Mathew Bose


Clarisonic cleansing brush…

It’s no secret that I’m big on exfoliation. Read a previous post about this where I bang on about it here.

It’s also no secret that I’m not really big on fancy products, labels and product hype. However, a friend loves this little gizmo so much that her enthusiasm made me try it.

I have to say right here and now though, that I started discussing products initially on this site but some people cynically assumed that I was being paid or bribed in some way to include these products (don’t judge me by your standards I say to them) SO, I feel I should reiterate that I talk about specific products and brands that I like and do so for that simple reason alone. I like ’em, I use ’em and I write about ’em. End of.

Anyhoo…

The item in question is from the Clarisonic (Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, Inc.) company as part of their ‘Sonic Cleansing Range’. They’re the same chaps that brought you the sonic toothbrush. The one I use is called the ‘Mia’. Mia is the small ‘travel’ size option and is a pared down device but completely enough for my needs. I’ve had it for a while now so it’s been superseded by other versions etc. (usual story) but the general idea is still the same.

The brand and its devices are, they say, all developed by scientists. Check out the website here Clarisonic for all the technical stuff and current versions available.

Essentially the manufacturers say the difference here is that their brush goes back and forth to flex and work with the skin’s natural elasticity, it sweeps away dead skin cells and the sonic vibrations ensure a deeper and more thorough cleanse and unclogging of pores. As I say check out the technical stuff on their website, but whatever the science the proof is ultimately in the results, right?

I am convinced that the regular use of this sonic brush has benefited my skin hugely. Now, I use the Mia in conjunction with a few other things (which are discussed in related posts) so I accept that it’s a combo thing but nonetheless the Mia is an integral part of the process.

The version of the Mia that I bought came with  mini tube of Clarisonic branded ‘gentle hydro cleanser’ which I have never used simply because I have my favourite face cleansers already and being a creature of some habit…and also I forgot all about it until I came to write this post! The provided cleanser was developed by Robb Akridge phd who was also the co-founder of the company. I feel I must therefore add at this point that Clarisonic was sold to L’Oreal in 2011 so if you have issues with L’Oreal (and there are plenty you could have – not least their animal testing decisions. Although they claim to be ‘cruelty free’ (that doesn’t include their prices and chemical usage I’m assuming…!) they say this: ‘L’Oréal no longer tests on animals any of its products or any of its ingredients, anywhere in the world. Nor does L’Oréal delegate this task to others. An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes’ (my italics). It’s this final line that gives them away because, for instance, the lucrative Chinese market demands by Chinese law that before products can be sold there  products are tested on animals by Chinese testing facilities within China. As ever we must make informed and personal choices…right?

Anyhoo…the cleanser…maybe the shift to L’Oreal explains this but there was a major reformulation of many Clarisonic products according to a bunch of disgruntled fans of the previous formulas (can’t please everyone..?) but the consensus seems to be that natural has been replaced by synthetic. The upshot is I tried a little of it and I don’t like it. And I certainly don’t think that using every product from a brand’s range is a good way to go. Find specific things that work for you and don’t be swayed by a load of old rhetoric. Often brands have a fab product and then build a load of other stuff around it to complete a ‘range’…but the initial item is the best. Maybe this is so here…

Previously noticeable pores have been significantly reduced and other blockages that sometimes cropped up linked to heat, hair products or general abuse from the elements are now a rarity. Using this as a pre-shave preparation also allows for a closer and smoother shave. As the device is water proof it can be used in the shower as part of any routine to keep your daily ablutions time efficient!

A word about pores though…the size of them is largely hereditary (another thing to blame your parents for) or related to the oil gland within or the hair follicle, so the only way to minimise them is to minimise how noticeable they are. They become evident because they are blocked (and I’m afraid age is a factor too…they sag eventually like everything else) so having a regular exfoliating regime is important. Incidentally, blackheads aren’t dirt as some people suspect but the result of an oxidisation process within an excessively clogged pore and should be extracted by a professional ideally (also prevented by careful and regular exfoliation…it’s all about exfoliation!)

So ultimately I could argue, if I were being contrary (moi?!), that a flannel or any type of face cloth (or even these hands looking at the state of them – where is my Weleda Skin Food when I need it?!?) could do the job also and cost a zillionth of the price. True…but I think cost aside the convenience, clean efficiency and ease of this brush makes it a worthwhile investment…definitely add it to your birthday/Christmas wish list!

Mathew Bose


Exfoliation…rocks!

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…!

 

Mathew Bose


EVE LOM Rescue Mask Trial

Ok I’ll level with you. I’m obsessed with face stuff. Packs, masks, scrubs the whole shebang. So there’ll be a fair amount of this here I reckon.

I think the simple matter of cleaning and exfoliating your skin is the key to keeping it fresher, healthier and looking younger. Skipping this part of your regime is like skipping a meal, yeah, you can get away with it but ultimately its unhealthy and you will pay for it at some point! Be warned!

So I’m gonna start with my current most adored product, Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask. Even though Ms Lom herself seems a little sneery about men going thru all this saying, “I’m sorry but with all due respect, just shave, don’t smell, have a nicely ironed shirt. That’s a man.” Get her…

(Discussions about the differences between men and women’s skin and the related products are here and here)

At £35 for 50ml tube and £55 for 100ml jar it ain’t cheap but does last quite a long time. Most people I know you try it, love it…but there are some serious naysayers and they raise a few points regarding chemicals and the like that are always worth a listen and a bit of thinking about. As with everything in life we should just accept what we are told. I believe, especially, when it come to your health you should always, always do a little investigation. So here’s mine. Make of it what you will, but most of all make your own mind up.

I love all the clean white packaging and the minimalist writing (I’m so shallow) but pale grey writing on bright white paper for the instructions is a no-no. Glasses needed and an even brighter light to squint and decipher. I’ll warrant a large percent if the people buying this product aren’t slips of things with sparkly 20-20 vision but people like me of a certain age (!) who just want to be able to read the friggin instructions and get on with it. After all, the sleek, stark designer packaging has already won me over (shallow, see?) I already bought the product so now I just need to read how to use it, right?!? FYI tilt the instruction paper away from yourself and towards a bright light like a daylit window and it illuminates it something lovely! Anyhoo…it says this on the package:

‘Use as a regular weekly deep cleanse or as an emergency mask when your skin needs extra attention. Helps to reduce blotchy skin, and helps to minimise irritated and erupted conditions. At the same time enhances cleansing and exfoliation.’

Great! I’d agree. If you need to give our face a pick-me-up after a night of debauchery or just bad temper maybe? Or drinking or lack of sleep? Or over work or sadness? Then this will save you!

A trip to John Lewis is never wasted I say!! The more than fabulous lady at Eve Lom gave me a full and thorough going over! Hello vicar… She made a good point (good from her point of view, anyway) which is that I should try the mask as part of the process that EL suggest to truly test it’s merit. I agree under these circumstances of trialing and reviewing, BUT I do think that products should stand alone too, as not all of us want to use a single range and I think many of our routines and product choices have grown organically from trial and error. We like what we like however open we are to new things; the tried and trusted is our mainstay. But nonetheless in the spirit of fairness I’ll give the mask a go in conjunction with the recommended (legendary) cleanser and seven (seven?!?) step routine. Anyway the divine EL lady gave me the cleanser as a sample (complete with its own mini muslin cloth!) so it’d be churlish of me not to try it.

For EL it’s all about a seven step routine of pressure and the like – all outlined on the afore mentioned, impossible to read instructions. Quite jolly once you get into the swing of it and I like the idea that I might ‘drain my congested areas and eliminate toxins.’ Sounds terribly useful…!

The cleanser makes me nervous though as it’s basically a load of oils, clove (to purify), eucalyptus (to drain away toxins), hop (to tone) and chamomile (to soften and condition) and a mineral oil that I assume it’s all suspended in, and as I’m prone to a bit of greasiness it seems illogical to smear even more on my face. This is why the hot water and muslin cloth element is important. It’s this procedure that will minimize the residue of any oils. I have to say the cleanser did make my face feel good and really clean and not remotely oily (it is designed to completely rid your face of make up so had an easier job with my make up free face. What?!? No, the day for night cover up does not count! BUT I didn’t apply any nighttime moisturizer as I was nervous of the multiple grease possibilities. My face was far from dry in the morning so I think that may have been a wise move.

(The cleanser also has a fistful of parabens in it. These currently contentious preserving chemicals are discussed here)

So, back to the mask…the following night I used the cleanser again (seven steps need planning – it’s not for the impatient and time inefficient – but it is your health and dewy youthfulness we are safeguarding here so what is a few minutes effort worth to you?) and then applied the Rescue Mask. I then went to watch an episode of Modern family and, frankly forgot about it. When it dries out it is no longer working so no harm done except for the ‘face-dandruff’ that I was dropping everywhere! The lady at the John Lewis EL counter said I should I rub the dry mask off for extra exfoliation so I did that (I’m very biddable). And the results are in…the texture of the skin is smooth and soft, a brighter, more glowing colour is present (could just be from the rubbing and warm water?!) and everything looks chirpier and fresher, positively bursting with youthful healthiness! Hoorah.

Even the next morning it still seems pretty damn good!

Here are the ingredients and a brief poke about into what the flip they mean for our faces:

Kaolin – sometimes called China Clay is a silicate mineral used in a vast array of everyday items like paper, toothpaste, light bulbs, ceramics, paint, cosmetics and to control diarrhea. It’s been a staple, stable basis for face masks for ages due to its excellent absorbent qualities that draw out the oil and impurities. There is no serious research on the clay, so, is it safe to assume that the hundreds of years it’s been in use at least point to it being okay? Hmmm…

Water – well…

Glycerin – used in many beauty products to create a smoother texture, soften the skin and attract water. It naturally attracts water so can be useful in keeping moisture in the skin and pulling it from the deeper layers to the surface. A mixed blessing I’d say. A little sounds good but too much can over dry the skin to the point of blisters even!

Denatured Alcohol – is a form of ethanol (basic alcohol) that is liquid at room temperature and evaporates very, very quickly! Therefore useful in hair products like hairspray and I suppose used here to cause the mask to ‘dry out’ on the skin. (Unlike ‘fatty alcohols’ that are solid at room temperature and are not drying but used to emulsify oils into water and condition skin and hair.)

Honey – is a natural antibacterial and antiseptic (but only truly if it has not been pasteurized or treated). For skin – It produces hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water and that is a mild antiseptic – great for minor cuts and the like. It hunts down free radicals, holds in moisture and has a mild AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) in it, which is an acid that breaks down the chemical bonds holding the skins (dead) cells together making them easier to scrub and wash away. I’m guessing that’s why it’s included here…for all the above!

Sweet Almond Oil – generally considered a very useful and very safe ingredient in beauty treatments due to its rich vitamin content (A, B1, B2, B6 and especially E). It’s easily absorbed so it’s moisturizing and nourishing qualities are especially lauded. If true, all very good for the anti-ageing process!

Seed Meal – essentially ground up seeds. Which seeds it doesn’t say…

Phenoxyethanol – ooh now we are getting into the nitty gritty! I mentioned parabens ealier and this I reckon has been added as an alternative. Therefore I assume it’s here as an anti-bacterial (also anti mould and yeast) and preserver. It’s just about everywhere in products these days but there’s a lot of arguing over its safety too. So read up! I see that under 1% is considered okay but many products (like this one) don’t list amounts.

Camphor – it cools and disinfects and is used in moth repellent, Asian sweets, fireworks, embalming and is a mild anesthetic and antibacterial (think Vicks VapoRub). It’s used to soothe irritated or red skin, and it has a nice smell (if you like that sort of thing). I think it causes the slight ‘heat’ ‘menthol’ feeling as it’s rubbed into the skin and…er…it’s a little bit poisonous so don’t eat it!

Magnesium Aluminum Silicate – this is a mineral derived from clay and is often used, and considered safe, in beauty products as a thickener and filler. It’s large molecular structure means it doesn’t get absorbed into the skin (but do have a look at the wrangle regarding the dangers of Aluminum and other ‘heavy’ metals found in the products around us).

Calcium Chloride – similar to table salt (Sodium Chloride – see below) this ‘salt’ is used in food to preserve its texture and shape. It’s also used in sports drinks as an electrolyte and on the roads to stop the snow or ice sticking! In beauty products, and therefore I suppose here, it is used as an astringent (constricts the pores) and thickener.

Magnesium Chloride – is also used in de-icing the streets! Is there a correlation here?! And as a thickener in beauty products. Magnesium can be absorbed into the body through the skin so if, like me, you leave the mask on for a good half an hour are we getting vital magnesium as a by-product? Questions, questions…

Sodium Chloride – basically table salt to you and me, is used in SO many things. In beauty products it’s, again, often used as a texturising element and maybe here it binds and scrubs too. (I love a salt scrub!!)

Ethylhexylglycerin – is a preservative and conditioning agent therefore a handy paraben alternative maybe? It’s a relatively new chemical and there’s very little data on its safety. Again, see the great paraben war for more information…

Aluminum Chlorohydrate – is an aluminum based salt. Its primary use is as the anti-wetness protection element in antiperspirants. Hmmm…so it’ll tighten and tingle my face skin….? It is also used to clean water by making its impurities come together so maybe that’s its use here…?

Allantoin – is said to have a healing effect on skin. Skin that is sore, chapped, burnt, erupted and generally irritated! It encourages it to form new and healthy tissue and soothes and moisturizes as it goes. Subsequently it’s in loads of products from anti-acne and shaving to hair care, deodorants and foot creams.

Well, that’s something to think about isn’t it? I wonder sometimes if a little information is more dangerous than none. And regardless of the whole ‘products designed for women or specifically for men’ wrangle I’ll continue using this product, no doubt, but it does mean that now I’m a tad more armed with some knowledge of what’s what within this product I’m smearing directly on to my most sensitive skin (face that is…oh stop…) AND if a new study proves or claims that there are issues to consider regarding any of the above ingredients, at least I’ll know it applies to me and I’ll think on!