How retinols work

Retinoids first came to market in the early 1970s as an acne -fighting drug. Since then, they have also been used to treat psoriasis, warts, wrinkles and blotchiness caused by sun exposure, and aged skin.

Here’s the catch, with repeated use, retinol products begin to thin out your skin and will eventually make you more susceptible to UVA rays. If you’re not wearing adequate SPF all the time, with passing years you’ll have more melasma, more discolouration not to mention possible irritation. 

Retin-A, Reova, Accutane, they’re great drugs in that they work. Everyone wants to change the skin, everyone wants to prevent damage. But none of the products on the market we’ve tested prevent damage.

 When we tested Renova and Retin-A, they had an effect on wrinkles and age spots. The only problem with those drugs is that women’s skin is already considerably thinner than men’s, and these medications take off the top layer—so you’ve lost the first or second layer of your skin, and though your skin looks fresh and bright and great, it can actually get worse.

 Simon Erani, the founder and CEO of The Somme Institute in New York.

I share Simon’s sentiments about retinoids, although he does sound rather alarmist.

There’s a proper time to use retinoids, and that’s when you have visible signs of aging, don’t use retinoids before your time, unless you covet that wax doll appearance that long term users of retinoids often have.

As a preventative meausure against fine lines and wrinkles, use anti-aging products without retinol. Somme institute makes products like that, couple them with physical sunscreen and you will enjoy youthful skin for years to come.

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen SPF 30+ Sensitive

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All products mentioned in this post available at  amazon.co.uk

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Gross ingredients in skincare

Sulphates, parabens, alcohol and petroleum are much talked about and hated in the beauty industry, but did you know about this relatively harmless but gross ingredients in skincare?

Tallow

Tallow is a hard, fatty substance made from rendered animal fat, which is commonly used to make soap and candle. Rendering fat is also the most common method of making glycerin.

Ambergris

Sperm whales eject an intestinal slurry called ambergris into the ocean, where the substance hardens as it bobs along. Eventually it gets collected along shores.

High-end perfumes from houses such as Chanel and Lanvin take advantage of the ability of ambergris to fix scent to human skin.

It was once thought the ambergris was ejected by mouth. As of now, the argument seems to be weighted toward the back end of the whale.

Snail gel

Snail slime (or its cosmetic name, snail filtrate) is packed with nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein, proteoglycans, and antimicrobial and copper peptides, all of which are commonly used in beauty products and proven to be beneficial for the skin. These elements help to protect the snail’s skin from damage, infection, dryness and UV rays.

Snail slime contains 91-98% water. The slime is filtered multiple times to increase its concentration and ensure its purity. Some snail slime products claim to contain as much as 97% snail secretion filtrate.

Placental lipids

The afterbirth organ that enables a foetus to grow in a pregnant female is a hot commodity. Although some skincare companies opt for sheep or pig placenta instead of human placenta, the prospect of putting placenta on your face is still gross.

Humanolin

Years ago someone had a brilliant idea to create a Sebum Reclamation System that would separate human sebum from soap and water in your shower water. Your sebum or your family’s aggregate sebum would then be collected in a vial then stored in the fridge.

He was working on the premise that people buy lanolin for its similarities to human sebum. If people wanted a product similar to sebum, how much better would they like their own sebum?

I can see the advantages but it’s just a bit too utilitarian, kind of similar to taking a dump in the vegetable patch.

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Fragrance mini haul + layering

I’ve been feeling a bit sad lately, so I treated myself to a little shopping spree yesterday. Right now I’ve got every skincare essential stocked up, so I bought fragrance mists instead of skincare products.

Bear with me, I know fragrance isn’t skincare, and my commitment to keep it skincare on this blog isn’t waning, there’s still a lot about skin I haven’t written yet.When you’re a skincare blogger, it’s easy to forget about life’s other little luxuries like clothes, shoes, perfume and purses (I adore purses btw) so yesterday’s treat was well deserved. 

Let’s get right into it.

I bought four fragrance mists, two by bath and body and two by body fantasies. I’ve always wanted to learn how to layer fragrances, to this end I bought unblended scents. What I mean by this is that each fragrance mist has only one note.

Bath and Body


Body Fantasies

All of these fragrances work well on their own, a wonderful thing because on a hot day all your layering efforts will go to waste, scents wear off faster when it’s hot. If you like topping up your body mist or perfume throughout the day then you will want to wear only one fragrance, it’s easy to carry just one bottle and you don’t have to worry about proportions when you spray.
As for my informal layering experiment, this is how it went down.

 I once read somewhere that fresh scents like cucumber and watermelon go great together. Not the case here, cucumber overpowered watermelon in this combination.

I tried layering cucumber with twilight but again the cucumber was too strong. I think I’ll wear twilight as a stand alone fragrance.

Surprisingly, cucumber complemented coconut quite well in this combination. The coconut body splash I bought from Yves Rocher earlier on this year, I wear it on its own but smelling it all day can get a bit oppressive.

Another surprise success is the combination between watermelon and coconut. Certain scents are migraine triggers for me, these include vanilla (cheap generic kind), shea and coconut if sprayed with a heavy hand. Watering down the coconut with some watermelon makes it less likely to give me a migraine.

As you might read elsewhere on the internet, layering also involves packing on a scent using lotion and body wash. When I really want to smell of cucumber I’ll use this combination.


Missing conspicously from my layering experiment, is the bath and body Japanese blossom, I was rather unimpressed with it. I won’t give it away though, I’ll wear it to lousy dates and boring seminars.

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Maureen Wahu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites. 

Using acids…responsibly ;-)

If you asked me what’s the secret to soft, radiant and blemish free skin, I would never feed you some tired line about drinking more water. Sorry Jennifer Aniston, it doesn’t work. The secret ladies and gentlemen is acids, alpha and beta hydroxy acids to be more precise.

At their most basic level, these products loosen the bonds that hold dead surface skin cells together. The skin cells shed off imperceptibly, and reveal newer ones beneath, which are less damaged by environmental factors like sunlight and pollution. Over time, it diminishes lots of little things that make a big difference: dullness, congested pores, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a cleanser, toner or exfoliator that launched recently, which doesn’t contain some form of acid, whether its glycolic , salicylic or lactic. Look out for these acids in moisturisers and serums too.

For a lot of people who’ve dabbled in acids, there is a general consensus that acids are the key to good skin and their goal is to work their way up to higher strengths to continually see improvements. 

The problem with this approach is that your skin continually improves but plateaus at a certain percentage and will only regress if you introduce higher strength acids. Underneath the surface, your skin will be incredibly inflamed and bumpy. You can’t feel the irritation nor see it, until you look at your skin under direct sunlight. 

Would you believe that acids are now being vilified for causing irritation? It’s clear that the resultant irritation that comes from using acids is due to human error, you need not join the non-acid exfoliation movement if you follow the guidelines below.

 One acid step in your routine

As you now know acids could be in anything, check the ingredients list to eliminate the possibility of layering acid on top of acid unintentionally. Toning is the step in which most people use an acid product,hence the term acid toning

Switch things up so your skin doesn’t build tolerance.

Every once in a while use a different acid so that your skin doesn’t build tolerance to any one of them. You should ofcourse test for reactions before applying product all over your face.

Leave higher percentages for the doctors office

Concentrations of upto 15% glycolic or 5% salicylic are best administered by specialists. Personally I’d never use such high concentrations on my face, perhaps on my body and even then I’d be cautious not to over-exfoliate.

Buffer the drying effect of acids with a moisturiser

Some acid products can be quite drying and this causes irritation. Following your acid product with a moisturiser should solve that problem.

Consider products like NAAP

Even after following the above guidelines, some people’s skin might still be too sensitive to handle acids. Never fear, that’s the reason NIOD has formulated the Non-Acid Acid Precursor.

NIOD £30.50 amazon.co.uk

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 Maureen Wahu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites. 

How to oil cleanse

It’s been a few years since the oil cleansing method craze first took off. I was going through my archives when I realised I’ve never written a cheat sheet on how to oil cleanse. And because the internet is full of oil cleansing horror stories, here are some guidelines you can rely on when dealing with various types of oil cleansers.

Emulsifying Balm/oil Cleansers

It’s hard to go wrong with these, Clinique has aptly named their range ‘Take the day off’.

Basically what they do is dissolve the dirt, oil and makeup on your face then rinse clean with water.You’ll find the emulsifying feature pretty handy, especially on nights when you just want to take off your makeup and roll into bed.

These are excellent as makeup removers but can also be used for your second cleanse if you don’t have a skin cleanser.

Non emulsifying oil/balm cleansers

Like dissolves like, so any oil that you safely apply on your skin can also be used as an oil cleanser. It will bind to dirt just like an emulsifying cleanser would, but taking it off is rather tedious because it doesn’t turn milky on contact with water.

You would be wrong to think every store bought oil cleanser is the emulsifying type. There are many non-emulsifying types and they don’t come cheap either, a total rip off if you ask me.

On the subject of taking off these oil cleansers, most people will ask you to steam your face then wipe clean with a hot face flannel. Not only do you risk broken capillaries doing this, but on swiping your face with a cotton ball and some toner, you’ll realise that your face is far from clean.

Everything comes off with something, so don’t give up on your oil cleanser, simply use a foaming facial wash to take it off. For good measure use a face flannel to distribute the product all over your face then rinse clean.

Oil Cleansing on the cheap

If I haven’t made it obvious already, you can make your own oil cleanser. There are many recipes out there, just be careful when dealing with essential oils, coconut oil and castor oil.

Personally I use almond oil and two or three drops of my Dr Organic face serum. As with other non-emulsifying cleansers, it’s no match for waterproof mascara, hence I only use it on a bare face.

In the fight against blemishes, wrinkles or any other skin issues you might be facing, oil cleansing is just but one tool in your arsenal. Don’t neglect other areas of your face care routine.

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How to ruin your skin

I love recommending products and giving people advice on what to do with their skin. Often it helps.

But because of undiscovered (or undisclosed) allergies and sensitivities, my advice doesn’t always work. If I truly wanted to ruin your skin though, this is what I would ask you to do.


1. Use baby wipes to take off makeup

My issue with baby wipes is that they contain mineral oil. That’s the reason they take off makeup so well.

You might have heard already that petrochemicals (like mineral oil) can cause cancer, that’s not the reason I hate mineral oil though. I hate it because it’s difficult to absorb, you put it on your skin and it just sits there waiting to cause breakouts.

2. Homemade oil cleanser

Oil cleansing with a tincture of oils formulated by you is a bad idea. You can’t mix and match essential oils as you wish, it requires training. Essential oils can be lethal if used the wrong way.

But since you want to ruin your skin don’t listen to me, make your own oil cleanser. It won’t emulsify with water like store bought cleansers do, that means you’ll have to use a hot face flannel to take it off.

3. Steam with a hot flannel

Steaming skin, especially with abnormally hot steam, can worsen redness and potentially result in broken capillaries that show up as thin, spider-like lines.

Go ahead and use a hot face flannel to take off your homemade oil cleanser.

4. Use SPF moisturizer at night

Never mind that taking off SPF is the sole reason some people double cleanse every night, put on your daytime moisturizer at night. It will only increase your chance of irritation and stinging, especially if you have dry skin with a damaged moisture barrier.

5. Scrub your face

For this you will need an apricot scrub or a clarisonic with a less than gentle attachment brush. Scrub away.

6. Get a back alley facial

A back alley spa is the place where they’ll damage your skin in all the ways you missed before.

They love to scrub skin, if you’re lucky you’ll also get an aggressive acne extraction and a nice soothing massage with an essential oil which hasn’t been adequately diluted.

7. Repeat 

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Shopping lists

It takes a lot of restraint for me to stick to my shopping list. In an instant I’ll decide to buy a salt scrub instead of a soft brush, an in shower body lotion instead of a regular lotion, two body washes instead of one, and a bunch of other things that aren’t even substitutes for anything on my list.

This year I’m kicking that habit by making shopping lists that remind me why I’m buying a particular thing instead of another. This is my first.

1. Cerave SA body lotion

I don’t know what I’d do without an acid toner for my face. It’s hands down the best way to exfoliate. Sadly, they don’t make enough acid products for people who want to exfoliate their bodies. So I’ll have to make do with this lotion targeted at people with chicken skin (KP).

The main ingredients in this lotion, ammonium lactate and salicylic acid, work together to both soften the skin and exfoliate.

2. pixi glow tonic

I’ve been wanting an AHA toner for a while now. I don’t think I’ll go wrong with pixi glow tonic. It has such a huge cult following, besides the price is right.

The active ingredient in this is gIycolic acid. I have an oily complexion and salicylic acid works great for me, but a little variety couldn’t hurt.

3. Nivea deodorant stick.

Another product I want is this elusive nivea deodorant stick.

The formula does go on clear, provides good protection, and a clean scent. One downfall of this deodorant is that it contains aluminum. I’m not particularly sensitive to aluminum compounds so I’ll give it a try.

4. Soft brush

Soft bristle brushes are ideal for assisting in sloughing off the outer layer of dead skin cells. When used for dry brushing, they can also improve the appearance of cellulite.

Here’s another fun way to use it.

5 .Snail gel.

Smearing snail gel all over one’s face sounds like a gross thing to do, well to someone else other than me.

Snail Gel boasts a wide range of anti-aging benefits including softened wrinkles, smoother skin, antioxidant protection and improved hydration.

Dr organic combines Snail Gel’s unique ingredient Helix Aspersa Muller with a proprietary blend of bioactive, natural and organic extracts. I imagine this helps with the smell, I don’t suppose snail gel smells very nice.

NB: It says on the package that no snails are harmed in the harvesting of snail slime.

6. St Ives spray lotion

It’s pretty hot out in January (I live in a tropical country), so this would work great as a moisturizer if I had normal skin. Sadly my skin isn’t normal ;( My face might be oily but the rest of me is a dry desert that drinks up several bottles of lotion a month.

To be honest, this doesn’t moisturize a whole lot.But going forward, I want to use this when in a hurry and for hard to reach places like my back.I could also use it for moisture top ups through out the day.

God forbid I have any trouble finding any of these items, I’ll just buy a bottle of wine, I need it for the vitamins.

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All products mentioned available at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk