Bare-foot and makeup free. Isn’t that the dream?
I was living that dream in Bali (read my earlier blog: Things to do Places to stay in Bali) just three months ago. I was carefree and oblivious to the fact that an invisible multi-cone-adorned drill sergeant was incubating microscopic troops. Life would change shortly after my return. I remain astounded at just how quickly that happened. ‘Live in the now’ is no longer a random Facebook meme. The world over is united in a clear understanding of its meaning. Don’t you wish you had gone for that reckless late-night ocean swim and hadn’t turned down that ladies’ night?
Last week, I settled on our back verandah to compile this post. I had decided to take pause from my ‘travel’ and ‘pursuit of balance’ blog categories and deliver advice on my other passion – ‘skincare.’ Usually, the pure pleasure of writing outdoors while sipping green tea brings easy fluidity to my words. The morning was still. The gentle autumn sun was at its most comforting and the birdlife was furiously discussing plans for the day ahead. I love birds. I smiled and typed the post’s title (the one you see now). Then I began the introduction. Then I edited the introduction. Then I deleted it. I got up. I paced. I sat back down. I wrote another intro and deleted that one too. Something was wrong. I was on this futile treadmill of editing and eliminating until both my tea and I ran out of steam. The words refused to come. So, I warmed up my tea, closed my laptop, and panicked. It’s a scary feeling for a writer. Perhaps my creative senses had been dulled by arduous days indoors and lack of raucous nights out?
It turned out to be less dramatic than that. It was that I was unsure if discussing skincare seemed frivolous in a world dealing with tragedy and the monotony of four walls. It felt oddly vain to offer advice on how to rid your face from the mask of melasma (pigmentation) when masks are the new gold. Does an even skin tone even matter if our faces are largely hidden, along with our smiles? But then I concluded that as much as life has changed, it also must go on. Self-care and self-love are more important now than ever before. And that includes loving the skin you’re in.
So, what is a writer doing discussing skincare? I stumbled across my love of skincare while still running my advertising agency. It was then that I met a top dermatologist, who became one of my clients and remained a good friend (and advisor). I have since conducted business in the skincare industry and provide pro bono writing for The Skin Cancer Foundation of South Africa (I have experienced skin cancer) as well as The Live Scar Free Foundation – I look forward to sharing more about these amazing organisations and the people behind them, in future posts. Due to my marketing background, I was (and still am) fiercely skeptical when it comes to promises made by big skincare brands. This hilarious read, nine-year-old girl disappears after using anti-aging cream, is a light-hearted read that pokes fun at the BS we are fed. False promises have resulted in long-suffering dressing tables groaning under the weight of half-used creams. Skincare and anti-aging are colossal industries, and with so much noise out there, it’s easy to fall prey to the brands that can shout the loudest—the ones with the big budgets.
So, years ago, I posed a simple question to the Dr, and it turned out he had a simple formula:
‘Dr., I’m disillusioned and confused by the mixed messages out there. All this marketing mumbo-jumbo of false promises I see everywhere isn’t sitting well with me. I know how words can be cleverly crafted – I’m the one that is briefed by clients to create words that sell! I want to know what really works for the skin. Surely it can’t be as complicated and convoluted as they make it sound.’
‘Well, actually, it’s not complicated at all. I’ll write it all down for you.’
Oh. That was easy.
The formula he jotted down, is one I’ve been following since that day. It’s simple, and it works. There was also a big job to be done. My skin concerns were more significant than the pursuit of a dewy complexion and minimal lines. I suffered for years from chronic pigmentation. It was bad. Even the good doctor diplomatically agreed. I didn’t step out of the house without skillfully applied foundation. I didn’t swim in the sea or jump in a pool, because I was so self-conscious when my makeup washed off. I hated that I looked like two different people – the one with and the one without makeup. It was my dream to go makeup free during the day. I’m now able to do just that. It’s liberating, and it’s possible.
The 4-step formula is magically simple. It puts PROTECTION before all else.
Most of us understand that we need to cleanse, tone, moisturise and exfoliate (Note: be sure to use products with active ingredients backed by science). However, if you don’t protect your skin, then premature aging, pigmentation and even skin cancer may come to the fore. This is regardless of skin type or colour. Male and female.
Protection means 90% of your skincare job is done. It is the most critical defense against ageing, pigmentation, and skin cancer. To quote a cliché: prevention is better than cure. However, even if some of these nasties have begun to show, protection can help them from worsening and also lighten/eradicate pigmentation (as it did in my case). If your damage is severe, there are treatments like laser that can help, but I’ll discuss these in a subsequent blog post.
1. Wear sunscreen every day. Yes. EVERY day.
90% of ageing can be prevented by protecting your skin. Nowadays, many day creams include an SPF. Ensure it is at least an SPF30. If you are spending hours outdoors, you will need to apply an SPF50. And please, wear a hat.
2. Apply a topical antioxidant serum
This protects against infra-red radiation as well as doubling up sun protection. Topical antioxidants (like E&C serums) provide highly potent protection that is absorbed deep into the skin. They act as sponges that absorb and neutralise the toxins that damage cellular DNA.
3. Ingest antioxidant supplements
Basically, antioxidants that can’t be washed away by external forces. It has been widely publicised in top dermatological literature that the oral use of supplements protects against UV inflammation and darkening (pigmentation).
Take 1-gram vitamin C daily
Take 400IU vitamin E daily
4. Retinol or Retin-A
While not falling under protection, this is a powerful corrector. High doses of vitamin A are like mother’s milk for the skin. It helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines, large pores, sun damage, and dullness. Retinoic acid is a highly effective cell-communicating ingredient with the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and instruct it to behave like a healthy, younger cell. Furthermore, it acts like an antioxidant that can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes the signs of aging. It’s also shown to increase collagen production and lighten UV induced pigmentation. It certainly did in my case.
It is a good idea to start with a Retinol (milder) and work your way up to Retin-A (stronger). Retin-A is available from a pharmacy and requires a script from a doctor or dermatologist. Both must be added gradually, to avoid skin irritation – mix with aqueous cream for a few days, until you gradually phase it out.
No more foundation. It’s possible, trust me.
It took some patience, but over time my pigmentation began to fade. Then it disappeared! My skin became even-toned and smooth. In my opinion, too much attention is given to lines, when in fact, an even, smooth complexion is what takes years off.
I have to end off by saying that everyone is different. Some products work better on some than others. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have – simply pop me a message. Any questions I can’t answer, I will refer on to the Dr.
Who knows? Perhaps soon you’ll be dancing around make-up free. Well, after lockdown anyway :).
Let’s just coddiwomple