Stay Cool

So, I need to fess up and admit to the fact that with all the best intentions in the world, when starting this blog I haven’t been dedicated enough in maintaining it. I know, I am a terrible blogger but I do miss it which is why I am talking the time to write this post. There are no excuses as to why I let the blog go, but in the hope that you may all forgive me, I am going to list them out…

  1. I have a full-time job
  2. Running around London in 30 degrees heat takes up a lot of time
  3. I actually like to spend my weekends not looking at a computer screen (counter-productive to blogging)
  4. The impossible happened and I have managed to tie down a boyfriend for a whole 6 months who actually quite likes me 
  5. I spend a solid hour most days being racked with guilt about quitting the gym over bikini bod season
  6. I spend a lot of time eating and overindulging on cocktails (whilst simultaneously feeling guilty about the gym)
  7. I like seeing my friends 
  8. I try and see my family as despite complaining about them, I quite miss them

So whilst I realise all of the above doesn’t justify my laziness I hope you can relate forgive me? Can I tempt you to read on and let me tell you about how to battle the HORRENDOUS CITY, SUMMER HEAT and help you stop your make-up from sliding down your face? 

If you are lucky enough to live on a glorious beach, a yacht or have permanent access to a vat of cool, water (and no I don’t mean your niece’s paddling pool) then don’t read on. If however you are currently sitting at your desk with sweat sliding off your hands, your hair flat and frizzy and make-up that is land-sliding down your face you may like me, be in desperate need of some help. 

STAY COOL
The first piece of advice I have is so bloody obvious but try and STAY COOL ladies. Bar the obvious eg squashing your face against the air con whilst it shoots an icey cold breeze, up your nose and drink plenty of the good old H2O, here are a couple of neat tricks that will lower your body temperature. 

  1. Put an ice cub in your mouth, it will lower your body temperature as well as calm you if you’re having a particularly stressful day.
  2. Wash your hands for a couple of minutes under an icey tap – pulse points help cool your entire body.
  3. Have a cup of tea – your system has to cool it down in order to digest it, thus cooling you down.
  4. Do you have to take the tube? Sure it’s quicker but it’s utter hell in this weather. I’ve started taking the bus home and whilst it’s an additional 15 minutes, it leaves me feeling a lot less hot and bothered. It’s also a great opportunity to see the sights of London.

PRIME TIME

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The next piece advice I have is invest in a good primer which will stop the hideous foundation land-slide look that I have been recently sporting. With even dryer skins becoming prone to shine in this heat, and combination skin types like myself beginning to resemble an oil slick, everyone can benefit from one of these beauties. Here are my personal recommendations:

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer
A favourite amongst celebs over in the States, and sister company of Clinique, Smash Box offer an array of brilliant primers that adhere to every skin’s needs. Created to withstand intense studio lighting, I am fan of Photo Finish Light which gives you an oil-absorbing canvas, whilst being suitable for dry skins and not being over-mattifying. Gently pat over your entire face for creating the perfect base.

£25 for 30ml

Benefit, PoreFessional
Great for us girls who have open pores and oilier complexions. A combination of vitamin E and silicon this wonder-balm creates mattifying, smooth canvas to give you that film-screen flawless look. Pay particular attention to the your T-zone.

£24.50 for 22ml

PICTURE-PERFECT

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Once you’ve applied your make-up with clean brushes, not your sweaty, gross hands you’ll need something to set it with. I love Bare Minerals, Mineral Veil in Original which is a soft pink, loose, translucent powder which creates a barrier between your foundation and the outside heat and environmental factors that cause your make-up to slide. It’s so soft it doesn’t add to anything to your final finish other than airbrush perfection. 

£20 for 8g

Over one of our heat-wave weekends, a friend introduced me to Urban Decay’s All Nighter Long Lasting Make-Up Setting Spray which really does do what it says on the tin. During a particular boozy weekend, my make-up withstood sand, sun and wind for a full day at the Beach Polo! The spray features patented Temperature Control Technology which actually lowers the temperature of your make-up. I highly recommend this baby! Here is a photo of my won’t budge make-up and the boyfriend of 6 months who quite likes me:

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£20 for 118ml

SPICK, SPOT

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As Mary Poppins would say. A summer in the city means acne for my combination skin. The mix between pollution, office air-con and the sticky heat results in break-outs across my complexion. I’ve been trying to combat this with a regimented regime of double cleansing as recommended by French beauty experts whereby I remove the first layer of make-up and grime off my face with a micellar water (I love Avène Eau Thermale Avene Cleanance Cleansing Water which is super refreshing and targeted a blemish-prone skin, £14.40 for 400ml) and then follow up with a hot cloth cleanse. The second cleanse works to give your skin a deep clean rather than simply removing your make-up. A cult classic, I’ve rediscovered Liz Earle’s Hot Cloth Cleanser (£14.75 for 50ml) which cleared up a particularly nasty bout of spots within a week.

After toner and moisturiser, before bed, I apply a layer of Clinique’s Anti-Blemish solution (£20 for 30ml) over any blemishes or under the skin volcanoes that are threatening to wreck my day. This little beauty is like Superman for spots, working its magic in a matter of hours.

So there you have it ladies, a couple of tips on being cool from the UK’s sorriest blogger. Forgiven me?

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I’ve Got Even More Magic In Me

It’s been over a full month since my last post (I’m sorry I am a terrible blogger) so if you can cast your mind back perhaps you can remember I found myself referring to Mario Badescu as ‘God in cognito’. Since this almost blasphemous post, I have been in touch with Mario’s in-house PR who very kindly pulled together a bespoke skin care regime for me.

I am going to cut to the chase, Mario’s stuff is life-changing. Results aren’t rapid they’re instant. Never before have I seen such a sudden change in my complexion. Following Mario Badescu’s skin care regime is like having the sun pass over a black cloud to reveal a brighter, more brilliant and clearer landscape (face). See below  individual reviews of tried and tested products so you can work out which is the best investment for you or whether you want to go all out and purchase the full range.

Silver Powder
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This product is definitely where I saw the biggest results. Promising to remove blackheads and clear blocked pores, a mix of Calcium Carbonate, Kaolin and Zinc Oxide work to physically draw out impurities leaving you blackhead free with a clearer complexion. After following the rather novel instructions – you dip a damp cotton pad into the chalky white powder and smear all over the desired areas (I go for the classic troublesome t-zone), the powder turns into a paste which then sets like plaster of paris . After ten minutes, you remove with a damp cloth to reveal a shiny, new, clear nose… I call it deforestation for blackheads!

Cucumber Tonic Mask
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What I like most about this mask is it is a proper old-school 90s facemask. It takes me back to an era where you had your girlfriends over for sleepover, often in a fit of giggles whilst you watched a 18 rated horror film in secret and applied facemasks to your untouched, perfect 14 year-old skin. This mask smells as fresh as ‘cucumber’ (sorry terrible pun) and dries in that really satisfying hard-clay way so you want to stretch your face out and create wrinkle lines! I unfortunately have a 6.30am start every morning so quickly added the mask into my candlelit bath, exfoliate routine for 5 minutes rather than letting it set for the full 20 minutes. Even in just a quarter of the recommended time, my complexion was 10 x clearer than before. Blackheads gone with that lovely post bath sheen. Combined with the silver powder I barely recognised the reflection staring back at me!

Enzyme Cleansing Gel and Special Cucumber Lotion (toner)
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Or what I like to call the dream combo working to banish blemishes and leave your skin squeaky clean and perfectly pure. The cleanser I have to admit has taken a while to get used to. I’m a vowed face wash fan as I love to feel truly sparkly clean with several splashes of water when I cleanse. However I work round this by massaging the green-gel like formula in circular motions onto damp skin and then running one of the Liz Earle linen clothes under warm water I removed the cleanser. Combined the pair give a lovely exfoliated and thoroughly cleansed feel. Following the cleanser, I apply several splashes of the Special Cucumber Lotion to a cotton pad and wipe over my complexion. The toner has that lovely mix of zingy freshness mixed with astringent which works to close pores, disinfect, and tackle blemishes.

The Buffer Lotion
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I am going to be honest with you – it stings like a b*tch but as was once famously said, beauty is pain. And this is a defiant step towards beauty. At the moment, with my hormones buzzing I am having patches of break-outs around my chin. It’s like when one spot surfaces she invites a friend to come and join the party! Worse, amongst the patches of blemishes there is always a Regina George Queen Bee type blemish who likes to rear her ugly (white) head. I add a few drops to a cotton pad and apply to the infected area. I apply after cleansing and toning, and most effectively before I apply the Cucumber Tonic Mask. When the Queen Bee surfaces I reach for my original favourite, The Drying Lotion which puts her back in her rightful place. Think of the Cucumber Tonic Mask, the Buffering Lotion and the Drying lotion as ‘one team one dream’ – the NYPD for spots if you will.

Oil free Moisturiser Factor 30

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Does exactly what it says on the tin. Nothing fussy, nothing fancy just a oil-free moisturiser with SPF 30 to hydrate and protect. It leaves a soft but matt finish creating a perfect base for foundation. Alternatively it comes in a simple, SPF-free version. Be careful to not rub it to near your eyes – it stings!

NB: Contains St John’s Wart

Hyaluronic Eye Cream

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I’ve always struggled with eye creams, I know I need one but I can never be bothered. Therefore with the new regime I have vowed to try and be better! Mario’s eye cream is simple, rich and moisturising providing that extra barrier of hydration to the delicate area of skin around the eyes. This cream is great and does the job for now however there are no claims to banish fine lines with this one so give me a few more years and I will need an upgrade!

I’ve Got the Magic in Me

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I’ve seen my share of Dynamo stunts and whilst I’ve managed to suspend disbelief there was always some kind of plausible explanation as to how the man can hang of the edge of a bus, elevate, walk on water. I don’t believe in magic… or rather I didn’t until I purchased what I now call the magical potion that must have been created by the divine powers above. The label says Mario Badecsu but there is a part of me that genuinely believes Mario is God in cognito masquerading as an Romanian-born American skin care specialist.

Recommended by ex-communications manager for Estée Lauder, Alice Raymond, she promised me that if I purchased Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion all my problems would be solved. She even referred to magic herself, saying that when she applied the lotion onto her blemishes they miraculously vanished overnight. Trusting her expertise, but secretly thinking ‘really? I’ve heard it all before’  I purchased a bottle from  Beauty Bay which was delivered the following day.

Desperate to end my war on blemishes, which can back fighting fierce after my holiday I ran home to do my DIY Facial and then carefully followed the application steps. The lotion itself actually looks like it was created in some magically, fairytale, Harry Potter-type pharmacy with simple packaging, 3 inches of pink sediment (which turns out to be Calamine Lotion) which settles at the bottom and topped up with a clear, antiseptic-like liquid. The bottle specifically directs you NOT to shake the lotion, but stick a cotton bud right down into the pink sediment. I then dabbed it over each individual blemish making sure not to double-dip. Resembling a child with chicken pox I tucked myself up with a cup of tea and episode of friends and then drifted off to sleep.

I awoke the next day like an excited kid waiting to hear if snow day had cancelled school. I washed all the pink little dots of my face with my Avène Cleanance Wash to miraculously see that my blemishes had completely disappeared… I couldn’t believe it. Completely gone… as if by magic. I’ve used my fair share of spot treatments in the past and none had ever worked like this. Sure, the redness goes down, they aren’t quite as angry as the night before but this beauty literally makes them vanish. Granted, the massive ones don’t entirely vanish but 80% of the infection had definitely gone and by the following night it had healed completely.

The following night I thought, do pigs fly? Maybe I’m dreaming… so I called in my trusted guinea pigs, my mum and sister who also put it to the test. The same result… blemishes vanished overnight. My sister called her best friend in excitement who instantly drove over to put it to the test. The next day the same result… in fact she actually came back the following night (never mind that it was 8pm, on a Sunday night and she lives 20 minute away) with her sister in tow. Out of towners… actually travelling to use Mario’s magic lotion.

So, ladies, I command everyone, even those who get one spot a year, to make sure they have this miracle product locked up in their draw. That said, I am now slightly worried that I have now shared my secret weapon with you all… Don’t go bitch ass crazy on me and cause Beauty Bay to run out of stock, I need my magic!

Out of towners putting magic to the test…

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The Suitcase Experiment

After what seemed like a glorious and fully deserved holiday I have been back in the motherland for two weeks and I am still suffering from a severe case of holiday blues. As a few of you know, every year the Annable family and close family friend Mandy embark on a two week Club Med holiday which always turns into what I continue to call for the rest of the year ‘the best two weeks of my life’ as it is usually fun filled, alcohol fueled, full of laughs and jokes and serious sunbathing. Better still, the majority of the clientele are French so I spend 14 days vous-vousing and s’il-tu-plaiting which makes me feel like my whole degree was worth while.

This year was the first year away where I could technically call myself a beauty blogger so I used it as an opportunity to find what truly are my holiday essential beauty products. This didn’t mean that I cut down on what lotions, potions, creams and bottles I pack, quite the opposite. The idea behind the experiment was pack as much as products that baggage allowance would permit and keep a log of what I used ‘frequently, often, sometimes and never’. I was so dedicated to the experiment that I actually had minimal clothing and became what Lizzie McGuire refers to as ‘an outfit repeater’.

So I am aware that I probably use a lot more products than most. Not everyone has the time every day to remove their make-up, polish their skin, tone their pores and moisturise their body, oil their legs, wash their hair in the shower, then dampen in the sea for the beach effect, whilst trying to actually commit to some form of sporting activities as well as the  seven hour sun bathing stint. Thus the products that I used ‘frequently’ may not be a complete necessity for every gal, however for those who are interested please see below.

Avène

I kept to my normal skin care routine using Liz Earle and all the Avène Cleanance range products however for the day I replaced my normal Hydrance Optimale moisturiser with the SPF version which came in factor 20. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. Unlike most sunscreens for face, it was light weight, non greasy and gave maximum protection. I applied morning and mid-afternoon and didn’t burn once. All in all, a total win.

Hawaiian Tropic

 

The first products I used every day are obvious… sun cream. An absolute must for protecting the skin from those UVA rays. I used 30 down to 15 throughout the holiday to make sure I was getting maximum protection whilst getting the tan I spend the rest of the year trying to maintain. This year I used Hawaiian Tropic’s Silk Hydration which has THE most DELIGHTFUL smell I have ever come across in a suncream. Rich coconutty and tropical aromas filled the air as I creamed up next to the pool, so much so that the sunbather next to me commented on the heavenly scent. Furthermore, the lotion has ’12 hours of hydrating ribbons’ which not only create delicious candy-like packaging but seriously moisturise the skin leaving it soft and supple. Unlike a lot of sun creams, the lotion is easily absorbed, feels silky and lightweight rather than thick and greasy.
In addition to the suncreams I tried out Hawaiian Tropic’s  Silk Hydration After Sun. I’m always skeptical about after sun because whilst they promise to be ‘soothing’ I find they don’t offer as much hydration as a usual moisturiser. That is until I came across Hawaiian Tropic with those oh so clever ’12 hour hydrating ribbons’. As well as soothing my post-tanned (I did not burn once HURRAH) it provided excellent hydration and smelt just as divine as its sun cream counter-part.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse

A dark horse that trumped as a total surprise for ‘frequent use’. I’ve used this product from time to time at home when I fancied a little bit of luxurious TLC but I wouldn’t have ever said frequently. I thought the last thing I would have wanted in a hot, sweaty climate would be oil but it turns out my parched skin lapped up this nutritious mix of vitamin E and sweet almond oil. It gave a lovely dewy glow in the evenings, particularly on the legs.

Tangle Teezer

Before I went away I invested in what I would now call the best tenner I ever spent. Advised by Damien, the highlighting prince at The House of Rush, I bought a Tangle Teezer to get through my ALMOST nipple-length  locks. The disadvantage with trying to get my hair to this desired length is its incredible ability to knot up and tangle… queue the Tangle Teezer. This little beauty has moved permanently into my handbag and worked wonders at brushing the tangles out of my post wind-swept beach hair. Like magic, the tiny little bristles work through even the knottiest and matt hair (often the outcome of backcombing, Batiste and big nights out). Apply conditioner and brush through to achieve the silkiest, tangle-free, princess style locks.

To be honest the products I used frequently were the only products I used. Turns out I am low maintenance when on holiday… the sun clears up my complexion, I am make-upless in the day, my hair has genuine beach waves and lets face it everything looks better with a tan. The product I used often was Sudocreme which is a regular favourite of mine. I used this product less than I usually do at home, purely because for the first 10 days my facial skin was in tip top condition. However when a few blemishes struck and struggled to heal in the moist and exotic climate, like the good post drunk  girl I am I applied large patches to each blemish.

The products I never used were hair products, I simply didn’t need them. Being as vain as I am, I used to make sure I washed my hair post-pool at midday and then thoroughly rinse it in the sea and let it dry naturally. It was SO nice being such low maintenance and the overall effect was even better than all the lotions and potions I use back home. Flushed cheeks, a facial tan and real beach girl waves cut my evening getting ready time in half. I simply added a touch of bronzer to even me out, strokes of greys, bronzes and brown eye khols to accentuate my eyes, and finished with a slick of Chanel’s Le Voume De Mascara which truly is the business and a new personal favourite.

Unfortunately I don’t have a permanent year-round tan or a beach at my disposable to continue such an easy and low product ritual. In fact since I’ve been back I’ve been using and trying whatever I can get my hands to recreate that low-key, natural beauty look…next blog post to come 🙂

The Quest for Perfect Skin Continued…

 
‘It’s like rain on your wedding day… a free ride but you’ve already paid’ One song which perfectly summarised exactly how irony feels. Well maybe Alanis Morisette should have written a beauty blog… it would have certainly provided her with extra lyrical material. Ever since I wrote the blog The Quest for Perfect Skin it has been like an ominous dark, overconfident cloud hanging over me ready to thunder and pour at any moment. I knew as soon as I hit ‘publish post’ my radiant and what-was-then clear complexion would shove two fingers up at me and scream in my face ‘Not for long sucker’. Yet I wanted to share my advice and the results I had seen with my loyal and now growing (thank you ThisIsOurVillage.Com) readers. Whilst my skin on the whole has generally improved, I haven’t seen it look as glorious as it did when I wrote that what now feels like a doomed post.
I have attributed this to several factors. The first is the Pill. The Pill that was initially taken to clear up my skin somehow turned into a three year stint. After a long-consideration I decided now would be a good time to come off it. I suddenly felt all hippy and new age and worried about the amount of extra hormones I was putting in my body. Since I have come off however, whilst there hasn’t been a massive outbreak my body definitely seems to be trying to adapt and normalise itself which has come in the form of a few outbreaks.
The other factor I attribute to my skin is this RIDICULOUS but DELIGHTFUL change in weather. I love the sun as much as the next worshiping sun-goddess. A recent 5 day trip to Mallorca saw me setting my alarm for 8am and tanning straight through until sun-down. However the downside of not living on the beach in some glorious, poolside villa is that this hot weather in London mixed with pollution, the commute and topped off with a 6.20am rise is not doing wonders for my skin. The air-con at work is drying it out whilst all the other factors are making it perspire and oil up. I was in need of some serious game-changing skin care so got in touch with the good people at Avène and Liz Earle.
Avène
 Avene Micellar Lotion Cleanser and Make-up Remover 200ml  
So as a lot of you know I am completely sold on the French beauty brand Avène. Their Cleanance range turned my skin from from a dull and blemish prone nightmare to a glowing, clear fresh face. I loved the mattifying and smoothing effect the emulsion had however with air-con and sun exposure drying my face out I needed something a little more hydrating whilst baring in mind that the summer is my most ‘oily’ period. Katie at Pegasus PR recommended their Hydrance Optimale moisturiser in ‘légère’ which is super light and sheer but hydrating. As expected, I wasn’t disappointed. Combined with the Clenance toner (dedicated fan) this beauty provided the prefect balance of moisture vs oil and kept any threats of nose peel at bay. All in all, an essential summer buy!
In addition to this Katie recommended Avène’s Micellar lotion which removes make-up as well as cleanses and tones all in one. As part of my double cleanse routine I replaced my Bioderma with this product to see how they matched up. Far better than unhygienic make-up wipes  and far more accessible than France’s scared Bioderma the Avène Micellar lotion proved to be hydrating, refreshing and effective in removing all traces of make-up whilst leaving me blemish-free. Another triumph from Avène.
Liz Earle Hot Polish Cleanser
 
So whilst I am still seeing glowing results from Avène’s soapless gel cleanser, with this change in weather I need something a little more soothing and a touch less drying than a wash. However having that said, I can’t go to bed without washing my face in some shape or form. I have always read great things about Liz Earle’s Hot Polish Cleanser and hearing it is excellent for all skin types I requested a sample. The product itself is a cream cleanser that has spot-fighting and soothing essential oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary and chamomile which make a delightful pre-bed relaxant. Applying this all over and using the hot cloths provided I soak one under the hot tap and then checking the cloth isn’t scolding I place it over my face to open up the pores and let the cleanser sink in. Then, carefully rubbing around in circular motions the cloth and balm effectively work to gently exfoliate the face whilst leaving it super cleansed and soft. Nourishing my dry and slightly burnt patches whilst tackling the blemishes makes Liz Earle’s Hot Polish Cleanser a perfect bed-time cleanse.
NB: be sure to machine-wash each hot polish cloth after a couple of uses do they don’t collect a build-up of bacteria.
Oil Up
 
During a recent PR campaign I got to pick the brains of make-up artist to the stars Justine Jenkins and explained my current complexion issues. She took a good long hard look at my face and said that the localised blemishes on my chin are due to hormones which she claimed is no doubt due to my body trying to regulate itself now I have come off the pill. She explained that whilst the hormones will eventually settle, in the mean time I should use an oil, yes an oil, to balance out my skin. Justine firmly believes that oilier skins are just as much in need of a facial oil as dry skins are.
The way she explained the process is that if you feed the sebum glands (responsible for producing oil) a facial oil they start to produce less oil as they are already satisfied and balanced out, crafty eh? With this in mind I have been applying NUXE Huile Prodigieuse for body, hair and face every few nights or so which is a ‘unique concentration of 6 Precious Oils (Borage, St. John’s Wort, Sweet Almond, Camellia, Hazelnut and Macadamia) and Vitamin E.’
 As well as my face I apply it to my body which gives my sun-parched skin the nourishing hydration it needs. To top it off, the oil also has that rich, comforting smell that you tend to get from luxurious, high-end products!
So you see, whilst I am still slapping myself for my overconfident boast of clear skin, the change in climate has provided me with new blog material as well as offering me the opportunity to try a few products I may not have given a chance before. The problem with combination skin is getting the balance right. As I quote almost in mantra-like form, getting your skin care regime right is all down to trial-and-error. In the mean time, enjoy the weather even if your skin doesn’t!

The Definition of Beauty

When I got to thinking about what I could write for my next blog post I thought about the definition of beauty and what it actually is that makes somebody beautiful. The main focus of this ‘beauty’ blog has always been about using products and cosmetics to enhance or create beauty.  Other than my two week stint of drinking 2 liters of water a day, all the posts have been product-led. There is hardly anything on well-being and general happiness and health.

I struggled with this for a good twenty minutes because talking about health and happiness isn’t really what this blog is about. My blog is superficial. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but essentially make-up and cosmetics are about superficial beauty. I have never tried to be dishonest about that, there is a part of me that IS superficial. I like changing and improving my surface appearance but the person I am stays the same. However I then thought health is the first and very fundamental basic of being ‘beautiful’.

When I looked up the definition of beauty it said this:
•    A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight.
•    A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.
I would say 75% of this definition is relating to appearance rather than anything slightly more profound. Yet there were words and phrases that couldn’t be translated as just physical. For example ‘moral sense’ and ‘qualities’ which got me to thinking.

I have a friend who is always harking on about ‘beauty’ on the inside. Whilst I know that people ARE beautiful on the inside I always thought it was a hippy thing to say or something parents tell their children to fill them with the necessary initial stages of confidence. However although I hate to EVER let her be right, I always had a secret inclination that she may be on to something. There is nothing more attractive than somebody genuinely laughing or smiling. Positivity and and general self-acceptance rather than over-bearing confidence can be beautiful. This often derives from a general sense of happiness. It may be that you are head-over-heels in love or you have a great, blossoming career. Maybe you have the support of an amazing set of friends and a loving family who stick by you… Maybe you have it all! Unlike cosmetics, these intangible types of happiness can’t be purchased or physically applied.

Whilst I may pay for my gym membership…the dedication and hard work it takes to get into shape and eat healthily is also something that can’t be bought.  Whilst the ‘junk food’ days come and go, I think I can finally say that I am currently at my happiest because for once I have gained some form of control over my diet. I am trying not to gorge on addictive sugars and sluggish carbohydrates but eating properly and regularly and spending a solid but not excessive amount of time in the gym. The hard work has paid off (it has taken 6 months) and I can actually see new sets of definition and muscles. I know this has contributed to my overall appearance, not because my clothes fit better but because it makes me happy and confident which no doubt shows on my face. There’s no amount of make-up that could fake that.

A friend of mine joked yesterday about the state many girls find themselves in post break-up or mid-depression, a welcomed loss of weight but with the gaunt, worried face that says ‘whilst I may look great on the outside, I’m screaming and crying on the inside’. And she’s right, you do look good… We’ve all been there. During moments of depression or upset, the appetite just goes and suddenly the weight drops off and your thin without even trying. Then the compliments come and for a moment you feel good about yourself.  Accept if you move your eyes upwards the face is full of angst and upset. When you compare this with the happiness of somebody who has a toned, svelte body that derives from working out it doesn’t seem so desirable.

So I guess what I am asking is if it isn’t the billion-dollar cosmetic industry that makes us ‘appear’ to beautiful then what is it?

It’s about loving the life you’re living and keeping good health. If you don’t love the life you live you need to figure out what it is that is stopping you from being the positive person that is laughing for no reason other than they’re happy. If you’re unhappy you probably aren’t in good health either so I guess the two go hand-in-hand. Once you’ve tackled truly tackled the inner (CRINGE) beauty it is only then you can purchase products that work to enhance that natural, positive, smiling face.

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.