The Immaculate Complexion..
A clear, pore-less complexion and smooth plump skin are not only indicative of good health, fortuitous genes (or regular visits to a certain Dr. Sebagh). Combined, they are the hallmarks of "the immaculate complexion", the elusive holy grail of all "natural beauty" enthusiasts. Any make-up artist worth their salt will agree that the key to beautiful make-up is a flawless canvas. In reality, few of us are in possession of "Photoshop-perfect" skin. Though most adults are likely to have experienced the traumatic and often embarrassing effects of adolescent acne, for some, these bouts of hormone, diet or stress-induced breakouts linger on into adulthood.
Whether it's breakouts, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, redness or sensitivity, if we're honest, few of us could claim to be immune to the perils of personal vanity. When the average consumer is constantly bombarded with computer-enhanced images portraying an impossible industry standard of aesthetic perfection and perpetual youth - it would be impossible not to succumb to the pressures of wanting to look one's best 24/7.
When it comes to achieving and maintaining a flawless complexion, the harsh reality is that there are no quick fixes. A healthy diet, rich in oily fish (mackerel / salmon), fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, seeds, pulses, unrefined sugars and flour, plenty of water (6 tall glasses a day) combined with regular exercise will all go a long way to boosting your overall well being for the long term. Sufficient rest is also core to healthy looking skin as the body repairs itself while you sleep. If you regularly clock up less than the suggested eight hours of sleep a night, you're likely to see signs of your sleep debt quite literally etched all over your face (dull skin, lines, sagging, puffiness, dark circles, blemishes).
Moderation in all things is also essential. Excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs, a poor diet, insufficient exercise and pollution will all take their toll on your skin. I'm a great believer in the old adage "beauty on the outside starts on the inside". You can slap all manner of lotions and potions onto your skin in the vain hope of somehow halting the onset of time - but if your core health is not as it should be, then buying into a "wonder product" will be as aesthetically successful as giving a derelict car a new lick of paint. It may look shiny on the outside - but on the inside it's still a mess.
So, with positive lifestyle choices in place, it's time to maintain your new-and-improved skin with the right skin care for you. Many beauty brands extol the virtues of a "3 step" skincare program. In modern beauty, the "3 step" skincare regime probably owes more to marketing wizardry and need creation than it does to dermatological fact. Many cosmetic toners contain alcohol. Rather than "removing all traces of cleanser, make-up and grime", they're more likely to strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to skin sensitivity and overactive sebaceous glands as the skin goes into overdrive to replenish its natural moisture level. If you must use a toner, look for a botanical formula devoid of alcohol - Kiehl's do a great selection for a variety of skin types.
In my professional opinion, a high quality cleanser is the corner stone of great skin care - as is the appropriate application technique. The combination of the two will garner optimum results from your products. Just as spending an hour in the gym three times a week is likely to have a more tangible effect on your physique than exercising for a paltry five minutes, it's worth noting that setting aside five minutes to gently massage your face and neck every morning and evening will do far more for your complexion and skin elasticity than simply slapping on a face wash, rinsing and running out the door.
Having tested some of the most sought-after cleansers on the market, I've settled on my top three award-winners. Each product has been rigourously tested by yours truly, with marks awarded for efficacy, value for money and product design. Prices have been broken down into three categories; "Cash", "Cheque" and "Credit".
Liz Earle For Men Cleanse & Polish - £13, 100ml
Once the closely guarded secret of beauty journalists, Liz Earle's significant column inches and strong presence on QVC have ensured that her award-winning range of naturally inspired skin care products have achieved global recognition. The "must have" cult product from her range is the best-selling Cleanse & Polish. This rich cleansing balm is packed with skin-soothing Rosemary and Eucalyptus essential oils to decongest the skin. Gently massage the balm all over the face and neck, upwards in circular motions until all traces of surface make-up and dirt have been emulsified. Place the accompanying muslin wash cloth in hand-hot water, ring out then press over the face and neck. Inhaling the steam vapour deeply will promote relaxation as well as opening up pores for a thorough clean. Gently remove all traces of the cleanser then rinse the face and neck with cold water to close the pores, tone the skin and boost circulation. This product gets top points for efficacy. My oily skin can lead to sporadic breakouts but after a month of cleansing religiously with this product, morning and night, my skin has never looked as healthy or blemish free. While I would award this product 10 points for efficacy and ten points for outstanding value, its sole failing is the uninspired packaging, which would earn it a relatively modest 6 points. Total - 26 / 30
Emma Hardie Natural Lift Cleansing & Exfoliating Cream - £39
Leading British facialist Emma Hardie has capitalised on her strong profile and holistic approach to anti-ageing skin care with this sumptuously scented, multi-purpose botanical balm. Packed full of age defying and skin soothing ingredients such as moringa seed oil, sea fennel, vitamin e and essential oils of orange, neroli, mandarin, rose and jasmine, this product's rich formulation is particularly effective for mature or especially dry / jet-lagged skin types. I recommend this product for flying as you can apply a thin layer as a deeply nourishing in-flight mask to soothe flair ups and boost cell hydration. The additional rosehip seeds have a potent anti-ageing effect and may be mixed into the balm, with the mixture doubling as a superb bi-weekly scrub to boost cell turnover and smooth the skin. The packaging is simple but visually pleasing - a welcome addition to the most luxurious of bathrooms. I awarded this product 8 points for efficacy as it is particularly good for mature skins rather than all skin types. The sleek packaging and high-quality, double-sided face cloth warranted 9 points while the £39 price tag meant that this product lost out on the value-for-money category with a disappointing 6 points. At that price, no matter how good the ingredients, it would only be accessible to a select few. In today's financial climate, I'd imagine most people would question the viability of spending nearly £40 on a product that essentially cleans your skin. Total - 23 / 30
Rodial A-List Cleanser - £48, 100ml
This high-end cleanser boasts Rodial's signature super-antioxidant active ingredient - anti-ageing pomegranate ellagic tannin to repair and restore the skin. Waterlilly extract reduces redness and inflammation while collagen plumps, vitamin c smoothes fine lines and amino acids boost radiance. Though pleasantly scented and with a pleasant texture, the price of this product is prohibitive. The lack of an additional face cloth seems somewhat mean, given that the other two award-winning products came with a complimentary wash cloth - resulting in a disappointing 5 points for value. The easily absorbed texture and noticeably hydrating effect of the cleanser earns it an 8 for efficacy, while the deluxe packaging befits its A-List name, earning it a glorious 10 points for design. Total - 23 / 30
Liz Earle - uk.lizearle.com
Emma Hardie - www.spacenk.co.uk
Rodial - www.spacenk.co.uk