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Microbeads – an ethical dilemma

Microbeads are tiny plastic spheres that have been added to a range of cosmetics, skincare products,  toothpaste and sunscreen over recent years.  Many exfoliant products, in particular, contain large amounts of microbeads that are washed down household drains every day.  Scientists have discovered that the ocean floor has been contaminated by these plastic beads, which are too small to be blocked by filtration systems. As a result, the beads are being ingested by marine species and there are concerns about toxicity in the food chain. Even freshwater lakes have been found to be contaminated by microbeads. The microbeads are not biodegradable so the potential consequences for the environment are horrendous.

This is really bad news as microbeads were a breakthrough for gentle and effective skin exfoliation. Previously, exfoliants contained natural ingredients, such as ground almond shells and fruit kernels – the equivalent of using sandpaper on your skin in our view. We can expect microbeads to be phased out quickly as there is immense public pressure on companies that use these ingredients. Hopefully, the cosmetic companies will soon find an alternative ingredient that will comply with their environmental responsibilities.

So, what can we do in the meantime? Check labels on any new cosmetic, skincare, toothpaste and sunscreen products you buy to ensure that the ingredients do not include microbeads. Do the same with your existing products and find out how to dispose of products containing microbeads responsibly. Definitely do not flush the products down the drain. If you intend to finish using the products, do not use them in a shower or rinse in a washbasin. Removing the product from your skin with a damp disposable cloth may be the safest option. Remember to wrap the cloth and dispose of it via the landfill garbage collection.

Research new exfoliants emerging on the market to find environmentally responsible alternatives. Visit Fauna and Flora International (FFI) to find out more about this issue and download your copy of the Good Scrub Guide.

If you prefer to be an activist, spread the word on social media and join or support organisations lobbying for change on this issue.

Extremes of temperature and broken capillaries

shower
Capillaries are the smallest of the blood vessels and play an important role in transporting oxygenated blood to the tissues, releasing waste products such as carbon dioxide and cooling the body down. These blood vessels are so fine that they resemble strands of hair. Networks of capillaries are found throughout the body however, for the purpose of this article, we are most concerned with the capillaries that are close to the surface of the skin. The skin on our faces and necks is much more delicate than the skin on the rest of our bodies and it is constantly exposed to the elements. When we are overheated the capillaries dilate as the blood rushes to the surface of our skin in an effort to release the heat and cool the body down and then recedes. When we are cold the blood circulates through the capillaries to maintain optimal temperature so our skin may appear flushed or paler than usual.  If we move for instance from a heated room to the cold outdoors the natural circulation of the blood to the skin may be more rapid than usual, causing damage to the capillaries. As the capillaries are very fine, they are fragile and susceptible to bruising or breakage. Damaged capillaries on the face are often described as spider veins because of their ‘angry’,  red, web-like appearance.

To prevent broken capillaries, it is important to avoid extremes of temperature that may place excessive strain on these blood vessels. Avoid showering or bathing with water that is too hot or too cold. In particular, avoid a hot shower or bath when your body is cold and avoid a cold shower when your body is overheated. If you subscribe to the European method of alternating your shower temperature from hot to cold to boost circulation, do not use this method on your face or neck. Similarly, if you are feeling hot, do not try to cool down by washing or rinsing your face with cold water. If you are feeling cold, it is not a good idea to warm yourself up by washing or rinsing your face with hot water. Tepid to lukewarm water is always the best for the face and neck area.  If you engage in strenuous physical exercise, take time for your body to cool down before having a shower. Be cautious if consuming alcohol, which can cause pronounced heat and flushing on the facial skin. As always, treat the skin on your face and neck gently and this will also help to avoid damage to capillaries close to the skin’s surface.

If damaged capillaries do become visible there are beauty treatments available but these are often expensive and may result in other issues such as scarring or loss of pigmentation. Another option is to lightly cover the area with concealer before applying your foundation. Green tinted concealer is effective for covering and neutralising the red appearance of capillaries as it is the opposite colour on the spectrum. In summer, wear hats and clothing in light breathable fabrics to prevent overheating.  In winter, dress warmly and wear hats and scarves. In cooler weather consider changing to a foundation with a higher oil content to further protect the skin from extremes in temperature. It is much more sensible to take measures to protect your skin rather than looking for solutions once damage has occurred.

Dab or spray? Perfume and pigmentation.

Perfume bottle

We have all grown up watching our mothers, sisters and other female relatives preparing for special nights out. The very last thing they did was to apply their favourite perfume – usually behind their ears. This was fine when older style perfume bottles with stoppers under the cap were used. These bottles were tipped upside-down so that only a few drops of perfume coated the stopper. The perfume was then dabbed behind the ears using the bottle stopper as an applicator. Perfume was an expensive luxury item and used sparingly. Nowadays even the most expensive brands of perfume are sold in spray bottles. The problem with using a spray bottle is that it is difficult to control how much perfume is sprayed behind the ears. As a result, excess perfume drips down the sides of the neck and into the skin. When the skin is exposed to sunlight (particularly harsh sunlight in warmer climates) hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin can occur. This is particularly an issue for people with medium to dark complexions. Men should also be aware of this as they splash cologne or aftershave over their cheeks, under their chins and over their necks. Hyperpigmentation is difficult to treat successfully so it makes sense to avoid developing the problem in the first place.  Treatment for hyperpigmentation may also result in light patches on the skin which can be equally distressing. So why did our mothers apply perfume behind their ears? Because there is a pulse point behind the ear. Traditionally perfume is applied at pulse points where you can feel the pulse beating. There is more heat in these areas as the blood vessels are close to the surface of the skin. The heat and the beating of the pulse releases and refreshes the perfume. The good news is that there are many other pulse points to choose from that will have less exposure to the sun – such as under the wrists, inside the elbows, behind the knees or even the ankles. If after reading this you still want to apply perfume behind your eyes, spray your index finger, shake off the excess perfume then dab.

Can disposable make-up removal cleansing cloths replace your skincare routine?

There are many brands of disposable make-up removal cleansing cloths on the market but can these really replace your daily cleansing routine? These cloths are very convenient and can even cam remove long wearing foundation and heavy eye make-up. Some are marketed as both cleansing and skin toning cloths. The first problem is that it is difficult to know what the cloths have been impregnated with. If the product is strong enough to remove makeup quickly, what is it doing to the natural balance of your skin? Secondly, if the cloth includes a toning ingredient it is unlikely that the user will rinse their face after using it, leaving a residue on the skin. If the cloth is rough in texture (such as those marketed as exfoliation aids) it can drag the skin or damage the skin’s surface. More importantly, however, your skin needs to be massaged daily to preserve its healthy tone. This can only be achieved through the use of traditional cleansers. Think of this as a workout for your face – we will talk more on this subject in future posts. There is a place in our skincare routine for these cloths, particularly when travelling or staying overnight with friends or family. If the cloths are very soft and you are satisfied that the ingredients are gentle then by all means use them to remove make-up at night. However, always rinse the face and follow with a traditional cleanser. An inexpensive option is to buy soft, unscented baby wipes for sensitive skin. After all, if a product has been developed for a baby’s delicate skin we can reasonably assume that it is okay for our skin too. Experiment with different brands and only choose soft baby wipe cloths as some have a rough surface. When using a make-up removal cloth or baby wipe, test first on a small patch of skin to make sure you are not sensitive to the ingredients.

The plain satin pillowcase – essential beauty item

Have you ever slept very deeply only to find on awakening that deep creases have formed on your cheeks or under your eyes? Imagine how you would feel if this happened on your wedding day! This is caused by pressure on your face during the night, especially if the pillowcase fabric has wrinkled under your face. You have been in such a deep sleep that your face remained in the same position all night long.  Luckily, the creases usually disappear quickly following a morning shower but sometimes they linger. People with mature skins will tell you that this problem becomes worse over time as the facial skin loses its plumpness and elasticity. It is important to minimise the formation of creasing on the face as this can lead to premature wrinkling. A satin pillowcase can help to prevent this problem as the slippery surface prevents your face becoming stuck in one position. Satin pillowcases provide a little touch of luxury and are available in a range of colours to suit your décor. Choose a plain pillowcase as you do not want to be lying on frills or ruffles. Satin fabrics vary in quality so find a pillowcase made in a breathable fabric. Check if the fabric is breathable by placing your hand, palm up, inside the pillowcase then blow through the fabric towards your hand. If you can feel your breath on your hand, the fabric is breathable. If you cannot feel your breath, do not buy the pillowcase and look for another brand. If a fabric is not breathable, it will be very sticky and uncomfortable to sleep on and defeats the purpose we are trying to achieve. Silk pillowcases are another option but they are not very practical as silk stains easily and may need to be dry-cleaned.

Never drag the skin around your eyes – removing eye make-up

Young people often wear heavier makeup styles for evening events and this can be difficult to remove. The skin around your eyes is very delicate and must be treated gently. There is very little padding from underlying skin fat in this area compared to the rest of your face. Dragging the skin can stretch it, resulting in premature wrinkles. Find a good quality eye makeup remover that is compatible with the cosmetics you use. Cheaper eye makeup removers are often little more than detergent. An oil based remover will do a much better job of removing waterproof mascara and heavily pigmented cosmetics. There are makeup removal towels available but many of these are too rough for the delicate eye area. Here is a method for removing eye makeup. Take a round disposable make-up removal pad – these are quite inexpensive, sold in large packs and widely available. The pads are lined with cotton wool under a gauze covering. Dampen the pad slightly under the bathroom tap then place it on top of your hand. Using the palm of your other hand, press down to remove excess water. Add a few drops of eye makeup remover to the pad and carefully remove your makeup. If necessary prepare another damp pad and repeat the process. This method will be very gentle as the water helps to spread the product. It will also be more economical as your remover will last longer. As always, patch test any new products before you use them and take care to keep the remover and makeup out of your eyes.

Product claims – make-up and skincare – natural, organic etc

It is okay to be sceptical when cosmetic and skincare companies make certain claims about their products. These claims are essentially marketing – designed to entice you to buy. Skincare and cosmetics contain fillers and certain chemical ingredients that act as preservatives to maintain the integrity of the products. Without these ingredients the products would have a very short shelf life – similar to fresh fruit and vegetables, which are highly perishable. It would be quite shocking to purchase an expensive cosmetic or skincare product only to find that it was unfit for use a few days later or full of mould, which can be highly toxic. Many years of scientific research is behind the development of the ingredients contained in the products we use on our skin every day. We can be reasonably optimistic that the products are safe and stable if purchased from well known brands. It is unlikely however that claims that such products are natural or organic can be substantiated. Often a product is marketed as natural or organic  because it contains essential oils or natural ingredients such a fruit acids. These natural ingredients are added in minimal amounts compared to the overall size of the product.  It is also important to be aware that natural ingredients such as essential oils can be very irritating to sensitive skin – for instance tea tree oil, lavender oil and peppermint oil. Many companies claim their products are not tested on animals and this is probably true. But can we be certain that the ingredients they are using in their products have never been tested on animals? Possibly not. In our quest to be environmentally and socially responsible,  we can certainly choose brands that ethically source ingredients such as Palm oil and use recyclable packaging. We can also educate ourselves about product ingredients and there is a great deal of information about this on the internet.

Hydration

One of the best things you can do for your skin in the lead-up to your wedding is to keep your body adequately hydrated. The easiest way to achieve this is by drinking water and we have all heard advice to drink at least 8 standard glasses a day. Experts are now saying that all beverages count towards daily fluid intake although sugary drinks are not a good option. We also take in water from food such as fruit, vegetables and yoghourt. Hydration requirements will vary for individuals and depend on factors such as climate and level of physical activity. Just remember to drink when you are thirsty and take in fluids regularly during the day. It is possible, although apparently rare, to drink too much water so moderation is the key.

Your Face is the Canvas

Any work of art starts with a pristine canvas and so we need to start with skincare. You absolutely must care for your skin as you prepare for your wedding in the months ahead. If your skin is not in great condition, you cannot expect your make-up to look wonderful on your special day. We will share tips and skills to help you to prepare your canvas.