Beauty Bible

Everything You Need To Know About Pigmentation

Wheat field

At last, we’re having a summer. Getting the limbs out. Firing up the barbecue. Turning our pale faces to the sun. Only – let’s stop right there. Because while getting some sunshine on your face and chest feels just sooooooo good, there’s a heavy price to pay not too far down the line. Not in terms of wrinkles – we know all about those – but pigmentation problems.

You can call them ‘age spots’ (although they tend to turn up way ahead of cashing in your pension). Your Great Aunt Dorothea probably referred to them as ‘liver spots’. But in fact, they should better be referred to as ‘sun spots’ – because they’re a direct result of accumulated sun damage, which triggers melanin-producing cells in the skin to lose control and produce too much pigment as a defence mechanism – on the face and chest, in particular, but also the arms and backs of the hands, where they’re harder to conceal.

Fairer skins are more susceptible – and against a paler background, age spots show up more, too. (Jo had one of those ‘oh s**t’ moments when a dermatologist told her that the dark patches on the side of her face were sun spots, not – as she’d thought, beauty marks. Which goes to show how easy it is to miss the edges of the face and the outer jaw-line when applying sunscreen. So be sure to smooth your a.m. SPF into the whole face.)

Many botanicals have proven pigment-lightening actions, including azelaic acid (from barley and wheat), kojic acid (from fermented mushrooms), retinoic acid and retinols (vitamin A derivatives which are also famously effective against lines), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (a stabilised form of vitamin C) and licorice. (They all work by inhibiting the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase, if you really want the science bit.) But sun spots – as with almost everything to do with the body – are far easier to prevent than to cure. So here’s our suggested plan…

Never venture out without an SPF30 or over

Starting. Right. Now. This is non-negotiable  it should prevent the spots you have from getting any worse, and may actually go some way towards slightly fading them. If so far you aren’t affected by age spots? This daily SPF30 (or higher) will go a long way to preventing their future appearance. (We’re huge fans of This Works In Transit Skin Defence SPF30, which goes on really smoothly and is a great basis for make-up.)  Hand creams with a built-in SPF can be super-useful on the backs of hand/forearms, or if you tend to spend a lot of time outdoors, apply regular sunscreen to these vulnerable zones, and remember to repeat after hand-washing; Aurelia Aromatic Repair & Brighten Hand Cream is formulated specifically to diminish the signs of pigmentation – and just feels and smells so heavenly, it’s a positive treat to apply and reapply.

Wear a hat

If you have sun spots, or seek to avoid their appearance, we also advise: get yourself a fabulous, stylish collection of fairly tightly-woven straw hats, and keep on a peg near your door/s, for easy grabbing when you go out on a summer day (not a baseball cap because the brims aren’t big enough). Sometimes anti-ageing solutions can be wonderfully low-tech.  (Wide-armed, large-lensed sunspecs also help.)

Try a specific ‘age spot’ treatment

A vast amount of cosmetic research dollars are currently being channeled into this area of skincare, blending tried and tested botanicals like kojic acid, mulberry and alpha arbutin, for instance, with whiz-bang skin delivery systems. (Alpha arbutin is the natural alternative to skin-bleaching hydroquinone.) Some super-high-tech options to try that you’ll find right here in VH’s edit included Sarah Chapman Skinesis Skin Tone Perfecting Booster, White Lightening Complex by iS Clinical and Garden of Wisdom Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic Acid 1% Serum.

Apply very carefully – don’t slap the treatment on

And be aware: most of these treatments take some time to kick in, and there are no overnight miracles here. (You may be looking at three months minimum, which is longer than most ‘miracle’ wrinkle treatments take.) Be aware, too, that some are for all-over skin application, and others are literally ‘spot-targeted’, requiring the use of a cotton bud to apply precisely. Get out your magnifying glasses and read the instructions before throwing out (or preferably recycling) the box. Actually, we suggest applying a thin amount to dark areas at least one hour before bedtime; this will let it fully absorb into the skin so it won’t slide into your eyes when you press your face into the pillow.’ (Albeit mild, these skin-lightening ingredients can still sting eyes.) And the usual advice applies: nothing works if it’s left sitting on the bathroom shelf in a jar or bottle. You’ve got to be religious about using treatment products to see effects. Once or twice a week when you can be bothered makes any investment you make in anti-age spot skincare completely worthless.

Use make-up to conceal the spot

Once you’ve got an age spot, what’s to do? After your primer or moisturiser in the morning, dot on a matte yellow- or peach-based corrector or concealer (deeper peach for women of colour), using a little brush. Then press it into skin with your finger – don’t sweep it on or it’ll sweep right off again. If needed, top up with foundation or concealer (again, dab and press rather than blend), or brush on a mineral powder base.

And be careful with fragrance

Certain perfume ingredients – particularly those derived from citrus (such as bergamot) – can interact with sunlight to cause permanent pigmentation problems, in the form of ‘staining’ of the skin, with dark streaks or patches – typically on the neck and chest, where perfume is spritzed or splashed. We counsel: in summer, it’s safest to apply skin to perfume for evening rather than daytime, or put it where the sun won’t strike directly. (So long as there’s no risk of staining your clothes, fabric is a wonderful ‘carrier’ for scent, too.)

 

Natural Ways To Brighter Eyes

close up pink flower

You’ve probably noticed that D.I.Y beauty – whizzing up ingredients to make your own cosmetics – has become a bit of a trend. Well, with all respect to the millennials who are all over #Instagram with their home-made beauty treats, we’ve been doing it since we were teenagers ourselves. Here’s what we’ve always known: making your own beauty treats is fun. (Especially if you do it with a friend/child/goddaughter.) It’s easy. And because these little beauty treats are packed with lashings of botanical ingredients, they can  can be super-effective.

With hay fever a particular challenge right now (Sarah suffers terribly), puffy eyes are a particular problem. So this month, we thought we’d share with VH readers our top treatments for dealing with under-eye baggage and the eye zone generally. And, we thought we’d also share a little ‘beauty craft project’: making your own eye bags. Easy to do, even if your expertise generally doesn’t extend beyond sewing on a shirt button.

Chamomile Eye Bag Blitzer

  • 10g. (1/2  oz) dried chamomile flowers
  • Mineral, purified tap or rainwater

Chamomile has a near-miraculous effect on tired and puffy eyes. If you know you’re heading for a morning-after-the-night-before, make this chamomile infusion before you go out and it’ll be ice-cold and ready for bag-blitzing the next day. (It keeps for just a few days in the fridge.)

Place the flowers in the bottom of a mug and fill with boiling water; allow to cool and strain into a sterilised jar, which you should pop in the fridge. Soak cotton wool pads in the cold tea and place over the eyes. (Pads are better than cotton balls because they cover more of the eye zone.)

Relax for 15-20 minutes (we always love being told to do that!). During this time, use the pads of your fingers to tap outwards along the ‘orbital bone’ above and below the eye, to help the de-puffing action. (At a pinch, you can also use a cold chamomile tea bag as an eye compress; stew and cool in the fridge before use.)

Potato De-Bagger

  • 1/4 potato

Slice the potato in 5-to-10 very thin slices that can easily be moulded to the skin, rather than a couple of thick slices (which is the traditional advice).  I’ve found the thin slices are much more effective because they’re in contact with the skin. Simply spritz the eye area with plain water and arrange the potato around the eyes; leave in place for 10-15 minutes – and see that puffiness disappear, thanks to the potato’s decongesting action.

TIP: If eyes are puffy in the morning, take a leaf out of supermodel Linda Evangelista’s book and reach for a cube of ice. Wrap it in Clingfilm and use it to ‘massage away’ eye bags, working in an outward direction. The cold will reduce the swelling.

Eyebright Eye Brightener

  • 10g (1/2  oz) dried eyebright flowers
  • 225ml. water

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is the eye-friendly herb; it grows in natural grassland. You might be able to introduce seeds of this dainty, blueish-white flower into a wild, grassy corner of the garden, if you don’t pamper it too much – but if not, the dried herb just as effective.

Eyebright’s power was first recorded in the 14th century, when it was deemed useful for ‘all evils of the eye’. It’s rich in the mineral zinc, which helps repair skin tissues – probably explaining why it’s good at caring for the fragile skin around the eyes. Eyebright’s also a good skin disinfectant. (But be super-aware that natural cosmetics – made without synthetic preservatives – can become contaminated; immediately ditch any eye preparation that you make using eyebright if it starts to smell different or if you get any kind of eye infection – and always ensure your hands are clean when you use any kind of home-made eye treat. Never use a homemade infusion of eyebright directly in the eyes; it may not be sufficiently sterile.)

So: the how-to. Put the flowers in the bottom of a saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Cool and strain, then pour into a sterile jar. Store the eyebright infusion in the fridge, where it will keep for three or four days. (Don’t keep it longer than that.) When your eyes feel tired, soak a cotton pad in the mixture, squeeze to remove almost all the liquid and place the damp pad on the eyelids for 5-to-10 minutes.

Herbal Eye Pillows

  • 25cm/ 1/yard of silky or natural fabric (cotton or linen)
  • 150g (5 oz) dried lavender flowers
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Cut two rectangles of fabric, around 22 cm. by 13 cm. With right sides together stitch a 11/4cm/ 1/2inch seam around the two long sides and one end of the pillow, either by hand or using a sewing machine. Turn the right side out. Put the flaxseed and the lavender flowers in a bowl, add the lavender essential oil, drop-by-drop, swirl to mix – and (using using a funnel) pour the mixture into the bag. With a hand stitch, neatly sew the remaining side closed.

These eye bags are wonderfully relaxing – helpful for getting to sleep, during an at-home spa treatment or any time you need to relax;  the weight of the grains seems to quiet the eyes – and in turn, the mind.  These make wonderful gifts, too. Your herb pillow should last for about a year;  when the next lavender harvest is in, renew it. The herbal eye pillows page can be made of almost any natural material, but silk is particularly soothing and gentle on the skin.

The Ultimate Leg Guide

legs in bath

Boy, summer’s taken its time, hasn’t it? But at last, it is time to peel off some layers – and reveal the skin beneath. And – in the case of our legs – possibly shriek in horror, and retreat straight back into a pair of jeans. Not sure what it is about legs, but most emerge from winter looking like they’ve been under a stone somewhere. Hideously pale. Often dry and flaky. Definitely not worthy of a can-can, that’s for sure…

But since most of us are just longing to stow away our opaques until autumn rolls round, emergency action is required. The good news? Fortunately, there are some short-cuts to bare-able legs which can transform them fast enough for you to reach for a short dress or a pair of shorts in just an hour or two from now, without scaring the horses. (Highly relevant, in Sarah’s case.) Read More…

The Beauty Bible Spring Skincare Edit

Pink Tutti London

As some of you may know, for aeons now we have been sharing products that Beauty Bible loves every single weekday on Beautybible.com, having sifted through the literally thousands of products which land on our desks each year to find the gems.

It probably will not come as a surprise to VH devotees that many of our finds happen to come from this very website. So – in case you missed them – here are some of our recent faves and our spring skincare edit… Read More…

How To Find The Perfect Foundation

foundation on black and white stripes

Foundation can be the best friend in your make-up bag – or your face’s foe. Quite simply, that’s the difference between ‘getting it right’ – in which case, your skin will simply look like a beautifully enhanced version of its natural self – and getting it wrong. Which could mean: foundation that’s basically wearing you (rather than the other way round – usually because you’ve got the shade wrong), or which cakes, or simply disappears by elevenses.

 

We know plenty of women who can get away without foundation. Mostly, they’re under the age of 30. Beyond that, foundation can make a huge difference: it’s a brilliant canvas for other products, and it evens out imperfections. As our make-up artist friend Trish McEvoy once told us: ‘As we get older, we lose evenness (principally due to cumulative sun damage), clarity, colour and definition. That’s the difference between a young face and an older one. Your aim should be to recreate these as naturally as possible.’   Read More…

Nail Clinic: How To Stop Bad Nail Habits

nail polish container

Flaking, breaking, snapping, peeling, biting: many of us are afflicted by nail ‘woes’ which stand between us and and manicure ‘perfection’. In fact, nail woes rank very highly, when it comes to advice requests to beautybible.com. (If there’s a woman out there who’s 100 percent happy with her nails – particularly as the years roll by – we’ve yet to meet her.) So here’s our wisdom on tackling some of the most common nail habits. Read More…