blemishes

DEALING WITH HORMONAL BREAKOUTS : PART I

Firstly I'll make it clear that what we're discussing here is not the likes of a single nasty blemish which pops up at a certain time of the month and lingers in pain for a few days before disappearing for three weeks. Although by all means any of the products below would be ideal for said blemish, the topic on the table today is of a slightly more long-term variety...

Hormonal acne typically consists of incredibly sore, inflamed cystic blemishes. These can mostly be found on the cheeks, jawline, chin, temples, and around the mouth; and rather than disappearing completely, they tend to fade into pink marks which can scar incredibly easily. Like many women, when I hit my twenties my skin made a complete turnaround; my highly blemish prone T-zone cleared up, and my previously flawless cheeks and jaw were beset with such a swarm of angry red blemishes... Not ideal!

I'd curated a fantastic lineup of skincare to cater for my skin prior to this turnaround, but as the cause of hormonal acne is [as the name suggests!] based upon hormones, my failsafe blemish busters were no longer having the desired effect. I soon realised that no matter what I was using, the breakouts on my cheeks continued to appear. If I did happen to use an unsuitable product, then a tell-tale sign of its incompatibility with my skin would be a breakout on my T-zone.

Over the past few months I've made considerable changes to my what's going into my body [this can really effect hormone balance], and have seen considerable changes in my complexion. Making a conscious effort to drink more water, swapping out coffee for green tea, and cutting back on my dairy and sugar intakes have done the world of good [I'll speak more about this next week]. Whilst skincare may not be able to prevent hormonal breakouts, certain ingredients can certainly help to calm the redness, reduce inflammation, and heal scarred skin. Below I've shared the products which through cleansing, exfoliating, and treating, have proven successful in dealing with the aftermath of my hormonal breakouts.

CLEANSE La Roche-Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel : Finding a simple, hydrating cleanser which purifies and nourishes the skin without causing irritation is key to managing hormonal breakouts, and this French pharmacy favourite is a bona fide crowd-pleaser. Since blemish-prone skin can also be dry and dehydrated, harsh cleansers can easily aggravate the condition, but this gentle gel cleanses thoroughly, and without compromising on hydration levels. Dead Sea Spa Magik Black Mud Soap : Whether or not you believe in the healing benefits of Dead Sea mud, this soap is rich in minerals and sulphates which are well known for having a purifying and calming effect upon acne-prone skin [and is free of all nasties!]. Since using this I've found inflammation has been massively reduced [thanks for the recommendation Bridie!].

EXFOLIATE Radical Exfoliating Pads* : Rich in AHA and BHA exfoliants [acids which gently exfoliate skin cells and encourage cell turnover], these pads are your queue-jump ticket to clearer, brighter skin. The red marks left by blemishes are usually only a few layers deep, so with each use you're one step closer to fading the pigmentation. PIXI Glow Tonic : In much the same way as the above, this toner smoothens, exfoliates, and brightens the skin. The formula is alcohol-free and a little less concentrated than Radical pads, so is ideal for those with dry or especially sensitive skin types. Raccine Ultimate Hydra Gentle Refining Scrub* : Typically, manual exfoliants are not quite as deeply penetrating or effective as their chemical counterparts, but this gentle scrub contains AHAs, BHAs, and a finely-milled formula which gently buffs away dead skin cells [the best of both worlds]. Ideal for bi-weekly pre-mask exfoliation.

TREAT Eve Lom Rescue Mask : This deep cleansing clay mask does a little bit of everything, including working a treat in instantly fading redness and reducing the size of blemishes. It heats up upon application with a slight tingling sensation and leaves my skin noticeably clearer, calmer, and brighter upon removal. Literally the only mask I used when my skin was at its worse as nothing else has quite the same calming effect. Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion : Mario Badescu has something of a cult following in the States, where the brand is a favourite of anyone who is serious about outting congested and blemish-prone skin. This astringent lotion is best used upon targeted areas, as it is drying. Dotted onto blemishes however it reduces pain, swelling, and redness in a matter of hours. In comparison to other targeted spot treatments I've found this to be the most effective when dealing with cystic acne.

Stay tuned for Part II next week, in which I discuss dietary tweaks and the products which have helped to repair, protect, and hydrate my skin during hormonal breakouts.

If you have any product suggestions I'd love to hear them, so do share below!

G

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**As always, I am not a dermatologist and I speak only from what experience I have gained either in dealing with my own skin, during my training as a beauty advisor, and in assisting friends and family with similar issues.

Inside Out Beauty

Makeup may be the go-to tool for providing a short-term answer to our beauty concerns, but pair your makeup bag essentials with some skincare additions and you'll be sorted in the long-term as well. Below I've rounded up the two-step answers to perfecting your most sought after beauty looks.

For an even complexion : If you're looking for a one-stop skincare answer to redness-prone, blemish-scarred skin then look no further than cult French pharmacy favourite La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo +. A soothing serum which works as a preventative spot-treatment as well as reducing the appearance of marks and blemishes, and soothing inflammation, Effaclar Duo will leave you with a noticeably calmer complexion after just a few weeks of use. For a base makeup which provides good coverage without aggravating or irritating sensitive skin, Nars Sheer Glow Foundation ticks ALL of the boxes. A little goes a long way, and when buffed in gently this foundation leaves the complexion looking clearer and brighter, masking redness and scarring with an A* prowess.

For a healthy glow : Just one use of Origins' Drinkup Intensive Overnight Mask (a generous layer applied post-cleanse before bed) will leave you with noticeably brighter and healthier looking skin come morning. This divinely scented mask leaves skin with a glow only otherwise achievable via a juice cleanse/£100 facial/week in Fiji - a real boost for dull and lacklustre complexions. Sweep a dose of the Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Powder as a finishing touch to your makeup and expect skin to boast a luminous finish - a subtle/natural take on the 'golden goddess' look (and any fear of appearing orange a thing of the past).

For a perfect pout : Do as the savviest lipstick lovers do and prep your skin prior to application in order to provide a smooth, clean base and optimal application/finish/last. For a satisfyingly sweet exfoliation apply one of LUSH's Lip Scrubs 15 minutes before beginning your makeup application. Remove and allow a few minutes before applying your lip colour of choice. My personal favourite?  Tom Ford Lip Colour in Indian Rosea brown-toned pink which leans a little on the warmer end of the spectrum and boasts a subtle sheen. This is a 'my lips but better' with emphasis on the 'better' kind of lipstick and leaves my lips looking defined and plump without appearing too bold or glossy. Tom Ford saves the day yet again.

For dewy skin : For bright, radiant, smooth skin (of the professionally Photoshopped variety), invest in a bottle of the Radical Skin Perfecting Screen* - an SPF/primer/(ever so slightly) tinted moisturiser/all round glow-getter of the luxe variety. Enriched with light-reflecting pigments and powerful antioxidants, this light lotion leaves skin looking bright and healthy - with a glowing sheen but matte texture - the ideal makeup base. Mix a few drops of perennial favourite Benefit High Beam into your foundation for a subtle brightening effect - radiant skin without the greasiness. Dab a little along the brow and tops of the cheekbones for additional dewiness.

For a lit from within radiance : Meet the serum which will (almost) make you consider going without foundation. The Radical Multi-Brightening Serum* leaves skin appearing instantly revitalised - I almost wish I was exaggerating, but really, if your skin is suffering from dullness or pigmentation, then you need this heavyweight within your skincare arsenal. What more could a girl want than a one-stop luminous glow with multiple skincare benefits?? Continue with your hardcore glow-getting via the addition of the Eve Lom Light Illusion Concealer*. With a formula which includes white tea extract (nature's original illuminator), vitamins, fruit cells, and caffeine - you can be assured that this light, creamy concealer will brighten even the tiredest of complexions. Sweep along the bridge of your nose, under the eyes, and across the cheekbones (Touche Éclat style) for an instantly brighter complexion.

For reduced blemishes : By far the speediest and most effective spot-on blemish treatment I have ever used (and trust me, I've used many), La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I. reduces pain and swelling in a matter of hours, banishing even the nastiest of blemishes without drying out the surrounding area. For a long-lasting, high coverage concealer with a minuscule price tag, opt for beauty bloggers' favourite - Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer. With a creamy, pigmented formula, this heavy duty concealer masks blemishes and redness without caking or feeling heavy upon the skin. Apply before and after foundation for optimal coverage.

For refined pores : Apply a generous layer of the REN Invisible Pores Detox Mask (with extra thick application on problem areas) to draw out impurities and minimise the size and appearance of blackheads and enlarged pores. This deep cleansing mask is clay-based but super moisturising so will detoxify your skin without drying it out. A word of advice : do not be frugal. A do-it-all wonder if you have oily skin, Dr Brandt Pores No More Primer blurs pores, lines, and imperfections better than any other primer I've used. Long-lasting and absorbent, it keeps makeup in place and pores invisible all day long, and provides a shield to prevent foundation from further clogging skin.

What are your favourite makeup/skincare duos?

G x

To stay updated on future posts you can follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Bloglovin.

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My Skincare Story

I rattle on about skincare enough on this blog to owe you, my readers, the skincare equivalent of my recent makeup post - in which I revealed the details of my relationship with makeup and it's evolution over the years. My personal journey with skincare has been a longer and more complex one, but I feel that providing you with an understanding of my history with skincare will place my skincare-related posts within a stronger and more identifiable context. I think there's something of a tendency within the beauty world to skip over the more unpleasant aspects of skincare - and whilst I can wholly understand that not everyone has issues with their skin, and not everyone wants to talk about them - I know that there are a LOT of people out there with skincare issues who look to blogs for the answers. As someone who suffered in silence with problem skin for many years, I know how good a feeling it is when you find someone with similar skincare story to yours and feel finally able to talk about your issues with someone who can relate to them. So I sincerely hope that if anything, this post will be the one which provides comfort and peace of mind to the shy, self-conscious, spot-prone teenager who spends her days trawling the Internet for skincare advice, as I once did.

Like most people's, my story is one of many ups and downs, and of learning by trial and error - if it's taught my anything, it's that perseverance and patience is key. As a teen I suffered from mild acne - mainly focussed upon my T-zone. Unfortunately, my quest to clear my skin began in the 'Teen Skincare' aisle of Boots (I have REAL issues with that aisle/name), where I subjected my poor face to the likes of Clearasil and Clean & Clear. With no other alternative/knowledge, I truly believed that the stronger the product the better, and adopted a daily routine involving gritty scrubs, drying foaming cleansers, and astringent alcoholic wipes. I also made the common mistake of assuming that having spotty skin meant I had oily skin, so I refused point blank to use any kind of oil/cream-based product or moisturiser on my skin. In stripping my skin of it's essential oils via the harsh products, and neglecting to replenish them sufficiently, my skin went into oil production override, which simply reinforced my belief that I had oily skin -  a vicious circle.

At the time, I accepted that spots were a burden which you had bear through your teens, and that come my twenties I'd have clear, smooth, blemish prone skin - so for a long time I continued with this routine. I hated my spots, and they were a huge knock to my confidence and self-esteem during my teen years, but those were the years before skincare advice had made it's impact upon the mass market, and I'd never even heard of La Roche-Posay, or dreamed of spending more than £3 on a cleanser. It was only really when I started university that I became super super conscious of my bad skin, and my desire for change kicked me into full-on research mode (and so I discovered the world of beauty blogging!). I switched out my Neutrogena for an entirely LUSH-based routine in the hope that a simpler and more natural approach to skincare would work some magic. It did, and within six months my skin was a lot clearer and calmer, and I could go days without a blemish. I learnt that my skin was not in fact oily, but actually very sensitive, dehydrated, and as prone to dryness as it was to breakouts. As you can imagine, introducing a cream cleanser and moisturiser to my skincare routine was a truly defining moment.

As I explored the world of beauty blogging, I discovered new brands, techniques, and approaches to skincare - learning about different types of cleansers, skin types and concerns, the concept of double cleansing, the use of facial massage techniques, and most importantly the idea that a simple, gentle approach to skincare was so much more effective than the use of strong, astringent products better suited to cleaning my bathroom than my face. My skin's condition continued to improve, and I gradually introduced new products and brands to my routine - notably the likes of La Roche-Posay, Avene, and Soap & Glory. About a year ago, my skin was at the best it had been in years, when I suffered from a product-related breakout on my cheeks. I'd never previously suffered from many blemishes on my cheeks but these ones really lingered and I gained a lot of long-lasting blemish marks - something else I'd never really experienced before (I've written about my experience dealing with scarring/marks here). Soon after I really upped my skincare game and began using the likes of Antipodes, REN, Aesop, and Origins alongside my French skincare staples. Aside from scarring, my skin is finally at a relatively "normal" state. I'd still describe it as combination, spot-prone, and sensitive, but it's calmer and clearer than it's ever been and breakouts are few and far between and largely hormone-related.

I'm very aware that my skincare story is by no means over - my skin still isn't perfect, and probably never will be, but I've come to accept this and the fact that I'm not alone in my situation. I've learnt that you should treat your skin with care and respect - it is after all your largest and most visible organ, and that a gentle, nourishing approach will solve all ills. If you're at a loss for skincare advice, by all means comment below/email/tweet me - I'm no dermatologist, but would relish the chance to put what I have learnt over the years to good use. Alternatively, you can check out my skincare tips and tricks or my advice for building a skincare routine, and I've listed below a few products which really upped my skincare game. If you think you have similar skin type/concerns to me then do check out my skincare posts and in particular my skincare diary series.

I would also love to hear about your individual skincare stories, so write your own or comment below!

G x

To stay updated on future posts you can follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Bloglovin.

The game changers : La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo +, Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque, La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I., Clarisonic Aria, Pixi Glow Tonic, Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser, La Roche-Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel, Trilogy Rosehip Oil, Origins Drinkup Intensive Overnight Mask, Soap & Glory The Ultimelt Hot Cloth Cleanser, Lush Catastrophe Cosmetic Face Mask, Lush 9 to 5 Cleansing Lotion, Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum, The Body Shop Camomile Silk Cleansing Oil, Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser.

My Makeup Story

Growing up I wasn't much of a girly-girl so makeup wasn't big on my teen agenda. My mum didn't wear makeup and I don't have any older sisters so it wasn't something I was really fussed about, and my only experience of it (observing my peers cake their faces in nasty orange foundation) wasn't exactly appealing... Aside from mascara and the occasional dash of lipstick, I only started to wear and experiment with makeup when I started university and my skin started to clear up. It's been a love affair from there, and I think it's really important for us as modern women to EMBRACE rather than shy from a love of beauty and makeup.

We need to move away from the assumption that an interest in beauty products is shallow and stupid, and understand that it's perfectly possible to be smart, confident, and accomplished women yet still harbour a passion for lipstick and feel a thrill of excitement upon opening a new face cream. I like to think that this idea is at the heart of That Grace Girl, so in today's post I wanted to reveal a little about the origins and evolution of my own personal relationship with beauty.

Base I only started wearing foundation about three years ago, and even now I would much rather go without it if I could. This was mainly down to the fact that my skin was so bad throughout my teens, that I was terrified of putting anything on it that wasn't classed as 'skincare'. Base makeup is the one area where I truly believe that paying more pays off. In terms of formula and shade range, high-end foundations are miles ahead of their drugstore counterparts, and as someone with a history of skincare woes I much prefer to play it safe when it comes to what I put on my skin, and stick to what I know and trust (i.e. Nars Sheer Glow). Concealer works wonders and I find it incredibly useful when it comes to covering redness and brightening the under-eye area. When covering blemishes I always apply my concealer before my foundation as I find it draws too much attention to spots when applied on top. I also really love powder and think that it's an incredibly under-rated product. A really good powder can make such a difference to the finish and last of your foundation. And let's face it, compacts are chic.

My picks: Nars Sheer Glow Foundation in Siberia, Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua Foundation in 10 Beige, Bare Minerals Original SPF Foundation in Fairly Light, Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer in Fair, Eve Lom Light Illusion Concealer in Alabaster*, Chanel Les Beiges Powder in N10Real Techniques Buffing Brush

Eyes Mascara was the first makeup item I ever wore and is the one thing I won't leave the house without. Of all of the many and varied products we apply to our faces I really think that it makes the biggest difference  - and also requires minimal time and effort - so win win. I went through a terribly embarrassing teen obsession with bright glitter eyeshadow, so in recent years have kept my eye makeup pretty minimal. It's only really been within the last six months or so that I've started to branch out and experiment a bit more with eyeshadow - albeit of a much more subtle type. I have quite sensitive eyes so I don't wear eyeliner on a regular basis, but when I do I've found that (for me at least) less is more. A subtle application with a pen-liner throughout the roots of my lashes suits my far better than a bold cat-eye flick.

My picks: L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes Mascara, KIKO Longlasting Stick Eyeshadow, Bobbi Brown Shimmer Wash Eyeshadow, The Balm Nude'tude Eyeshadow Palette, No7 Stay Perfect Shade & DefineZoeva 227 Blending Brush*

Lips My relationship with lipstick has always been a bit of a peculiar one - I LOVE buying it and have enough bullets in my MUJI drawers to go a few weeks without wearing the same one twice, but in reality there are only a handful of lipsticks that I actually wear. I definitely think that when it comes to lipstick there are two types of people - those who can pull off any and every lipstick out there (and look REALLY good in it) and those of us who have to be a bit more picky... I have very thin lips so I always used to avoid wearing nudes and really bold colours. However I've since found that some bold colours really suit me, and some nudes make my lips look bigger. However, this certain 'je ne said quoi' has no rule or reason to it at all - I can wear my Chanel red to my hearts content, but the incredibly similar Rimmel shade I picked up looks terrible on me. My biggest tip to anyone with thin lips is to wear a nude lipliner with every lipstick. This helps, a lot.

My picks: Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in Captivante, Chanel Rouge Coco Hydrating Lip Colour in Gabrielle, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, MAC See Sheer, MAC Cosmo, Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Boy, No7 Precision Lip Pencil in Nude.

Cheeks Blusher and I don't have much of a history. I only own two, they're both very subtle, and one is more of a contour shade than a blush. Again, I think this probably goes back to having spent my teen years surrounded by girls with bright pink/red blusher washed across their faces because OTT blusher is my biggest pet peeve. Closely followed by OTT bronzer. Contouring looks best when it's super subtle (to the point where you want people to ask IF you're wearing bronzer, not which bronzer you're wearing), and should also be achieved with an equal balance of light and dark, so a highlighter is equally as important. I'm pale and find it hard to wear bronzer so I tend to rely more upon a highlighter to create the illusion of cheekbones. I also find that using a brown-toned blush is WAY more effective than using a bronzer to contour (they always tend to be too orange-toned). Aside from finding the right shade to suit you, a good blending brush is essential.

My picks: Nars Blush in Douceur, MAC Powder Blush in Flower Power, Benefit Hoola Bronzer, Nars Illuminator in Orgasm*, Benefit High Beam, No7 Skin Illuminator in Peach.

Eyebrows When I first started filling in and shaping my brows the high-street offered just two eyebrow pencils - neither in a shade particularly suited to my ashy brows. However, c/o Cara Delevinge eyebrows are having a bit of a moment and these days we're really quite spoiled for choice. Until about a year ago an eyebrow pencil was my weapon of choice, but I've since become a convert to using an eyeshadow instead. This makes for a much more natural take on a bold, defined brow - free of rigid lines, easily buildable, and (thanks to MAC and blending) you're pretty much guaranteed to find a spot-on shade. Paired with a brow gel or clear mascara to improve the last and shape, bold brows can remain bold all day long.

My picks: MAC Eyeshadow in Corduroy, No7 Lash and Brow Perfector.

I would love to hear some snippets from your makeup stories! What shaped and inspired your love of beauty?

G x

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