Product watch: better skin for the new year

Make these lifestyle changes now for better skin in 2014, says Rachel Marie Walsh.

Product watch: better skin for the new year

Get SPF-Obsessed

UV-damage is the number one skin-ager and prevention means wearing sun protection every day, rain or shine. Foundation with SPF15 isn’t enough to shield Irish skin, for which the Irish Skin Foundation recommends broad-spectrum SPF30 or higher. Choosing the right product for your skin type is also important. If you have combination skin, use a lightweight sunscreen that provides slight hydration and a matte finish, such as Marini Physical Protectant SPF 45 by Jan Marini Skin Research, €38 @strawberrynet.com. Oily types should try layering a foundation with sunscreen and a pressed powder with sunscreen, applying both liberally. To avoid irritation, sensitive types should choose fragrance-free sun creams that only use titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredients. Dry skin is safe with a rich SPF moisturiser, such as Estee Lauder DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant & UV Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50, €47.

Break Sugar-Free

Cutting your sugar intake (both refined and natural) is the second-best thing you can do to keep skin healthy. This isn’t the suspicious claim of a fad diet book but backed up by some 40 years of research. Most of what we know about how sugar affects our skin stems from the study of diabetes. The link between skin, liver, brain and other diseases related to the condition is glycation. This happens when sugar molecules stick to fats and proteins in your blood cells, resulting in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that corrupt protein fibres and cause connective-tissue damage and chronic inflammation.

The proteins in skin most prone to glycation are collagen and elastin (its firming, smoothing friends). AGEs make them discoloured, weak, and hard. The surface results are wrinkles, sagging, and dullness. AGEs also make skin more vulnerable to UV-damage. A related increase in free radicals makes you look older still. The Sugar Detox by Brooke Alpert and Dr Patricia Farris, €10.99, provides information on the adverse effects of the “white devil,” as well as a plan to wean you off it.

Honour Thy Sleep

Beauty sleep is real and vital to healthy skin. The growth hormones that stimulate skin repair are only released during deep sleep, when the body and brain are able to fully recover from the day. When we sleep poorly, our bodies don’t release these growth hormones but do produce the stress hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation and destroys collagen. Lack of sleep can also cause sensitive or dry skin by impairing the skin’s natural barrier function. Get better skin by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, keeping TV and technology downstairs and making your surroundings as comfy as possible. Holistic Silk’s lavender eye mask, €56, is very comforting.

Meditate

Stress is why presidents and prime ministers seem to age 10 years in a single term. It compels us to neglect skincare, contort our features into creases and lean on destructive crutches like alcohol and cigarettes. It can inflame acne, psoriasis or rosacea, cause hives or induce excessive perspiration. Eliminating stress completely is impossible but meditation can offer long-term reductions. I know you have a million more important things to do than sit in the lotus position but it really isn’t wasted time. You don’t even need complete silence, just 15 minutes alone. With practice, you can learn to meditate anywhere and any time you need to minimise stress. Significant research shows that regular meditation lowers blood pressure, keeps you present and helps manage cortisol, the “stress” hormone mentioned above. Find a local meditation centre or download an instructive app from calm.com to get started. Relax Candle, €39, by Aromatherapy Associates.

Read Widely

I love monthly glossy magazines. There’s nothing better than spotting your dream dress and where to pick it up. While featured skincare products might pique you interest the same way, shopping shouldn’t be your next step.

A cheery paragraph can’t provide enough info for you to determine whether a product is right for your skin. Reading ingredient and independent research info, a well as understanding your skin type’s needs, lets you choose better products. Salespeople (even super-nice ones) are not experts and often work on commission. Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun, €20.99, is a great resource, as is the American Association of Dermatologists’ website and cosmeticsinfo.org. Remember that non-prescription skincare is not subject to the same kind of government or EU approval as medicine, so claims are often exaggerated.

Never be afraid to complain when dissatisfied or to question results or product bumph.

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