Five ways to improve winter-ravaged skin

Skin giving you trouble? Picking up small habits will bring results you crave

It can be difficult to feel enthusiastic about new year’s resolutions. They are commitments to ourselves we usually end up breaking, to our own disgust, and are often more ambitious than practical. Picking up small habits that aren’t too taxing on time or effort but give generous results and symbolise positive change is more advisable.

There are certainly more urgent areas of life in which to do this than our skin, but the extent to which skin problems can get us down should not be underestimated. If your skin gives you trouble or you would like to improve it with topical products, better skin habits will bring the results you crave.

Of course, quitting smoking and alcohol, minimising sugar intake and drinking more water will have significant consequences on your skin. If you’d rather start small, however, there are products and techniques you can adopt.

Double cleansing 

Despite the holy grail of good skin requiring an extra minute of effort before bed, most of us don’t do it. Cleansing properly will make the single greatest difference to the appearance and feel of your skin than any non-invasive method. If you commit one act of kindness toward your skin in 2018, let it be this; find your facial wipes and fling them in the bin.

Alcohol contained in facial wipes dehydrates the surface of the skin and no matter how much makeup they appear to remove, some will till be left. This slows the appearance of new cells and keeps skin dull. It also congests skin, causing breakouts and highlighting lines and textural issues. If you don’t wear makeup, one cleanse will do. If you do wear makeup and/or SPF, two cleanses will be needed.

Regardless of your skin type (even oily), choose an oil or balm cleanser which emulsifies (turns milky on contact with water) for your first cleanse to dissolve all makeup, including eye makeup. Something affordable and effective such as Superfacialist Vitamin C+ Sin Renew Cleansing Oil (€14.99 from Boots) will be ideal. Cleanse at the sink with warm water and a flannel or muslin cloth.

For your second cleanse use a cream, oil or balm but nothing foaming. My go-to is Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm (€29 from Brown Thomas). Use just a little of each cleanser and they will last for months. You will notice a marked improvement in your skin (if switching from wipes) within a couple of weeks.

Wear an SPF

Apart from smoking, sun damage is the primary cause of premature aging, which means damage, in the skin. The paler you are, the more damage your skin is subject to as a result of sun exposure. UVA rays depreciate skin quality before its time while UVB rays burn skin and put us at risk of melanoma.

Wearing a foundation or moisturiser containing SPF is not sufficient to protect the skin and in serious sun, your SPF will need to be reapplied regularly. For standard Irish weather it is still advisable to get into the habit of wearing a standalone SPF as an extra step in your morning routine. It is one of the most effective preventative measures against skin damage and cancer.

If you are having trouble finding an SPF that doesn't look chalky, try a chemical SPF. These work by reflecting UV through use of ingredients such as titanium dioxide. Try Clarins Sun Wrinkle Control Cream for Face SPF 50 (€26 from Arnotts).

For an SPF that doesn’t disturb makeup, try Darphin Intral Environmental Lightweight Shield SPF 50 (€38 from Space NK).

Facial massage

Facial massage is something we usually associate with spas or professional facials, but you can easily perform one at home once or twice a week to stimulate circulation, reduce puffiness and promote drainage. A quick search online will show different methods from experts such as facialist Emma Hardie or facial massage enthusiast and celebrated makeup artist Lisa Eldridge (who doesn't appear to have aged these last twenty years). Any good facial oil will work nicely for a five-minute massage while you watch TV. Your cleansing oil or balm (on clean skin) will work, as will a dedicated facial oil you can leave on after massaging it in, such as Modern Botany Oil (€35 from Lloyds Pharmacy).

Wash tools and brushes regularly

If you are suffering with inexplicable breakouts, cast an eye over your makeup bag. If the brushes look fossilised with old makeup, you have found the cause. Not only do dirty brushes fail entirely in their duties to blend or apply makeup effectively, they are disgusting and deposit unpleasant bacteria all over the face, increasing breakouts and the risk of health issues such as eye infections.

Really, we should all wash our brushes weekly and there isn't a justifiable reason not to. Yes, it is a pain, but not doing so invalidates all the efforts put in to skincare. Wash brushes with a dedicated brush cleanser such as Real Techniques Deep Cleansing Brush Gel (€9.99 from Shaws Department Stores and leading pharmacies), or with a spot of baby shampoo (€3.89 from Boots).

Leave them to dry lying flat with the bristles teetering over the edge of a shelf or table, but avoid leaving them to dry standing upright with the bristles pointing upward. This causes water to leak into the handle and dissolve the glue in even the best brushes.

See a doctor if your skin is affecting your wellbeing

Sometimes, for those suffering with acne or skin conditions that are clearly chronic, medical intervention is necessary. Irish people tend to be dismissive of skin conditions, particularly when sufferers are in their teens. Spots and breakouts are normal in our teens and 20s but severe conditions causing discomfort, scarring and pain, or which seriously effect a person’s self-esteem (at any age), should never be dismissed. A quick trip to a GP or, even better, a dermatologist can make enormous difference and render a skin condition manageable rather than miserable.

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