Bite Back

sunday-times

  • If mosquitoes love you, but you don’t love them, India Knight has a Deet-free bug spray.

    Unstung Hero

    I know bug spray isn’t a sexy product exactly, but now the weather is warming up, you’ll thank me soon enough. I am catnip to bugs, to the point where my lower calves are a tragic, blotchy sea of decades’ worth of ancient scars and bite marks, including two stonking horsefly bites from Wyoming in 1988, which, incredibly, are still a bit raised (horseflies are the absolute worst — they can bite through denim). I suspect I have some kind of allergy to bites and stings; certainly I need injections if I’m stung by a wasp (against my skin swelling to the point of bursting rather than against anaphylaxis, but still, no fun). I’m telling you all this to show that I am no mimsy pushover when it comes to insect repellent.

    I’ve tried everything, obviously, and found that the only products that really work involve Deet. Deet was invented in 1944 by the US Department of Agriculture and was initially used as an agricultural pesticide. The US army started using it in 1946 (it was used by soldiers in Vietnam and Southeast Asia), and eventually civilians in the late 1950s . Deet can cause wheezing, burning eyes and headaches, and in 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency reported 14-46 cases of potential Deet-associated seizures, including four deaths (the risk of seizure is 1 in 100m, to be fair).

    Deet: it doesn’t muck about. The commercial potions that contain it — pretty much every effective insect repellent — pride themselves on using safe levels. I don’t find this especially reassuring, plus they smell disgusting. I am permanently on the lookout for a more pleasant alternative, and last year I found it. It’s called Mrs White’s Unstung Hero (£20 for 250ml) and it’s basically a lemony cologne (which smells OK rather than actively delicious). According to the manufacturers, it contains “a naturally occurring amino acid that renders you ‘invisible’ to mosquitoes, ticks, black fly, wasps and bees ” (I don’t know why nice bees are in that list , as they don’t sting you unless it is a total accident). You can spray it on yourself or your clothing, as well as your pillowcase — it’s not oily, so won’t stain anything. NB: you need to reapply it every two hours.

    I have found it brilliantly effective against mozzies: my bites usually turn into child’s fist-sized lumps, but with this I have either no bites or normal person’s bites — bites that itch a little, then quickly quieten down without ever swelling insanely. Unstung Hero is also available in 100ml aeroplane-friendly sprays. The same company also makes a fly repellent called Swatnot (£15), which, it says, “will eradicate your stable fly problem and not compromise your horse’s health”. No horsefly bites seems miraculous to me. I haven’t tested it, but if you have stables/horses, you might want to try it.

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NIOD CAIS & MMHC

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    NIOD Copper Amino Isolate Serum 5% and Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex by India Knight

    I’ve written about the sciency goodness of these two before, and I will go cross-eyed if I have to explain it in techy terms again. You can search for the relevant column if you burn with desire to know precisely why everyone became obsessed with this serum when it first came out. At this point I feel it’s more helpful to tell you that this is simply the best serum I have ever used (I use it in conjunction with the MMHC).

    The reason I think this is because it has a transformative effect on the skin within days — give it five to see a real difference in tone and texture. Now, again, you shouldn’t just buy it willy-nilly; it is specifically made to help ageing skin. Everyone’s skin is ageing, obviously, from the day they’re born (bleak thought), but this is really one for the middle-aged woman — 40-plus, I’d say. It’s not supposed to regulate oil production or the like, but I find that it makes me wake up enviably matt, as if I’d cleverly powdered my face in my sleep. Available in 1% or 5% strength — I’d go for the 5% unless you know yourself to have very sensitive skin.

     

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Beyond Repair – India Knight

sunday-times

Beyond Repair – India Knight discovers a recovery balm to heal all your skin woes

  • The Tweezy

    We’re doing useful rather than glamorous this week, and we’re going slightly first-aid kit (as in the cupboard, not the totally great band David Cameron almost ruined by saying he liked them). Sheald Recovery Balm is by a company called iS Clinical that, as the name suggests, does heavy-duty clinical products. This one is designed specifically for use after cosmetic surgery and procedures such as laser treatment. Yes, I know you probably don’t have invasive procedures or laser treatment. Keep reading please.

    Formulated to use on wounds, it a) speeds up recovery, b) prevents scabbing and peeling, c) restores healthy skin asap, and d) is about a specific amino acid, 4 hydroxyproline, that basically tells the skin to start making new collagen. That’s all very good, and if you have any kind of invasive treatment on the cards, you want a tube of this for afterwards. It would also come in handy following a bad facial, when you leave all red and swollen, cursing yourself for your lack of research.

    I do not have invasive treatments, but I do have a child who had open-heart surgery last October. The surgeon went in through her existing scar this time. It’s a beautiful scar as it happens, but, obviously, it’s a scar. And it’s a scar that had finished healing when I approached my guinea-pig daughter brandishing my tube of Sheald. Or so I thought. Turns out this was not the case: this stuff is incredible on scars, even if the scars are old. After a month of use, it has all but erased my daughter’s. I would strongly recommend using this on post-pregnancy stretch-marks or any other kind of stretch-marks or scarring, even if the marks or scars are not new. And if you know anyone who’s going for surgery, turning up at the hospital with a tube of this is going to be a lot more use than a bunch of flowers and some boring magazines. (Sheald and a Kindle loaded with comfort reads, that’s my advice.)

    Sheald has multiple other applications, none quite as dramatic, but all as effective. If your skin is dry to the point of desiccation, whack this on all over before you go to bed. If your skin is behaving weirdly, ditto. If you get a stress rash, like I do – strangle little inflammations that come, itch and go away again – this stuff will get rid of them (it contains kava, which has a mild local anaesthetic effect, so the itch goes almost immediately). If you have ‘princessy’ skin that gets irritated by cleaning products – I spring-cleaned the kitchen recently and the oven cleaner made me come up in giant hives – this will sort you out. Strange dry patches: gone. Knackered looking skin under your eyes after too many late nights: gone. Dry elbows/knees/feet: banished. Mild allergic reactions that show up in your skin as annoying red splodges: zapped.

    This stuff has tons of uses other than its chief cosmetic one; it’s quasi-miraculous. Parents of small children should keep a tube handy in case of cuts, falls, nicks and grazes, and I have a feeling Sheald would work brilliantly on chickenpox scars. I’ve not tried it on acne scars, but if anything’s going to work, it’s this. And if you have an elderly relative who is prone to banging their shins on things, get them some Sheald and their skin will heal faster. I don’t quite know why it’s marketed with the ‘post-procedure’ tag so much to the fore; everyone needs this stuff, not only ladies who like scalpels. Not cheap, but one of the most effective products I’ve ever come across.


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