Sugar Vs Skin

It’s all over the news! Sugar is bad for your waistline, sugar is addictive, sugar is the devil, sugar makes you fat, sugar gives you diabetes and renal problems. Not to forget sugar also contributes to Alzheimers and gives you cardiovascular diseases. Yes, it’s true, unchecked sugar consumption can set you up for a lifetime of perhaps avoidable health problems. We know all these things, but do you know what sugar does to your skin, the largest organ of your body?

When there is too much sugar in the body, the excess attaches itself to protein cells. Together a sugar protein called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) is created.  The body does not recognise AGEs and treat them as abnormal cells (they are, as they really shouldn’t be there). Therefore antibodies are produced to attack them. All this attacking is hard work and inflames the skin.


protein + sugar = saggy skin (amongst others)

AGEs also attack collagen and elastin – the skins scaffold. Healthy collagen strands have the ability to slide over each other to keep skin elastic. When AGES attach to collagen it creates stiffness and rigidity, taking away the skin’s ability snap back into its proper form. This damages underlying structures, causes wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark circles, loss of facial contours, puffiness and compromises the integrity of the acid mantle. Leading to increased pore size, more breakouts including acne, slower healing spots and more inflammation.

However, glycation IS a fact of life. It cannot be avoided and is constantly happening. The only thing that can be done is to slow down the rate and avoid foods that unnecessarily flood the body with excess sugar. It’s not just raw sugar to be aware of, because even carbohydrate based food converts into sugar during the digestive process. The trick is in eating healthy carbs that break down slowly and are less likely to flood the body with glucose.

In a world where a lot of our food is unknowingly laced with sugar how does one avoid consuming excess sugar?

Quite simply it comes down to dietary vigilance. Look at the ratio of processed versus fresh food you are eating. Sometimes processed food is easier, more convenient and more practical depending on what you have going on in your life.  Therefore there will be occasions where sugar is unavoidable. Celebrations would be so boring if we couldn’t have a slice of cake!

To avoid excess gylcation completely food has to be as fresh and unaltered as to the day it was pulled from the ground, brought in from the field or fished from the sea. Again, not always possible or practical but by being more vigilant and paying closer attention to food labels it is possible to avoid over doing sugar. There is no way that sugar can be avoided completely, but if there are more biscuits in your shopping basket than fresh food, then you aren’t doing yourself any favours.

Remember sugar isn’t always called sugar.

As they say, the devil comes in many disguises and so does sugar.  Dextrose, frutose, glucose, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sorbitol, dextran, honey. There are over 200 variations of sugar that manufactures can use in food production, so it pays to be aware.

When do the effects of glycation show up?

Typically at some point during your 30’s (even earlier depending on bad things are) you will start to notice some of the effects of glycation. This is the point at which years of unknown damage to the deeper layers of skin start revealing themselves. Generally the time where a combination of hormonal changes, environmental stresses, sun damage, free radical oxidisation also in the body show up. Basically it can be a situation, where everything shows up at once and it’s a time to reassess old habits and skincare regimes. Earlier in the summer, I kept getting repeated break outs which I know had something to do with sugar, because when I paid more attention to what I ate, break outs disappeared.

Since glycation is a constant, how does one improve their odds?

Better food selection

Positive changes to your diet is the best action you can take. Eating more fresh and wholesome food is good not only for your skin, but for your entire body. Foods with a low GI (glycemic index) release sugar slowly and are less like to cause an inflammatory response in the body.  Combined with being more active and good skincare habits and there will be visible differences. Exercise will burn up extra calories which may otherwise be stored as excess sugar and fat in the body.

Step up your supplements

There are supplements you can take that will help ease the effects of gylcation. They work by slowing down the ageing effects of excess dietary sugars.  Studies have shown the inclusion of vitamins B1 (Benfotiamine) and B6 can alleviate some of the damage.  Carnosine is an amino acid that maintains a status of being an excellent anti ageing aid. Alpha Lipoic Acid contributes to the normal working of every cell in the body and reduces the amount of sugar available for AGEs to form. Blueberries and Pomegranates contain high levels of polyphenols which work in as anti oxidants to rid the body of free radical damage. These can also be taken as supplements when they are out of season. It’s important to seek medical advice from your GP before embarking on new medication, including supplements.

 Soothing Skincare

Glycated skin is already compromised skin, therefore it doesn’t need any aggressive treatments. Its fragility means you want to CPRhydrate and cocoon so it can build up strength and rebuild proper barrier function. You need gentle washes and exfoliators that don’t strip or scratch the skin and masks that reinforce skins resilience.

You will find life in chirally correct Cosmedix CPR Skin Recovery Serum. It’s blend of antioxidants and vitamins quickly calms and soothes irritated and inflamed skin. It’s great for any skin type.

SK AGESkinceuticals A.G.E Interrupter is a rich emollient to hydrate extremely dry and compromised skin. Blueberry extract, Proxylane and Phytosphingosine are the key ingredients that make this product pretty powerful!

ARK Skincare have the Antioxidant SkinResponse serum with White Tea, Blue Lotus and Gojiberry which are powerful and proven to slow down the signs of ageing.

It pays to love your skin even more at night with a rich, luxurious and absorbing oil. Spend some time gently massaging the oil into your skin to bring fresh oxygen and nutrients and remove toxins.

SPF is even more important for skin showing signs of glycation because the protective function of the skin is already been compromised. Therefore it is more at risk of sun damage. Be it included in your skincare or a separate sunscreen it pays to put some on.

In the words of the founder of Perricone Skincare –

I am not exaggerating when I say that sugar can rob you of your youth, health, and beauty.’  Dr Nicholas Perricone – Dermatologist, Healthy Ageing Expert and so much more.

I completely agree!

The Model Zone

Unless you’ve been asleep or on Mars for the last week or so, you wouldn’t have failed to miss that it’s fashion season. As I type models, clothes and designers are flying into London from all corners of the globe. Fashion comes to London for five days, starting today!

As glamorous as it is to grace the catwalks and be photographed for countless magazines, it is also a lot of hard work for the models. This is why the moment Weleda asked me to design soothing and pampering facials for The Model Zone I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

The Model Zone is set up by the British Fashion Council and is a relaxing haven from the glare and bright lights of each show. It’s somewhere where the models can rest, shower, change, refuel and chill out. They have access to massages, facials, natural health consultations and skin care advice, all sponsored by Weleda.

They don’t leave empty handed either! A bespoke fashion week survival collection goody bag has been created containing some famous GoodyBag_1backstage beauty items for common skincare complaints. Weleda’s Skin Food is a favourite of many a fashionista so it’s no surprise it makes a welcome appearance. Other treats include new look Aknedoron Purifying Lotion – amazing for oily skin (see review), Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion and Facial Cream, Citrus Creamy Body Wash and Wild Rose Body Lotion (divine!).

Only models are allowed in The Model Zone, but I have managed to snag  a goody bag for one of you lucky readers. It’s simple to win, just leave a comment below saying why you’d like to win.  Competition closes at 6pm on 16th September.  UK only. Winner will be announced soon after.

Good luck!

Post Summer Skin Saviours

After a summer of long hot sunny days, more after work drinks and two weeks laying on the beach, your skin may be looking a little worse for wear. Parched? Rough? Dull? Flaky?

All of the above?

September is a great time of the year to get skin back into balance before the stripping North Atlantic winds make their mark and conversations either start with a mention of how cold it is and why your face gets a thawing sensation as soon as you go indoors. Fun times ahead!

Skincare routines this month should focus on gentle exfoliation, tackling excess hyperpigmentation and delivering maximum hydration. Your skin should be infused with moisture and leave it feeling plump and bouncy in now time. My take is, address the current problems, before we tackle the mini overhaul that will be required in the next few months to get us through winter.

Apart from eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, good fats and water; giving your skin a boost with Hyaluronic Acid will also improve skin hydration on a topical level. Hyaluronic Acid is a key ingredient now present in almost all hydrating skincare products. As a biological agent it can retain over 1000 times its weight in water and as a result increase the smoothness and softness of your skin. Also, it decreases the skins ability to wrinkle. Hyaluronic Acid is fantastic at removing waste and toxins from the skin. This makes it an important IndeedLabs_hydraluron moisture jelly (RRP £24.99)lowpart of everyone’s skincare routine, regardless of skin type.

Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly(£24.99)  – the newest member of the Hydraluron family, this moisturiser will lock in long term moisture into the skin and help balance to keep it at the optimum levels. Along with five key actives, Hyaluronic Acid is one of its building blocks to keep skin looking plump and radiant. Even better when you precede with Hydraluron Serum for a double dose of hydration.

Rajeunir Moisture Serum (£42) – Grape Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Aloe Vera and Hyaluronic Acid, all will hydrate skin cells effectively. This was one my favourite serums this summer. Went on smoothly and left skin feeling flexible and moisturised.

Skin for Life Moisture Booster Serum (£39.60) -This will seriously boost moisture levels leaving it feeling comfortable, soothed and supple. If you’re having a late beach holiday, I’d definitely include this in the old beach bag as an aftersun product. With Vitamin C and Bearberry it also works towards preventing hyperpigmentation of the skin. Word of warning, the packaging may deceive you, but don’t judge until you try the product.

How to use?

Your Hyaluronic Acid product has to go on before your moisturiser. You will find it usually comes in a serum formulation. So the order for a simple routine is:  cleanse >> tone >> Hyaluronic Acid/Serum >>Moisturise





Fenwick’s shines the spotlight on beauty

4BeautyWeekQd16286a_4star_p1Today marks the start of Fenwick of Bond Street’s Beauty Week – Spotlight on Services! Ten days of celebrating beauty in a new season and focusing on the services provided by the beauty hall.  The store has lined up fantastic indulgent packages and events that will revive, refresh and rejuvenate you for the autumnal days ahead.

There’s so much going on and after seeing the line up, here’s my pick of what not to miss:

OSKIA Skincare  –  The founder Georgie Cleeve will be in store TODAY doing one to one consultations. She’s founded a great luxury British brand making skincare and supplements that puts the focus on internal and topical skin nutrition for optimum health and vitality. Alternatively, brand experts are on hand on the 3rd, 5th and 8th for mini hand treatments and skin consultations.

111 Skin, developed by plastic surgeon Dr Yannis Alexandrides launches on 5th September and they will be having an event between 3pm – 5pm. This line was developed to tackle the signs of ageing skin using space age technology.

– Literally get under your skin with both Yllume and Murad skincare. Both will be offering technical complimentary skin analysis during the period to determine the level of free radical and oxidative stress damage within the skin. Well worth it, so you know what you’re up against and can get even more tailored solutions for your skincare.

– Susie Rogers, founder of the London based clinic – Beauty Works West will be in store on 4th and 11th September to talk all things about the ageing process and most importantly, prevention. She will be discussing products and her latest book. Well worth a listen!

– Finally, don’t miss out on any of the four luxury experience packages (starting from £25) that have been put together showcasing the best treatments that some of the brands in the beauty hall offer. Facials from Suqqu and Chantacaille, mani’s from Nails Inc, brow rejuvenation from Blink and swishy blow-dries from Gielly Green.

You also get double points on the new Fenwick Beauty Loyalty Card. Hurrah!

To get the full low down on the events over the next ten days, just call the store on 020 7629 9161 and they can give you the full run down.

A* for Aurelia’s Refine & Polish Miracle Balm

refine_polish_2What’s not to love about a dual duty beauty product? It is everything and more to someone who has a serious lack of time to devote to skincare on a daily basis but yet wants healthy radiant skin.  This is why Aurelia’s Refine and Polish Miracle Balm is a real godsend.

Using a unique enzyme base, BioOrganic Oils, probiotics and peptides that Aurelia is now renewed for it takes dull, tired flaky skin to radiant and smooth in no time.  It uses gentle rice bran to exfoliate and dislodge dead skin cells as you rub gently in circular motions. The resulting effect is that skin is not only smoother, but also brighter due to the flow of fresh oxygenated blood to the face. Key actives include Kigelia Africana which has a smoothing and firming action, Sugar Maple Sap which boosts the skin’s ability to self rid of dead skin cells and Hibiscus which naturally tightens the skin.

If you have ten minutes spare or are taking a bath, put it on as a mask. It will act as a deep exfoliating mask and the heady mix of Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Bergamot will relax you nicely before bed or uplift you for a busy day. I prefer the former. It is definitely worth every drop of its £57 price tag.


A few other things I love about Aurelia:

  • Award winning – they slay at the award games. They are clearly doing something right!
  • They’ve just moved to their very own counter at Liberty’s. Now you can stay, hang around, talk and sample the goodies. Even better!
  • The founder Claire Vero was recently listed by the Sunday Times as one of the 35 women under 35 contributing to lead the British economy to green pastures. The sisterhood gets stronger!
  • They are currently giving away a sample of the luxury Firm & Revitalise Dry Body Oil with any purchase on their website. I’ve tried it and loved it. The offer ends today (31st August), so don’t delay!

RMK Cleansing Balm

101030_a02-thumb-360x360-305Easily one of the best and my current favourite cleansing balm.

Smells like the cashmere soft rose petals and feels like silk on the skin. I use it for a first cleanse and it melts make up and mascara off beautifully. Then add water to emulsify before flanneling off with lukewarm water.

It’s solid at room temperature but on applying to your face it melts into a sublime blend of moisturising jojoba, avocado and grape seed oil.

Buy it! So worth it! It even comes with a spatula.

£29 from Selfridges.

Ask Dija – what are the benefits of facial massage?

Facial massage is an important part of any skincare routine. This is the bit where you can actually make a difference on a daily basis.

It’s the part where you can spend more time to deeply slather the skin with nourishing oils and creams, that not only penetrate deep into the skin, but also create enough movement to get your circulation going. This will not only bring more richly oxygenated blood to your skin cells and give you a glow, but also stimulate the lymphatic system to filter toxins and waste products that create dullness in the skin.

A good facial massage session, will leave skin feeling plump and firmer with more radiancy. It should also leave muscles more invigorated and feeling lifted for more tone and definition of your face. You’d be amazed at how spending ten to fifteen minutes everyday massaging your face can relieve stress and give you some focused ‘me’ time.

Few tips on facial massage

– Don’t drag or pull your skin. Use enough product (oil or cream) to give you a good enough grip but not so much your hands are just sliding everywhere.

– Massage in long upward strokes. Around cheeks and jaw use small pinching and knuckling movements to lift the muscle. Don’t be afraid of using some degree of pressure!

– Be gentle but firm around the eye and nostril area. This is an area where congestion and tension can sit so feels amazing to drain all that away.

– End your movements just below the lymph nodes at the ear lobe to encourage draining of toxins and waste.

I tend to mix my own facial massage oil but here’s a few I like (most suited for oily/combination skin types).

Oils I like:


A very light oil of Lavender, Ylang-Ylang and Jojoba that balances oil on your own skin for optimum glow.


Organic cold pressed Chilean Rose hip seed oil that smooths and restores tired and dry skin. Amazing on more mature skin types too!


Uplifting with Lemon Ironbark and Lemon Myrtle to purify and cleanse the skin. Black cumin seed oil makes it excellent for fighting inflammation.


With a distinctively luxury scent, it’s amazing for blemish probed skin. It balances, restores and rejuvenates with Neroli, Sea Buckthorn and Frankincense.


Helps the skin to heal and cleanse overnight. Contains antioxidant grape seed oil and decongesting carrot seed oil.

small print: plans are in place to film a facial massage video……..

Simple Skincare from Oh-Lief

oh-lief-natural-body-wax-chamomile-400x400I predict big things for this South African skincare line founded by sisters Christina and Louiza Rademan in 2010. Oh-Lief was born out of their love of nature and the desire to create sustainable organic green and natural products for their families to use. These handmade products are big on simple but effective ingredients that make skincare uncluttered and uncomplicated.

Beeswax and extra virgin olive oil make a significant amount of the base ingredients for all the products and it’s easy to see why. Olive oil is deeply moisturising and contains essential fatty acids which are important for skin health and integrity. Beeswax is a natural protective barrier for skin.

The Olive Body Waxes have been a big hit in my household. They are made from cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado oil and beeswax. Therefore excellent on dry and dehydrated skin. Although hard in the pan they softly melt upon touch and allow you to use easily. However, the fact they are a wax and not oil shouldn’t tempt you to over use. It melts so a little goes a long way. The same goes for the Olive Hand Wax, which I have found excellent as a night time hand treatment, so I keep mine on my night stand. The chamomile and lavender essential oils makes drifting off to sleep easy work.

I have to give special mention to the Natural Olive Bum Balm made of just three ingredients – Olive Oil, Beeswax and Lavender Oil. It’s so much more than a cream for babies bums. In fact, I think the name should be changed, but that’s a campaign for another day. I’ve used it on sore skin on my daughter’s bum and it worked a treat, I’ve also used on cuts and grazes and it worked a treat. The lavender in it makes it a healer so it’s one to have around the house especially if you have kids around – big or small alike!

I think this is a beautiful natural and organic balms and lotions, made from a carefully selected ingredients prized for their simplicity, as well as their ability to deliver exceptional results with each use. There is currently a 50% off sale on their website so prices start from £5. Stock up because these will be fantastic come winter.


Managing Hyperpigmentation

Following my article on ThandieKay about the culture of skin bleaching, I’ve had some questions regarding lightening or fading dark spots on the skin i.e – hyperpigmentation. This is an issue I am extremely familiar with. Having black skin the ability to scar following a blemish is way higher and usually more noticeable than other skin colours.  This is primarily to do with the genetic make up black skin, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bothersome and I know women of all backgrounds and colours who just want to achieve an even skin tone and feel extra confident to go out make up free when they choose.

Dealing with hyperpigmentation needs a multi pronged approach and it also depends on the extent of it. Are we talking just a few spots, patches or is it all over the face? It’s a combination of practices and products that will deliver the best results and the clearer skin you’re after.


A one-step resurfacing treatment to even out skin tone

As a starting point, are you using any AHA/BHA/PHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid/Beta Hydroxy Acid/Poly Hydroxy Acid) products? When included these acids super charge all manner of skincare products to not only exfoliate and remove dead skin cells, but also encourage new and fresher skin cells to make their way to the top. From cleansers through to masks these mainly fruit (milk and nut) derived acids encourage the turn over of skin cells by loosening and sloughing the bonds between dead skin cells and depending on the strength of the product they can do this on a few layers of skin. There are different types of acids available ranging from glycolic, mandelic, malic, lactic and salicylic acid. The latter also is great at breaking down oil deposits in the skin as well.

You can also get acid based toners to help with the lightening the discolouration caused by spots and blemishes. New age toners now come in the exfoliating pads giving you the precise amount of product to use.  Cane & Austin, Colbert MD, Zelens and First Aid Beauty all do acid based pads where the face can either be rinsed after use or left on for a more concentrated effect.

Masks are also a great way of getting a concentrated does of exfoliation, deep cleansing and brightening the skin at the same time. A personal favourite is Racinne Ultimate Aqua Blanc Brightening Masque using star blemish bull dozer ingredient niacinamide. You actually feel it go to work on your skin to gently reveal a more even and brighter skin tone.  There is also a toner on the series, which further boosts the mask. Korean and Japanese brands are great with products aimed at uneven skin tones as that is a big concern for women in that part of the world.


A potent treatment for dark spots, blemishes and scarring

Moving on, serums are by far one of the best ways of delivering a more targeted hit on hyperpigmentation. They go to the heart of the matter as they are more concentrated and the formulations are thinner, designed to be easily absorbed by the skin. Lancer Fade Intense Serum is much lauded in skincare circles  to deliver visible results in about six weeks. It has a brightening complex comprising of red algae and liquorice – both famed for reducing over active melanin which is the root cause of hyperpigmentation. Cult British brand Antonia Burrell has the Radiant Light Facial Serum which is 100% potent natural plant extracts. It’s rich in vitamins A & C which are excellent in promoting cell turnover and brightening the skin. Spanish cosmeceutical brand Natura Bisse has put thirty years of experience in the Diamond White Serum which is intended to shock skin discolouration using a combination of naturally derived acids and peptides to inhibit the production of excessive melanin.

Deep set unflinching hyperpigmentation calls for deeper treatments like facial peels using acids or even laser therapy. These effectively take off a layer or more of skin to reveal newer unblemished skin. They must always be performed by a professional licensed practitioner or dermatologist, especially if you have black skin as they can paradoxically cause more scarring and blemishes if there is a mishap. If you’re a London resident I would always recommend EF Medispa as they have a wide range of advanced treatments they consult on and perform. I also like TouLou Organics Brightening & Lightening Facial which uses Bearberry, Liquorice and Mimosa Bark – all excellent in inhibiting over active melanin in the skin.


Corrects blemishes and blotchiness associated with hyperpigmentation

Although, usually associated with mature skin the use of retinol (vitamin A) can also help in dealing with the effects of hyperpigmentation. Simply vitamin A is a cell communicating ingredient and can instruct rogue skin cells to look and behave like younger healthier normalised pigment cells, thus combating the unhealthy hyperpigmented cells. There are different grades of retinol available – some you can find on beauty shelves and some only on prescription. First time users of retinol based products should proceed with care and use every few days till tolerance is built. Indeed Labs do an easily accessible product called Retinol Reface with three different types of forms of retinol for clearer skin. Skinceuticals also offer hyper pigmentation corrective creams with retinol in three different strengths starting at 0.3% to 1%. Although suitable for anytime of day, I like to save my retinol creams for night time use as vitamin A can sometimes be compromised in sunlight. Recently Caroline Hirons wrote a great post on her blog about retinols and it’s well worth reading!

Another vitamin that is does a great job in brightening the skin and allaying the effects of hyperpigmentation is vitamin C. Brands who have a brightening range typically use stable vitamin C as a base. I absolutely love Australia’s favourite skincare brand Alpha H’s Vitamin C Serum. Used over a few weeks, skin tone is visibly lifted, more even and radiant. Co-incidently they have a TSV coming up on QVC on 19th August – check it out! Not this particular product though, but some of their other gems.

This brings me to finish on the importance of using sun protection, especially when dealing with hyperpigmentation. A limited amount of sun exposure is good for skin, but after that sun protection has to be worn as deep penetrating sun rays can worsen hyper pigmentation already in the skin, giving you even more of a dilemma. Most good brands do sun protection specifically for the face now and they have cottoned on that sometimes it can give black skin an ashen look, so a lot of formulas are now suitable for all skin tones.

Other common ingredients you may come across in the treatment of hyperpigmentation:

Resveratrol, kojic acid, liquorice extract, niacinamide (vitamin B3), azeleic acid, green tea, glucosamine.

There’s loads out there and lots of brands make different claims. Research and caution are active words to follow!

Finally – eat well – greens and fresh fruit are packed with nutrients, minerals and anti oxidants that will support your skin from the inside out. Take supplements to support your system. Guzzle even more water. It’s one of the simplest things you can do for clearer skin.

Star cleanser for oily skin

If you have oily skin keep reading, all other skin types go read this!

YTOOver the last six weeks I have been awed by Take it away! Gel Cleanser each time I’ve used it. It’s made specifically for oilier skin types and it gives a thorough cleanse without stripping. A lot of people with oiler skin still fall into the trap that skin needs to be devoid oil for it to be clean. Wrong! Skin needs oil and if you use a cleanser that is harsh and stripping, the delicate protective layer on the top surface of the skin is compromised and you get even more oil produced to compensate.

Oily skin needs a gentle but effective approach starting right from the cleanser used.

I love that this cleanser is enriched with Sandalwood which is very effective in combating and controlling oily skin. Prized in India as an effective acne treatment because of its antibacterial, anti inflammatory and astringent qualities, this makes it an essential ingredient in products aimed at oily skin. It also has vitamin C for its brightening effect on the skin.

The pump bottle make it very easy to use and it’s quite thick in consistency so a little goes a long way! £22 – 150ml.

*Yours Truly Organics was created by Kelita Bignall to gently deal with her acneic skin condition. She found prescription medicine worked, but didn’t want to be constantly dependent on chemicals. So she set about creating her own range of skincare using organic materials that have a positive lasting effect on the skin. I have more to come on Kelita and Yours Truly Organics in the next few weeks.