My favourite masks for glowing skin | The Daily Glow

The 5 best face masks for glowing skin

My obsession with skin care runs to the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to face masks, but not every mask is made equal – and some can do more harm than good. There are enough masks available to confuse the most seasoned skin care addict, and some target skin function in longer term, while others are ideal prep hours before a big event. I’ve put together a list of my top 5, to deal with the most common skin complaints.

 

  1. Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque: just like Ronseal, this one does exactly what it says on the tin.  Post-exams, post-festival or during wedding season, this one will bring a bit of life back to your poor, ashen face (but please make yourself a cocktail of dioralyte, berroca and vitamin C too).  Those of you with easily clogged pores should be careful with over doing it (although I find I can apply it once a week, after exfoliation, without any issues) and if you have dry skin a hydrating booster or spritz of a hydrating mist can really maximise its power.  A pricey enough one at fifty yo-yos, this has been a staple of mine for about 8 years now and generally lasts a good 10 months each time.
  2. Cien clay mask:  yes, from Lidl, and for a total cost of 69 cent  for two sachets – which I find gives a good six treatments if I use it only on my T-zone (and you’d have to be seriously oily to need it all over, unless god love you, you’re a teenager).  This mask contains zinc and white clay – perfect for minimising the effect of an acute breakout or keeping blackheads at bay for those prone to them. (Note for non-oily skins – I am currently testing out the other ones Lidl has available)My favourite masks for glowing skin | The Daily Glow
  3. Patchology posh peel pedicure:  Okay, so this one is actually for your feet, but it makes the cut because it can fully be used in place of a pedicure!  I discovered this recently while in Italy, and I think it may have blown me away more than any face mask to date.  Genuinely.  As an almost daily runner, getting my feet summer ready is not usually something I attempt myself – I leave it to the experts as it involves a lot of heavy lifting.  However, this year I was up to my eyes in studying and thesis-ing, and my exam was in Italy so I never made it to the nail salon (is it even called a “nail salon” in Ireland? I feel not everyone would get the Red lotus reference though) before my flight.  Post-exam shopping involved getting lost in Sephora for a couple of hours, and this was the best reward.  I haven’t ordered from niche-beauty.com before, but it was the first site I found that had this mask and sold to Ireland…and have already clocked up a fair bit of time browsing as I write this.  I would highly recommend using this mask at least a week before you’re planning on parading your feet in public, as there is a bit of a gross, flaky period (apologies again to Aideen, and all of Positano and Sorrento).  But it is worth the manky few days (maybe don’t wear your favourite socks) – you will be left with baby soft feet, I promise.My favourite masks for glowing skin | The Daily Glow
  4. Garnier moisture bomb sheet mask:  just like the Cien one, this sheet mask is a heavy weight champion for under a fiver.  It’s ideal the night before a big event, especially a photo shoot or a wedding, when you need make up to sit onto skin easily, and stay in place all day.  This mask deeply hydrates your skin, and can help prevent any dry, uneven patches of foundation – especially if your coverage is a little heavier than usual.  One worked of warning for oily/easily clogged skins though: once a week max!
  5. Radial snake oxygenating & cleansing mask:  This mask is for immediate use before an event/night out etc and really seems suitable for all skin types.  Charcoal helps unclog and minimise the appearance of pores, without any need to steam/squeeze/pull off a pore strip.  The bubbles (which can be quite alarming, please note that when they say bubbles…they mean bubbles!) have what seems to be a similar effect as an oxygen facial – everything looks plumped and glowy for about 24 hours.  I didn’t find this had any long term effect on the skin,  but the instantaneous result was like an extreme version of Beauty Flash Balm, and lasted all day – so definitely great for a short term boost.My favourite masks for glowing skin | The Daily Glow

As a self-confessed mask addict, I would love to hear what your go-to mask is – or if you’ve tried any of the above? Always on the lookout for a new one to try!

Supplements for glowing skin | The Daily Glow

The best supplements for glowing skin

While I do try and follow a healthy diet for the most part (weekly Wow burger habit not withstanding), and I don’t believe you should be too reliant on supplements, there are a few things I find hard to get enough of solely from food – and really recommend for that added glow.  And, with Black Friday approaching, it’s not a bad time to stock up on them.

 

Fish oils and omega 3

So what’s the deal with the omegas?  Do you need 3, 6 and 9?  No. Omega 9 is not classed as an essential fatty acid (which means your body can make it from other things), but you do need to make sure you’re getting enough 3 and 6 as your body can’t create these .  The Western diet tends to be heavy on omega 6, but not so much 3.  Omegas 6 and 3 work best when consumed in a ratio of somewhere between 1:1 and 5:1, however, many of us tend eat 15-16 times as much omega 6 as omega 3 – which throws this way out of balance.  Corn oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and nuts and seeds all contain plenty of omega 6, but you really need to look to oily fish, along with flaxseeds and walnuts to get your omega 3.  (How many times can you say omega in one paragraph?)  I’m not great for cooking fish (or meat for that matter), so I take a fish oil supplement daily with my bulletproof coffee.  Omega 3 helps boost brain function, decrease inflammation (essential for glowing skin, regardless of your initial complaint) and improve skin moisture – sorely needed with the central heating I’ve been blasting over the past 24 hours (how am I so surprised every winter when it gets this cold?).

Supplements for glowing skin | The Daily Glow

Zinc

Low zinc levels have been linked to acne, as I’ve mentioned before, and whenever I run out of it for long enough I get white flecks on my nails – another sign of zinc intake being less than optimal.  Zinc picinolate and zinc sulphate are the more easily absorbed forms – I’ve stuck to zinc picinolate (out of habit, I know where it is on the shelf)and find it works well.  Certain medications or a copper deficiency can be negatively affected by zinc supplementation, so do check with your doctor first if either might affect you.

 

Gelatin and Collagen protein powder

Vegetarians and vegans look away now – collagen protein powder appears only to come in animal based form (however, if you do come across something similar that is plant-based, please let me know).  It is dairy free though, which I like, as the more common whey based protein powder can cause a skin flare up.  I’m currently taking the Bulletproof brand of Collagelatin, which is sourced from grass-fed cows, and has a similar nutrient profile to the oh-so-fashionable “bone broth” – basically loaded with amino acids and collagen that can benefit your skin, joints and bones, and help with weight management (it fills you up).  But it is a hell of a lot easier to prepare than broth – I blend mine in coffee, and have also made raspberry jellies with it (not quite as time intensive as bone broth – have you seen the advised cooking times for that stuff? 12 hours appears standard.  Ain’t nobody got time for that – incidentally though, Dunnes Stores do a decent one in their fresh foods/fridge section).  Gelatin can also facilitate healing of the lining of your stomach and reduce inflammation – and can reduce wrinkles and cellulite – so once again leading the way toward clear, glowing skin.

Supplements for glowing skin | The Daily Glow

 

Currently I take the above supplements every day (or I will be again as soon as my order from discountsupplements.ie arrives – I am running low) along with magnesium and a B vitamin.  This is the combination that I have found works well for me, after a lot of trial and error – I wouldn’t recommend that recipe as an across-the-board combination for everyone, but I’d love to hear what you would recommend, and please mail me if you’ve any questions about brands or formulations.

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Dairy Free Recipes | The Daily Glow

5 Dairy Free Recipes

Cutting back on dairy, despite the benefits my skin has experienced, has not been easy.  I have always been a big chocolate fan, and custard, crème brûlee and ice cream are up there with my favourite desserts.  So although I definitely still indulge in the odd milkshake or dessert, for the most part I avoid it – which has been helped by experimenting with dairy-free recipes.

Oat milk is the best replacement for milk in tea and coffee that I’ve found, especially this one (thank you Russell, you did say it was a game changer) from Oatley.  I like almond milk in porridge, with cinnamon and berries, and coconut yoghurt practically tastes like dessert.  I’ve found a few recipes online that do actually taste as good as dairy based ones, and can be a bit less expensive than health food shops.

Dairy Free Recipes | The Daily Glow

  • Homemade coconut yoghurt from The Little Green Spoon – one of the best websites to check out if you’re looking for baking options without dairy, gluten or processed sugar.
  • This panna cotta recipe from Food Renegade, which I particularly like because it’s not sweetened with dates (is it just me or are all “healthy” desserts these days just a variation of date flavoured something? Date-flavoured banoffi, date-flavoured brownies, date energy balls…personally, I can’t take anymore dates).
  • Food renegade once again comes up trumps with this ice-cream, that doesn’t require an ice cream maker (what people expect you to have in your kitchen these days sometimes astounds me).
  • These raspberry jellies from the I Quit Sugar website are so easy, and full of gelatin – which is great for your gut health and skin, and could not be easier to make.  I use the same Collagelatin that I put in my bulletproof coffee every morning.

Dairy Free Recipes | The Daily Glow

  • And finally, the original Bulletproof coffee itself – not a dairy-free recipe but you could leave out the butter (as I mentioned before, butter doesn’t seem to count as dairy, as far as my skin is concerned) and this coffee has now become my regular breakfast.  A scoop of collagen protein (which I tried initially), or collagelatin, as above, really fills me up for the morning – and I don’t get any post-caffeine crash afterwards.  I definitely find my mental clarity is improved, and it can also be useful for anyone trying to shed some excess weight (so basically a magic drink).

Dairy Free Recipes | The Daily Glow

Have you tried a variation of any of the above?  I am always on the lookout for more recipes, so I’d love to hear from you if you have any you’d recommend.

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Does dairy cause acne? | The Daily Glow

Does dairy cause acne?

Acne has many supposed causes, ranging from a genetic predisposition to gut health and skin hygiene – so it can be difficult to decide what to believe, and figure out what will work for you.  Although there are many dermatologists that refute any relationship between diet and acne vulgaris, dairy comes up time again among patients and magazine articles as a possible trigger.  I have found myself that there is no comparison between the clarity of my skin on a dairy-free* diet and how prone to breakouts it is when I’m having milk etc on a daily basis.  My own recipe for clear skin includes a proper skincare routine, regular exercise, zinc and chlorophyll supplementation and avoiding dairy – and most of the time it works pretty well.

*When I say dairy-free, I do still eat butter, as this doesn’t seem to have any effect either way.  This is supported by research to date that links low-fat milk consumption to acne more strongly than regular full-fat milk – which would suggest that the fat itself is not the issue.  (Fat is a friend, not a foe, remember?)

Does dairy cause acne? | The Daily Glow

One of the most common (and confidence-knocking) complaints my patients have is acne – honestly, I don’t know that I ever see people get so down about something that is not remotely life threatening, and doesn’t physically stop them from functioning.  The emotional and social impact is huge, and I have seen personalities do a complete 180 after their skin cleared up, changing from a shy, socially awkward wallflower that won’t make eye-contact, to a bubbly, friendly individual that walks into the clinic with a smile on their face.

Does dairy cause acne? | The Daily Glow

Acne is physically caused by sebum and dead skin cells clogging a pore (blackheads or comeodomes), which then become inflamed, and finally, infected.  Here, and here are some ways you can treat this topically.  The consistency and amount of sebum produced is very important – although excess sebum is blamed as one of the root causes of acne, you want some sebum that flows easily through the pore without getting clogged, as this is also what keeps your skin moisturised and supple.  Your hormones and diet can impact this very important consistency – so this is how, I would imagine, dairy can have an impact.  I generally prescribe different skincare products for acne patients (Obagi is my current go-to), as there can most definitely be local causes, but in my opinion, diet most definitely plays a part.

A study in published in 2005 showed intake of dairy in adolescence was associated with a history of teenage acne.  This may be caused by the presence of hormones and bioactive agents in milk (cows are technically breast-feeding, so hormones will be present, no matter how “organic” your milk is).  Many of these substances are precursors to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the main stimulator of acne.  IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor one), which is also implicated in the malfunction of sebum and hair follicles and pores, and the IGF-1 in cows is similar to that in humans, and therefore may promote acne by its effect on the hormones involved in sebum production etc.

Does dairy cause acne? | The Daily Glow

The quality of the studies linking dairy and acne currently is not of the highest standard, and further research is definitely needed in this area – but coupled with my own experience, and other anecdotal stories, I think dairy is a likely cause of acne in many cases.  And if you’re having trouble with breakouts and suffering from acne, it’s undoubtedly worth a try (banging your head off a wall, not so much).  Have you ever tried cutting out dairy or any other food for the sake of your skin?  I’d love to hear what has worked for you.

 

 

 

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The Daily Glow | 5 things a dermatologist would never do

5 things a dermatologist would never do

I am most certainly not a dermatologist…but you may have realised I am obsessed with skin and skin care, and have been lucky enough attend postgraduate training run by some excellent derma, with decades of experience (and never require caffeine of any nature to stay wide awake and attentive for the entire course – dentistry would have been a hell of a lot easier if I’d had the same passion in university!).

I recently had some training in Obagi Medical skincare, and having started using the products myself, it’s safe to say I am obsessed.  If you haven’t heard of it, Obagi Medical is a line of medical grade skincare (prescription only) created by world renowned dermatologist, Zein Obagi.  So along with the skincare line itself, I learnt many other pearls of wisdom form trainers and fellow trainees alike.  Below I’ve outlined the basics that seem to permeate every course or lecture I’ve attended on skin health:

5 big no-nos for healthy skin

1.Washing your face with hot water – tepid or lukewarm only please.  Hot water can break down your skin’s pH barrier, which not only leaves your skin more prone to infection, breakouts, dry patches etc , but also can interfere with the absorption of active ingredients – so that super expensive serum you bought may not even penetrate your skin to let you reap its benefits.

2. Over exfoliating – this also breaks down your skin’s natural protective barrier, leading to overly sensitive, reactive skin, that like the in above point is far more prone to all the horrible skin problems that I see on a daily basis.  Before complaints like pigmentation and uneven skin tone can be treated with active ingredients (prescription products), over exfoliated skin always needs to be brought back into balance, and the skin’s barrier repaired – which can be frustrating for clients with confidence-knocking concerns like melasma and pigmentation as it delays treatment.

The Daily Glow | 5 things a dermatologist would never do

3.  Going without SPF – I’m aware I don’t shut up about sunscreen, but did you know even the light from your phone and laptop can damage your skin and contribute to premature ageing?  Yep, so even if you work in a windowless dungeon (and very sorry if you do), SPF is still a good idea – but only some of the newer ones will provide IR (infrared) protection.  The newest TINT Sunshield from Obagi is one I’m aware of, but I’m on the lookout for more.  Also something to note, when flying, the atmosphere is much thinner, and the UV radiation consequently much stronger – so eye and skin damage can happen more easily (this one really was news to me – it was actually an eye surgeon that told me he wears sunglasses when flying for that specific reason, so here goes trying to make looking like Bono cool).

4. DIY blackhead removal – this is possibly one of the worst things you can do.  Picking and squeezing spots and blocked pores can result in scarring, pushing bacteria deep into the skin with consequent breakouts, and larger pores – which means more blocked pores, blackheads and pimples (is it just me, or is the word pimple way more shudder-inducing that spot?).  Salicylic acid based washes and toners  can be useful, but get yourself to a decent facialist if you absolutely cannot resist the urge to squeeze.

The Daily Glow | 5 things a dermatologist would never do

5.  Loading up on sugar – I’ve mentioned before that Beyoncé’s dermatologist , Dr Lancerconsiders an apple a treat, due to the sugar content of it (yes, you read that correctly, and it’s a bit of a hardcore stance, even for me) but the message it sends is pretty clear…cut back on the white stuff.  Fructose and glucose link with amino acids in the collagen in your skin, forming appropriately named AGEs (advanced glycation end products), which UV light also contributes to.  These AGEs impact your skin negatively (just like UV light), and basically mean skin ageing due to sugar consumption.  So life is short, and I won’t be quitting sugar completely anytime soon – but cutting back on the sugar you don’t need (like cereal bars) and reserving it for the stuff you really want (like burgers and brownies!) is a good idea if you don’t want to end up with leathery skin – despite wearing sunscreen!

 

 

Have you anything to add to the above? I’ve learned so much about skin health from the most random of sources, eye surgeons not withstanding, and I’d love to hear any tips you have to share.

<img src="5 Things a Dermatologist would never do | The Daily Glow“>
skin clearing series part 5: treatment of scarring and hyperpigmentation

Skin Clearing Series: Part 5 – treatment of scarring and hyperpigmentation

Apologies for the delay in finishing this series, but work, college and celebrating Ireland’s recent sporting achievements have all been a bit distracting – but finally, here is the last in the Skin Clearing Series.  One of the supposed benefits of growing older, and dealing with adult problems (like rent, career decisions, and deciding whether or not wine constitutes a food group), is the clearing up of acne.  This may not always be the case, which is why I wrote this series, and sometimes the after affects of scarring and patches of hyperpigmentation can be as frustrating and confidence-defeating as the initial spots.  I’ve already discussed how to avoid hyperpigmentation, but unfortunately most of us only worry about it after it has appeared – however despair not! There are number of products and treatments that can really help with the clarity and tone of your skin.

Skin Lightening Agents
There are a range of ingredients with skin lightening effects and they can be found in over the counter products and prescribed in greater strength by a dermatologist.  Vitamin C and retinol target pigmentation, as do liquorice extract and kojic acid.  Hydroquinone is possibly the most effective skin lightening agent, but must be used with caution as it comes with some pretty undesirable side effects.  All skin lightening agents have the capacity to make your skin more sensitive to to sun damage, and of course further hyperpigmentation – so (and I know I’m a broken record) wearing suncream is essential.  I use retinol at night time only to avoid UV exposure completely while it’s on my skin.

skin clearing series part 5: treating scarring and hyperpigmentation

Chemical Peels
There are a variety of these, and some are medical grade, while others can be performed by a beautician or aesthetician.  Samantha from Sex and the City did no favours for the facial peel’s reputation – but do keep in mind that’s not exactly the typical result!  A few hours after a low strength glycolic peel, my skin looked perfectly normal.  Chemical peels range from very gentle mandelic acid peels, to deeper, 2 weeks-of-a-paperbag-over-your-face types.  Salicylic acid is used frequently in the treatment of acne itself, as it targets excess sebum, while glycolic acid can be used to target ageing, hyperpigmented skin.  There is a limit to how much a peel can do – what essentially happens is the very outer layer of skin is removed, it works as a liquid exfoliator.  If there are areas of uneven pigmentation these can be lightened, but it may not eliminate more stubborn patches.

IPL
Intense pulsed light is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “laser” when used for treating unwanted hair growth – and is not as effective as an actual laser when it comes to hair reduction on most body areas.  However, it is very useful for treating areas of uneven pigmentation.  As with anything, IPL comes with its risks – further hyperpigmentation, along with hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin – basically the opposite of the dark patches, which can be particularly problematic in darker skin types) and scarring – although this is also very rare.

skin clearing series: treating scarring and hyperpigmentation

As with most skin related issues, prevention is key, as unfortunately these patches can be difficult to get rid of completely.  There are a couple of things you can do to limit the progress of any established pigmented areas.

  • Protect your skin: this involves suncream, peaked hats when playing sport or running and not overdoing the exfoliation, serums or vitamin C products – all of which can sensitise your skin. Those lovely (cold!) blue skied winter days can be just as damaging as the week long Irish summer.
  • Do not squeeze your spots or blackheads: trauma to the skin surface increases the likelihood of scarring and pigmentation.  If you have very congested skin, a professional facial is the best solution – even with the strictest skin care routine, you can’t beat a facialist that knows what they’re doing.  Julie in Nu Essence is my go-to lady in Dublin, but I will trek all the way to Cork for an appointment with Adoré’s Janice.
  • Avoid sun beds like the plague: I tried these once when I was much younger, as a treatment for acne and whatever you choose to do is up to you. If you add a lightening cream like hydroquinone to your skincare routine, you absolutely must avoid them while using it, and I would advise avoiding them altogether, but if you insist, please, please, please cover your face and neck.  The tan here doesn’t last very long anyway, and I promise you hyperpigmentation is far worse than a white face.  The pigmented areas also tend to darken with fake tan, so a white face with brown spots is your future anyway if you’re not careful.  St. Tropez do a daily self tanner specifically for the face, which is amazing if you don’t break out with it.  The Chanel bronzing base (which is now available in Boots) and Hoola’s liquid bronzer are excellent, non-cakey, alternatives for the more sensitive skinned of you.
  • Watch your medications: a number of antibiotics and medications make your skin more photosensitive (sensitive to sunlight).  One medication that slips below the radar however, is the contraceptive pill.  Any oestrogen containing pill (some are progesterone only), while certainly helping with spots and breakouts, can increase the likelihood of pigmentation – so skin protection is even more important.

skin clearing series part 5: treating scarring and hyperpigmentation

The forehead and cheeks/cheekbones are common areas for hyperpigmentation (hence the obsession with a peaked hat) but it can occur anywhere, including the backs of your hands.  Age spots, liver spots, brown spots – they really sound about as much fun as they are, and can be more ageing than wrinkles.  Certainly in my experience, people tend to get more frustrated with hyperpigmentation than wrinkles as it can be hard to hide, and doesn’t always have a quick fix.  Have you tried any of the above with success?  I would love to hear how you deal with these annoying patches!

 

winter skincare tips

Winter Skin Prep: 4 tips to glow your way through the festive season

Halloween (and the jazz weekend) are behind us, so it is 26 days until Christmas FM goes live, and totally acceptable to start planning for silly season!  Winter is not aways the most extreme experience in Ireland (aside from the “Big Freeze” in 2010, followed by what felt like endless flooding) but there is a big enough change to warrant reassessing your skincare routine if you’d like to avoid dry, flaking, grey skin…

suncream in winter

Moisturise like it’s going out of fashion
Simple and straightforward, but you’d be surprised how easily people forget to switch to a heavier day cream or more moisturising foundation until after dry, flaky patches appear.  Nip this one in the bud before it’s an issue, by adding in an extra step or switching one of your current products for a more heavy duty one.  As with anything moisture-related, oily skins beware, and dry skins may need to combine a few steps.  Some of the below may work for you:

  • Switching your cleanser to a non-foaming or cream cleanser – Cetaphil(available in most pharmacies, Boots, etc) is cheap as chips and one of the most gentle available.
  • Using a hydrating toner or this spray from La Roche-Posay (to be honest, any of the French pharmacy brands do great ones), you can also carry this with you to spritz on during the day or on a flight (but it may not work with your make up – trial and error is the only way to find out I’m afraid).
  • Change your foundation or tinted moisturiser – I use Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturiser year round, but tend to stick to the oil-free one for summer and the regular one going into the winter.
  • Suncream is still your friend – yes I know it essentially rains in Ireland from October to April and there’s not exactly a stretch in the evenings, but the factor 50 is still good for protecting your skin from wind and cold alike, and moisturises at the same time. I have finally gotten around to trying the much lauded Kiehl’s Daily UV Defense and I am in love (thanks again Ali!).
  • Don’t forget about the rest of you – coconut oil is my go-to body moisturiser, and although it can be a struggle getting it out if the jar on a cold winter’s morning, it’s worth it.

winter skincare - moisturise

 

Keep Exfoliating
Dry, rough skin can be impossible to cure with moisturisation alone – dead skin cells on the surface can prevent the best face cream in the world from reaching its target. Gentle, daily exfoliation can be necessary for some skin types, while others will find once to twice a week is plenty. I’ve noted my love for Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant (available online and from beauty salons) before, but a good old facecloth can work very well too.  Drier skin types may benefit from the following cleansing routine:

  • Apply Cetaphil or another cream cleanser to dry, clean (ie no make up) skin
  • Massage in gently
  • Use a dry facecloth to remove the cleanser
  • Tone and moisturise as normal

 

Dry Body Brushing
This is one of the best habits to make before the festive season gets into full swing. Legs tend to get forgotten about once we start bundling up in layers, and although you may find your tan fading slightly quicker, realistically we all know we’re going to be reaching for the St Tropez asap now that Halloween is over. I have mentioned how to go about this before but here’s a quick recap:

  • 5 minutes brushing, before you shower/run/go to the gym etc
  • Start with your feet and brush in firm, circular strokes, working your way upwards towards your heart
  • Ditto for the arms, back, torso
  • Avoid any broken skin
  • Do not use on your face or décolletage
  • Daily brushing does make a big difference to skin texture, and has been noted to improve the appearance of cellulite – and combined with regular moisturising will ensure the said St Tropez glides on smoothly.

winter skin care

 

Up your omega intake
Moisturising from the inside out is one of my favourite tricks for fighting dry skin throughout the winter, especially if your skin is as sensitive as mine and has a freaker if it is drowned in rich creams to prevent dryness (which ridiculously will happen without said creams – sometimes you really just can’t win).  Omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential fatty acids – this means our body cannot make them, and therefore we need to get them from our diet.  The Western diet is usually abundant in omega-6, but you might be missing out on sufficient omega-3. Omega-3 converts to EPA (eicospentaenoic acid), which improves skin moisture and can decrease inflammation (both are very useful for eczema, acne and other skin complaints).  There are some pretty good omega-3 (fish oil) supplements on the market, but increasing your intake of oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and flaxseeds can have the same effect.  2 tablespoons of flaxseeds contains a considerable 3500mg of omega-3, so you could even eat a vegan diet and still knock your intake out of the park.  Flaxseeds can be added to most bread mixtures, granola or mueslis, and even smoothies.  I like to use flaxseed oil on salads and in smoothies, or sprinkle freshly ground seeds on my porridge.

 

Obviously the above list is not exhaustive, but I have found these techniques are actually worth the effort.  If all else fails, you can always fake it, but I would really love to know if you’ve tried any of these  – and if you have your own essential steps for glowing skin all winter long?

skin clearing series part 4: medications for acne

Skin Clearing Series: part 4 – medications

Medications that target acne are divided into two camps – topical medications that you apply to your skin, and medications you take on a daily basis. I’ve touched on the topicals before – benzoyl peroxide and prescription retinols are also joined by antibiotics and can be prescribed by a dermatologist.  These can be useful for anyone that is still seriously struggling to keep breakouts at bay, despite cleaning up their diet and skin care/hygiene.  Unfortunately, even prescription skincare may still not be enough for everyone, but there are more hardline treatments available if your skin is making you want to hide under your duvet for the foreseeable future.

skin-clearing-series-part-4: medications for acne
Oral Antibiotics
Antibiotics are quite commonly prescribed for resistant acne and target the bacteria responsible.  I have heard both success stories and total failure – some people can feel quite sick when taking them (similar to antibiotics for a chest infection or dental abscess, you can feel nauseous) as usually they need to be taken on an empty stomach, and require strictly sticking to the timetable of taking them for effective results.  Some people do find their skin clears up really well – do note that if you’re thinking about having laser for your legs, you cannot be on antibiotics as your skin becomes more sensitive to treatments like this.

 

Oral Contraceptive Pill
Obviously only suitable for females (lol), the pill can help regulate hormones and therefore influences sebum production.  Dianette is the best for acne, but far less commonly prescribed currently due to the increased risk of blot clots (which can be fatal, even if you are not deemed to be a particularly “at risk” person).  Success is recorded with other pill types also, so discussion with your GP can yield one to suit your needs.

skin-clearing-series-part-4: acne medications

Roaccutane
This is the the last resort for many people and is actually an oral version of retinoids (retinol). It has revolutionised the treatment of acne.  It works in part by suppressing the production of sebum, and extremely dry, flaking skin is a well known side effect.  Depression is a more controversial side effect (for obvious reasons), but the latest research is pointing out that acne itself can cause depression, and depression is most common in the age group most prone to acne (teenagers). It is not suitable during pregnancy (like the above medications, but in a more serious way) as it can cause major birth defects – 2 methods of birth control are required for females of childbearing age during treatment as a result.  Roaccutane also can be quite toxic to the liver, so may not be an option for people with liver disease.  Notwithstanding the serious side effects, when monitored closely by your doctor, roaccutane can be life changing for someone with severe acne  – and if you’re dealing with acne that is just not responding to any other form of treatment, I would definitely discuss this medication with your dermatologist.

Have you tried any of the above medications, or do you know anyone who has?

Skin Clearing Series: Part 3 – Lifestyle adjustments

There are factors other than diet and skincare that impact your skin health – you may have figured my obsession with reducing sun exposure already – and below are some key essentials for clear skin.

Sweating
Sweating every day will change your skin like almost nothing else – it improves circulation to the skin and speeds up detoxification – too things that are fundamental for clear, glowing skin.  Finding the way to sweat that works for you is key to this actually working for you – I lo
ve running as it clears my head, but even still, there are times I just can’t make myself put on my runners.  A nice hot bath is a lovely substitute, as is a 20 minute yoga session ending in a headstand (this increases blood flow to the face in particular, and you can definitely work up a sweat doing it).  A hike with some friends or even just a skipping rope at home if you’re caught for time (skipping is deceptively exhausting…don’t say I didn’t warn you), sweating for 15-20 minutes will make a huge difference to your skin.

clear-skin-lifestyle-hiking

 

Dry Body Brushing
Dry body brushing has been lauded as the cure to cellulite, and although I’m not sure that this is absolute gospel, it does improve circulation and detoxification (two factors that influence cellulite), while gently exfoliating the skin.  Not suitable for your face and delicate décolletage area, it can work wonders on the rest of the body – and heading into winter, daily use could mean confidence (if not comfort!) baring your legs over the festive season.  It can be quite useful for treating keratosis pilaris (the bumps that tend to appear on the backs of the upper arms in some people, particularly in winter when skin becomes drier). The Body Shop do them (old school, I know – I’m assuming even the thought of mango body butter reminds everyone else of Gloria Jeans and half days on Wednesdays too?!), but this one also looks pretty good if you’re more of an online shopper – and have no idea where your nearest Body Shop is (I’m pretty sure last time I was in one was 2005), it also has a longer handle to make it easier to reach your back. 2-3 minutes of brushing in circular motions before hopping in the shower is all it takes.

clear skin lifestyle - legs

image via areyouami.com

Hygiene
Skin hygiene is another facet to an acne-free lifestyle.  Make up brushes, mobile phones and pillow cases can all be breeding grounds for bacteria – which then can be easily transported to your face – which is actually totally rank if you stop and think about it for long enough.  All the skin care products and dietary supplements in the world are not going to help if you are swirling yesterdays grime onto your face with your foundation every morning!  Once a week should be often enough for a deep clean (washing your brushes with baby shampoo or like this) but, especially for anyone suffering from breakouts, a quick spray with brush cleaner every day is the best solution.  Cinema secrets is a favourite amongst Irish make up artists and very reasonably priced.  Changing your pillow case every week is the minimum and I try and clean my phone with these handy wipes whenever I think of it.

clear skin lifestyle - pillowcase

image via urbanoutfitters.com

Does anyone have any other tips for clear skin? And have your tried any of the above?

skin clearing series: part 2 - diet

Skin Clearing Series: Part 2 – diet

Diet and it’s affect on skin is a controversial one.  Many dermatologists insist diet has no effect on acne, and we all have that friend who gorges on chocolate but has not a spot (and sometimes not an extra pound, like seriously) to show for it – so what to believe?  Hormones (and therefore sebum production) can certainly be affected by diet and lifestyle, and there is research suggested an association between milk and acne – based on an increase of IGF1 in milk creating an increase in circulating androgens (basically something in milk that affects hormones).  Personally I think the only way to work out what is best for you and your skin is to give it a go, observe the results and adjust as you see fit.

What did I cut out?
Reducing sugar, dairy and caffeine has helped, but completely cutting them out didn’t yield remarkably better results than living by the 80:20 rule – I stick to 2 coffees a day max, and really only have milk with this and tea.  Ice cream is my favourite but I try and stick to Nobó or something similar (aside from last Sunday when I went to town in Tribeca – hot fudge sundae how are ya…aaaand yes, I can see the difference this week).  A friend of mine completed two years without milk and had the clearest skin of her life – so different things can work for different people.  Reducing sugar has had the biggest impact for me –  also take a chromium supplement to keep my blood sugar as steady as possible (blood sugar spikes are basically the devil when it comes to your skin, at least according to Beyoncé’s dermatologist – who says diabetics have the worst skin) .

skin clearing series: part 2 - cutting back on caffeine
If you’re visualising brunches filled with food envy and mid-afternoon slumps to beat the band, I’d like to stop you right there. It’s not that bad, and yes, it does take a bit of getting used to, but the biggest change I’ve noticed from adjusting my diet seems to be more down to what I’ve added (it’s not all about restriction – so you don’t need to feel guilty if you love brunch as much as I do).

 

Supplements
I’ve discussed supplements for clear skin here but the number one addition to any acne-free diet is a liquid chlorophyll supplement – I ran out of this two weeks ago, and only found my favourite brand in stock today, and god can you feel/see the difference.  I have discussed chlorophyll previously here but honestly, this is the most important thing you can do to clear up your skin. Generally the advice is one teaspoon in a glass of water daily, but I find if I’ve a particularly bad breakout/festival weekend/the entire festive season, I need to drink a diluted version all day to see the effect (large 2L bottle with 1-2 tablespoons chlorophyll – should be a pale green colour).  You have to be careful starting out, as it can impact your stomach until your digestive system adjusts to it – so start out slowly and gradually add more.

skin clearing series: part 2 diet - increasing your green vegetable intakeThe other big change I’ve made to my diet is to seriously up my vegetable intake.  I previously didn’t eat meat – and therefore you would think ate a lot of vegetables (really I tended to focus on protein like fish and beans) – but after a conversation with a nutritionist about how most of us are pretty poor veggie eaters I reassessed things.  6-7 portions of fruit and veg a day are what the official guidelines advise – but most of this is supposed to come from vegetables, not fruit – which can be a large source of sugar if you’re eating dried fruit in particular.

Green vegetables
Increasing your vegetable intake, particularly the green variety, is more difficult than it sounds.  Honestly, at the start I felt like all I was doing was eating vegetables and still I was only hitting 4-5 portions a day.  One thing that has made it easier is trying to eat greens at breakfast – and no, I’m not one for tupperware on a Sunday, doling out chicken and broccoli for every meal of the week (but fair f*cking play to you if that is you, maybe I’ll get there some day!)…but I have taken some inspiration from the fitfam-crossfit community.  A green smoothie at breakfast time is an easy addition, and doesn’t stop you having your porridge/eggs/whatever else you fancy – but you do need to make sure it really contains a lot of veg.  Baby spinach is my go-to, as it’s cheap, involves no chopping or peeling and has a pretty inoffensive taste when mixed with some coconut water, berries and flaxseed oil (kale I’m looking and you and your oh-so-bitter-and-impossible-to-hide tang).

skin clearing series: part 2 diet - increasing your green vegetable intake

The other option involves actually eating vegetables in the morning – now I know not everyone’s stomach is going to be able for that, particularly if you’re not a morning person in the first place.  The following recipe has become a bit of a staple for me when I have a little bit more time, or just can’t really face another green smoothie!

  • 1 bunch of broccolini
  • 2 eggs mixed together in a cup as if for scrambling
  • 1 tablespoon of basil pesto (I love the Happy Pear one)

Chop /broccolini into 2cm stalks (about 1/3 of the stalk).  Lightly stir fry in coconut oil/butter etc and add pesto. Scramble eggs into the mix until cooked.  I like to dollop some pesto on top at the end (kind of obsessed with that pesto if I’m honest) and serve either alone or with toast.  Obviously if broccoli is really not your thing, try something different – courgette, bok choi and asparagus can all work well.

skin clearing series: part 2 diet - increasing your green vegetable intake

Next I’ll be discussing medications for acne that still refuse to clear up, but I would love to hear how you get on with trying to increase your vegetable intake – and if you have any other ways of doing it please let me know!