The Quest for Perfect Skin

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I am neurotic about my skin. I wouldn’t say I am a particularly neurotic person, however when it comes to clean bed sheets, the Norovirus (I never, ever want to go back to that dark, dark place) and the condition of my complexion I am obsessively neurotic. I wouldn’t consider these neuroses to be a particularly negative thing, quite the contrary however I do continually, obsess, fret and search for products, diets, techniques and even medication to get that perfect skin that I have spent my whole adolescent and now adult life longing for.

It would also appear that I am not alone when it comes to this neurosis.

One of my friends spent nearly £300 on this uber-sleek American, medically approved, skincare regime because her already perfect skin had an ever so tiny amount of pigmentation (she described it as a faint chocolate ice-cream stain which always made me laugh). Whilst some may call her expenditures extravagant I was the first to have her back. It may not be that noticeable to anyone else, but to her (and her confidence) it has made all the difference. And in fact her skin does look incredible… I better start saving!

A week or so ago, I had coffee with another girlfriend who is without a doubt gorgeous – eyelashes longer than a camels and wispy, light, brown hair which naturally highlights to the colour of honey in the sun. Yet she hates the condition of her skin, so much so that it brought her close tears when she spoke about it. Whilst I always try to keep my eyes on the bigger picture (my friend has her health, great friends, an amazing job, she’s very witty and fun etc etc) I also very much understood where she was coming from. I think people can very much underestimate just how much your skin can have an effect on your general confidence.

During my teenage and then university years I had a few blemish-prone spells (which were almost certainly in direct correlation with the amount of booze and general unhealthy lifestyle that I lead). Whilst my skin was never awful, I used to irrationally long to have the blemish-free, no black-heads, no visibly pores, glowing, airbrushed skin like that of the models in magazines. I used to look at friends’ beautiful complexions and curse and blame my DNA, wishing that I had come from a better gene pool. I still maintain that a lot of it comes down to that – if your mother, grandmother etc had that perfect, clear, wrinkle-free skin then chances are so will you. However I still believe even those blessed, blessed people have had the odd break-out and no matter how naturally clear your skin is, there is NEVER an excuse to skip on removing your make-up and looking after your skin. It will eventually catch up with you if you do – you have all been warned!

So realising at a tender age that I do have a slight predisposition to blemish-prone skin, I began my quest. Defiant and certain that I could beat it, I have pretty much tried everything I could lay my hands on. It has taken years, however I finally think I can say that I am happy (happy-ish – I wouldn’t be a loyal neurotic if I was entirely happy) with the overall condition of my complexion.

The other day, I caught my reflexion in the mirror and had to double take. I was blemish-free and glowing… Where had this come from? Had all the longing and searching finally come to an end? Fearing that the face staring back at me was a mirage and this moment would suddenly vanish forever, I grabbed a piece of paper and started rapidly tracing back all my last cleansing and dietary steps.  What had I been using? What had I been eating and drinking?

Once I hastily wrote down everything I had been doing in the last few weeks, I began to think about longer-term, what had I been doing over the past few months? Which then of course turned into the past year. When I gave it some serious reflection, I thought it may serve as a very helpful blog post – do let me know what you think.

When I got to thinking, some of the things I had been doing were so embarrassingly obvious and had been there for the taking the whole time. The first was such an easy change to my daily routine that I am ashamed as a beauty blogger to admit it… I have been drinking water. And lots of it. How many times has this one been chanted by health experts, beauticians and nutritionists? And yet whilst I knew it sounded like a very good idea, I always thought ‘really? Something as simple as 2 litres of water a day is going to give me clear skin?’ I have also been hydrating myself in the form steam, maintaining my three-time-a-week sauna/steam room sessions at the gym. Whilst I don’t attribute the whole improvement in my complexion to my increased hydration, it has certainly made a difference. I noticed after just two weeks that my skin was significantly more refreshed and glowing.

The other short-term change I noticed I had been doing was removing my make-up thoroughly. Whilst all followers of this blog will know that I NEVER forget to remove my make-up, in the past few weeks I have become a little obsessive about removing every single last bit, before properly washing my face with a cleanser.

It all started the other night when I was drunk and couldn’t find the soberness or strength to make the 10 paces from my bed to the bathroom to do my thorough wash and cleanse (this is only excusable for seriously drunken evenings ladies – you know the three step rule). Using the make-up wipes I conveniently left by my bedside table, I began removing all trace of make-up. In order to make up for my laziness I then took another fresh wipe and was horrified to see that there was still make-up left on the wipe. Clearly one does not remove it all!

Baring this in mind, I have been using my Bioderma Crealine H2O solution and loading two cotton pads, swiping over once as thoroughly as possible, and then again with a fresh cotton pad before washing with a cleanser.  It may be over-zealous and for some sensitive types, it may well be too much for your skin to take (you don’t want to strip the natural oils etc). However, I have been told that the reason French women have that ‘oh-so-amazing-wrinkle-defying-skin’ is because they double-cleanse and girls as young as 15 use anti-wrinkle cream. If that is what it takes then count me in. Plus being as neurotic as I am, I sleep better at night knowing that I have got every tiny last bit of make-up off my face!

Sticking with the most recent changes I have made to my skin routine, I began thinking about what news products I have been trying. One which I am certain is making a great deal of difference is a new celeb fav, Manuka Doctor’s Bee Venom serum which promises a wrinkle and blemish-free complexion. I’ve been applying it nightly now for two weeks and I can definitely see and actually feel a difference. Firstly, the general feel of my skin is smoother and actually a little tighter, like a very, very mild version of Botox  – just without the loss of expression side-effects. I haven’t had a blemish in weeks (I lie – I’ve had one, however unlike normal, it practically vanished overnight) which whilst this can be attributed to several factors, I definitely think the serum has been a key player.

I have also been trying the Manuka Doctor Bee Venom cleanser which smells great and seems to do a very reasonable job, however I don’t think anything is going to be able to tear me away from my Avène Soapless Gel Cleanser. What is about those Frenchies? They simply do the bloody best skin care I have come across. Whilst the samples I was kindly sent from their PR are still going strong, I am without a doubt going to purchase the full set (cleanser, toner and mosituriser) the minute it has run out. I can’t live without them, I am a dedicated convert. My skin has never been in such good condition and the most memorable turning point was after the first month of using Avène. We may have whipped their derrières at the Battle of Waterloo, but when it comes to skin care I am afraid us Brits have been truly thrashed.

When I think of longer-term factors I think it would be fair to say that my level of dedication to exfoliation and regular skin maintenance such as regular DIY facials) seems to have helped.  Whilst our skin is still young, making sure that we continually aid the skin renewal process keeps the pores clear and keeps those wrinkles at bay.

It would also be unfair if I didn’t mention that I spent just over a year on a contraceptive pill (Dianette) that is specifically for skin disorders. I am by no means recommending that this is right for everyone – to be honest my skin was probably never truly bad enough to justify having it. However it was a personal insecurity and as I was pretty much at that point, prepared to do anything in order to have blemish-free skin. My doctor at the time was a soft touch and very understanding and expressed that he knew it to be on the best pills out there for skin disorders. The reason and quite rightly however that doctors are hesitant to prescribe it is because it has one of the highest links out of all the pills to thrombosis (blood clots). Thus when prescribed it you must take into account that you will probably been taken off it within the year, as you are only suppose to be on it for a limited period of time. Whilst it may not be the solution for everyone, I found it very much worked for me – my skin cleared up for good in less than six months.

So there you have it, my skincare steps retraced. When I think of all my agonising, searching and money spent on my skin I sometimes stop and ask myself could it be that myself and my hormones just grew out of spots? I often think possibly. However being the neurotic I am, I don’t have the patience to try and work it out. I definitely think whether that was the case or not, nearly all of the above factors have paid a hefty contribution into the smile that I now see back when I look in the mirror.

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