Thursday, 27 March 2008

#68 Mineral Fake-Up

I'm wary of even mentioning the word 'mineral' now, as I know just how aggressively consumers are being bombarded with new launches - and yes, it is all a bit much. Particularly when you actually break down what's going on. Mineral make-up is being lauded as the answer to women's prayers - a sheer, flattering veil of cover that simultaneously heals and protects skin - pure enough to sleep in! (Multiple exclamation marks punctuated with rolling of eyes and yawns from the Beauty Ed's desk). Fact is, it ain't that sheer, it doesn't really protect (unless you wear potloads) and you don't EVER want to sleep in it.

OK, so most of it certainly isn't any worse than what we're already putting on our skin - and most of it doesn't contain preservatives, artificial dyes and animal byproducts etc - BUT it's still not pure or beneficial enough to warrant the fanfare. At best, it's full of metal oxides and mica - but as the acne-prone will vouch for - zinc, aluminium and iron oxides are occlusive - we're talking about the same stuff that is found in mineral sunblocks after all. They do not let 'skin breathe' - another mineral make-up myth - they're heavy metals and all they really do is just sit there, reflecting away the sun's light. On the upside, they're stable compounds which are unlikely to cause allergic reactions - hence why mineral make-up is often recommended to sensitive and rosacea-prone skin types AND there is a smattering of research that suggest zinc oxide can help damaged skin heal itself - but only in so far as it provides a barrier that sits atop the wound, thereby keeping out foreign bodies. Not particularly miraculous.

Then there's Bismuth Oxychloride - a few other beauty editors have clocked onto this recently, and it's about time, because this compound is actually a man-made one, formed from an industrial chemical process and is the byproduct of lead and copper refining. It's found in lots of different mineral make-up brands and new research suggests that it might also cause sensitivity reactions. So... you start to get the scary picture...

But it gets even worse. Quite apart from the mineral make-up that is in fact 100% mineral make-up (and can therefore only contain a combination of metal oxides and mica - a naturally occuring mineral, that gives products 'shimmer') - there are now the new breed of products that proclaim amazing skin benefits - 'good enough to sleep in, promotes skin health, great for acne-prone complexions as it lets skin 'breathe'' - and are simply lying. Glance at the label of any of the new big brand launches and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a long list of unidentifiable, and often chemical, components in there too - hardly the pure as air formula being spouted by the marketing material.

My advice?
- Read every label. The fewer ingredients the better.
- Don't automatically assume that mineral is better. Drier skins often experience a chalky finish as the powder is prone to settling on flake-prone areas.
- If you love your mineral make-up, remember that although the formula may not harbour bacteria (being physically inert and unable to degrade) the brush used to deposit it will not be exempt. Wash it regularly!
- Don't rely on mineral make-up to give you your sun protection. It's immensely difficult to get a handle on how much needs to be applied in order to obtain the protection given on the packet. You're far better off applying a moisturiser with built-in sunscreen, before applying make-up.
- And, never go to sleep in it. Skin detoxes and repairs itself at night and a mineral coating sitting within and atop pores will not do your face any favours.

It would seem that when it comes to mineral make-up, the only thing that does seem clear is that nothing should be taken at face value...

Monday, 17 March 2008

#67 Cut Your Nose Off...

Any beautiful person will tell you that the problem with chasing perfection is that you'll never be satisfied. If you make a living from your face, your eyes become magnifying instruments - honing in on every pore, blemish, discolouration and fine line. We all want that preternaturally airbrushed look - a complexion that can withstand analysis in blaring sunlight sans maquillage - but how realistic is this wish? The fact is, perfect skin is achievable. You just need a lot of money, a lot of expert attention and a lot of time. The downside is that you'll become so impossibly anal about your skin that it may well begin to dominate your every waking thought. If you rise with a clear complexion, it is as though a minor miracle has occurred. All is good, the world is benevolent, the skincare range you are using is magnificent. If, however, a pre-period pimple appears, or you get a patch of stubborn, subcutaneous lumps and bumps along the chin, life stands still. Your mood falls. Your regime is crap and you are already on the look out again for another miracle cure. So, when does it become time to break the cycle - to step away from the mirror and accept that we are all human and will all have good and bad skin days?

In my case, the penny has yet to drop. I have always had calm, clear skin. The odd spot throughout my school years, the odd rash from a heavily fragranced product. Then I became a beauty writer. Every time I met with a PR or an industry expert, I felt as though my skin was in the spotlight. Luckily, most of the time it withstood the attention. I was told I had the skin of an 18 year old. That my skin would age well - it's olive and slightly oily, for which I thank the genetic lottery - and that in general, everything was A-OK.

However, recently, the playing field has become more competitive. I met one of the world's leading cosmetic dermatologists yesterday in a dark, dusky back room in a hotel as he was in town to launch a new product. Nothing prepared me for the surprise of meeting this lauded and legendary man face-to-face. I loathe bitchy blogs, so I am not disparaging this premiere facemaker for the sake of venting spleen - I am merely remarking on how difficult it seems to be to find a sane, sober, sensible solution to skincare in this bizarre beauty world of mine... and this is made plain as day when faced with an 'expert' who is playing god, perhaps a little too freely, with his own face.

My other pet peeve? When an 'expert' takes a cursory glance at your skin and announces that s/he has precisely the solution for your blocked pores/shiny nose/circled eyes... et VOILA!.. here it is, 'My new skincare launch!' Puh-lease. Not only will I pay no heed to a nano-second consultation held in a candlelit, cavernous room, but I'm telling you now, that attitude won't have me spending a penny on your products either. I am, for example, extremely allergic to retinol. I break out in rashes whenever it goes anywhere near my skin - yet I have, in the past, been blindly prescribed several retinol-rich products, without so much as a question as to my skin's history or common reactions. These short-cut, and scrappy, skincare analyses - very common for Beauty Eds who are always dashing from press event to expert's office and are always having products recommended (i.e. HARD-SOLD) to them - really get my goat.

I propose something radical. An industry of skincare experts who tell it like it is. Someone who says, 'This may not work for you - it doesn't for everyone - but try it and see.' Or, 'I think your skin's just fine - stick with what you're already doing.' At the very least, have the professional courtesy to take a good look at my skin before sending me off with the entire product range and promises of an epidermal epiphany. I'm tired of this over-sell, over-kill, over-exaggerated attitude. As ever, I would like a little truth served alongside my beauty...even if it hurts.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

#66 Blue Thursdays...

A Thursday evening quickie. Here’s what’s UP:

Stella McCartney Purifying Face Wash – if you’re oil-prone, this surprisingly foamy and deep-cleaning concoction has an uncanny way of stripping away shine, but not moisture – and with repeated use, it does help to refine blemish-prone complexions. However, do not take results for granted (as I did) and think it’s then OK to eat fish & chips, pizza and ice-cream for a week and expect your face to remain radiant. I blame the crappy weather too mind.

Bobbi Brown Blush in Pale Pink. Ghastly (in a great way) in the pot – a garish, blueish, cold pink – but works wonders on all skins, including olive. Mental, but true.

Hope’s Relief Eczema and Dermatitis Cream – after years of always reverting back to my (ick!) steroid ceream – this has finally kept things under control. It stopped the cracky patches between my fingers and most importantly, really calms itching. Like it a lot. Even if it does leave your skin smelling like it’s been basted with a honeyed-meat sort of glaze.

Kérastase Ciment Thermique – Really does protect hair from the ceramics and dryers. BUT (see downs below)…

Here’s what’s DOWN:

Kérastase Ciment Thermique - … it’s just TOO fragranced. Kérastase (and TIGI for that matter) are naughty naughty. There is no need to pack so much parfum into products. Not only can it be a bit sickly after a while (especially TIGI’s S-Factor range, which smells like bubblegum), but I’ve found that I’m also a lot more prone to allergic reactions to Kérastase and TIGI products than anything else. When using Kérastase Shampoos and Conditioners, my scalp tends to itchiness and it’s even flared up eczema around my ears.

White Eyeliner – in winter. In summer, it’s all nice and soft and glides on without flakes. In winter, hard as graphite in the morning, it’ll leave you looking like you’ve got conjunctivitis.