Operation Banish Those Marks

20131002-041327.jpgYou’d think that suffering at the hands of acne for years would be enough, but once you tackle it what’s left behind is a patchwork of hyperpigmentation enough to leave you convinced that you’ll be reaching for the full-coverage concealer for eternity. I’ve always liked to apply a little optimism and an ‘it-could-be-worse’ attitude to everything, and that doesn’t stop with my skin – it really isn’t that bad. However, who doesn’t want to leave the house without a slick of make-up and not have to worry about everyone looking at their skin? While I think that there should be a lot more substance to the foundation on which we base our self-esteem, to a certain extent I believe that when we look good feeling better and more confident becomes a given. When society accepts nothing short of perfection things like acne, severe eczema and hyperpigmentation can unfortunately hinder our ability to feel confident. My approach to beauty has never been to see it as a crutch, rather I view cosmetics and skincare as a tool for enhancing features and helping to correct these concerns, and in turn this does amazing things for one’s self-esteem. With my acne finally under control (but knowing the temperamental nature of my skin I’ve probably spoken too soon!) treating the marks left behind is the next step, and I’ve acquired a few products containing licorice root, kojic acid, arbutin and other ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation:

Origins Mega-Bright Skin Tone Correcting Night Mask

Yon-Ka Solution 46*

Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector*

Doctor Babor Skin Brightening Mask*

Eucerin Even Brighter Spot Corrector*

SkinCeuticals Pigment Regulator*

I’ve also enlisted the help of the newly launched Dr Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Dark Spot Correcting Night Mask* which is a natural blend of vitamin C, mulberry, scutellaria, rosa roxburghii, molasses and ume. Created by Harvard University trained medical doctor and botanist, Andrew Weil, the mask is said to boost radiance, even skin tone, correct dark spots and address the root cause of inflammatory discolouration while you sleep. I have high hopes for the Mega-Bright Dark Spot Correcting Night Mask and I’ll be reporting back soon – in the meantime feel free to comment below and leave your recommendations for treating hyperpigmentation. 

2014’s Favourite Products

The thoughts and emotions that come around this time of the year are so overwhelming – I’m often in a pensive, reflective mood and can’t help but look back to the past year’s regrets, triumphs and achievements. For me my year couldn’t be more bittersweet – while 2014 was my best year yet with it being the year I graduated, met life changing people, moved onto study for a master’s degree at my dream university, was featured in The Sunday Times Style and gave a presentation at an industry conference, 2014 was also the year I lost someone I loved very dearly to illness. But such is life, while we’re challenged in one aspect we find ourselves successful in others.

With a dissertation to complete, numerous essays, exams and a new job, blogging became less of a priority for me but I so desperately wanted to share my beauty discoveries throughout the year. However, when you’ve spent the entire day sitting at a desk writing a 4,000 word essay on the impact of political risks on foreign direct investment in the Middle East and North Africa the last thing you want to do is spend more time writing at a desk! Therefore here’s a little roundup of the products that got me through graduation, hours sat in front of the computer, job interviews and a few family weddings.

photo (3)Mavala Via Veneto* and Barry M Cappuccino – With the exception of a few nail polishes, Via Veneto and Cappuccino are all I’ve been wearing on my nails this year. They’re perfect for quick paint jobs when you’re on the go, and they give off that impeccably groomed and polish vibe. Cappuccino has also been a colour I’ve received constant compliments on, and someone even struck up a conversation with me on the bus to find out what I was wearing!

Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy Palette* in Envious Orchid and Fiery Saffron – what I love about these palettes is how they truly encompass the whole ‘day to evening’ concept – I’ve used both palettes for simply going to a lecture and to weddings. You can create an office friendly eye and quickly smoke it up by applying the darker colours to your creaseNot to mention the sleek packaging makes it super easy to carry around in your handbag.

Clinique Aromatics in White* – The minute I got a whiff of this new fragrance from Clinique and I was reminded of the attar fragrances I’ve been used to since childhood. It’s a beautifully bold fragrance with notes including Sichuan pepper, rose, patchouli, benzoin and amber gris.

Fashion Fair Spicy Plum* – I recently had a consultation with Fashion Fair’s International Makeup Artist Delita Pintos at their counter in Debenhams Westfield White City, and she was determined to get me out of my comfort zone, and succeed she did. I’ve always gone for subtle, barely there lip colours but ever since Delita introduced this lipstick to me I’ll be expanding my collection of Fashion Fair lipsticks, starting with Bordeaux.

Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil – This oil has been the best thing for my skin this year. After finally clearing up my acne through healthy eating and exercising regularly Clarins’ Lotus Oil which contains rosemary, geranium, hazelnut oil and lotus extract has helped to maintain my skin, even when I’ve fallen off the healthy eating bandwagon (oops!).

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Toner* – I will forever extol the glowing, clear skin virtues of exfoliating toners and this toner is simply amazing. The annoying thing however is that this product isn’t sold separately as it comes with their Effaclar Anti-Blemish System which includes the Effaclar Duo [+] and Purifying Foaming Gel, the latter being a product I’m not very fond of.

Benefit POREfessional – Imagine my luck when I woke up on the day of my graduation to the biggest zit known to mankind – all I could think about was how I’d look in the photos that my family would look at for years to come. This primer helped to calm the redness down and smooth my pores out, but with it being the day where all of my hard work and efforts finally came to fruition my skin was the last thing on my mind!

New Year

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge – When it comes to foundation I’m a ‘just slap it on’ kinda girl, but this sponge has been a game changer. Product blends seamlessly into the skin, and 3 surfaces of the sponge allow you to cover blemishes with the precision tip and blend in a darker contour product with the flat edge.

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser* – As well as exfoliating toners, I do love a cleanser chock full of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid. Before this cleanser from American brand Murad came into my life I’d use the Jan Marini Bioglycolic Cleanser, but it’s proving to be difficult to find but the Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser is no consolation prize because it’s just so good at brightening the skin as well as calming breakouts down.

Neutrogena Visibly Clear 2-in-1 Wash and Mask – While I love the previously mentioned cleanser, when I started off in my postgraduate studies forking £34 on a cleanser just wasn’t an option. Instead I’ve opted for this £3.79 Neutrogena cleanser that I’ve been using on and off for years. It’s effective at keeping breakouts at bay, but it’s also gentle. It doubles up as a face mask too which is helps to save money.

MUA Ever After Matte Palette – This year I started taking my ‘eyebrow game’ seriously. I know absolutely nothing about filling in brows, what products to use, techniques etc. so I turned to my sister blessed with impeccable brows. She introduced me to the £4 palette that is the MUA Ever After Palette and I’ve been hooked since. Although it’s not intended for brows, I still flip flop between Penny and Truffle depending on how intense or subtle I’d like my brows to look.

Additions to the Skincare Cabinet | SkinCeuticals

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No matter my attempts at streamlining my skincare cabinet, I always find it full to the point that products become weapons – a bottle of Gunjeoir Neroli Face Elixir dropping on your head upon opening the cabinet is not fun! Each and every product in my cabinet has a status; some are an absolute daily necessity, others go untouched for months and there are some that have just joined the skincare cabinet family and are destined to be part of the former, and seeing as I’m of the philosophy that you can never have too many serums (I’m all about layering them up), these three superb serums from the doyens of skincare SkinCeuticals are a welcome addition.

First up we have my first dip into the sea of antioxidant/vitamin C serums – Serum 10*. With just 0.2% ferulic acid and 10% l-ascorbic acid, it’s a serum suitable for you sensitive skinned ladies out there and for those like me who are only just getting into antioxidant serums and want to gradually move onto stronger concentrations. Serum 10 is a great product to enlist in the fight against the impact of environmental aggressors such as pollution, UV rays, smog and smoke on your skin; perfect for those in big cities like London. It’s been almost two months since I’ve added Serum 10 into my skincare routine, and my skin has been significantly brighter which a few friends have picked up on. I’ve also noticed that the general tone of my skin is evening out which is amazing news because breakouts in the past have stamped their mark, and left my skin littered with hyperpigmentation.

Who do you know with breakout prone, sometimes oily and partially dry skin? It’s an affliction to to leave you eternally confused. Looking for something to keep my skin moisturised but also appeases the other factions of my skin is tricky, and apart from Olay’s Regenerist Night Renewal Elixir, the Retexturing Activatoris the only other product that can keep my skin truly moisturised without breaking me out. SkinCeuticals claim that using the Retexturing Activator is akin to a daily 20% glycolic acid treatment, and it’s a rather big claim for two reasons – firstly, glycolic acid is one of the finest, unrivalled chemical exfoliants in the market, and secondly my skin would never be able to tolerate glycolic acid of 20% strength on a daily basis without the harsh effects so my expectations of the Retexturing Activator were quite high when I first tried it. As usual SkinCeuticals doesn’t disappoint and within the first week of using the serum my skin was soft, supple, hydrated and I needed very little make-up; I hadn’t felt this good about my skin in an incredibly long time!

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The final SkinCeuticals addition to my cabinet is their new Resveratrol B E, another antixoidant serum but revolutionary in that it’s intended for night-time use and combats internal aggressors unlike Serum 10 which deals with the external free radicals. What’s also revolutionary is that it mostly contains antioxidant ingredient of the moment, resveratrol (which Refinery29 explain pretty well), found usually in grapes and knotweed and is complemented by 0.5% baicalin and 1% vitamin E. Coupled with Serum 10 I have high hopes for my skin, but I’ve only been using this for a few weeks and SkinCeuticals recommend a minimum of 12 weeks to notice a difference in density, elasticity, smoothness and firmness. Stay tuned…

Breaking the Break Out Cycle

If you’ve stuck by and have been reading Muslimah Beauty for long enough, not only do I thank you, but I also apologise as I’m sure you’ve become fully adjusted to my incessant complaining about my breakout prone skin by now! Funnily enough I was blessed with the gift of acne shortly before deciding to start this blog, and it was hardly ever something I experienced in my teens so while my friends were experimenting and blasting their faces with Clearasil, Duac and any other acne clearing product my quest for a ‘cure’ has been a fairly recent phenomenon. But after years of trying just about anything from Harley Street dermatologists to blue light lasers I’ve found that it boils down to two very simple things – great skincare and an even greater diet.

Acne is often a symptom of an underlying problem such as an imbalance of the hormones, and if this problem isn’t nipped in the bud your skin will continue to breakout. It took years for me to accept that dairy and gluten are not my friend and that my skin was better off without. I’d recommend investigating out why exactly your skin is breaking out and treating the problem rather than seeing acne as an isolated issue requiring its own treatment. But in the meantime I guess it’d be worth sharing what has worked for me in treating my own acne, however there’s just one caveat to this post – take into account that most of what I note is subjective and is due to personal experience; what works for me may not necessarily work for you however it doesn’t hurt to consider it either.

Diet

Years ago I read an article debunking myths concerning acne, and one dermatologist claimed that chocolate and other junk foods did not cause acne. I took that for gospel and continued to eat those foods oblivious to the effect they were having on my skin. While I may not hold a PhD in dermatology or nutrition, junk food has a causal relationship with my acne and no dermatologist can tell me otherwise. In fact I recently posed a few questions about the relationship between diet and the skin to renowned naturopathic doctor Dr Nigma Talib and she confirms my suspicions. “I have seen over and over again in my patients that diets rich in sugar and certain carbohydrate type foods (which eventually convert into sugar during digestion) can be a major problem for skin health. Not all carbohydrates are created equally. Carbohydrates that are processed and contain gluten can cause imbalances in your gut bacteria, which can in turn cause inflammation in your body affecting your hormones, which are your body’s messengers. If you continuously consume high amounts of sugars and harmful types of carbohydrates, your body will not be able to sustain the large amounts of inflammation and it will show up on your skin as various levels of congestion such as redness, acne, large pores, black heads and dry and pigmentation patches, not just increased inches to your waistline”. Key food culprits waging war on our skin include sugar infested foods such as cakes, cookies and ice-cream and also refined carbs like pasta and bread as they convert into sugar and essentially have the same effect on your skin as a chocolate bar. “Your skin is a reflection of your diet” Dr Nigma states.

When my skin was at its worst in 2010-11 with severe cystic acne, my diet was just abysmal and at the time I was adjusting to university life so takeaway pizzas, burgers, crisps and copious amounts of cheesecake were all I consumed. I’ve since made a conscious effort to rid my diet of refined sugars for the past 6 months, and my skin has completely transformed. Apart from the occasional indulgence (I am human after all!) gone is the junk and in are green smoothies chock-full of kale, blueberries, spinach, celery and spirulina, salmon, cottage cheese, lentils and nuts. “Your body has an innate ability to heal itself given the right diet” says Dr Nigma“The foods our bodies require for glowing skin requires a combination of anti inflammatory foods rich in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. Anti-inflammatory foods not only helps keep your skin looking flawless, but help support insulin and blood sugar levels in your body”. Apart from the previously mentioned foods, some foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omega fatty acids include turmeric, chia seeds, quinoa, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts and cruciferous vegetables such as brocolli, cauliflower and bok choy.

Skincare

Contrary to how many people approach treating acne, I personally find that nothing is more effective than a gentle approach. That means using nourishing products that’ll help to calm my skin such as Elemental Herbology’s Purify & Smooth Cleanser, the Gunjeoir Neroli Face Elixir*, Avène Thermal Water Spray*, Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Gentle Cleanser* and the Estèe Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum*. These are products I will generally use irrespective of my skin breaking out but when the spots appear there are products I add into my skincare routine specifically for treating the breakouts.

For fear of waffling on for hours I’ll merely list the acne treatments I use, but there’s something these products tend to have in common – their ingredients. Look for products loaded with zinc, aloe vera, glycolic and salicylic acid, witch hazel, sulfur, lavender, willow-bark, tea tree and benzoyl peroxide although I’d wouldn’t haphazardly slap on liberal amounts of BP as it tends to dry the skin out.

20140703-195415-71655338.jpg Origins Spot Remover Blemish Treatment Pads* and Blemish Treatment Gel*

Mario Badescu Drying Cream and Buffering Lotion

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel*

Simple Rapid Action Spot Zapper*

Aknicare SR Skin Roller*

Other products that haven’t been pictured but deserve equal adulation are the SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Serum, Jan Marini Bioglycolic Cleanser, Bioderma Sébium AKN, La Roche-Posay Efflaclar Duo [+]* and Mario Badescu Drying Lotion.

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