Some days the art of grooming feels like a burden. While I'm all for looking and feeling wonderful (using the tools and products that are comfortable for you), there are certain beauty 'ailments' that can cause endless frustration and downright embarrassment. After years of experimenting, I have found some pretty decent solutions to some of the more common beauty emergencies. As well as working as a makeup artist, I have a long history in the pharmacy industry; here I discovered some excellent tips, and some products that are must-haves for any beauty first aid kit.
While I have shared my own tips and knowledge below, I must emphasise that I am not a trained health professional. Please contact a pharmacist, doctor, or dermatologist if you require expert advice.
Whether it's one angry zit or persistent acne, breakouts can be incredibly upsetting and frustrating. Pimples are caused by excess sebum (oil) production combined with bacteria inside the pore. To treat pimples, take gentle care of your skin. Don't over-scrub or over-cleanse - these actions can irritate the skin and make breakouts worse. Use a gentle cleanser and a very lightweight moisturiser (if any) over the affected areas.
One of the best things you can do is use a salicylic acid based product to calm the skin and clear the pore area. Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory, so it will calm redness and breakouts, and as a bonus, it boosts collagen production and smoothes skin texture. It is also excellent for prevention. My favourite SA product, Paula's Choice BHA Gel can be found here. I've been using this for years and have got countless friends and clients on to it. (For $15 off, click here).
Hydrogen peroxide is also a good quick fix for pimples. This ingredient kills off the bacteria quickly (great for painful blind pimples). Crystaderm is an over the counter hydrogen peroxide cream available from pharmacies. Buy online here.
Try and leave pimples alone to heal. I need to take my own advice on this one, because I cannot for the life of me resist squeezing! Too much fussing and touching can leave scars and red marks. Hands and fingers can also introduce more bacteria to the face, so please wash your hands before you touch your skin.
In general, I try and avoid touching my face, including leaning my chin in my hands. Change your pillowcase regularly, and give your phone a wipe down every week or two.
Severe breakouts or acne
If your skin is extremely problematic, you may need to see a dermatologist or skin specialist for treatment. Severe acne, especially around the jawline and chin, can be caused by hormonal issues. I also highly recommend seeing a naturopath for a health check - balancing hormones and stress naturally can have a wonderful effect on the skin. I personally believe in creating health through lifestyle interventions rather than relying on medication.
Diet also plays an enormous role in beautiful skin - I find reducing sugar, dairy, and gluten beneficial for me. For more information, read "Beauty From The Inside Out" by Dr Libby.
Despite owning enough lip balm to supply a small village, I still get the odd bout of chapped lips, usually in winter.
My first and most crucial tip: DO NOT LICK YOUR LIPS. Saliva will dry them out even more.
Choose a nourishing lip balm with a natural base. I have tried everything, and I find that products like Chapstick and Blistex only provide surface protection. If your lips are severely chapped and flaky, apply a very thick layer of balm and leave it to soak in for ten minutes. Gently exfoliate your lips with a facecloth or soft toothbrush, and repeat the process if necessary.
Some lip products like matte liquid lipsticks will dry the lips out, so give your lips some love and apply lip balm after wearing lipstick and/or liner.
My favourite lip products
Hurraw Lip Balm for every day use. This gorgeous range has some delicious flavours - I love Coconut and Chai.
Frank Lip Balm and Scrub for an intense hit of moisture.
Green Goddess Hemp Oil lip balm for soothing, repairing moisture.
Karen Murrell Lipsticks for nourishing colour.
I also use good old coconut oil on my lips.
Dry, flaky scalp
Dandruff is a bit of an embarrassing topic, but my years in pharmacy taught me that it's incredibly common and easily treated. If your scalp is simply dry and flaky, use a supermarket dandruff shampoo like Head and Shoulders once or twice a week to help eliminate the dry flakes. Note: Dandruff shampoo will fade your hair colour like nothing else. If you have a lovely chocolate brown or vibrant red tone that you want to keep fresh, invest in a coloured shampoo or mask from a shampoo shop to avoid colour fading. Some other scalp tips:
- Avoid super hot water on your scalp. I do this in winter sometimes, and it makes my scalp dry and irritated.
- Consider switching to a sulphate-free shampoo to avoid over cleansing your scalp. I love the Eco Store Sensitive range when my scalp is feeling irritated (available from the supermarket).
- Minimise use of dry shampoo and hairspray.
- Do a moisturising coconut oil massage on your scalp, and leave it in for fifteen minutes before shampooing out. Coconut oil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
If your scalp is flaky AND is itchy, sore, really oily, or has scaly patches, go and talk to a pharmacist. You may need an anti-fungal shampoo, or you may have to see a doctor for a prescription solution.
Eyelash loss and breakage
So you've hit the eyelash extensions too hard, and now your lashes are ruined? It happens to the best of us.
When I see makeup clients who have lash breakage and loss, it's due to prolonged wear of eyelash extensions, a bad experience in a salon, or poor maintenance. If you do want lash extensions, PLEASE do your homework. Ask around, and go on recommendation, don't just book in somewhere on impulse. It just takes one bad set to ruin your lashes for months. Be aware that lash extensions are a commitment - you will need to get them maintained every two to three weeks. Don't ever pick them off. Get them removed properly.
The good news is, lashes grow back. The even better news; lash serums like Lilash and Revitalash work a treat. These clever lash growth serums can also be used with eyelash extensions to keep your natural lashes strong.
I prefer a good mascara over extensions any day. To keep your lashes healthy, ALWAYS take your mascara and eye makeup off. Leaving mascara on makes lashes extremely brittle and susceptible to breakage - be sure to use an oil-based makeup remover and get every last trace of mascara off. Conditioning your lashes with coconut oil at night is a lovely way to keep them soft and healthy.
Of all the beauty dilemmas listed here, ingrown hairs are my absolute nightmare. Especially in the bikini area.
With any hair removal comes the risk of ingrowns, and they are difficult to prevent and treat. For me, they happen no matter what I do, but certain things do help. The Paula's Choice BHA Gel that I mentioned above gets right into the hair follicle and clears out the pore. I use this over problem areas a few times a week.
If you shave, change your razor regularly. Use a shaving oil or coconut oil to assist the process.
I also recommend using an exfoliating glove in the shower every few days and applying a lightweight moisturiser after showering. If you've just had a wax, avoiding tight clothing, exercise, and excessive heat for the next 24-48 hours can help prevent ingrown hairs from forming.
If, like me, you struggle with ingrown hairs, DO consider laser hair removal. While pricey, long-term it works out cheaper than constant wax appointments and the purchasing of shaving supplies. And it is a hell of a lot easier.
I'm currently undergoing laser hair removal at Off Wax, and I cannot recommend this treatment enough. It is quite literally life-changing. I've had four of six sessions on my underarm and Brazilian areas, and 80-90% of the hair is completely gone. No more constant grooming! Important note: Laser and IPL are not the same. Laser is much more targeted and effective. At some stage, I will devote a whole blog post to this remarkable technology. Come summer I will be able to throw on my bikini without worrying about my bikini line, and I cannot wait.
Overgrown, DRY cuticles
Cuticles are delicate wee things, and they need gentle care. Be aware that most of the cuticle is still alive, so avoid the temptation to try and cut your cuticles. After a shower, push them back gently with a towel or cuticle stick. Alternatively, soak your hands in warm water and apply an oil or moisturiser to the cuticle area to soften.
Carry hand cream and give your cuticles a good massage and moisturise when you can. Massaging will also help to stimulate blood flow and in turn, will boost nail growth.
PLEASE don't cut your cuticles at home and risk infection. Go to a reputable, clean salon and get a professional to do it for you. A basic manicure will leave your hands looking beautifully groomed. If your toenails need some help, the same steps above apply. Feet are notoriously tough, and the skin around the nails can grow quickly, so use a good foot cream after showering and concentrate on the cuticle area.
Rough, dry heels and feet
Some people are more prone to thickened, rough skin on the heels and feet. While it may be normal, it does not look good in sandals or open high heels. Keep your feet smooth by using a foot file in the shower - I like the Scholl options. Lather on some intensive foot cream over the heels and soles after buffing, and pop a pair of socks on to help it all soak in. The Linden Leaves Foot Cream is to die for.
If your feet are really rough and sore, consider a trip to a podiatrist (foot doctor), who can carefully and painlessly remove thick layers of dead skin.
Have you ever tried a new product and quickly felt a prickly, hot sensation on your skin, followed by a lovely red rash? Skin reactions are incredibly common, and thankfully, easily treated.
Skin care and makeup products contain a large number of ingredients, and any of these single components can cause an allergic reaction. When using multiple products together, we are even more at risk of skin reactions. You can react to both chemical and natural ingredients; natural does not mean safe for highly-sensitive skin.
DO opt for fragrance-free products (including natural fragrances like essential oils if your skin is sensitive). Avoid highly cleansing body and face washes - try a sulphate free option if you're prone to dryness and irritation.
What to do if you have a reaction
Stop using the product in question immediately. Apply a topical hydrocortisone cream (0.5%) to the area to calm and relieve itching - hydrocortisone is available from pharmacies, and it's like putting water on fire. Hydrocortisone is perfectly safe for short-term use, but not ideal to use every day. Oral antihistamines like Claratyne work a treat if you have had a reaction over a large part of your body. I always travel with both of these products in case I have a skin reaction or get attacked by mozzies. While you're treating a skin reaction, avoid anything fragranced on the area, and don't use soap or body wash.
DO go and speak to a pharmacist or see a doctor if your skin reaction is severe, or if it is around the delicate eye or lip areas. If hydrocortisone and antihistamines don't help, or your reaction doesn't calm down after a few days, I would advise getting it checked out.
Scaly, Dry skin
Winter can leave skin feeling a little parched, as can swimming and sun exposure during summer. Lightweight body lotions aren't grunty enough for dry scaly skin - you'll need a rich body butter and/or body oil.
Try layering coconut or almond oil underneath a thick body butter for an intense treatment. Moisturise as soon as you get out of the shower. I do this every single day, and my skin stays nice and smooth and hydrated.
Before you moisturise, use an exfoliating mitt or glove in the shower with a gentle (preferably sulphate free) body wash. I prefer a glove to body scrubs, as I feel they do a better job. I also love coffee scrubs used ON the glove when I want to feel baby smooth. The coffee scrubs available are usually blended with moisturising oils which leave a lovely finish on the skin.
If you want a super intense smoothing treatment, I highly recommend the Paula's Choice Resist Skin Revealing AHA Body Lotion. It leaves skin silky and gorgeous, and I love using it the day before I apply my self-tan (I use Little Honey).
AVOID the use of soap (other than the necessary areas) and standard body washes as these can strip the skin of moisture.
If your skin is scaly and red and itchy, consult a pharmacist or a doctor. Some skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis require medicated treatment. If you suffer from any of these, avoid ALL fragranced skin and body care, and only use very gentle cleansers. For more information on dealing with these conditions, click here.
Split ends and hair breakage
If you colour and heat style your hair regularly, it's likely you will experience some hair breakage.
If like me, you've gone from blonde to brunette to blonde to copper back to blonde, it's fair to say your hair is highly stressed and needs some serious love. Here are my tops tips for preventing and treating split ends and breakage.
- Get a cut and remove some of the damage. If you're not up for a big chop, get regular trims. Trims are essential to keep you hair looking and feeling healthy - if you're growing your hair, get a stylist you can trust to dust the ends with the scissors.
- NEVER brush or comb your hair when it's wet. Only use a Tangle Teezer (from shampoo shops) on damp hair, and brush from the bottom up, gently working out tangles.
- On the topic of Tangle Teezers, switch your current brush out for one. When I did, it transformed my fragile blonde hair. Regular bristle brushes can snap damaged hair off easily, but Tangle Teezers don't create and pressure on the scalp due to their incredible detangling abilities.
- If you're blonde, try Olaplex during colouring (ask your hairdresser), or consider reducing the amount of bleaching you're doing. The Sombre (soft ombre) look is a beautiful way to transition from a full head of highlights or bleach to a less damaging, lower maintenance colour.
- Wherever possible, let your hair dry naturally. If you do use a hair dryer, use a heat protector spray, lotion, or cream before drying (and before heat styling).
- Try and have at least a few days per week where you don't use any hot tools. Try a high ponytail or a bun or a braid. Overuse of straighteners and curling tongs can cause mega damage to delicate hair strands.
- Minimise your use of hairspray and dry shampoo or any hair product that contains alcohol.
- Plait your hair into a loose braid while you sleep, and consider a silk pillowcase to avoid breakage overnight.
- Above all, be gentle with your locks. Don't dry them roughly with towels, brush too vigorously, or change hair colour too often. Do regular treatment masks. Try a coconut oil hair mask for natural nourishment.
- Consider switching to a sulphate free shampoo. I have mentioned sulphate free products throughout this post and for good reason. Sulphates are essentially detergents - they strip away dirt and oil, but also remove the natural oils we need on our skin and in our hair, disturbing the natural balance. Go for something with a gentle coconut-derived cleansing agent. I love the Eco Store range and Davines shampoos.