15-30 minutes all day, but I could go longer without reapplying this as it stayed on and actually moisturised my lips really well. By the end of two weeks they definitely felt better’
‘I love that the balm has a slight shimmer, without being obvious’
‘Very moisturising. I use every night as I have dry lips due to cancer of the oesophagus and not being able to swallow, eat or drink. I think it could be recommended to cancer units in hospitals and used by the patients to alleviate dryness.’

Beauty Bible Lip Balm (Aloe+Vitamin E)

Well, we are very proud that we scooped an Award in our own trials! This is the only product Beauty Bible has ever put our name to (and is exclusive to VH here): chunkily-shaped, it glides on beautifully and is amazingly nourishing. But don’t just trust us on this – listen to what the testers had to say!.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘Liked this better than any other balm I have tried as it wasn’t at all sticky but properly moisturised my lips, rather than just sitting on the surface. Despite this very cold winter weather, they have stayed soft and lush looking and feeling’
‘Fab product. I loved this balm, which moisturised my lips excellently over the winter cold months, quickly improving texture and softness. It changed the appearance of my chapped lips; I was able to put lipstick on and it didn’t ‘bleed’ after.’

De Mamiel Dewy Facial Mist

The winner in our ‘Instant Face Saver’ category is a serum from the renowned holistic facialist and acupuncturist that works like a facial mist, spritzing onto the face to deliver a blend of hydrating, nourishing ingredients that shield the skin against environmental damage.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:
‘Simply spritz this liquid mist over the skin, inhale the uplifting scent, and watch your skin becoming, soft, smooth, dewy and refreshed, also uplifted in a rejuvenated way’
‘A pick-me-up in a bottle, like a breath of fresh air for the skin and senses’
‘I used the de Mamiel spray later in the afternoon to perk up my skin – it feels moisturised and plump after – and my mood. The scent and the fine mist make this a product that I found myself looking forward to using.’

This Works Perfect Legs Gradual Tan

Our own go-to for bare leg S.O.S.-es. won Gold in the Gradual Tanners category – so next time you have to reveal parts of your body that are currently swathed in vests and opaques, make sure you’ve this to hand. (Even though it says ‘Legs’ in the name, it’s great all over!)

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘A lovely body treatment. The tint is instant and the very natural colour develops gradually over two to three days, as if I have been on a sunny holiday’
‘I was thrilled that a self-tan product used on pasty white skin looked so natural; skin absorbed it very quickly and I felt as if I’d used a smooth, pampering body moisturiser. An instant tint with a slight glow,but doesn’t scream ‘I’ve been tangoed…’

Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Body Oil

No question that yet again, the divine rose fragrance – always so, so consistently popular with our testers over the decades – helped nudge this AA oil towards its high score.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS:

‘Top marks for this lovely fragranced oil, which absorbed within a few minutes. Skin was immediately soft, a lot more nourished and beautifully fragranced’
‘My skin had a glow from the start and it was particularly effective on my dry feet and elbows; legs look very moisturised and my scars, stretch marks and dry patches all look 100 times better’
‘I was blown away by the sheen it left on the skin. My lower legs looked ten years younger, I really mean that! They were perfectly smooth and looked like I had leg make-up on!’

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Chalk board graph with icons on an ascending rightward stepped graph

I was never one of those kids who was afraid of the dark. I loved the cloak of invisibility that it gave me. And while there is nothing I love more than a bright, sunny day, I have become pretty obsessed with darkness over the years – not in an ominous way (as in ‘going over to the dark side’), but in terms of the important role it plays in my wellness.

You really ought to stay in a hotel room with me, sometime, to fully understand my obsession with darkness. I travel with a roll of black gaffer tape, the better to ensure a good night’s sleep undisturbed by the cockpit’s-worth of blinking lights that many modern hotel rooms feature. My first task, on checking in (even before switching on the kettle and attacking the free shortbread), is to eliminate as many of those lights as possible with two neatly-snipped squares of gaffer tape. Message lights on phones. TV control lights. Aircon on/off lights. Charging electrical gadgets. And of course, the light ‘leaking’ through the edges of the curtains.

What I’ve discovered is that gaffer tape can also be lightly stuck to pretty much any wallpaper (well, I mightn’t try it on a gold hand-painted mural) without damaging it. So yes, I am that weird (maybe certifiable) creature who gaffer-tapes the edges of the curtains to the hotel room walls – the most extreme example of which was in a ‘presidential suite’ a hotel once upgraded me to when they’d lost my booking. Last done up in the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, is my guess, it featured ‘shortie’ curtains that ran along the entire 10-metre window which I then taped every inch to the wall. Exactly what kind of bondage game housekeeping thought I’d been up to when the found the tape I’d peeled off in the morning and put it in the bin, I’ve no idea – but I did enjoy a really good night’s sleep. (Why don’t I just wear a sleep mask? Because – along with earplugs – I find them a bit claustrophobic. Fine on an aeroplane when there’s no alternative, but otherwise, a no-no for me.)

By now, you may well think I’m completely tonto. But in reality, light has a profound effect on sleep. I realise I’m an extreme example in terms of how even a small level of light affects me deeply, but it’s been scientifically observed that insufficient darkness throughout the night can lead to frequent, long periods of wakefulness. Of course, we’re increasingly aware of the impact of the blue light from our phones on sleep; I’ve written before about the fact that if I look at my phone (never mind computer) after about 8.30 pm, it’s the equivalent of drinking an espresso in terms of the effect on my slumber. But experts now agree that bedrooms should be as dark as possible – which includes (as we do at home) having blackout linings to curtains, and ensuring window coverings are fitted to avoid slivers of street light or early morning light from seeping in. (Ah, so that’s why the pelmet was invented…!)

According to Cheng Chi Lee, who studies circadian rhythms at University of Texas Medical School, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we should seek out darkness for its surprising effects on health and behaviour. There’s one particularly fascinating study in which tamoxifen was used on cancer cells in mice. One control group was kept kept in cycles of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of complete darkness, while another the dark stage of the experiment was replaced with roughly the amount of light that might sneak under a hospital door. Even in such low levels, the cancer cells became resistant to the drug. And although this medical research was carried out on mice (and no, I’m not thrilled about that either), the scientists from Tulane University in New Orleans believe it could have implications for how cancer patients receive their treatment.

It’s well known that interfering with workers’ body clocks, meanwhile, can seriously impact on health. My hunch is that the winking lights in bedrooms and sleep environments will eventually be revealed to be more damaging than we currently understand. (But if you must have a clock with the time on? Make sure it has red digits, rather than blue or green; it’s been found to have the least impact on sleep.)

We were never built to live in such light environments as we enjoy now. For millions of years, people went to bed when it got dark and woke when it was light. Even now, when we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in nature, somewhere truly dark – and I support the Dark Skies movement, a campaign to eliminate light pollution – we feel connected to the universe in a way that feels truly primitive and (for me, at least) very, very grounding.

So while I’m eternally grateful to Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb – just miraculous, eh?! –it doesn’t surprise me at all to find that these unnatural, albeit low levels of night-time light may have impact on our wellbeing. If asked to make a list of our basic survival needs, food and water of course come top. Warmth, too. But I certainly know that darkness is essential for my quality of sleep, and my overall equilibrium. So if the Gaffer Tape Marketing Board is looking for a new ‘face’, I’m your woman.

Night, everyone. And lights out!

New Year’s Habits

a lit red candle surrounded by darkness

Have you ever, ever kept a New Year’s resolution beyond – oh, about 3rd January? Maybe 1st February, if you’re really pushing it? That’s because New Year’s resolutions are often completely unrealistic goals. Going to drop three dress sizes. Going to walk five miles a day. Going to give up chocolate completely. (Were we MAD???) 

 

But what actually works, we find, is to focus instead on getting into good habits. And when you sell it to yourself like that, there’s an implicit sense of forgiving. Fall off the wagon for a day, or eat a Twix, or forget to drink those two litres of water, and it doesn’t feel catastrophic at all. You can just gently nudge yourself to do better tomorrow, rather than feeling like you’ve blown it.

 

Good habits don’t happen overnight, of course. 21 days is often quoted as the minimum, but often it’s longer than that. The average is actually two months – 66 days, to be exact (according to the most famous study into the subject, by University College London health psychology researcher Philippa Lally). But don’t let that put you off. And don’t aim ridiculously high; honestly, it’s the small changes that can make the biggest difference, because they’re achievable. 

 

So, here are our top recommendations for little habit shifts that could pretty much change your life – and your wellbeing levels – by the time 2020 rolls around…

 

Eat every few hours. (Don’t wait till you’re ready to gnaw your arm off.) It’s such a common misconception that skipping meals helps you lose weight. In fact, that’s going to impact on your blood sugar levels, making you ravenously hungry – often turning to caffeine or a sugar hit, as an antidote, keeping you on that rollercoaster. Sometimes, we might feel we need to skip meals because we’re working to a deadline, or because we’ve got a big dinner coming up – but far better to snack healthily. Keep a power bar (not one of the sugary ones), a banana, some almonds or other nuts in your work bag, so that you’re never without something healthy to nibble on. 

 

Make enough dinner to take leftovers to work. It’s so easy to grab a sandwich (always unappetisingly chilled) for lunch, when we really could do better than that. We’re not sure about the concept of meal-prepping on the weekend for the week ahead that is sometimes suggested – we’d rather spend our weekends out there in the fresh air, yomping the hills or planting bulbs, thanks, but what is perfectly realistic is to cook a little more supper and bring the extra to work next day. (Team Beauty Bible does this and Jo’s fridge is home to many a healthy Tupperware-d leftover waiting to be re-heated for lunch!) 

 

Put your workouts in your diary. Think of them as an appointment with your healthier self. We are great believers in the power of self-care. It’s not selfish; whenever we have to take care of anyone else, we need to take care of ourselves, first. (The analogy is that in-flight message which tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself, before helping anyone else.) It can feel hard to squeeze in a workout, or a walk. But if that’s a fixed point in your diary, it’s easier to plan around it. (We generally find that our energy levels are boosted by a power-walk or a yoga class, and that work goes much more smoothly afterwards when we’re back at our desks. So it’s a win-win.)

 

Buy yourself a big water bottle, and keep it on your desk.It’s now possible to get very generously-proportioned water bottles to keep water cool and encourage day-long sipping. You probably wouldn’t want to carry this size around with you (we like the Chilly’s 750ml bottle, BTW), but get through one in the morning and one in the afternoon and you’re two-thirds of the way there with your daily water goals. And whenever you feel stressed, take a glug of water. It’s amazing how it cools the brain as well as the body.

 

Set a limit on social media. We find the new ScreenTime social media limiting app pretty scary, actually, in terms of how quickly we can ratchet up half an hour of scrolling through Instagram pics or watching daft Facebook videos. (We find it much easier to avoid Twitter. Fact: nobody is ever, ever going to go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Twitter.) But for 2019, we’re really, really going to try to stick to our self-imposed limit – and maybe even reduce it over time. It’s way, way too easy to get lost in social media – so what we really find helps is having a book or a Kindle or a glossy magazine with us at all times, so there’s no risk of mindless scrolling because there’s nothing else to do. If it’s hard, switch your phone off. You really have to think twice about how important seeing someone’s latest ‘selfie’ is, before switching it on again just to look at that.

 

Above all, be kind to yourself. See above – but you should never, ever feel guilty about carving out time in a busy life just for you. Maybe for a massage. Or a class of some kind. Or even for a nap. We live in incredibly stressful, uncertain times and it’s only by charging up our batteries that we can be expected to cope – so never feel bad about doing the things that help you do just that. And above all, try really hard not to beat yourself up if habits do sometimes slip. Don’t throw your hands up and go, ‘Well, that’s that, then. I’ve failed.’ Just get back on the horse (as Sarah would definitely say), and re-establish your goal. No biggie. 

 

And have a wonderful, healthy 2019, won’t you?