'Perfect skin' doesn't exist. We've all battled flare-ups, however serious or persistent, and are continually searching for the best problem-solving lotions and potions.
Keratosis pilaris (a.k.a. KP) are those red bumps that can appear on the backs of your arms and the only thing that helps it is gentle daily moisturizing — We like Ameliorate’s Body Lotion. Don't over-exfoliate; it makes it worse because it irritates it.
The eye area is a common place to show sun damage and also to develop skin cancers because people don't put their SPF high enough up. The lips are also often neglected — special SPF lip balms are a great idea, but try and get a high factor. Women, especially with darker skin tones, quite often get pigmentation on their lips, a sign of sun damage that is very different to treat so prevention is key.
Gentle is good. Some daily face washes with gentle exfoliation are great, but don't go for full-on daily exfoliation, especially if you have spots or sensitive skin. Cleansed skin is essential because it makes all your other products perform better, but heavy exfoliation can actually remove the protective layers of the skin leaving you more prone to sensitivity.
We love cleansing brushes because they're gentle, but they're effective.
Often anti-aging creams are thick and gloopy, which feel lovely but they might actually make people spottier. If you can pour or squeeze a product out of a tube (like a serum), it's going to be much better for your skin than a thick cream in a pot. Don’t suffocate your skin!
Even if you're in your 30s and wonder "why have I got acne now?" the first thing is to get expert treatment, or at least advise, early on. I have a lot of patients in their 30s with acne. The average age for getting spots is about 27.
People leave it too long to seek treatment for acne, and then when they do see their GP they're often not that sympathetic to how it affects people. GPs often tell people that acne is a cosmetic problem and they can't do anything about it, but of course it's not — it's a skin disease like eczema or rosacea. The problem is that if acne is left untreated, not only can it scar but it can also knock someone's confidence hugely.
Acne is partly genetic, but there's much more to it. We know that stress is definitely a factor, environment, poor sleep patterns, poor diet and drinks excessive alcohol, sorry! We used to say diet has no effect whatsoever, but now there is evidence that in a few people high GI diet and high dairy diets can exasperate acne.
Hormonal changes tend to make spots worse. For example, when people start on the pill they can get an outbreak of spots but after four months or so they settle, and the same can happen when you become pregnant.
People switch from one product to another hoping it's going to cure acne or sensitivity, but cosmetic products aren't likely to ever make significant skin problems hugely better. Let’s stick to a product for at least 4-6 weeks to see whether or not it's actually making a difference, give it a chance!
If something's been there for months, you've tried to squeeze it and it won't go, it could just look like a spot but be something completely different. It could either be something harmless like benign fibrous papule, or, if it is actually growing very slowly, in some cases it could be a minor form of skin cancer. So if you've got one spot that looks very different to the others and sticks around, it's worth getting it looked at by an expert.
It's never the first time you use a product that you get a reaction, you need to be sensitized to it first. It could be weeks, months or years and then a reaction comes. People say "I've used that shampoo for 5 years, it can't be that", or "I've dyed my hair since I was 12" but it's exactly that sort of person who gets a reaction, someone that's been using something for years.
With thanks to Sophie Shotter at Illuminate Skin Clinic.