Young and beautiful

Illustration by A.H. Fish, 1923. Found here

Last week, Garance wrote about how difficult it is to remember to do all of the skincare and haircare things we’re supposed to do regularly. I know exactly what she meant, because if I remember to slather on a layer of moisturiser before I run out of the house in the morning, it’s a good day.

Sometimes I think that being a woman is a full-time job. Or, as Helen Fielding once put it in the first Bridget Jones’s Diary:

“Being a woman is worse than being a farmer, there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturised, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised.

“The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature — with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter, blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?”

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t manage to get at least some of my beauty routine done regularly, I notice it very quickly. Recently, I’ve taken to doing a weekly DIY facial in the bath, roughly following these steps. It makes such a difference to the condition of my skin.

I have mildly sensitive skin, which comes from having suffered with total body eczema as a child. These days the eczema is gone (it magically disappeared when I was pregnant and never came back), but I am still prone to reactions to some skincare products. One of my favourite skincare brands is REN, and especially the Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel, which manages to be effective and kind to temperamental skin at the same time.

I never exfoliate my face more than once a week – I prefer to use a cleanser with salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells from day to day. But when I do exfoliate, I make up a little sugar scrub with two tablespoons of honey, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of olive oil and about two tablespoons of brown sugar, which sloughs off the old skin and soothes, brightens and moisturises the new skin much better than any commercial scrub I’ve ever bought (and smells delicious – but don’t eat it).

When it comes to face masks, I alternate between No7 Beautiful Skin Hydration Mask and Soap & Glory’s The Fab Pore. My face veers wildly from oily and spot-prone to dry as a desert, so every fortnight it gets either a great big moisture boost or a deep-pore muck drain and I find that works pretty well for me.

And if I remember, right at the end of the facial process – after I get out of the bath but while my pores are still open – I apply a little Bio-Oil. Ever since a beauty therapist friend used it on me during a facial a few years ago, I haven’t been afraid to use oil on my face. It’s easy to think that using oil if you have oily skin is a recipe for disaster, but if you use the right one sparingly the opposite is true. Bio-Oil has such a lovely, light formula, and it helps deal with all the little scars and uneven pigmentation that sometimes make my face look like an Ordnance Survey map.

If I can just manage to keep up this routine once a week, maybe I can get away with skipping moisturiser every now and then …