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I know: the fashion shows are on, the winter coats are coming out of storage, and we’ve all bought new pencil cases (or skirts) to go back to school/work but can we just pause for a second to give thanks for the final, blissful, moments of sun? I know it’s not dermatologically correct for a beauty journalist but I can’t help loving to bask in its rays. Even though I know I am going to pay for it, if not right now.
When it comes to skin, September is that difficult second album, the chocolate in the assortment box that no one wants, the dull bit in the middle of the novel. It’s when your tan fades to reveal a blotched horror of pigmentation, fine lines you didn’t have before, and a grey pallor to match the skies that lie ahead. Yes, we bring it on ourselves, we who do not hide from the sun. In rarefied Beverly Hills-type quarters, sun damage barely exists at all. Dermatologist Dr Harold Lancer notes: “Here in LA, where we’re always drenched in sunlight, people walk in the shade.” But self-awareness aside, what’s someone who walks on the sunny side of the street to do when the weather turns?
There’s always the option of booking a laser treatment – though girlfriends who have done so claim to incur even worse sun damage thereafter, so the jury, for me at least, is still out. And, as we all know, even expensive moisturisers are unlikely to be that effective when they’re sitting on top of layers of dull skin. Which is why I suggest the following five steps:
1) Exfoliate For three to four weeks. No, not 24/7 (sorry can’t come to work today, I’m exfoliating), just a bit of dry brushing (facialist Alexandra Soveral is a fan of this technique – check out her facial brushes, from £20) in circular movements, or with a cleansing cloth and polish (see Eve Lom, from £40, Liz Earle, £14.75, or Dr Lancer’s exfoliant Polish, £60, which comes in three skin-type options: acne, sensitive or anti-ageing). How hard do you go? To quote Lancer: “You’re not beating the hell out of it; gentle is a good idea.”
2) Eat well Drink lots of water. Sounds obvious but, before reaching for winter-comfort carbs and vitamin supplements, balance your plate with 40 per cent proteins. The rest should be vegetables, fruit or whole grains, to ensure you’re getting enough of vitamins A, E, C, V and K, all health-boosting skin nutrients.
3) Peel – but carefully “Every day I find some new patient coming in with a reaction caused by an at-home peel,” says Lancer. “The usual peeling product will have salicylic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, and one of two things happens; either the peel is substandard and doesn’t do much, so it’s a waste of money, or it’s too active for most of our skins and you run the risk of aggravating or worsening an already inflamed skin.”
I love Ole Henriksen’s Power Peel (£30), a three-step, microdermabrasion and peel treatment. It takes 20 minutes max, and made a real difference to my muddy complexion. It was as if the clumps of pigment had dispersed slightly, leaving a smattering of freckles – these I can learn to love – and super-smooth skin. Omorovicza’s Copper Peel (£82) is another favourite.
4) Moisturise – but only after you have duly performed the above three steps. A rich moisturiser on perfectly prepped skin is heaven. If you’re an oil sort of person, Lancer recommends good old grapeseed oil from your kitchen cupboard. “It’s really spectacular, a high-grade antioxidant that doesn’t cause acne, and yet is very calming, topical and moisturising,” he says. (It’s also cheap.) Alternatively, Orico London’s Superico Vitamin Rich Face Oil (£28) sinks into the skin in seconds and smells divinely aromatic. If you crave the feeling of a cream, Aromatherapy Associates’ Rose Infinity Moisturiser (£95), This Works’ No Wrinkles Midnight Moisturiser (£46) and Chantecaille’s Stress Repair Concentrate (£150) are sumptuous.
5) Now try an anti-pigmentation product After four weeks of exfoliating, you’re ready. Two that are popular on the beauty grapevine are Lancôme’s Dream Tone (£69) and YSL’s Forever Light Creator Serum (£61). Each comes with pages of scientific support but, to cut to the chase, YSL’s testers reported a 12.8 per cent reduction in “pigmentation inconsistencies” after four weeks’ use, while Lancôme’s Dream Tone comes in three types for different skin colours – white, Asian/Mediterranean or black – which makes sense to me, as does the promise of a 60 per cent reduction after two months.
Do all the above faithfully, and, I promise, your sun-worshipping secret will stay safe with me.