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As someone who believes skin benefits most from a simple approach to care I’m a big moisturiser fan: moisture is skin’s most basic need, along with protection from ultra-violet (UV) rays. Together, these two – hydration and protection – do more for your skin than any fancy-sounding ingredient, and I include fighting the signs of time in that.
To understand why, you need to get savvy about your skin and how it works. The simplest way to see it is as a coat that your body wears to keep the outside world out and the inside world in. To do that well it needs to be nurtured – not just seen as something that gives away telltale signs about your age – by being well hydrated and protected.
Moisturisers tend to be from one of two families: you have what are known as humectants – creams which draw water up from inside your skin or suck it in from the atmosphere around you, and occlusives, which create a film over your skin to seal moisture inside it. How to choose the best moisturiser? Don’t let celebrity staples dictate your choice – who cares what Madonna buys?! – use what works best for your skin; often this isn’t the most expensive face cream, it can be a really simple lubricant that does what it says on the tin. If it helps to perfect your skin – evening up skintone and giving you a hint of colour as a tinted moisturiser can do – all the better, but the most important thing it should do, apart from moisturise, is to defend your face from the sun and pollution.
Why is protection important?
Well, here’s what the sun’s rays do: they pass through your skin invisibly and promote the activity of free radicals, reactive molecules that age skin by damaging the cells – think of them as Pac Men, munching their way through cells, not nice! The sun and pollution (tobacco smoke, car fumes etc) make these little devils work harder, which is why it’s a good idea to wear a screen. And one of the big misconceptions about the sun is that it only gets to our skin – and ages it – when we’re on holiday. But the sun is there all year round, even when it’s cloudy. So if you’re serious about nurturing your skin you need to keep it well protected.
How do you know if your moisturiser can protect? It should say so – look on the label! More than that though, it should give you high broadspectrum (that protects you from UVA and UVB rays, not just UVB), so look for the sun protection factor (SPF) number on the bottle (and ideally wear no less than 15 SPF), and if there isn’t one don’t buy it.
5 STEPS TO BETTER SKIN
1. Moisturise regularly – morning and evening, and if your skin tends to be dry use a cream that has moisture-trapping qualities, so it locks moisture in for up to 12 hours, or even attracts it into skin from the atmosphere if humidity is high enough.
2. Protect it from UV light – it’s the skin’s biggest enemy, ageing it by promoting the activity of free radicals that damage cells.
3. Drink water – it doesn’t actually ‘water’ your skin but it keeps it clear and supple.
4. Use a humidifier – dermatologists often recommend these if you have very dry skin because they hold upwards of 40% of water in the atmosphere – a bonus when the central heating is on or in work environments where you are surrounded by PCs which sap moisture from the air leaving skin dry to the point of itchiness. One of the easiest ways to humidify a room is to put a saucer of water on the radiator, but don’t forget to replenish it regularly because it will dry up.
5. Spray on a face mist before you apply moisturiser – adding cream to slightly damp skin tends to help it absorb and maximises its plumping benefits.