Monday, 1 April 2013

It turns out the sun is only hiding to make us more beautiful!

I love blogging. I started to love it even more when I learnt that I’d been selected to write a blog post about the Boots Feel Good Forum health and beauty radio shows. Excitingly, the first show was about anti-aging and the second was about hair care and skin care. These are all things that I would love to have the time to pay a bit more attention to, so I would have enjoyed listening to the shows anyway. As it is, the fabulous people at Boots are sending me a hamper of goodies for my trouble. Life is good!

Since having Libby, I’ve been horrified to discover that it’s true what they say about children ageing you. A good friend of mine got married a couple of weeks ago and in her wedding photos she just looks absolutely gorgeous. Don’t get me wrong, she was always beautiful, stunning in fact. But we did at least look the same age until recently. Now, we are nearly 33, I have a baby and she doesn’t. Needless to say, gorgeous friend (who has smoked for 15 years) still looks about 21. I, on the other hand, definitely look the wrong side of 35, if not 40. Ugh.

So when listening to the anti-ageing show, I was delighted to discover that Dr Nick Lowe the dermatologist said that his “top tip” for staying young was not to smoke. He said that smoking can age you by 15 to 20 years. I’m holding onto this thought. Maybe in 15 years, gorgeous friend will look as old as me. In the meantime, I’m going to follow some of the other tips from the show to slow down the rapid ageing process that I’m currently experiencing. It’s only fair to give gorgeous friend a chance to catch up.

I’ve always been useless at looking after my skin. I regret not having used sun protection for most of my adult life. Needless to say, this is something that Dr Lowe recommends. Apparently, you can buy a UVA absorbing day cream with an SPF of 15. This can be applied under make-up and should be used every day of the year. Another thing that I didn’t know is that UVB is what causes sunburn, and the vast majority of the year in the UK there isn’t too much of that about. UVA on the other hand, causes the skin to age and is present all year. It can penetrate through glass and clouds so even on a cloudy day, 30 to 40% of the UVA is still reaching your skin.

Another top tip was the use of sunglasses. It’s obvious when you think about it. Many people suffer with lines around their eyes especially when they smile. Sunglasses protect the delicate skin around the eyes as well as the eyes themselves. I was heartened to hear from psychologist Emma Kenny that smiling is essential for social interaction and we shouldn’t stop doing it. Instead, we should use sunglasses that offer UV protection. It’s also important that you remember the safe place that you put your sunglasses in when you packed them away last summer, particularly when you spent a fortune on them… ok that little gem of a tip was one of mine and I will be off to search the house for my sunglasses in a minute.

My other favourite piece of advice was the clarification offered about what products to use on a daily basis. The recommendation by Dr Lowe was that it’s important to find out what skin type you are and use appropriate products for your skin. I’m never one for approaching people in shops for advice on anything really, but I do like the sound of the skincare advisors in boots. They tell you what type of skin you have and what type of products you need without pressurising you into buying a particular product. Dr Lowe thinks that you should only need two products morning and evening. Well, three in the morning including cleanser. After cleansing in the morning, you should use a serum and a day cream. In the evening you can just use a good night repair cream after cleansing. Interestingly, skin is repaired and moisturised more effectively at night than during the day.

The second radio show I listened to focussed on advice on skin and hair. There was a lot of overlap between the skin advice on this show and the anti-aging advice on the previous show. The main thing I have learned from both of them is “protect, protect, protect”. I know it’s a bit late for me at 33 to suddenly realise that prevention is better than cure when it comes to your skin. But like Dr Lowe, this week’s skin expert, Dr Sam Bunting, a medical dermatologist, put a lot of emphasis on the importance of using sunscreen and protecting your skin from UVA rays.

Dr Bunting explained that everyone’s skin contains something called retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives. As we get older, the level of retinoids in our skin decreases owing to exposure to the sun’s UVA rays. So the best way to stay young is to apply UVA protection to your face every day of the year. For those of us who have rather missed the boat on that idea, it is important to look for skincare products containing retinol or retinol parmitate. These can replace some of the retinoids that your skin has lost through sun damage over the years.

There are a few other skincare tips that I’ve found really useful both from the show and from the feel good forum online. They are that exfoliating can make your complexion look brighter and it also allows the products you use on it afterwards to properly permeate your skin. The other thing that I think is really sage advice is to learn about the ingredients that are in skin care products. You are then much better informed as to which products are likely to work for you. You should always give things about 6 to 8 weeks to work because there is no miracle cure or instant benefit. If you have done your research and spent quite a bit of money on a product then give it a chance rather than dismissing it and moving straight onto the next thing.

Also on this second radio programme was Trevor Sorbie, who is widely recognised as one of the best hairdressers in the country. So much so, he has won hairdresser of the year four times. Personally, I hate going to the hairdressers. They always tell me off because I don’t go regularly enough, then they hack a load off my hair and dry it in a ridiculous style that I will never repeat. I pay them a fortune for the privilege and then off I go on my merry way looking like a fancy poodle. Regardless of that, old Trevor (apparently he’s been a hairdresser for 47 years so I don’t think he’ll be offended that I’m not calling him young Trevor) talks a lot of sense.

Trevor tells me that in order to get volume into straight, flat hair like mine, the best thing to do is to put a bit of mousse or volumising lotion onto the roots after you’ve washed it, then blow-dry your hair with your head upside down.  The man’s a genius. He’s using gravity to defy gravity and he’s not telling me to do something that will cost me a fortune. What a star. He says that you get your hair to 80% dry like this, then finish it off with a round brush, preferably a metal one that holds the heat. If I ever get 10 minutes to dry my hair I’m absolutely going to do this.

In the absence of having time to hang around with an upside down head, I guess it makes sense that you can improve the look and condition of your hair by keeping the ends well conditioned and having a trim every 6 to 8 weeks. This is unfortunately the point where Trevor and I must go our separate ways. I would love to live in Trevor’s world where I had the time and money to treat my hair with the respect it deserves. In my world though, swimming in pools, lakes, rivers and the sea and playing water polo with delightful people that would rip my hair out if my hat fell off doesn’t result in the just stepped out of the salon look most days. I might manage to put a bit of conditioner on in the shower but I rarely have time to blow-dry my hair and I certainly haven’t got £30 to spend on a trim every couple of weeks. 

Trevor did give one tip about preventing hair damage that might be manageable though- putting a hat or scarf on to keep the sun off. That nasty sun damages your hair as well as your skin. I think I can manage that one, thanks Trevor. 

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