Tuesday, 27 October 2009

#111 Loose Women

Loose ends are enough to drive me round the bend, so in a bid to polish my worktop and enter the weekend light of heart & mind, I'm rounding up all the nitty gritties in a single post, which I hope will help the many readers who've been emailing me this month. As ever, thank you so much for reading & reaching out & getting in touch & asking me lots of big, important and interesting questions.


" I'm 38 and recently I've noticed fine lines around my mouth. I've always just slapped on some moisturiser and headed out the door but I think more is needed these days. The woman at the Clinique counter said my skin was basically oily but dehydrated where the fine lines are. Now, what do you think about expensive anti ageing products? Should I go to Space NK and throw money at my lines or do cheaper products work just as well? And is it moisture that you need to plump up fine lines or should I be looking for retinol in a product?"

OKAY, so do you want the cold hard truth?

There isn't a cream on the market that will rid you entirely or permanently of a real wrinkle.

Some will make it look less noticeable; others will fade it away a little over time; the best might even plump it up a touch... but there is no topical high-street treatment that will erase your wrinkles ENTIRELY, FOREVER.

Pass the tissues!

Now, if you're happy with your skin in general then I'd suggest adding a moisture-boosting serum into your routine (use post-cleanse & before moisturising) to see if the increase in hydration will fill out those fine lines. I get them on my forehead & one by the side of my mouth when I've skipped my serum for a few weeks (I use ESPA Cellular Hydrating Complex), but once I go back to it, nada, nice & smooth again. At 29, however, I do not yet have any wrinkles (a microscope analysis confirmed this last week, phew!) so I don't want to recommend something that works for me which may not deliver for you.

There is a difference between a fine line and a dehydration line though - but if the latter is left untreated for long enough it will soon become the former.

I was once a big fan of Dermalogica's Hydrating Booster until I realised that it made no long term difference to the moisture levels in my skin. I've had this problem with other Hyaluronic Acid products too in the past - they get sucked up and you think your skin's drinking its daily dose only to wake up the next morning flaky & dry as ever. If you think of your skin as a rock formation, these lightweight serums are essentially a drip-feed of groundwater, but they're not penetrating the surface to reach the soil beneath. I know I bang on about ESPA all the bloody time (and am sorry that I do, because I hate to seem biased), but my skin's moisture levels were never truly balanced until I tried ESPA Cellular Hydrating Complex. Just love that stuff - if only it weren't so dastardly expensive!!

Anyway, back to you. If your lines do not disappear entirely when they're hydrated then you probably need something a bit more serious then a moisturising serum - and this is when companies want to sell you that special something to resurface and plump up the skin's collagen and elastin stores and restore that cushion-soft complexion of your youth.'


There are SO many products on the market nowadays that promise these sort of results (you know the ones; they come in syringe-shaped tubes with tag-lines that promise they're better than botox), but the results are rarely worth the price tag.

L'Oreal's Wrinkle Decrease Collagen Filler, for example, is consistently voted a top product by magazines, but it scored a poor 54% on the ever trustworthy WWW.MAKEUPALLEY.COM with half of 70 users saying they would not buy it again. Common complaints were 'the effect didn't last more than a couple of hours. I don't think it really plumps your skin, the way they claim' and 'it has more of a light-diffusing effect because it is semi-opaque than a wrinkle-filling effect. There are no active ingredients in this that could stimulate collagen production and the "boswelox" is a marketing thing.'

RoC's Wrinkle Correction Serum fared better, as did Olay's Regenerist Wrinkle Filler - and both are beloved by beauty eds for promising serious results, and carrying out exhaustive trial-and-testing on their new launches. In fact, a word to the wise - the affordable Olay has become something of a cult cosmetic surprise among the snobbier set - it's good, honest stuff, and from the Definity range to the Touch of Sun products, it's building an entirely new base of devoted followers. But - and this is where I get cuttingly REAL again, there were lots of users of both product who did not see as great an improvement as they had hoped. And this is where the old science comes in again - a craggy face will not turn cherubic overnight, and no pot will ever deliver on a line-less promise - [well, perhaps one of gold, if traded in for something far more invasive]. But, here's where I suggest that we ladies pay more attention to the fine print - do any face creams actually promise to eradicate our wrinkles forever? No, of course not. Improvements are not to be sniffed at though.

BUT, the fact remains that the serums and creams that sell themselves on an immediate filling or smoothing of lines will often make very little (if any) long-term difference. They're usually loaded with silicon & light diffusing particles (most often mica) - so the change is superficial, not structural. A good rule of thumb is to plump (excuse the pun) for products that don't purport to work overnight, and take as long as the skin cells' own cycle would take (which makes sense if you've been promised lots of spongy new cells from your latest serum)... rule of thumb, 6-8 weeks for a real visible difference.

But in my experience a great resurfacing peel followed by a regenerating mask (or a professional laser or intense pulsed light treatment) will make more difference to fine lines than a year's worth of shop-bought skin solutions. So sometimes it's worth paying to see a professional before you fork out on lots of broken promises in pots.

As an aside, I'm not a big fan of Clinique's cut & dry approach. They just don't understand skin in an holistic way. While they're regularly introducing more high-tech formulas & some great foundations, they're also pushing a 3-step-system that ignores all the new skincare breakthroughs & antioxidants across the rest of the line, and does not bother itself with protecting skin from the sun or pollution or stress; does not take into account age or race or lifestyle & the toner (which is actually an exfoliator) is my own personal bugbear because it gets women to slough away dead skin twice a day, but the moisturiser does not come with any sun protection. Any woman using this twice a day for ten years (and not having bought SPF on top) would be in for a unpleasant reflection come middle age. TRUE.

Then, onto retinol, which is another tricky issue...

Retinol is essentially an antioxidant (derived from Vitamin A) and, in layman's terms, helps the skin create healthier skin cells. It also helps shed the dead and regenerate the new, but it's not without its problems. Several of my beauty insiders have confided that their clients (who have been using retinol for upward of 10 years thanks to dermatologist prescriptions) now have very dry and thin skin - it may be clear and poreless and unlined, but it isn't very robust. Of course modern advancements in retinol production (including encapsulating it in non-irritating nano-sized ingredients that can penetrate the dermal layer) are steadily doing away with these issues - and new formulas are less likely to leave skin red-raw (skinceuticals and Medik8 are good examples of brands making smart upgrades to their formulas).

The problem for me remains that I'm a big believer in letting oily skin be oily - and would rather have a midday shine than retinol-regulated pore secretions which dry up by the time I hit 50. This thinking is unfortunately hugely at odds with a lot of leading dermatologists, many of whom think retinol is the Holy Grail of modern skincare. The Americans adore it too - and even women like Paula Begoun, who has made a living of telling the truth about what does & doesn't work, is a big fan (www.cosmeticscop.com).

If you're a retinol fan, bear in mind her interesting point though:

"Packaging is still a key issue [with retinol], so any container that lets in air (like jar packaging) or sunlight (clear containers) just won't cut it, something that applies to most state-of-the-art skin-care ingredients. Lots of retinol products come in unacceptable packaging."

And finally, you didn't mention slapping on SPF with your moisturiser? I have to say that I don't think it's worth spending a penny on anti-ageing unless you're protecting skin on top - and if you did ever start on the retinol that would have to become a key part of your regime.

I hope this has been of some help! The truth is so often painfully convoluted and when it comes to beauty, very very rarely black and white.

And in the end:

As a favour to my blogoshpere pals 'Anonymous' & 'Ellen' I wondered whether any MM readers had ever used Sjal products OR Erno Laszlo and if so, what's the consensus? Answers tagged onto this post would be greatly appreciated.

There! All tied up & somewhere to go.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

# 110 Count Me Out

I was going to begin this post by moaning about the winter bug that's still got me out for the count, but, well, I can't be bothered - and dredging up the gory details is not going to do much to improve my mood is it? Suffice it to say that my equation goes a bit like this:

A 7-day flu bug +
7 days of antibiotics to clear a chest infection that will linger for another 5 days +
All of this straight after coming off a 3 Day Superjuice Detox Diet
= Don't F**k About With Your Guts. If you do it'll come back to bite you in the ass. (No pun intended).

And don't forget to read the small print:

So, I thought I'd cheer myself up by dishing the dirt on some disappointing skin offerings instead. Well, my vitriol is one of the few things that isn't contagious...

I ran out of my beloved ESPA Gentle Deep Cleansing Balm last week and rooted a 'standby' Bobbi Brown Cleansing Oil, out of the drawer as I was too sick to travel to the shops. The first few times I used it it was fine - it emulsified well & rinsed cleanly. I did, however, notice that my skin didn't feel as soft as normal and on 3rd or possibly 4th employ, it began to sting - not severely, but in an 'I'm rather harsh and irritating against your oft-blown-nose skin' way. My chin and cheeks were also far drier after cleansing than I deem acceptable. In my experience, the mark of a good cleanser is that even dry skin can stand a few minutes after cleansing and before moisturising, without starting to !SCREAM! at you. Well, this one failed on that count. And I also started to notice blocked pores on my nose and forehead - something I haven't experienced during my entire 6 months with ESPA. As far as this product's concerned, I do not want to be Bobbi's girl ever again.

I ran out of Sisley Nutritive Lip Balm last week too (major bummer as it costs around £35 for a teeny pot), and trialled two other formulas that promised even better results (according to the PRs at any rate). The first was SUQQU Lip Essence Cream, which comes in a swanky and weighty white pot. I liked it at first because it was thick, waxy and unguent, so stayed put, but a couple of days in it became apparent that my lips were not convinced, and therein began the peeling and puckering. I also started to notice a chemical whiff after application which scared me, so I desisted and started on Prescriptives Lip Specialist Triple Action Lip Therapy instead. The latter is a much better bet & has sorted out soreness a treat. The only problem (and it's an insurmountable one) is that come the end of the year Prescriptives will be no longer. So, if you're a fan, it's worth stocking up while you still can. On my part, Sisley's still the best... and sometimes the best is worth the pay-day wait.

As for me, it's back to bed with a mug of tea... sniffle sniffle... and sweeter dreams.

DISCLAIMER: My Juice Detox did not make me sick. It just didn't help me shake my sickness. And it might even have made me sicker than I would have been without it. But I cannot prove it. But just in case it did make me sick, I won't be paying £300 to get knocked out again anytime soon.... Oh sod it. Just sue me.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

#109 Cold Comfort

It's day 3 of my Hydro Healing Classic Detox and yep, I've got a cold. No surprise really, given that Mr M has been an infection-incubus of late, and has been battling the snots for almost 3 weeks. Sympathy has worn off entirely - given that I've now caught his sore throat & bit of a cough (though nothing as severe as his 8-on-the-Richter scale shake)- and turned into frustration... because he's still smoking despite the infection... which is something I really cannot get my head around. Anyway, enough matrimony-acrimony.

When I'm ill I go into BATTLE mode. Out come the organic salads, shakes, juices, vitamins and 12-hour stretches of sleep - and I've yet to be out of commission for longer than 3 days with a single infection.

And given that day one of my sniffles coincided with day one of my detox, well, I had no choice but to suck it up and hope for the best.

So, there were 4 x 500ml bottles of fruit or vegetable juices each day, and the good news was that they were all mightily filling & tasty. There was no gagging or greenness (not even with the beetroot, carrot & ginger juice - which tasted like really zingy organic ginger beer - nice!), but the tummy did get a bit annoyed at having to drink everything cold and straight out of the fridge within 20 minutes of opening it (and downing 500ml in 20 mins is no mean feat - and puts a lot of pressure on the old bladder). There were also packs of linseed and cleansing clay mix, but because I was already sensitive of stomach, I ignored the clay stuff & did the linseed instead (a teaspoon left to soak in boiled water in a small beaker all day long & downed just before bed - not as gross as it sounds, and tasted rather like weak cod liver oil thanks to all the nourishing oil that seeps out of the seeds throughout the course of the day).

You're also allowed to drink vegetable broth, but because I did not feel well enough to chop, dice, boil or drain, I mixed Marigold Organic Vegetable Bouillon with boiling water instead (which is what they recommend for lazy cows like me) and it was nice to sup on something hot & steamy when feeling under the weather.

Biggest surprises: that I did not feel sick; that my digestive tract went from sluggish to regular in just 48 hours; that I did not feel too hungry (even if it was nigh on impossible to watch a TV chef baking a hot ginger cake without wanting to go on a rampage & hold up my local bakery), although I did feel really tired and a bit tender (but that was probably the cold rather than the detox... who knows?), but on the whole - far easier than one might have you believe. I could not do it for longer than 3 days though for fear of forgetting how to chew & swallow. God forbid.

I've come out of it with a feeling of energy and have been sleeping well... have also dropped about five pounds (but I always do when I have a cold as I never eat as much), and most importantly, feel as though I am well on the mend. As for when I'll schedule my colonic, well, there's something to be said for building one's strength... and I have had to tell my editor, that, cough cough, I'm afraid that may take some time...

N.B. The next post will dispel all of the above...

Monday, 5 October 2009

#108 Kiddy Cake & Confessions

Two buttery white bread cheese sandwiches and a slice of Smarties cake for dinner (it was my little cousin's 4th birthday. Sweet!) don't really make for inner peace and my belly's still bloated 12 hours later. When I feel icky the temptation is to stay put on the sofa (and when it's raining, as it is now, the inclination is multiplied a million-fold) and indulge in dodgy box-set marathons as opposed to the 26-mile variant, which is really what I happen to need - and have needed for several months, having noticed that the photo on my gym membership card has faded almost entirely away thanks to being left on the sunny windowsill for the best part of the summer. I've grown lazy. Really lazy. SO lazy in fact, that last week my leg went to sleep during my five minute walk to the train station. That's not good.

So, how to motivate yourself when you're feeling distinctly... well... bleurgh?

I have a friend who forces herself to read Teen Vogue on a fat day, knowing that the sight of myriad stick-thin teens will ping her arse to the gym quicker than an email from her eagle-eyed editor. Not healthy, but, well, borderline dysmorphia and psychological torture are her Mr Motivator.

I have another friend who came up with the Slovenly Sunday - a day when she eats and drinks whatever she wants, without reason, and if she's unlucky enough not to throw up spends the next six days making up for it at the gym and with meagre diet dinners. Oh, and she's a health editor at a consumer glossy. Figures.

I also have a stick-thin gay male friend who thrives on Larabars and protein shakes and runs 2 marathons a week to make up for his sky-high alcohol consumption.

Well, needless to say I shan't be choosing any of the aforementioned routes (and if I ever did, would feel the need to chase them with a weekly psychotherapy session, or conversion followed by confession) and shall instead pull on my waterproof boots, trudge down to my local food market in order to refresh & reinvigorate my fridge, and then wander through the park in the rain.

And set my alarm for 7am tomorrow morning in a desperate attempt to get myself to Body Pump and melt away my latest fat deposits (that Charbonnel et Walker Chocolat Chaud was worth it though!) before my membership card melts down from misuse.

Oh, and prepare to laugh at me all next week as I trial the Hydro Healing Classic Detox... which I'm doing for work and involves just 3 juices a day for 3 days, a colonic and... well... I'm guessing a whole lot of tantrums and toilet trips too.

Happy Rebirthday to me.

I'll cry if I want to.