When I began my skin care journey at the start of the pandemic, my skin was kind of meh, that is not too bad because I have always moisturised, but with a fair few sunspots and age spots because I never wore sunscreen. Not to mention the damage caused by a lifetime of excessive drinking, smoking and partying. And, in my sixties, wrinkles. As usually happens with me, what began as a spark of interest, turned into an obsession. Like many women, I had for decades stuck with the same skin care products and make up, rarely venturing outside my established routine. I may occasionally have had the inclination to try something new, but on the whole I simply didn't have time, other things took priority.
When I did dip a toe, at the start of the pandemic, I discovered a whole new world of serums and acids that can make your skin brighter, smoother and clearer. What new magic is this? thought I, can it be true? I was determined to find out. It quickly turned into a quest, an obsession and soon my dressing table was looking like an apothecary's counter. Did it work? Sure did, but whilst I had all the time in the world to do 10 step morning and night skincare regimes, I began to tire of it and I began to muddle all the little bottles up, applying the Vitamin C before the Retinol and forgetting the niacinamide altogether and all sorts of variations thereof. It was confusing and not as much fun as when I first began.
So I went back to the beginning, my first dabble in serums and the first time I saw a dramatic improvement in the condition of my skin. My first purchase had a been an 'all in one' Vitamin C clearing serum I found on Amazon for £10.00* from a company called Eva Naturals. At the time I was trying several new products and wasn't quite sure which one was producing the amazing results. I didn't want to credit the Eva serum because I didn't like the smell (and still don't), but time and many trials and errors later, I realised that it was the Eva serum that was making all the difference. And I could see why. It contains all the magic ingredients that I have found to be most effective in just one application. Vitamin C, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and retinol. Now the experts would not recommend that you apply the Vitamin and C and retinol at the same time, the vitamin C should go on in the morning and the retinol at night, but for me using this formula twice a day is working really well.
This combination of ingredients keeps my skin clear and blemish free without the need for aggressive exfoliating. To be honest, I hate that exfoliating word and I hate the concept of it, at my age my skin needs to be treated with extra special care. Stripping your skin of all it's natural defences to get squeaky clean is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Squeaky clean skin is so easily attainable these days without the use of a scrubbing brush!
And yes, you are never too old to learn because I have learned all about cleansing too. I haven't used soap and water on my face for decades, it must be said, for many years I took my makeup off with baby lotion and in more recent times make up wipes. All wrong apparently. And I have to agree. Since ditching them, I haven't had any spots or breakouts. This year I have tried the Japanese double cleansing method, oil massaging followed by foam and the hot flannel technique. They worked beautifully, I have to say, great if you want to spend ages pampering yourself, but a pain if you just want to take your make up off and get into your jim jams.
Most beauty and skin care experts recommend double cleansing, that is you remove your make up with an oil cleanser or a balm for the first cleanse, then a gentle foam wash for the second. I've adapted that to what works for me, no second foam cleanse, it's way too drying. My new found cleansing routine involves 3 steps, I know that sounds contrary to my desire to find short cuts, but the extra step is for those who want to grow and preserve their eyelashes. Part 3, of what I have learned this year. Step 1, I first remove my mascara. I do this by cutting a cotton pad in half and soaking it with micellar water, I use Bioderma miscellar solution - it's the only miscellar water that doesn't sting or irritate my eyes. I stick half the pad under my lower lashes and then put the other half on my closed top lid, making an eyelash 'sandwich'. I let it soak in, squeezing the eyelashes between the wet pads so the mascara simply slides off. I do this first step for two reasons. One to preserve my eyelashes and two I don't want to be rubbing black gunge all over my face during the oil/balm stage. Step 2, I use a big old dollop of Ponds cold cream to massage all over my face, excluding eyes, then I use a clean wet flannel to wipe it all off. Just a regular face flannel, 30p in Wilkos, I keep a stack of them by the bathroom sink, they get one use, then washed. It's greener than using cotton pads and the texture of the flannel gives all the exfoliating you need. My 3rd step, which I don't always do, is a wipe over with above Bioderma miscellar water, the chemical exfoliants in the Vitamin C clearing serum does the rest. I use the tip of my nose to gauge how clean my skin is, that is, no tiny blackheads. Should any dare rise up to the surface, I use the Ordinary's chemical peel, but this I use very sparingly, about once a fortnight, because I am still in two minds as to whether it is a good thing or not. Since using nothing but the vitamin C clearing serum this past two weeks, I haven't had the need to use it.
Next moisturisers, I feel I have tried hundreds, from high end miracle creams to Aldi's to Nivea. For decades I simply used Olay's 7 signs of aging day and night duo. I can't say any of the creams I tried made any dramatic difference, and I discovered during my research (watching videos) that none of the beauticians and skin experts I watch ever promote the expensive high end moisturisers. Ergo, moisturiser is moisturiser, it works for you or it doesn't, price isn't a factor in it's effectiveness. The most recommended moisturising creams by the experts are the most basic, such as The Ordinary's Natural Moisturising Factors HD and CeraVe's moisturising cream. I love both, but prefer the CeraVe tub because it is huge and it instantly softens dry bits everywhere! I use it day and night on my face because I love the way it sinks deeply into my skin leaving it soft, moisturised and non shiny, so great for when I want to go make up free. I don't like moisturisers that leave a greasy film on the surface of my skin and so many do, including high end.
I discovered this year, that it is absolutely possible to transform your skin, to make it brighter, clearer and younger looking if you are prepared to take the time and put in the effort. I know the words time and effort lead to a groan, but think of it as 'me,me,me' pampering time and enjoy it, the pay off is amazing. I don't do it to look younger, I wear my white/blue hair with pride, I do it because I want to look the best I can, just as I always have when not in the pits of depression. Learning about skincare and makeup this year has been a joy and I am more than happy to pass on everything I have learned. I am toying with the idea of making videos but that would take a lot of drugs and alcohol and the result wouldn't be pretty.
I jest, so if you are still with me thus far, I will sum up how to make your skin look as though you regularly visit a beauty salon and have facials. All you really need is one bottle of serum (the Eva combined one) and one tub of CeraVe. Each around the £12 mark, so a small investment for visibly noticeable results.
How to grow long elegant nails
Step 1. Think about your nails 24/7, put them at the forefront of everything you think and do. Sounds excessive, but if you are serious about having long, natural nails, it will quickly become a way of life. You will no longer chop a carrot or dash forward to save a falling child if you first ask yourself how will this affect my nails? No more merrily opening cans of fizz or soaking in the bath without wearing rubber gloves. Hot water is the enemy of your nails, you must never wash up without gloves and you can't wash your hair without gloves. Hair washing is one of the worst nail tearers, a hair will sink into the tiniest split, so gloves for the shower too. Ah, should also mention you can never go without nail varnish. But, as I see it, another rewarding, 'me time' pampering chore. Now I know why I was never able to grow my nails before, life got in the way.
I began my quest for long nails by cutting all my nails to the same short length. It was no great sacrifice, I had a mixture of long and short, weak and bendy nails and logic dictates it would be better if they all started at the same length. First big learning curve - chuck out the emery boards! Eek when I think of the years of damage I have done with emery boards and probably another reason I have never been able to grow my nails long. Doh! Buy a glass nail file, under a tenner online and worth every penny. It is a game changer because you can file in both directions, it will last for years and it will never damage your nails. I keep mine with me all the time, ready to catch the slightest chip! In the early days I constantly applied cuticle oils, nail hardeners, bases and top coats and I had the pleasure of watching them grow and grow. For the first time in my life I had long, very long, elegant nails. But as much fun as they were to have, they were annoyingly not practical. Amongst many things, I couldn't type! I cut them down to a wearable length and that's pretty much how I have kept them. I discovered that, yes I can grow my nails long and only wish I had known years ago what I know now.
How to grow long, lush eyelashes
Yep, another miracle I never would have thought possible and that I wish had been available when I was younger. I have always yearned for long fluttery eyelashes and went through a phase, an OCD trying to find and perfect the art of wearing false eyelashes. Happily the pain of removing the glue and tugging out the few sparse lashes I had, took it's toll and I began to ask myself, do I really need to wear false lashes to take the rubbish out?
As I mentioned, my research mostly consists of watching those wonderful talented beauty vloggers and it was through them that I learned about the miracle that is eyelash growth serum. Again, this was a lightbulb moment, a revelation, could it be true? Well, yes, it works, even on an old bird like me! It works at any age, and the sellers of these serums had thousands of customer reviews with photographic evidence. I tried it and I was not disappointed, within the allotted time, 6 weeks, my lashes were long and lush and I have kept them that way ever since. The first one I tried UKLash worked like a dream, but on the advice of one of my favourite vloggers I tried Vie eyelash serum which is much cheaper and works just as well.
But, as with the above growing of long nails, it takes time, patience and nurturing, every lash is precious! No more rubbing, scrubbing or any type of glue near my eye area ever again. Ditto waterproof mascara which takes lashes with it when it comes off. I found the above mascara removing tip in section one, on a Lisa Eldridge (famous beautician) video and I loved it. Not only does it treat your eyelashes gently, it also treats the delicate under eye area gently.
On the mascara front, and in the interests of preserving eyelashes, the Maybelline Sky High mascara is my holy grail. It is a tubing mascara, in that it comes off with warm water, or as mentioned, micellar water and there are no tugs of war. Not to mention, it does incredible things for eyelashes. I would credit it with curling my eyelashes upwards but I think that may be the serum. In any event, they are twice as many as they were last year and it is a joy to finally have the lashes I always dreamed of, bit crazy at my age I know, but they give me the same delight as Santa's gifts for a 6 year old.
Well, I know I have gone completely off track and away from my usual navel gazing, but whenever I learn 'stuff', I have an uncontrollable urge to share it and my enthusiasm with others. It stems from a sense of 'Omg, I wish I had known that years ago'. That is, I really wish someone had told me all the things I am telling you now. In my experience, those women at work with the long talons and blemish free complexions kept their secrets to themselves. Or they wouldn't share them with me. Has been my misfortune in life to encounter lots of mean girls along the way.
All my tips absolutely and positively work, I speak from personal experience and the amazing results I achieved. But I have to admit that each commitment be it nails, skin or eyelashes, takes time, patience and care. That is, all the things we don't have when we are leading busy lives and have more important things to worry about. This pandemic certainly brought us an abundance of time and I wish I could say I spent it more usefully. My conscience, presently chained up in the basement, would scold me relentlessly for my vanity, it is the remains of my catholic indoctrination, that part that tells you scrubbing doorsteps brings you closer to God and cosmetics are the work of Beelzebub.
Pah, it bothers me not, my priorities these days are enjoy life while you can, especially all those things you never really had time for in the hectic years. I'm looking on my make up hobby in the same kindly way that I looked on my Dad's calligraphy and matchstick cathedrals. I was happy that it made him happy and I'm fortunate that those who love me, see it the same way.
Anyway, I wish all who pop in a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Keep safe everyone and hold your loved ones close. My kindest wishes to all, Cristobell.