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Skincare is a sector it’s hard to keep pace with. The science is moving all the time, but so too are the trends, and sometimes it’s hard to unpick what’s good and effective from what’s faddy and, let’s face it, looks good on social media. From K Beauty’s 13 step ritual to the latest newly discovered botanical wonder ingredient - Bakuchiol, anyone? - even beauty editors struggle to keep up.
But: the possibility for improvement is clear. We are only just beginning to unlock our potential. As A List facialist Nichola Joss says: “Your body is so clever. If we could unzip your skin, we would unfold like a universe. That’s how you need to look at it.” Beyond the game changing technology behind photobiomodulation (and that is a very good place to start), understanding some of the advances in brain-skin connection and the skin’s chronobiology can make a big difference to how you look after your skin.
Recent research has revealed that touching the skin on your face with your bare hands will increase blood flow to areas of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. This is the area of the brain which activates feelings of positivity and pleasure. Interestingly, a second study compared brain activation when different types of textures and creams were applied to the face: creams that had a rich moisturising feel and required greater tactile connection, achieved the most significant cerebral blood flow change.
Gua Sha is an ancient Chinese healing technique that uses a smooth-edged tool to massage your skin. The action can help drain sluggish lymph – the fluid that can cause puffiness and inflammation in your face. But how well acquainted are you with the location of your lymph nodes? There are up to a dozen situated around your face and knowing where they are is essential to Gua Sha working efficiently. A simple routine is to stroke upwards and outwards from chin to ear, from cheek to ear and then (the one that everyone forgets), upwards from your brow to the top of your head.
Collagen underpins great skin, literally. It’s the connective tissue that holds not only our facial structure together but also most of the organs and connective tissues in our entire body. It’s actually stronger than steel by weight. However, the effectiveness of most of the collagen creams and drinks that you find on the market are underwhelming when it comes to results. Nothing has yet shown that ingesting collagen leads to increased collagen support for the skin. Likewise, topical collagen is also inefficient, as collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin. A better way to support collagen production is through photobiomodulation. Topically, you could also try a Vitamin C enriched serum, as Vitamin C is the essential co-factor for the two enzymes required for collagen synthesis.
Although a piping hot flannel may feel lovely to cleanse with at the end of a long day, it may be sensitising your skin, and the same goes with cleansing your face directly in a hot shower. Advice now suggests using lukewarm water instead which won’t damage the epidermis. You can even try cold water if you’re feeling brave enough for an added boost of micro-circulation.
On the subject of cleansing, one of the best skincare hacks is proscribed by facialist Nichola Joss: to bring your nightly skincare regime forward. She recommends removing your make-up and double cleansing (which removes pollution and deeper residual dirt) as soon as you get home from your day – regardless of whether that’s mid or late afternoon. Next, before you go about your evening, she suggests applying any skincare that you regularly use containing active ingredients such as chemical exfoliants, retinoids or antioxidant serums as this will give them a couple of hours to get cracking in advance of applying your moisturiser or hydrating oil right before bed.
It may sound too easy to be true, but sleep masks and creams, which you apply before bed and wash off in the morning like leave in hair conditioner, are some of the best products to have in your arsenal. Studies into chronobiology – the science of the body’s circadian rhythm shows that when we go to sleep, our skin cells whirr into action, detoxifying and repairing themselves from any damage incurred in the daytime. Night-time is also when cell renewal goes into overdrive. It’s therefore the best time to apply active skincare ingredients that help speed up or support this process.
We have all experienced the negative impacts of stress on our skin at some point in our lives – the pre-wedding mega-spot, the patches of eczema before exams and more recently pandemic-induced flare ups. Fresh studies in neuro-dermatology have proven the brain-skin connection isn’t merely anecdotal, with anxiety and stress being directly shown to trigger inflammation, excess sebum production and more acute skin conditions like psoriasis. One of the best medicines for stress is preventative. The herb long used in Ayurvedic Medicine is ashwagandha. The scientific formulation KSM-66 ® Ashwagandha has been clinically proven to reduce feelings of anxiety by supporting the production of mood stabilising brain chemicals as well as lowering cortisol levels, the stress hormone that can wreak havoc with our skin.
The most progressive skincare regime combines topical treatments and supplementation. Ingredients like keratin (a key protein found in the skin, nails and hair) and astaxanthin (a super potent antioxidant that’s 15 times more powerful than vitamin E) can be of most benefit to the skin when they are taken orally. But do your homework – keratin for example isn’t naturally soluble – opt for the compound called Cynatine HNS which is the world’s most bio-available keratin peptide, and more stable than alternatives on the market.