It’s the month when love is traditionally in the air. Chocolates and red roses aside, there are some popular quotes that say in order to really love others we have to be able to love ourselves first. Whether you subscribe to this particular school of thought or not, at Slow Ageing Essentials we believe loving ourselves – and embracing all we are – can only be a good thing!
Accepting ourselves totally means welcoming all those fabulous traits we possess alongside the bits we would rather hide away (or keep to ourselves thank you!). If we are honest (and we are huge fans of ♯honesttruths at Slow Ageing) we all have sides to our personality or elements of the way we look which, given the chance, we’d quite like to change. But when you think about it, aren’t our flaws the very things that make us individual, the things that make us human?
Treating yourself kindly – whether that’s telling yourself you rock and accepting yourself emotionally, to celebrating all the amazing things about yourself spiritually or physically, by actually wrapping your arms around yourself and giving yourself a cuddle or a gentle squeeze – all these things can make every day so much brighter. Been mentally beating yourself up about something you said or did that you’re not proud of? Dissing yourself when you look in the mirror because that new dress you adore clings a bit and doesn’t love you as much as you love it? Stop. Take a moment. Breathe deeply… and try not to judge yourself too harshly. Treat yourself as you would anyone you love and show yourself some compassion. We think it really does make life easier and so much more enjoyable. (Want to discover some simple things you can do daily to boost feelings of self-esteem and increase your wellbeing? Then check out our ‘Make Time For Yourself' blog).
However, the way we look – or the way we think we look – can really affect how our day plays out. If you can increase the positive feelings towards your body image – whether that’s your hair, skin, tummy, thighs (or whatever body part seems to be causing negativity) - we are sure that there can only be benefits to be had. That said, there are certain life stages that can make this more challenging, particularly when it comes to hormonally related changes, which can cause skin to erupt, become overly dry – or oily – flare up or lose tone, elasticity and clarity. On a practical level there are many steps you can take to give your skin the very best environment in which to flourish. In addition to a balanced diet, lots of water, regular exercise and good sleep, every skin type can really gain from kind, clean, simple and effective skincare.
In the interests of sharing our love this season, we thought we’d take a look at some of those really key stages and offer some advice (and plenty of understanding) on how to make the most of them and embrace yourself, along with all your beautiful imperfections…
The big ‘A’ – Adolescence
Maybe you’re in the midst or puberty or your teenage years are now a distant memory and you have teens of your own you’d like to reassure? This life stage is triggered when the hypothalamus in the brain begins releasing a hormone called gonadotrophin (GnRH). This in turn causes the pituitary gland to release the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH), which control the secretion of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. Well that’s the science to it – but what does it mean for your skin? The main challenge is dealing with the increase in production of sebum, or oil. Produced by sebaceous glands, which are prolific on the forehead, chin and middle of the back, this light yellow substance is designed to help keep your skin and hair moisturised. All well and good… however, during puberty, sebum production can go into overdrive, making skin and hair excessively oily. Too much of this sebum plus dirt trapped inside pores and a build up of dead skin cells can lead to acne, a condition everyone would like to avoid. Psoriasis and eczema may become apparent too. All this adds up to skin that needs tender loving care to calm inflammation from breakouts, minimise the effects of additional sebum production and provide it with all the nutrients it needs to glow with health.
So what to do? Twice-daily gentle cleansing is essential. This ensures excess sebum and impurities are removed and gives skin a clean, fresh base to face the day then breathe and restore overnight. Essential Face Wash is ideal. Formulated from coconut and sebo-regulating and anti-inflammatory pure essential oils, you only need a little mixed with a few drops of water to form a deliciously soothing foam that cleans really deep down to leave skin 'squeaky clean' and revitalised. Exfoliating around 3 times a week is also brilliant for sloughing away dead skin cells and stubborn sebum build up in pores that could otherwise lead to blackheads. Again, choose one with botanicals at its heart as these won’t strip skin of nourishment. Slow Ageing’s Exfoliating Face & Body Polish is an invigorating blend of natural ginger, pomegranate and zingy orange, which work together to smooth away impurities and boost the microcirculation for a truly healthy glow. As a general point, try to avoid touching your face as this introduces more impurities and grime and never pick or squeeze a spot as this can make skin red and angry.
There is some great news for those teens with particularly oily complexions or T-zones; sebum really helps to maintain the skin’s flexibility so although it may feel like this stage will never end (it does, we promise!) and middle age feels eons away right now, when the time comes, you can look forward to much suppler, smoother skin than friends who seem ‘blessed’ with drier skin types (and less troublesome spots) right now.
Top tip: You may think that oily skin does not need additional moisture but a light hydrator, like Essential Face Moisturiser, which contains vitamin-rich natural algae plus rebalancing ylang ylang essential oil, will help protect skin throughout the day and give a matte feeling base so try not to skip it.
A survey on acne and Body Mass Index in adolescents in Norway also showed a link between an increase in this skin condition and a higher BMI, particularly amongst girls. Another good reason to watch your intake of high sugar and high fat content fast foods. Stress can be another big contributor to acne. Teens can help counteract this by taking regular exercise, following a balanced diet and building in downtime during intensely emotional periods such as exams.
Acne; there are no age limits
Although acne vulgaris (or common acne) is most common during puberty as it is caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy and menopause (when a drop in estrogen levels and increase in androgen hormones like testosterone) can also trigger an attack. Certain medications like birth control pills and even HRT could cause it too. Acne also tends to run in families so if a parent suffered from it you could be prone as well. Women are also more likely to suffer from acne later in life. It can be a very emotionally distressing skin condition, affecting self-confidence and self-esteem, making it even more important to embrace feelings of acceptance and self-love. But that doesn’t mean you are powerless.
The section on ‘Adolescence’ above looks at how to treat skin gently and keep it clean to help prevent further episodes but if you are suddenly suffering an outbreak during pregnancy or menopause, there are other things you can do to help. Acne is an inflammatory condition, so try to make sure your skincare is gentle and includes soothing natural ingredients. Some essential oils are especially calming and rebalancing including Roman chamomile, ylang ylang and lemon verbena, all of which are found in the capsule Slow Ageing range.
You could also take a look at your diet. At Slow Ageing we strongly believe in the link between what we put into our bodies as well as what we put onto them, so always promote a healthy, balanced diet as part of overall wellbeing (see our blog ‘Eat, Hydrate, Nourish’). Certain foods are known to increase inflammation in the body. Sugar, dairy and refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta can be key culprits so if your diet relies heavily on these it is well worth looking to reduce them and find alternatives where possible. The rise in food intolerances means there is a wide choice of alternative forms from soya and nut milks and yoghurts to delicious wholegrains quinoa, spelt, buckwheat and bulgur. Lots of fresh water, plenty of sleep and regular exercise will also be of benefit.
Complexion prone to high colour, easily irritated (sore or itchy) and with spots or red bumps that aren’t blackheads or whiteheads? Then you may be suffering from adult acne or rosacea. This long-term skin condition most often affects adults between 30-60 years of age and is also more common in women, especially those with fair skin. For most it comes and goes but for some it can get worse over time. Common triggers are those which increase facial blood flow such as UV light, spicy food, alcohol, overly hot baths and stress. If rosacea does flare up treat it sensitively, with gentle skincare products and take notice of your diet, sleep, exercise and stress levels. If things do not improve your GP could advise on topical medication.
From a Pregnant Pause…
Pregnancy: the most amazing, life-affirming time when in theory, we should be feeling on top of the world and brimming over with happiness. However, pre- and post-partum changes can be far reaching, emotionally as well as physically. It’s a time to take the best care of yourself and really listen to what your body wants and needs. In terms of your skin, it will be stretched – literally – to extremes, as your baby grows plus surges in hormones can cause every skin type to behave uncharacteristically.
Pregnancy is often the first time women notice an increase in the pigmentation of their skin. Known as melasma (or chloasma and pregnancy mask), this condition tends to be more noticeable in women with darker skin tones although it can affect any skin type. In fact it’s often one of the first outward signs of pregnancy as it’s related to increased levels of hormones that stimulate pigment cells such as estrogen and progesterone. Common on already darker areas like abdomen and nipples, it’s not unusual for dark spots or patches to also appear on your forehead and cheeks. These patches tend to fade after pregnancy and return to normal but can sometimes persist. As with everything, prevention is always better than cure and as the sun can exacerbate the process, it makes sense to wear a high SPF sunscreen if you are pregnant during the summer months.
All those hormones surging around your body may also make skin more prone to flare ups and breakouts so be sure to treat it gently, with kind, clean formulas and no complicated regimes. This is a time when you will no doubt feel in need of some serious pampering too so try to wind down a little (or rather 'a lot' as you approach your due date!) and treat yourself to a home spa session or two. Always choose products that are safe to use during pregnancy as high levels of some essential oils may have contraindications. A facial is easy to do yourself and intensely relaxing as well. After a deep cleanse using Essential Face Wash, spend a blissful five minutes on a 'Skin’ergy self massage'. We have a simple to follow video that shows 12 flowing steps to release blocked energy, stimulate blood flow and increase oxygenation and distribution of nutrients and vitamins. Essential Facial Essence is a blend of the purest, most potent essential oils that are ideal for every skin type and life stage. Incorporating a few drops of this heavenly elixir delivers soothing, nurturing and rebalancing ingredients to the skin’s deepest layers and helps boost resilience for skin that looks and feels in the peak of health. At night you can swap the Essence for our intensely nourishing and lipid-rich Balm to soothe sensitive, unhappy skin and help switch off your mind for a sound night’s sleep – something we could all do with!
Even though you will be beyond thrilled (and relieved) when baby arrives safely, post-pregnancy brings its own challenges for mind and body. This is an extremely overwhelming time as you adjust to motherhood, both mentally and physically. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your emotions as can breastfeeding, with its associated wealth of prolactin and oxytocin hormones that stimulate milk production. After months of everyone’s focus being on you as the mum-to-be, it can also be hard to adjust to not being the centre of attention again. In fact a study into pregnancy and body image by the BMC discovered that even though there is huge pressure on women to ‘bounce back’ after childbirth, factors including low mood and body image expectations leave women feeling overwhelmed. Further studies have also shown a link between postpartum body dissatisfaction and the commencement of postpartum depression. All these things make it incredibly important to be kind to yourself and not pile on any unnecessary pressure. Try to enjoy this time with baby however you can and accept offers of help so you can rest; it really does go all too quickly… and who really cares if the washing up is still on the side at 8pm?!
Skin is the body’s largest organ and after stretching to accommodate an extra life, it’s only natural that it will take time to return to some kind of ‘normal’. Try not to feel under pressure to rush this. We all take different amounts of time to adjust and feel ready to be ourselves again, lose that weight and get back ‘out there’. Aside from eating well and getting as much sleep and fresh air as you can, look after your body and help it to regain some of its elasticity by self-massage with nourishing and elasticising botanical oils. A potent blend of five 100% pure and sustainably sourced essential oils plus collagen-stimulating hazelnut, Essential Firming Body Essence is regenerating, replenishing and renewing, helping skin to regain tone and ‘spring’… all with a satin-like touch. The olfactory benefits of lemon verbena, rosemary and Roman chamomile also help ease a fractious mind and restore a sense of stability. Use it every day, especially when you’ve just stepped out of the bath or shower, by applying onto damp skin for maximum absorption.
… To the Menopause
With around 13 million women in the UK alone being either peri- or post-menopausal, the menopause is a hot topic. Although this is a completely natural stage of life, the changes it can bring – from dehydrated skin, dry hair and skin breakouts to mood swings, hot flushes and difficulty concentrating and sleeping – can have a profound effect. With the average age for onset menopause being 51 and symptoms lasting up to 15 years, it’s worth understanding – and being prepared for – some of the shifts and challenges it may bring, especially relating to skin. Complexions that previously cooperated for years may start becoming spotty, skin may become over dry or develop oily patches and the hormonally driven drop in collagen production leads to a lack in skin strength and structure. All this inevitably affects how we view ourselves, emotionally as well as from what we see in the mirror. As with all things in life, it really does help to talk to someone about how you are feeling.
For years even the very word ‘menopause’ was shrouded in mystery (and only mentioned in hushed tones!) but the tide is beginning to change as it is being discussed far more openly. There are now many wonderful, vibrant and high-profile ambassadors such as Dame Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon and Diane Keaton who are frank about how they came out the other side still looking amazing and being fabulous! This can only be a good thing. Exceptional skincare is the foundation of healthy skin at every age. With free radical damage such an enemy to radiant skin, Slow Ageing Essentials is loaded with anti-oxidants to fight back and renew skin cells. Including everything skin needs – and nothing it doesn’t - our 7 uncomplicated products for face and body deliver results you really can see, month after month. With stringently tested formulations that harness the best sustainably sourced skin savers like DNA-protecting rosemary and firming lemon verbena, you can be sure they won’t upset hormonally sensitised skin, infusing it instead with 3 ingredient systems that deliver vitamins, lipids and pure energy back to skin. This routine makes complete sense before, during and after the menopause; we think it really will last you for life.
Skin and personality wobbles aside, the menopause is also freeing and liberating (for more practical hints and tips on how to navigate your way through the menopause, see our ‘Menopausally Challenged?’ blog).