Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Best Skincare Tips I've Ever Learned - The Philosophical

In the last post, I discussed the best practical tips I had learned about skincare in my almost five years of blogging and three years of commitment to a variety of trial and error skincare routines. In that time, my knowledge on the topic has increased exponentially - as well as my realisation that it will never be enough and something that I will always have to read up on more. However, one of the things that has changed the most in that time is my attitude towards skincare and my skin itself.

I used to think of skincare as a battlefield and my skin as a foe that was always out to defy me - something I had to best. Having imperfect skin stressed me out intensely as, foolishly, I thought that once I was no longer a teen, my problems with my skin would end. Imagine my shock and horror when this hypothesis was quickly debunked and proven to be 100% not true.

Admittedly, I've never had terrible skin. In fact, in retrospect, I actually fared rather well compared to many of my peers. But, as the case is with many of us, the bar I set for acceptable for myself and for others was quite different. Imperfection has never been good enough for me and, yet, I am incredibly flawed by standards even less strict than my own and, so, I've always felt lacking. My skin was just one thing I could focus on with the belief that I could, and would, improve it. Or, rather, I would perfect it.

And, so, I did silly things. I nicked the prescribed creams and face washes that my brother may not have been bothered using but had, in uncertain terms, not been suggested to me by a doctor. I attacked any blemish with tea tree oil, zit creams and treatments, again and again, day after day, willing them to go away. It was a constant battle. When one batch would heal, hormonal shifts would ensure another quickly followed. Even when it stung, even when constant use of those creams desensitized a part of my face and left me with severe pins and needles for a fortnight, even when I thought the better of it - I attacked my skin in pursuit of perfection.

Of course, the stress that this all caused was utterly counter-intuitive and one of the worst things I could have done to my skin (stress is a big cause of breakouts). But I couldn't stop seeking perfection.

Then, I don't know how or remember quite when, I had an epiphany, a Eureka moment. It may have been while reading about skincare, I'm not sure. But I realised that skin is delicate and fighting fire with fire was just going to burn everything down. So, I stopped. I treat breakouts, sure, but I actually rarely use targeted blemish treatments anymore. Instead, I try to make sure that my skin is moisturised, isn't irritated and is happy with me. And the funny thing? The blemishes heal faster than they did with any spot cream - even with the noticeably slower turnover rate of skin renewal that I now have at twenty-five.

Hands down, the best product? Sudocrem. That magic gem of our childhoods. Soothes, heals, protects. All those buzzwords meant to sell the product to parents worried about nappy rash and bumps and bruises? Turns out that our skin likes them too - who would have guessed?

Skin isn't our enemy. Blemishes aren't the end of the world. Perfect skin doesn't actually exist. Imperfection is okay. Keep these things in mind and you'll be fine. I know my skin is clearer and happier for it.

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I'm never going to have "perfect" skin and that's okay. I'll probably always have blemishes that even makeup can't cover fully.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Best Skincare Tips I've Ever Learned - The Practical

I think about skincare a lot. I read about it, watch videos about it and, when I'm indulged, talk about it ad nauseam. In fact, I recently went into a store to restock on toner and sunscreen and ended up chatting to one of the women working there about skincare for over an hour and a half. I'm not even exaggerating.

As a result of all this thought and research, I've come across some skincare tips and tricks that have really helped me and that I stand by. I thought it would only be fair to share in the knowledge. Here are the best skincare tips I've ever learned.


1. Commit to Sunscreen.

No matter how often I say this, most Irish women laugh me off, even women who are reasonable, even women who wear sunscreen on holidays and rarely let themselves get burned: sunscreen must be worn every single day. Every. Single. Day. 

Your skin may look fine now but, I promise you, it will remember how you treat it. Damage is happening whenever sun touches unprotected skin. Even through glass. Even if it is cloudy outside. Start protecting it now because I wear factor 50 every day and scans I had done at an event showed I had damage. You can only imagine how unprotected skin is faring. Plus, this isn't just a cosmetic thing, it is a health issue as well. Aging isn't fun but skin cancer is far worse.


2. No towels.

Another thing I get looked at like I'm crazy for: I do ever not use towels on my face any more. Ever. First of all, if you have to use them, make sure to pat not rub. The fibres are coarse in a towel and rubbing against the skin can cause damage, even if you can't see it. The skin on your face is delicate and needs to be treated as such. But I forgo using towels at all and, instead, carefully pat my face dry with cotton pads, avoiding any germy little camps that might develop even on supposedly clean towels.


3. Toner.

"What is toner? Why do I even need it? It's just another step."

These are things I often read and hear people saying and I used to be confused about it myself. Toner is basically used to rebalance the Ph of the skin after it has been cleansed and, often, is the first step in ensuring the skin is rehydrated. Avoid any toner with alcohol as this dries out the skin and is too harsh and be sure to apply as soon as possible after cleansing so that the skin isn't left thirsty for too long (it doesn't like that). Some people say that there's a 3-5 second window to do this but introducing any uber-stressful limitations on your skincare routine is likely to be more of a hindrance than a help.


4. The power of Massage.

Just slapping on products is a waste. A big tenet of Asian skincare is massaging products in, in order to increase bloodflow and relieve tension. I can say, personally, as possibly the tensest person in existence; massaging my skincare across my forehead helps ease the expression lines that crop up after a long day. Just remember to make sure your hands aren't completely dry when doing this, as you will drag the skin. Only massage when your hands are amply coated in a serum, cream or oil.


5. Don't forget to Exfoliate.

Exfoliating 2-3 times a week is a necessity for keeping the skin clear and smooth. However, do bear in mind that exfoliating should not be a daily thing (daily exfoliating face washes are the devil incarnate), should be done with a gentle chemical exfoliant rather than a super-gritty physical exfoliator and should never be done with washes with microbeads (also the devil incarnate - in this case, bent on ruining the planet).

These are the practical tips I've gleaned over the years but I've also gained a sort of philosophy and outlook on skincare and the idea of "perfection" that has been just as helpful in creating an effective and healthy routine for myself and my skin. This, I think, deserves its own post and the space necessary to properly elaborate on my thoughts. Look out for my second post in this series to read all about, perhaps, the greatest skincare tip of all that I have to offer.


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(Some of my all-time favourite products)


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