Eye creams…

Eyes are the first thing we notice about each other or, at least, focus on…okay, heaps of women are disagreeing from their experience with lusty boys but let’s just go with this for now alright? ‘My eyes are up here, love…’

‘It’s all in the eyes’, ‘The eyes have it…’, ‘The eyes are the window to the soul’ and so on…which is all very poetic but we notice ageing around our eyes straight away too. The skin around our eyes is thinner and therefore more delicate and it gets used a lot…well, unless you’re the king or queen of ‘deadpan’. Each blink, laugh, squint, facial reaction or crying session tweaks the skin around your eyes, then coupled with sun and weather exposure, rubbing, contact lens wrangle, make up application and removal, it’s propensity for puffiness, allergies and dark circles it takes a fair old beating.

It is no wonder the beauty industry targets it as a special case – but does it warrant a specific, invariably expensive, cream/serum? It’s an argument that has raged for ages and will continue to do so I’m certain. All manufacturers will insist an eye cream is vital (well, duh…) but I’ve never used one. Am I missing out?

Sure, there’s some crêpeing and a few ‘fine lines’ (ahem!) and the imprint of a crow’s foot! Laughter lines too…but as the saying goes ‘nothing was that funny…!’ But I am a hundred years old so that’s normal surely…or is the ironed flat waxy look sported by so many ‘celebrities’ the only way forward? I don’t want the ironed look (I’ll only burn my face…ho ho ho!)

Essentially, all skin needs the holy binity of exfoliation and hydration to remain vibrant, springy and clear. The area around your eyes is no different in this but the difference comes in the manner and products used. Due to the delicate and vulnerable nature of this skin the gentlest possible products and handling is needed.

Hydrating the area is key as it has no oil glands and there are very few around the area so it needs a little helping hand. Avoiding oil based products is a must as they can cause blockages. Basing your decision on the type of skin you have is also key. You may find that if you’re not usually in need of much moisturiser (and this may change with the, what we laughingly call, seasons) then you may well not need to go overboard with the eye cream…which could in turn mean you don’t even need a separate product!

Exfoliation via acids in the creams is hotly contested. These are usually AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) which break down the dead outer layer of skin and loosen it enough to be washed or wiped away (they take a minute or two to work so washing them straight off will just wash your product down the plughole! See the post about exfoliation). Some say that the inflammation they cause immediately after application can make the skin look less wrinkled as they are in essence plumping the skin and yet the danger is that over time this stresses the delicate skin more and will cause it to sag further (like old knicker elastic…) On the other hand some say that as long as the cream is formulated with the delicate eye area skin in mind then you’ve no need to be concerned (I suspect that’s the industry types speaking…)

Ultimately, if you play out till 4am or drink your body weight in Manhattans then you cannot expect anything, let alone an eye cream, to pick up those pieces! Sun damage is our greatest skin ageing enemy. There is a school of thought that claims botox and acids will not be a long term solution and the answer lies in boosting the collagen and elastin in the area…(some eye products claim to do just that).

SO, the benefits stated by various ‘types’ whether Dr’s of this or experts in that, seem to be that the creams with cooling, calming and antioxidant ingredients are actually useful..well, possibly. They may help reduce…blah blah…they recommend products with AHA’s, moisturiser (often mentioned are those with hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate – a natural substance that is actually already present in skin and is busy beavering away lubricating and storing moisture), herbal extracts that are added for their calming effects and antioxidants. The antioxidants usually take the form of a vitamin such as A or C and mop up and neutralise the free radicals that pollution, smoking or even your stress levels can create. Everyone agrees that wearing sunglasses, sleep and water help too!

Have had a good snoop around the information available, I’m thinking that a combo of all this is probably the way forward until a definitive answer-to-all-our-prayers, one-pot product is developed and proved beyond all doubt AND made inexpensively available to us all.

So, I’m off to research the best products (in bedecked in SPF and sunglasses)…but first I think I’ll drink some water and have a nap…


Day vs Night face creams…?

Asking around I see that this is a dividing issue. Firstly, a division between those that don’t use anything (usually blokes) who think it’s all a load of mumbo jumbo and sneer at the question, let alone the idea. However, their faces have an advantage (see the posts about men’s skin vs women’s skin) so I’ll ignore them (until later when they look like a rat catcher’s kit bag and then, oh then, how I will laugh…) The remaining group are those that do apply some kind of unguents to themselves but the amount, the dedication and the differing products is astounding. They do pretty much divide into two groups, however, the ones who sling a single or maybe two products on, and those of you to whom there can never be too many lotions and potions…oh that’s me too! But, of course, I do it for research purposes you understand…

There’s a cream for this and a cream for that…my bathroom cabinet looks like a low rent boutique! So, are these specific creams and potions really worth their price tag and marketing budget or is it all a load of old manufacturers hype?

During the day your face is subjected to UV, pollution, weather and perhaps make-up too (even your stress levels affect your skin), so day creams are designed to combat this, giving protection and support. They are light and easily absorbed and contain SPF, some kind of antioxidant usually, and then a host of possible extra items to add a host of possible extra benefits. It is this latter part that is the questionable one. There is no doubt that SPF and antioxidants (like vitamin C and E) are useful in these creams but beware the hype on the other stuff. It’s best, as ever, to look into the claims and cross check them as much as you can. A good example of this is the inclusion of AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids) as this can, as with retinoids, make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Some would then recommend a sunscreen to counteract it, but the combination of these products with others makes them far less effective. A day cream loaded with things that you would be better off using at night isn’t really worth the extra cash is it?

When you’re asleep the body takes the opportunity to do some work it has not had time for whilst you’ve been awake and demanding it’s attention. Regeneration and repair is on the agenda and the night cream you use should reflect this. Night creams should be loaded with heavier, slow absorbing moisturisers and the additives that are unsuitable for daylight exposure like the glycolic acid and retinoids mentioned. Then these moisturising and anti-ageing compounds have the uninterrupted hours of sleep to get to work and do their thing.

What happens if you only use one? Or you get confused and use the wrong cream at the wrong time of the day (we’ve all been there…darn those work’s parties)? Well, not much actually. Night creams will make you feel greasier during the day (you can always wash it off and start again, right?) and day creams might not give your skin the full pampering during the night…maybe you have oilier skin and don’t need it…! The key thing is to be protected from the sun during the day (although read the post about vitamin D) and allow the weather, your skin type and your budget to decide the product.

I’d say the day cream is ultimately more important than the night cream if you don’t want, or can’t afford, both OR find an all-round product. This may not have SPF so you may need to use some sunscreen additionally, or perhaps it’s in the foundation you use etc. Factor all these elements in, research a bit (especially your skin type) and ask around your friends. Go to the local main purveyors of these dream creams and ask questions – anyone who follows my ramblings will know I’m a bugger for a department store and this is when they are most useful! Ask the lovelies on the counters and do not just go with the first pitch of rhetoric! Play them off and find the one that sounds right for you, but most importantly, get samples! Try stuff! It’s an important purchase so get the right one for you. Nothing worse than splashing out on something and then hating it…!

I think we had better look into eye creams too, huh? And the sticky question of creams vs serums…

That’s next…so see you soon.

Stay moisturised!


I believe in exfoliation. Utterly. Completely. It’s a religion to me. It is, I am convinced, the reason why my skin is in pretty good nick and smooth all over (you’ll have to take my word for that part…!)

You hear about exfoliation endlessly these days but it’s likely it’s been around for over 4000 years. It is a ludicrously simple idea (the human body is so genius) but first a teeny bit of biology to truly understand the why’s, when’s and how’s of exfoliation:

The skin is endlessly regenerating its cells and sending them from the lowest layer (the dermis) to the surface layer (the epidermis), but as these new fresh, vibrant cells travel outwards they slowly die and become saturated with keratin which then protects the skin from the outside world. (Keratin is a massively strong protein that is the main component of our hair, skin, nails and teeth. It’s the sulphur atoms that bond like no other to create flexible super strength and why hair whiffs when it burns…ok this is getting too involved but no knowledge is wasted I say!)

So, many thousands of dead cells are being shed every day and…create dust! I know I said no more science but, if you need any more incentive to exfoliate, think about the fact that most household dust contains huge amounts of dead human skin cells and the dust mites that eat them (and their faeces and their desiccated corpses…!) I shall leave you with that visual…

As we get older this skin renewal process, like just about everything else, slows down. The skin backs up with dead cells and the natural removal process begins to fail leaving rougher textures and dry, duller skin. Removing the outer layer of your skin reveals the fresher newer skin beneath and unclogs pores, and evens out the texture of your skin. It deep cleans your skin and can help prevent breakouts. So, it’s blatantly obvious isn’t it that exfoliating will help completely, and even trick your skin into thinking that it’s young again?!

The two main types of exfoliation are abrasive and chemical. Abrasive options are those that physically rub off the cells like sponges, loofahs and cloths or products with micro beads, crushed kernels, salt or pumice contained in them.

Microdermabrasion is a term applied, these days, to any process that scruffs off the surface layer of the skin but it refers to a mechanical process that involves an abrasion of the skin using crystal or diamond flakes and suction to carry away the detritus (and is used on the face, neck, arms and chest). Dermabrasion, however, is a term used for a surgical procedure usually performed under local anaesthetic and is the most intense (but has largely been replaced by laser technology).

Chemical exfoliants will include acids like salicylic, glycolic, citric, malic, AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) or BHA’s (Beta Hydroxy Acid) or fruit and other enzymes which fundamentally work to loosen the elements that hold the old dead surface cells together and thus allowing them to be washed away. Get to know these different acids so you know which are working better for your skin and then you can, more importantly, avoid the ingredients that are not working for your skin.

Basically, the main difference between AHA’s and BHA’s is that AHA’s are water-soluble only and BHA’s are oil soluble. The essential difference therefore is in their use. Logically, BHA’s are better for oily skin and where breakouts, blackheads and acne are more prevalent and AHA’s for all other skin types.

BHA in cosmetic items is essentially Salicylic Acid (its ancient historical use is traceable to Willow Bark) and is especially helpful in treating acne (although it is an all round anti-inflammatory too) because it can penetrate and break down oil and works it’s magic by opening clogged pores and neutralizing the bacteria in them.

AHA’s are in many, many cosmetic products so it’s important to make sure you’re not over doing the amount you’re putting on your face, especially. The five usual ones are Glycolic acid (from sugar cane), Lactic acid (from sour milk), Malic acid (from apples), Citric acid (from citrus fruits) and Tartaric acid (from grapes). They can be either synthetically derived or naturally occurring. AHA’s are in cleansers, moisturisers, foundations, eye creams, sunscreens etc. However, many products don’t list how much AHA is actually in them. Over the counter products cannot have more than 10% AHA, but looking at the ingredients list can give you a rough guide to the amount that there might be. If an AHA is listed as second or third then it’s likely it’s a stronger concentration. A key thought to bear in mind is that AHA’s have to be able to penetrate the skin, I mean actually be absorbed in some way to do their work. (Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular structure and so is considered to be the one that penetrates the skin the easiest which is why you see it so often in skin care products. I personally like it too. It suits my skin and I’ll be talking about it in a future post.) So, here’s the most important thing – AHA’s in a cleanser that you don’t leave on your face, and you end up washing it away before the absorption can happen, are clearly no good to you! Your exfoliating and your moisturising product is the best place to interact with the AHA. So consider the whole AHA picture within your product regime carefully and only use it where it is actually going to do you some good!

Exfoliating products containing an abrasive substance literally rub off the layers of your skin to reveal the newer skin. Thought and caution must go into this though as some scrubs can actually scratch and irritate the skin…especially if you’re a tad vigorous with your technique! Blemish prone skin is best left without abrasive exfoliators rubbing it and making it even more inflamed and irritable. It’s largely reported that apricot kernel type particles are the most ‘damaging’ as they are the roughest and can cause micro cuts (however, I use St Ives apricot face scrub and it’s great. Whether that’s a testament to the product or to my leathery skin I dunno…?!?) Beads made of polyethylene are smooth and therefore more gentle (not biodegradable though…oof there’s always something eh?) ‘Natural’ products that contain things like sugar, salt or baking soda are popular as they are naturally water-soluble and so are gentle and disperse quickly. Sugar is especially good for sensitive skin (it’s nack all use for anything else as it’s poisonous so I’m glad to hear it has a use here…!) A third type of exfoliant has a crystal such as aluminium oxide in it and is usually found in products like over the counter microdermabrasion creams. It’s really, really hard and almost shaves off a layer of your skin and yet is still considered to be less damaging than kernels. Go steady and use common sense if you have sensitive skin. Avoid this method of exfoliating completely if you have any irritation. 

The product doesn’t have to contain the element that exfoliates, it can be the method by which it is applied that can be the source of exfoliation. The best examples being anything like face clothes, sponges or brushes. Again go easy with your technique and don’t scrape or scratch the skin.

Now then, here’s another very, VERY important bit! Your skin is your largest organ (sorry boys…) Some eastern medicines believe that it is a map of your health, not just your face but also the entire skin. Just exfoliating your face isn’t enough. The body needs to slough off these dead cells just as much and clearly you want your entire body’s skin to be happy don’t you? Happy and glowing and youthful as possible? Why not? If, you’re shaking your head and thinking well it’s all very well but when the frig am I going to have time to do all this cell removal, then here’s a delicious little tip that’ll transform, yes transform, your life let alone your skin. Get a pair of body scrubbing gloves from just about any high street supermarket or chemist (and they are cheap! Even the posh ones are only four quid!) and every time you shower slip them on and wash as normal. Ok, maybe not every time but two or three times a week. My Indian family are great exponents of doing the scrubbing, as-it-were, always towards the heart. If you’re not a shower person (I mean take baths instead rather than are just a dirt bag) then do the same but my personal experience is that you should do this after the bath as once you’ve swept the gloves over every inch of you (got to get my jollies somewhere…) you can’t rinse them in the bath water because the vast amount of dead cells, that you’ve just fabulously scrubbed from your body, will then be floating in the bath with you like fish food on a pond and it ain’t pretty.

To really pound the point home I timed the putting on and taking off of the gloves in question to see if there would be any validity in the gripes and whinges from some of the lazier members of the audience. Sixteen seconds is the average total time. I timed the process for a week and the mean average time for putting the gloves on and taking them off is sixteen seconds!! SIXTEEN. Don’t even try to find a way to tell me you don’t have a sixteen second space in your routine to give yourself fabulous, touchable, strokeable, soft, glowing skin?!? Exactly. So, zip it…

Don’t use body scrub products (or the gloves) on your face, by the way, as the exfoliating particles will be bigger and rougher and not at all suitable for the more delicate skin on your face.

Exfoliation should be done after cleansing and before moisturising. That’s supposedly the holy trinity. You know your body best and you must learn to watch and respond to your skin. Deciding how often to exfoliate and what methods and products your skin seems to respond to better. I find that many times, and especially during the warmer months, I don’t need to moisturise and in fact over stimulate my skin into a grease feste if I do. Some cleansers (Eve Lom’s for instance) are oil based and if I use that I still don’t need to moisturise (even after exfoliation) or I wake up like I’ve been sleeping face down in a bag of chips (I haven’t! Ok, but it was only one time…sheesh, some people never let you forget…!) Maybe you only give your body a right good going over once a week? Or maybe, three less rigorous goings over a week…whichever, don’t over do it! There should be no irritation (although a freshly scrubbed limb might be a tad sensitive to hot water…just rinse cooler…!) and if your skin is over producing oils then it’s unhappy.

Any men reading this should note that exfoliating your beard pre-shaving is a wonder as it exposes the hair follicles and gives you an easier and better shave. Also if you’re hairy (I guess I shouldn’t exclude women in this…) then bear in mind that hair traps oil, sweat and dirt and an exfoliating body scrub or running yourself all over with the magic gloves (yes, men too…in fact it’s a totally unisex thing!) will keep everything pristine and unclogged. 

A final thought for now…everyone should think about running a long handled loofah over their back. All you lucky devils with a partner to scrub you down, make sure he/she gets a good lather up and gives it a good going over in lovely big circular motions. It’s worth mentioning the obvious that skin is different and therefore differently sensitive all over your body so get to know it and treat it appropriately. Yes your back can take a good firm motion but your stomach is more sensitive (thinner skin) so go easier.

Exfoliating might take a little extra work and planning but think about the fabulous trade off for better skin, less wrinkles and a youthful complexion. Don’t drive yourself mad but exfoliate as much as you can with the minimal irritation and don’t forget to moisturize! Feed that new exposed skin! Then go out and work it…!