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There are many unfathomable mysteries about the beauty industry, from “How many undiscovered miracle skincare ingredients can there possibly still be?” to “Why do we hope for one cream to rid us of all our cellulite when we know that this would be physiologically impossible?”
But the biggest puzzle of all is why we persist – soon after the last spoonful of Christmas pudding has been eaten, the hams and turkey gnawed to the bone, the champagne glasses emptied – in starting on a January detox. Yes, an attempt at strict abstinence just as winter’s grey throws its worst at us.
In theory, the new year detox is a good idea: you feast, you fast. But unless you have iron willpower, it’s tough, especially for those of us living in cold, sunless climates. Why would anyone want to give up hot chocolate just when sunshine and blue skies feel like an impossible dream? Aren’t we setting ourselves up for failure?
Well, I‘m here to tell you that detoxing, even at this time of year, is worth it and do-able. As I write, I’ve just finished three days of eating a sugar-free, yeast-free, gluten-free (but thankfully not taste-free) diet from food delivery company Nosh Detox (I recommend the gram flour and coriander pancakes – seriously delicious and very filling). My trainer at the gym even refused to allow me sweetener in my morning cuppa – in her eyes it was strictly forbidden – and in the end I got so desperate I was double dosing on Beroccas in my mineral water. That orange, fizzy burst of vitamin C was no doubt cheating the system but it gave me the mid-afternoon lift my sugar craving demanded while, more importantly, the results of the regime as a whole were noticeable. In spite of it being a stressful time, my skin flourished and keeping up the non-sugar diet since has kept spots at bay.
Skincare professionals such as Margo Marrone from Organic Pharmacy and Christine D’Ornano from Sisley swear by detoxing. D’Ornano gives up wheat and sugar in January while Marrone supports a 10-day healthy eating push with her Organic Pharmacy Detox kit (£165), which includes colon-cleansing herbs, liver and kidney drops, and multivitamins, all in pill form.
“As fantastic as any cream may be, it’s what you do from the inside that counts,” says Marrone. “It’s hard to beat the sugar craving – it takes me two weeks. But sugar ages the skin because the two proteins that keep our skin soft and supple – collagen and elastin – cross-link and become brittle when we have too much sugar in our diets. This makes the skin lose its bounce and flexibility and become stiff instead.”
Nutritionist Amelia Freer says the effect of sugar on skin cells is a bit like coating a water balloon in toffee (ooh, toffee!): the glucose in our system sticks to the protein and you end up with a saggy, limp cell with a crisp outer surface. She also recommends giving up sugar if you suffer from acne. Elevated insulin, caused by too much sugar, affects levels of a protein in the blood that binds to hormones, including testosterone. This in turn leads to an increase in androgen production, which can cause acne.
When reducing sugar intake, omitting processed sugars is often the first stage but we must also be aware of how much sugar we consume without realising it – it’s in everything from fruit juices to refined carbohydrates. And what about the cravings? New York doctor Frank Lipman of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center (Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan, as is Donna Karan) swears by his Be Well L-Glutamine supplements (from $29) to stave them off. I also find that drinking tea by skincare company Aurelia, with its delicate rose and chocolate infusion, confuses my senses a little – the aroma is so sweet that I can just about kid myself into thinking I’m having something sweet to drink. The tea comes as part of an Aurelia gift set (£65), which includes its Relax and Repair night-time skincare – surely, if I’m not allowed to eat chocolate, isn’t it only fair to step up on other treats?
Besides, what beauty takes away, beauty can give back: instead of eating sugar, try some sugar-based beauty products. Fresh’s Sugar range lets you indulge in the granular texture: slather on some Brown Sugar Body Polish or wallow in a bath of Sugar Lemon Sugarbath Cubes (both $38). And Alexandra Soveral’s Hand & Body Wash in Sweet Orange (£28) gives a burst of zingy citrus while Philip B’s Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo (£100) has a caramel colour and undertones. Admittedly, I’m not sure if smelling while not being able to taste makes things better or worse in the long run, and obviously it’s not always as convenient to jump in the shower as it is to reach for the Green & Black’s but, as replacements for that sugar rush go, these sure beat aspartame.
And, actually, succeeding at the “new year, new you” thing is really, well, sweet.