Created | Updated Nov 15, 2007
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All thing wise and wonderful...
... you've got to pay for it all.
OK, OK, that was a bit cynical, we know. But you've got to admit, the proliferation of cosmetic products on the market today is totally astonishing; hundreds of millions of totally useless, er... varied products jostling every day for space on our supermarket shelves with other 'essentials' like food and clothing.
As a species, we spend an increasing amount of time frowning collectively into the mirror, more often than not, uncomfortable with what we're seeing. And the cosmetic giants know this all too well...
Mind you, looking good and wanting to look your best is no crime. Indeed, it's a perfectly natural thing to do, especially if it's all done with a sense of balance and perspective and if you've not paid out a fortune to some huge profiteer but rather found a natural cheap alternative yourself.
Let's start with a very basic tip - use a face scrub to get rid of all the debris; don't scour your face, just gently rub and leave it on for one minute. Rinse off with warm water and then wash your face with aqueous cream. Soap is a big no-no for all your skin - it dries your skin whereas aqueous cream doesn't. If you are using a large tub of cream (which is dirt cheap) use a spoon to scoop it out as you could contaminate the rest of the tub with germs from your hand.
If you want to 'keep young and beautiful', then there's one really easy thing you can do - stay out of the sun. While some sunshine and fresh air is undoubtedly good for you, suntans contribute to ageing and the tan itself is actually evidence of skin damage. It's no coincidence that 'tanning' can be used to describe the process for preparing leather or animal skins. Too much sun exposure/damage will leave you looking like a handbag in later life, no matter how much water you drink or how often you moisturise.
To some, brown is not healthy, it's yucky, especially if you decide to take the quick route via sunburn (which has even more health hazards attached to it - some of them fatal). This myth of 'brown = healthy' really annoys me, especially when people go on at me when I get back from my holidays about how white I am - that's what I want! Oh and it means you can wear any top without having stupid strap marks showing
If you really want to be outdoors, be sure to wear a good sunscreen (SPF15 at a minimum, SPF30 and above would be better). Wear it every day, even when it's overcast; some ultraviolet rays can get through the cloud cover. You should also wear a hat to protect your scalp. And don't forget sunglasses to protect your eyes: there is evidence that ultraviolet light damages eyes and causes cataracts. Besides, you'll look cool.
If you can't stand that 'Whiter Shade of Pale' skin, you can use tinted moisturisers or sunless tanning creams on your face. The downside of these products is that they can stain light-coloured clothing, and the stains may not wash out. You may also end up looking orange instead of tanned.
A Clean, Open Face
It's said that some supermodels use toothpaste on spots which helps to reduce the redness. Although many of us suffer from zits during adolescence, some people seem to suffer more than others. No-one likes to look like a special from your local pizzeria. Of course, acne-avoidance is governed largely by diet, but taking that extra bit of care can be rewarding. :
When I get spots I use Clearskin Blemish Control Stick. This is available from the Avon catalogue. It's not expensive and will last for years. I find it is very effective too which is great if I am planning to go out with friends!
One very important tip though; if you have spots, don't keep touching your face because that helps bacteria to spread and you'll only end up with more spots than you started with!
If you want your skin to be at its best, go to bed at a reasonable hour (most people need eight hours of sleep) and try to avoid stressful situations. Also, if you put make-up on, ensure you wash it off before sleeping; if you don't you'll only regret it in the morning! Wash your face in a medicated soap and warm water. Don't use normal soap as it dries the skin out and can replace your spots with dry skin patches. Conversely, avoid using too much moisturiser. Not only is it a waste, but your skin won't be softer, it'll just feel greasy.
One suggestion for really soft skin is to use a little baking soda in your bath in place of bubble bath. Most bubble baths dry out the skin while baking soda makes the skin feel soft and smooth.
But the most important tip to good skin is moisture. Some of us are prone to wrinkly necks and the best way to stave this off is to apply moisturiser morning and night. If not you may end up looking like the last turkey in the shop... not pretty. Remember to drink plenty of water - at least eight glasses a day. It also adds moisture and helps clean away impurities. If it gets too boring, you can put a bit of fresh orange juice or lemon juice in.
Shadows, Bags and Wrinkles
How do you get rid of wrinkles/black shadows/bags from under your eyes? Well, as far as black shadows under the eyes go, the only real way to cure those is to get enough sleep. You can try and hide them with concealer but it doesn't work as well as getting your full eight hours. In traditional Chinese medicine, having dark circles under the eyes is a sign of a Kidney imbalance. This doesn't mean that your kidneys are about to conk out and you'll need to have dialysis, but it does mean that it's about time to start taking more care of yourself and your energy levels.
Used teabags apparently work just as well. Tea leaves are also good for the skin as a whole (they can provide surprising relief for all sorts of skin ailments, from boils to sunburn. One Researcher also suggested a 'cure' for wrinkles that involves keeping two used teaspoons in the fridge. The restorative powers of tea are of course well documented, but teaspoons?:
When you are having one of those 'I could carry the shopping home in them' moments use the rounded backs of the spoons to smooth the puffy bits around your eyes. It might not do any good directly, but it feels very nice, which can only be good for your stress levels.
Our favorite suggestion though, and certainly the most unusual, is a little dab of haemoroid cream. The puffs disappear in no time.
A facelift in a tube!
Other Skin Preparation Tips
Propilis - One Researcher suggested that you should always keep a bottle of propolis1 in your pantry, for a number of different reasons:
For aphtas, and other minor (but terribly painful) non-infected wounds, a drop of propolis is all you need to seal the wound, and provide a safe healing.
It is of good help for athlete's foot, and other fungal disagreements (one of the most annoying of them, that recurring cut that never really heals between two toes).
For those days when nothing seems to warm you up, a drop or two of propolis on the tongue will put the fire back in the stove!
Porridge facepack - Here is an easy recipe for a do-it-yourself facial scrub that makes skin feel silky smooth. Mix equal amounts of oatmeal or porridge and powdered milk. For one application, try one teaspoon of each. Add a small amount of water, and stir until you have a medium-thick paste. Gently scrub your face with the mixture, and rinse well. This works best if done in the shower, because it can be kind of messy. Use this two-to-three times a week. The oatmeal acts as a gentle exfoliant, and the milk is a mild cleanser. You can keep a small jar in the bathroom with the dry oatmeal and powdered milk mix (the moist mixture does not keep well). When ready to use, take out just enough powdered mixture for one application, then add the water.
Egg Facepack - Separate an egg yolk into a dish (just the egg yolk - you can make yourself a zero-fat omelette later with the white) and grab a clean beauty brush (artists' brushes will do too, but they must be clean) and paint a medium-thick coat onto your face. Let it dry to the point of pseudo-crustiness, and wash it off. Repeat this a couple of times a day for about two months, or until you start seeing significant results. You might have to continue doing this to maintain your clear skin, but perhaps you'll be able to reduce it to once a day, or once every two days.
My younger sister (who has astonishingly bad skin due to her love of pancake make-up) tried this at my suggestion and sure enough, her skin gradually cleared up when nothing else really helped in the long term. Unfortunately, with her skin cleared up, she didn't see any reason for continuing to slather her face with egg-yolk and she stopped; the zits came back within weeks.
I'm not exactly sure why this works, but we've speculated that it has something to do with the enzymes that are present in chicken eggs.
Natural Oil-based Moisturisers - The best moisturisers are natural oils, and the best of those is sweet almond oil (cold-pressed). They are nourishing and very protective for the skin. Oils should be applied to the skin while the skin is still wet and the way you apply it, is quite important. Application should never drag or irritate the skin in any way. To moisturise the eye area, using the ring finger to avoid pressing to hard into the skin, tap (to avoid dragging this delicate tissue) lightly a small amount of the oil, all around the eye to the edges of the eye sockets.
For the rest of the face, warm a small amount of oil in the palms of your hands by rubbing your palms together and using broad upwards and outward strokes apply a thin film of the oil all over the face and neck to keep the skin feeling supple. In this way, you can stimulate the skin to remove toxins on its own without spending money on facials. If you think you have put to much oil on, wait a few minutes to let it absorb in then pat the skin.
I have found that a mixture of tea-tree oil, and lavender oil can dry out a spot in a matter of hours. The smell is a little strong, (as any one who uses tea-tree oil can tell you) but, I will never go back to over-the-counter stuff. This mixture clears up those stubborn breakouts that always happen in the same area on your face, and it's all natural. Plus, a little bottle (from aromatherapy stores and natural health stores) seems to last forever!
The new generation of skincare products actually can do more than lubricate the skin, and they do make a difference. They're pricey. If you choose to take this route be prepared to make an investment and a commitment to using them as directed. Sporadic use will not give optimal results. Having a drawer full of creams will not make them work for you.
Before purchasing skincare, give some thought to how much time you're willing to devote to it, and how many products you will really put on your face every day. If you're not used to doing anything at all, start simple. There are plenty of products that have multiple functions. Prioritise your concerns. If you're easily swayed by convincing salespeople, write it down and stick to it. Remember, you can always go back for more. Many products are sold in more than one size. Buy the smaller one the first time, and once you're convinced you like it get the larger size. It's almost always more cost effective.
I always suggest that my customers start with a few basic items to address their stated needs, see what happens after a month, and come back for a second profile to address any additional issues. I also tell them to go ahead and incorporate the new products into their current skincare regime, and replace with products from a single line. They are designed to work with each other, but your face won't fall off from mixing brands. If someone tries to tell you to have the entire thing, run away. Fast. You're being sold, not serviced.
Find a salesperson who has been in the business for a while and who is aware of the various products on the market. A particular line might not have what you are looking for, but the right salesperson will be able to tell you where to find it. Find someone who will put you in a client registry and keep track of your purchases. He or she should also offer to contact you when there is a special offer. Then make an appointment with your 'beauty advisor' when you're planning to purchase.
In all this time I've never tried to oversell a customer, or make sales based on pricepoint. I've enjoyed the benefits of developing a loyal clientele. Unfortunately, some of the people in this business don't see it that way. It is disheartening when I make the phone calls, do the makeovers, give the service, and then the customer pops in and has another beauty advisor go through my registry and gives them the benefit of my work. For most of us (at least here in the U.S.) our income is determined in some way by how much we sell. Find a beauty advisor you can trust and reward them by being a loyal client.
Hands and Nails
Whether you're a man or a woman, if you want nails to be proud of, never use a metal file on your nails - use an emery board instead. Keep your fingernails clean at all times, and perhaps consider some of the tips in the entry on nail polish.
Almond oil is, we're told, fantastic for 'feeding' your nails and keeping them strong. One Researcher recommended 'Solar Oil', which you paint just a little bit on, massage it into your nail and cuticle then leave to be absorbed. Although it does feel greasy for a minute, it also leaves your nails smooth and shiny for days.
Okay, men, here's a blunt comment from one Researcher on the subject of hair:
If you're thinning on top, do the magnanimous thing for your image and keep your hair short (No 2-3) or shave it all off. Nothing looks quite so miserable, sad or quintessentially English than a man with a bald pate and really bushy sides. You'll look a damn sight better for cropping it. You can grown some interesting facial hair to compensate (especially if you have a propensity for double chins).
If you are greying (as I have been for the past 12 years - my hair is salt and pepper naturally), you can either leave it as is or you can dye it. The problems with most dyes is that they are one colour so most people can spot a bottle-job a mile away. To counter this buy a normal hair dye for your natural hair colour and a bottle of Just for Men/Grecian 2000. Put the former in for ten minutes, rinse and then add the latter for three and rinse. You get 'natural' enough looking tones that way (people usually don't know that my hair is dyed).
Regular conditioning should be mandatory if you dye your hair. Hair can frizz terribly because it can become distressingly stripped. But, in what might well be the most unusual suggestion ever made in an h2g2 Collaborative Entry, we're advised here on an economical solution to conditioning:
A good fairly inexpensive way to keep your hair nice and soft is to use shampoo and conditioner made for horses. You can usually get a HUGE bottle of either for around $5, and the bottles usually last me around two-to-three months. No matter what I do to my hair I rarely get split ends, and it stays soft. I know that here in the US you can buy a few brands in most major stores now. Seems us horsey people started a trend.
Depilation and Epilation
Hair removal using anything other than clippers or scissors can be very painful. But there are a few basic methods you can use to reduce the pain factor considerably:
Bleach lip hair.
Pluck chin hairs - unless they are coming out of a mole.
If you can afford it, get your eyebrows shaped by waxing.
Underarm hair - depilatory cream of some sort. Messy, but you don't have to do it every other day, and it's less likely to cause irritation than stubble-burn, especially when combined with deodorant!
Legs...shave them at bath time.
However, bikini line... Never shave! It can result in painful regrowth, and (for your partner if not yourself) can be comparable to getting fresh with a hedgehog.
It's not just women who need to look after their eyebrows. But guys, the 'unibrow' went out with the unicycle. Don't shave it - they'll only come back darker and thicker - pluck it in the middle. It hurts at first, but if women can make it through childbirth in one piece, men can make it through this. Always pluck in the direction of the hair.
If you're cursed with 'Mutant' eyebrow hair (those solitary strands that grow three times as long as normal hair and stick out at odd angles), tackle these with a pair of clippers set to No. 6.
This is the gross one, and socially it's never really acceptable to have any of this. Get a trimmer or pluck them (that really hurts, by the way, and may result in sneezing fits). End of story.
Back and Shoulder Hair
Remove it. It's not big, it's not manly, it's not attractive, it's just plain nasty. Either go for a wax or use a hair removal cream. Honestly, there's nothing worse than seeing hairy shoulders/back for most people.
Some people really go for this, but if you want rid of your thatch, either remove it or clip it but don't let it straggle. You'll notice the difference immediately and it'll show off you body that little bit more. It should also be noted that hirsute dark-haired white men should never wear thin white shirts, as this could result in the delightfully titled 'gorilla cuffs' (where the arm-hair stops at the wrist leaving bald hands).
A wet shave is another good way of exfoliated all your dry skin. Most guys who wet shave don't need to do very much else for their skin around the bearded area. It helps to know the shape of your ears as these will not be symmetrical so bear this in mind when establishing the length of your beard or sideburns. Keep shaving to the same location each morning if possible, and make sure the bottom of the sideburn is parallel to the ground, unless you are attempting the Star Trek look.
Every so often you can trim the sideburns above the base line. Get a comb, place under the hair and lift towards the razor. If you make a mistake, trim the other one to match. If you make a number of mistakes, you might as well face facts - get out the clippers and trim your entire head, and go to a professional like a barber next time!
General Tips on Waxing
Some poor people suffer from ingrown hairs (even Mel Gibson's had a couple, as can be seen by a few pock-marks on his face). So if you're about to have a good waxing session, give your legs a good scrub while taking a shower, as this will help the hairs to come out.
Also, whether doing it yourself, or going to a professional, take a couple of paracetamol about half an hour before the waxing is due to begin. It will help reduce the pain. A bit.
More than a few people have been advised by their beauticians not to have anything waxed around the time of menstruation as the body will already be very sensitive and your pain threshold is lower at the time.
If you can't bear the thought of waxing, then the alternative might be rather expensive laser treatment. It usually takes about three or four visits, but once it's over, it guarantees a hairless body forever.
On the whole though, I find that waxing doesn't really hurt; I quite enjoy it actually. It depends who is waxing you of course, and whether they know how to do it properly.
Lips and Teeth
Lips need constant attention both in winter and summer. In winter, the danger of chapping is clear - just use a moisturiser rather than a chap-stick. It's smoother and doesn't leave your lips feeling heavy and 'greasy'. In summer, some people get sunburnt lips (no seriously - it hurts!), so when applying sun lotion, just include your lips.
Vaseline is a life-saver, or at the very least a lip-saver. You can get the little tubs anywhere and larger ones are fairly inexpensive for what you can use the stuff for. You can put it on your lips (great for keeping them soft and unchapped, as well as a lipgloss); rub it into dry/rough skin; mix it with eyeshadow to get a weird gloss-type effect.
While dental care and oral hygiene are obvious tips, go to the hygienist for a deep cleanse every six months. It gives you a great set of pearly whites and costs (in the UK) around £40. It helps with breath problems too.
As has already been noted, water is very good for you. In many countries, the water companies pump fluoride into the source for the good of our teeth. But water drinkers should be very wary of adding acidic flavourings - including orange or lemon juice or squash. Frequent use of acidic substances will erode the enamel on your teeth. Anything with a pH of less than 5.6 has the potential to damage enamel if used sufficiently frequently - and watch the pH of fizzy bottled waters too.
Although baking soda toothpastes come recommended by dentists, baking soda itself is far too abrasive and could end up damaging the enamel of your teeth. It's a bit ironic really - you use baking soda to clean stain off your teeth because you want them to look clean and white, but every time you do this, you're removing a bit of the enamel layer. Because a tooth takes its natural colour from the yellower dentine shining through the translucent enamel, eventually the tooth is going to look more yellow.
Research has shown that after looks, scent was the next head-turner - although often the wrong type of scent can simply turn the head the other way. Certainly, the faint whiff of BO will not be liked by many, and really heavy, musky scents are best left for defumigation. Our sense of smell is neurologically the sense which is most closely related to the Papez Circuit in the brain - one of the many circuits which control our emotions. So although you may look good, if you smell horrible, then that will leave more of an impression than your sexy little black number.
So, how does one smell presentable? Well, firstly - don't be swayed by the adverts. The young, nubile Aphrodites and Adonises staring seductively into mid-distance are not what you'll suddenly morph into when you dab the stuff on your pulse points. So to choose a perfume, here's a tip. Go for a nice long browse through the perfume department of your nearest large department store. Try to avoid those perma-tanned harpies armed with card sticks - these will be no good. You need to know what the scent smells like on your skin - so go forth and test!
Have a smell of it when you first put it on, then have another smell of it half an hour later and then an hour later still (you might prefer to go away and do something else rather than stand all day by a perfume counter). Decide how you feel the smell has developed. And crucially - do you like it?
Many perfume retailers offer samples, so don't be afraid to ask for one to take home. Try it out for a couple of days and take notice of how other people react. Do they recoil in horror or advance with amorous intent?
Once the perfect perfume for you is eventually chosen - yes, it's a long process, but if correctly done, a fruitful one - then it's time for application. Pulse points are the traditional places - inside of ankles, backs of knees, wrists, crook of elbow and the neck. Behind the ear if you want - but it's a bit difficult with a spray bottle. Put a little in your hair as well - then every time you turn your head, you leave a wake of finely scented air.
But how does one categorise scent? Generally, there are three types:
Floral: Just as the name suggests, think of meadow flowers and a fresh smelling scent - Clinique Happy and Dior's J'Adore are two good examples of this.
Chypre: A difficult word for a difficult-to-describe scent - a deeper scent than Floral types, and therefore much stronger - think Earl Grey tea and a gingerbread cake and you're not too far off - Dior's Tendre Poison falls right into this category as does Marilyn Monroe's favourite nightwear, Chanel No. 5.
Oriental: Think Shanghai around the 1930s; spice-laden, decadent, sexy and unstoppably seductive - this stuff is strong, and if applied incorrectly, can enable you to empty lifts and train carriages in an instant (best to apply about an hour before you go out, in order to let it settle down). Calvin Klein's Obsession, Dior's Addict and the old favourite, YSL's Opium, snuggle up nice and tight with this category.
Nothing smells worse than smelly feet with long yellow nails and skin/fluff between the toes...euch!
Soak your feet in some nice warm water for about ten minutes (after washing them thoroughly), use a pumice to take off any dead skin cells, clip toenails making sure to cut straight across rather than curved as this frequently causes ingrowing toenails. To finish, massage in some nice moisturiser - or even better get someone to massage it in for you!
Sadly, the real key to looking great is to give up smoking (horrible on the teeth, breath, and skin) and drinking (all around bad news), and to get plenty of sleep at night:
Basically, you'll look young and fab forever, but you'll miss out on a lot of fun. I'll settle for looking slightly lived-in (or rumpled, depending on who you ask).
But one final tip for grooming: as age descends on us all and we all start to gratify gravity, there are a few things we can do to make ourselves presentable on a day-to-day basis. A quick note on clothes - don't wear something bright because you think it's jolly, you'll just look ridiculous. Stick to colours you know suit you (if you're pale do not wear yellow, it'll make you look like you have a liver complaint). Remember, all the grooming in the world can be undone by bad choices in colour.