Using All Five Senses

I recently found an interesting magazine article about using all your five senses. By which I mean Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell. As soon as your day starts, your five senses are hard at work. You see, you hear, you feel, you smell and you taste. Many of us take our senses for granted and don’t give then much thought at all. We rarely experience with one sense alone. Our senses work together to give us the whole picture. In recent times we have been unable to call on all our senses. Many have lost their sense of smell, temporarily or in some cases more permanently, which has had the knock- on- effect of also losing the sense of taste. We have had restrictions on touching both objects and other people. Meetings and appointments are held over Zoom. We buy online rather than visiting a physical shop, we can see, but not feel or smell what we are purchasing. These five senses link us to world around us, by collecting information that is then interpreted by the brain. It’s the primary means we use to gain new knowledge.

When I hear, I forget. When I see, I remember. When I do, I understand

Old Chinese proverb

Children naturally learn with all the senses. From birth, children are experts at learning with all five senses active. Young children make sense of their world by hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling. Should this be something we all need to do? Children can teach us all a thing or two about living more in the moment!

Although many people enjoy full lives with sensory disabilities, any disturbances or loss of our senses can have a profound impact upon us. Our senses can help with everyday tasks such as driving, talking to people and performing activities at work. But far more importantly, they are essential for our enjoyment of experiences such as eating a meal or listening to music. Because of the close connection to our emotions and memories, the senses impact very dramatically on how we feel.

Researchers have recently started to explore ways to purposely manipulate the senses for people’s benefit. Charles Spence, an Oxford University PhD researcher who runs a lab dedicated to studying the role that perception plays in behaviour and health, says that, “Interventions based on what we see, feel, and even taste can have a seemingly dramatic effect on health. They can reduce pain, speed recovery from illness, and much more”

You can put all your five senses to work with activities like gardening, walking and cycling. Just by taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings and been more aware, you can live more fully, even during an everyday task such as going to work. When you walk into any environment, you experience the space with all five senses turned on. The five senses are alert in your body, receiving information that your brain processes, this then influence your feelings, affect your well-being and can play a key role in the creation of memories. Sometimes people experience decreased sensation or the absence of a sense altogether. If this affects you, know you’re not alone. There are many people that experience life just like you do. Often, if one of the five senses is reduced or absent, the other four will strengthen to help the brain to form a complete picture of the environment. Your sense of smell or hearing might be heightened if you experience blindness or low vision. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, your senses of touch and sight may become keener.

By making healthier choices, you can continue enjoying life through your senses. Be cautious with your hearing. Long-term exposure to loud noises can damage the membranes in your ear that create sound. Keep your eyes safe from sun damage by wearing sunglasses. You can also help support your vision by eating foods with healthy fats, antioxidants Your senses do add variety and texture to your life. And it’s important to protect their health. It’s perfectly normal to experience some decline in sensation with age. But there are steps you can take to preserve your senses and take care of your body, too. The sensory approach to health and wellness is still in its early days, and there’s much for researchers to tease out and clarify. But in most cases, there’s little cost and virtually no risks or side effects involved in experimenting with them on your own.

It’s such a big subject, I have spilt this into a couple of posts rather than trying to squeeze everything into one post. These will be following soon. But I hope in the meantime, this has given you something to think about.

The New Way to Shop- Livestreaming

I have a few days off work and whilst sorting through some magazine and newspaper cuttings that I had collected; I found an article from August 2020 about the new shopping craze- Livestreaming. Last year this newest industry was worth £46 billon, yet many of us haven’t even heard of it! So, what is it exactly? Well, companies post livestream videos of beauty tutorial’s, fashion shows, video chats usually with a well-known influencer or personality and even events with the products been used appearing by the side, these can be clicked on to buy. Virtual try-ones for make-up and hair colours are featured too. It also allows for you to ask questions of a virtual assistant at the same time so it’s more interactive than watching a YouTube video. Most of these are through the brands, social media, apps and websites. Livestreaming usage by brands skyrocketed during the pandemic, COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of live shopping, but will this change now shoppers have the option to visit stores?

This selling platform saw a 739% increase in usage in 2020, and has found customers are 21 times more likely to buy when they virtually shop with a store associate than if they were left to browse online. Watching someone do a makeup tutorial live and being able to interact with them and ask questions is something that you can’t do on a static YouTube video or webpage.

The L’Oréal group, H&M’s more upmarket Monki brand, Harvey Nichols and Mamas and Papas, are all using this platform to attract and retain customers. Estée Lauder works with Swedish platform Bambuser. The L’Oréal group works with Livescale. Started in 2016, Livescale has been increasing its e-commerce partnerships and launched a partnership with Shopify. Social networks have also seen a huge surge, in addition to Instagram TV there is Tok-tok’s  Livestreaming feature. Which does allow smaller retailers to join the platform. Like Onimos, a vintage retailer with stores in London and Germany, they livestream shopping events on Instagram TV, viewers then leave the page to make purchases.

The Tok-tok generation (teenagers and those in their early 20s) are admittedly one of the biggest demographics currently using mass livestreams and the Chinese market but many experts feel that is going to change and it’s a trend that is here to stay.

Harvey Nichols have been offering Livestreaming to its customers since 2018, and with the temporary closing of shops and restrictions in selling beauty products and some shoppers fear of returning to the high-street it has seen an upturn. It offers events and one to one shopper’s experiences, you can consult a stylist anywhere in the world. It’s also a 24/7 experience so unlike retail shopping hours it can be used at all times.

Fashion and beauty are the best examples of industries that will thrive in a live shopping environment as both of these take advantage of live shopping’s ability to offer a visual image of their products. Ecommerce shopping is fast and convenient but the need for human interaction and an experience for online shopping is something brands have long wanted to include but haven’t been able to figure out. Could this now be the answer?

Consumers want access, authenticity and connection more than ever before and both livestreaming and virtual shopping fit that bill.      Adam Levene- Hero

In the late 70s and early to mid-80s, live shopping networks like QVC (Quality Value Convenience) and the Home Shopping Channel began to appear on televisions and were a huge financial success. This is very much an updated, more polished version.

Going forward, digital solutions have the ability to be made more user – friendly as the use of augmented reality and artificial intelligence can be fine-tuned to offer the perfect shopper’s journey. (Be it not with a physical person) But will beauty shops be forced to disappear from our high streets if customers are using a virtual shopping assistant instead? It’s a win-win for the retailer but what about the actual workforce, will they become redundant? Many physical retailers are great at customer service, Focusing on the needs of a shopper by answering their questions and enabling them to choose the right product. Livestream shopping puts digital retailers in front of a vast online audience while still allowing them to respond to customers on a one-on-one level. There is much convenience to the shopper. You could be in a coffee shop or on the bus and shop livestream, adding to the appeal.

Certainly, for the moment, consumers are happily using virtual make-up consultations and there is still caution of high-contact services, like beauty counters. I did try some of the different platforms personally I found some of them a bit annoying and not that easy to link up to, also if I was going to be cynical you could say it’s a way of getting us to part with more money, as you click on to buy whilst watching a demo, which you found interesting.

But who knows, Livestream shopping could become as commonplace as classic online shopping or posting on social media! The Jurys still out on this one, but I will keep following.

Real Men Use Skincare

In a recent survey of 1,000 men in the UK, 56% said they were guilty of stealing their partner’s products to help with their skincare concerns, while 14% owned up to using their partners products every day and 19% admitted that they use their partner’s products often.  When I researched just how many men in the UK actually used facial skincare it was difficult to find a definite answer. A study found that one in ten men secretly wear makeup, it no longer has to be a secret that a woman wears make-up, so the same should apply for men. I remember about twenty years ago; male friends been embarrassed to say they were using skincare products and while this has changed to some degree a man using facial skincare would no doubt be viewed as a little vain and not very manly! Which certainly isn’t the case, real men do use and need skincare….

Ask any woman you know and they will most likely have a morning and evening skincare regime that they stick to faithfully. For men, it’s not the same. But why? We all have skin, and we are all exposed to the same elements and a bit of a pampering is great for everyone, no matter what our gender.

The survey revealed that men are most likely to use moisturiser, cleanser, eye cream and spot treatments. And that 90% of men have at least one skincare insecurity. While most products targeted for women will work fine for men, most of them include specific ingredients, which are unnecessary for men’s skin. It’s always better where possible for men to use products that target their specific skincare needs. So guys buy your own products….

While the results made us chuckle, men’s skin and women’s skin are very different. A man’s facial skin is thicker, and its follicles release more oil. Even the hormones released by men’s skin is different from a woman’s, which is why it seems like men actually age slower.” Marie Schmid, head of training at Clarins

The universal need for skincare is creating a healthy demand for men’s skincare products. The average modern man is becoming increasingly keener on caring for his skin, thereby encouraging many skincare manufacturers to cater for the men’s market. With tougher, oilier and thicker skins than women, men face different skincare challenges. As in the women’s market skincare products sourced from sustainable natural ingredients should be a key factor in choosing a brand. Prominent beauty brands are increasingly focusing on green formulations in response to the growing demand and changing market. There are many affordable natural brands to choose from.                                                                       

So, what should a daily man’s skincare routine comprise of? To start, a good face-wash is essential. There is nothing better than washing your face after a long hard day at work or first thing in the morning to wake up your face. A face-wash removes dirt, sweat and dead skin cells to reveal a fresher layer ready to be moisturised. It can help in having a better quality shave too.

Next, the number one item on any man’s skincare regime should be a moisturiser. It will protect, energise, smooth and perfect your skin whilst keeping it moisturised all day long. A moisturising after-shave lotion or balm will help to soothe the skin and avoid redness and shaving rashes. It’s a common misconception that oily skin doesn’t need a moisturiser.  All skin types, suffer with dehydration due to modern diet and lifestyles. A moisturiser adds hydration and protection against the environment. (It’s best to opt for lightweight, oil-free moisturisers for oily skin)

Oily skin is usually the result of the male sex hormone testosterone triggering sebaceous glands to produce sebum. (The skin’s natural oil) It’s more prone to blackheads, whiteheads and unsightly breakouts. Over-use of powerful cleansing products, if you’ve got oily skin, and aggressive soaps and alkaline cleansers should be avoided says Sally Penford of The International Dermal Institute. Your skin is a well-designed organ that needs a balance of lubricants for protection. If you strip it of all of its natural oils, it will a become dehydrated and probably quite sensitive. It may gradually start to produce more oil in an effort to compensate for all the harsh treatment. Instead, she recommends using glycerine-based cleansers especially formulated for oily skin or those featuring oil-absorbing clay. Regularly exfoliating skin is an integral part of any man’s grooming routine. But it’s vital if you have oily skin, as dead skin cells can combine with sebum to clog pores leading to spots.

Due to the recent upsurge in pollution, more and more people are visiting dermatologists with different skin issues, including men. Doctor Hadley King, a dermatologist based in New York City, states that various skin related issues can be handled before-hand if you have just one tool with you a face toner. What do these do? They remove dirt and oil in a gentle way whilst restoring the skins PH level, which protects skin from bacteria. Try and buy ones with a low amount of alcohol.

Anti-aging products are popular for both men and woman and though you can’t stop aging, no matter what you do, you can slow down the negative effects through a better lifestyle and the right products. Less conventional products, like oils and serums, with anti-aging benefits are rising in popularity amongst older men. To fight the effects of aging, applying sunscreen daily even in the UK, can shield skin and pores from harsh ultraviolet rays. It also assists in decreasing spots, unevenness, blotchy pores, and protects from skin cancer. So, do apply sunscreen each day without fail for fair skins. Darker skin, which is usually oiler, does have a greater degree of built-in protection in the form of melanin, but the pigment cannot be relied upon to protect the skin indefinitely. Oily skin will also wrinkle if overexposed to the sun’s UV rays as well as developing sun spots and uneven pigmentation, so it pays to protect your skin, if you want to retain your youthful looks.

Finally, we all need a bit of TLC sometimes, men included! If your skin is feeling particularly dry or run-down and your complexion needs a bit of a boost, then you can’t beat a face mask. There are lots on the market but Kaolin clay masks are quick and easy to use and are beneficial to the skin. Only use masks once or twice a week anymore and this cause more harm than good.

Increased exposure on social media has been contributing to the healthy demand for men’s skincare solutions. Manufacturers of men’s skincare products are tapping into newer categories, such as facial scrubs, moisturizers, and polishers rather than just shave care products.

We all need some self-care and in turn this does help to feel more confident and better in ourselves, which is healthy and vanity doesn’t come into it at all.

Selling Fashion Clothing Moving Forward

Most if not all businesses have gone through upheaval in the last 18 months. Some industries are facing mayor changes post-Covid and perhaps some businesses will change forever. 

Fashion, and the selling of clothing had been facing many changes and disruptions before the pandemic. Closing, in some cases permanently, high street shops for months on ends did every little to help ailing businesses. The increase in buying clothing online and more importantly the huge increase in the re-sale market and an increased interest in mindful shopping, could change fashion retail and our high streets, for once and for all.

Whether the changes are due to shoppers keen to actively cut down on consumption by buying second-hand clothing or consumers just wanting discounted clothing, or a mix of the two we will have to see.  

Consumers are prioritizing sustainability and retailers are starting to embrace resale. We are in the early stages of a radical transformation in retail.    James Reinhart CEO thredUP 

One of the reasons behind retailers moving into the second-hand market is coming from pressure to reduce the environmental footprint of fashion. According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions.  (More than all international flights and maritime shipping combined) And approximately 20% of water pollution across the globe is the result of waste water from the production and the finishing of textiles. The report suggests that the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions could increase by more than 50% by 2030. So, it is vital that the way the fashion industry functions as a whole does change its methods and now. 

Some large retailers like Nike are adapting their strategies. It launched its refurbished program where pre-owned shoes will be graded, sanitized, restored and then re-sold at 15 stores at a reduced price based on their condition. Fast-fashion chains are upping their green credentials, too, trying to win back young shoppers H & M has offered a conscious clothing collection for some time. And offers a discount when returning a bag of second-hand clothing.  

Asda is testing out second-hand clothing in 50 of its supermarkets, and John Lewis and Ikea are launching schemes to sell used furniture and fashion. Asda’s move into vintage clothing shows that second-hand “has the potential to go mainstream and is definitely becoming a more important part of how consumers purchase- Emily Salter at retail analyst GlobalData.  

More brands are expanding their reach to the re-sale market. Renowned luxury global brand, Gucci launched their own second-hand initiative in 2020. In partnership with US resale website, therealreal.com, which houses many other luxury brands, such as Stella McCartney and Burberry.

Levi launched its very own buy back site in October. Levi’s SecondHand allows consumers to turn in a pair of Levi’s in exchange for a gift card towards a future purchase, which the brand will then clean and sort for re-sale online. Levi’s chief marketing officer Jen Sey pointed out how the move is designed to appeal to the shopping habits of Generation Z: They love the hunt, they love finding a really unique item, and it makes it even better that it’s a sustainable choice. Buying a used pair of Levi’s saves approximately 80% of the CO2 emissions, and 1.5 pounds of waste, compared to buying a new pair. As we scale this, that will really start adding up. 

 The luxury online retailer MyTheresa  recently partnered with Vestiaire Collective to launch a re-sale service by inviting its top clients to sell their pre-loved luxury handbags online in exchange for store credit. Increasing the re-use of clothing is a big step toward a new normal in the fashion industry. As currently less than 1% of materials used to make clothing are recycled to make new clothing. 

I think the brands that have embraced their archives and encourage mixing new stuff with older pieces have a healthier relationship to their customers and to their business and their legacy overall. Anyone who cynically thinks the future is only in front of us and doesn’t have anything to do with what’s come before is a bit out of date–  Sally Singer, the former Vogue creative director   

In the UK alone, an astounding 336,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill each year. Love Your Clothes, a campaign launched in 2014 to encourage change in how UK consumers buy, use and dispose of their clothing found that if we can extend the average life of our clothes to approximately three years, we could reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints. By investing time into extending the lifespan of clothes, the outcome will not only benefit the fashion industry but the environment. 

The resale sector will eventually make up a huge percentage of the fashion industry, people are showing they are more and more interested in sustainable fashion clothing- Rosie Mckeown, owner of vintage and sustainable fashion, Depop

I am interested to see whether this is a long term move or a fad, industry experts say the former, I am inclined to agree. I try to buy less clothing myself, keep in for longer and look at re-sale options over fast-fashion. It makes sense on several levels. Our throwaway attitudes do need to change, buying cheap has a bigger cost to us all.  

Think Second-Hand First- The Fashion Re-sale Market

The re-sale fashion market will eclipse fast fashion in a decade. While fast fashion is expected to continue to grow 20% in the next 10 years, second-hand fashion is poised to grow by 185%. The growth of the online re-sale clothing market was evident long before Covid-19, fuelled by younger consumers turning their back on fast fashion for a more sustainable, affordable and creative way to shop for clothing.

Fashion re-sale also known as recommence sites is a large consumer market with lower prices allowing for a more diversely budgeted audience. The increase in purchases of second-hand clothing is due to a wide range of factors, one of which is the tighter budgets of many consumers throughout lockdown, with shoppers having little to no disposable income. Store shutdowns, temporarily and permanently, have played a part in the surge in second-hand shopping, to, with people unable shop from high street and charity shops stores now looking for an online alternative. Saving money isn’t the only motivation, with wider concerns about the environment and mass-consumerism urging people to buy and sell pre-owned goods.

“The production of clothing is incredibly resource intensive, re-wearing a garment and extending its lifespan by a mere nine months can help to reduce its environmental impact by up to 30%, so buying second-hand is an incredibly easy way to do this.”  sustainable fashion blogger, Charlotte

Fashion resale apps, stores and websites have seen an unprecedented growth throughout 2020. Lockdown gave consumers time to research into the effects of fast fashion and the need for keeping our garments in a cycle, rather than sending them to landfill. With lockdown giving an unlimited amount of time to deep-clean wardrobes, and the realisation of just how much is bought and not worn. As consumers embrace more affordable clothing instead of buying brand new. As well as reducing spending, online resale apps enable users to make money or earn an additional income. Whether consumer behaviour will change after the pandemic eases and this will only be temporary, we will have to wait and see. (Now people no longer have to stay home, sorting through old clothes may have less appeal) When money gets tight discounted clothing allows fashion to be a more accessible market to all. Many industry experts think this is a permanent move.

 A report published by ThredUp has shown that by 2029 the second-hand fashion market will have grown a worth of over 80 billion dollars. (Almost twice the size of the fast fashion market) The report also found that a record 33 million people bought second-hand clothing for the first time in 2020. Of these first-time buyers, 76% plan on increasing their share of resale purchases in the next five years.

On eBay, sales of pre-loved fashion have shot up in the UK over the past year, with the company selling more than 60 million used items. Murray Lambell, the general manager of eBay’s UK business, said: “There is definitely a change in mindset, driven by younger consumers up to the age of 30.” Trends in fashion come back around year after year, so recycling and archiving them for the next generation coupled with an appreciation of vintage design and a desire to create a more individual look beyond mass-produced fast fashion by Generation Z makes this a successful move.

But even though Generation Z is driving the second-hand revival( no pun intended), they’re not the only ones getting swept up in the trend. Emily Farra reported in Vogue in 2020 that in Lyst’s annual Year Fashion report, it revealed an 35,000 increase in searches for vintage fashion and a 104% increase in entries for second-hand-related keywords.

“It gives an item a second life, which is absolutely fantastic, not to mention how sustainable buying second hand is.” Cieran Harris, Company Director of Timeless Vintage Co

A decade ago, consumer attitudes toward pre-owned clothing was decidedly negative. This year has brought a shift in perspective with shoppers now being more open to purchasing from re-sellers than ever before. Any stigma around second-hand fashion being uncool or unhygienic has dissolved with customers now proud of their thrifted finds. The re-commerce market now has an aura of environmental and social responsibility. More brands are open to the idea that second-hand fashion is the way to revolutionise their sales and reach more consumers. (I will discuss this further in another blog post)

This means the new online marketplaces must work hard to stand out, spending more on marketing and advertising. Vinted (an app that lets users buy and sell pre-owned clothes) now advertise on national TV and was recently valued at 3.5 billion euros. I have successfully bought and sold on vinted for about 8 years. But be warned it can be addictive.

Resale will be an assumed part of the luxury buying experience,” Allison Sommer at Real Real

Although there’s still plenty of luck with buying second-hand, the Internet has become home to many, easily searchable re-sale sites. The second-hand clothing market is composed of two major categories, charity stops and re-sale platforms. But it’s the latter that has largely fuelled the recent boom. A trend of “fashion flipping” which is buying second-hand clothes and reselling them particularly popular among young consumers.

Researchers who study clothing consumption and sustainability, think the second-hand clothing trend has the potential to reshape the fashion industry mitigating the industry’s detrimental environmental impact on the planet. Even more transformative is second-hand clothing’s potential to dramatically alter the prominence of fast fashion (disposable) in the early 2000’s. More clothes were produced and distributed at lower costs, encouraging shoppers to buy more and often wear only once.

It could be that the trend for buying and selling used clothes ends up being a passing trend, once things go back to normal and we return to the high street. Or perhaps it is the way forward for buying fashion clothing?

The Myth of Being a Natural Beauty

Make-up trends come and go, like fashion, I personally prefer to use what suits me best, with some adaptions to the latest trends, rather than following every new beauty and make-up direction.

However, it would be untrue of me to say that I don’t ever follow the latest trends, as the power of advertising has a powerful pull and with Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram all adding to our daily feeds it’s impossible not to be aware of what’s new.

In the fairly recent TV series on beauty by Lisa Eldridge, the Victorian era and the social pressure on women to look beautiful while pretending the effect is all natural was discussed. She describes it as the era of sneaky makeup, looking at the household tricks that women achieved to create virtuous blushes and wholesome glossy eyebrows. It was an hypocritical culture that forced women into covert trickery as a means of demonstrating their goodness. Beauty and make-up products were sold under the counter often as health treatments. No one, who valued their good reputation wanted to be seen as having to have help to look beautiful. Although we can now openly buy make-up and beauty products has the notion of been a natural beauty really changed that much? Do we still live in the Victorian shadow on this score, that some (mostly men) still regard it wrong to wear a lot of make-up or use many beauty products?

 As a feminist issue, it’s an interesting one as women surely should be able to choose to use as little or as much help in the beauty department as they wish, but some feminists express the view, that woman are been exploited by the beauty industry, by feeling they have to wear make-up.

A 2019 study suggested that the average British woman spends £2.39 per day on make-up and toiletries, which adds up to £16.73 a week and £872.35 a year. How much time we spend on our make-up varies, 21 % of us spend under five minutes on make-up each day, with 48 % spending five-to-15 minutes and 31% between 15 and 30 minutes. As many feminists point out, that’s a lot of time and money.

During her show, Lisa Eldridge reveals that the natural look is one of the most time-consuming styles for her to achieve and it usually takes her over 45 minutes of painstaking dabbing and brushing to make a young fashion model look effortlessly beautiful. I would say that make-up should be about enhancing your natural features and in turn giving you more confidence. Some women can look completely different with make-up, again that’s a personal choice. I prefer to look the same, with or without make-up just a slightly better version. (With make-up) You can watch an online beauty tuitional online to help achieve this look.

After a year or more of going without make-up during Lockdown, you would think that we would all want to go back to wearing our make-up in a big way? During a recent survey by L’Oréal, it found that 80% of 16–34-year-olds were excited to start wearing more makeup again after lockdown. But, having got used to a minimal way of doing things, it seems the make-up products that are feeling right for now are subtle cheats that helps to embrace a more natural look. The Latest make-up trends are for make-up that doesn’t even look like you’re wearing makeup! It just looks like beautiful skin. I think the no make-up trend has dominated the make-up industry in the latter half of the last decade, and it’s just being talked about more now. This tend does has to go hand in hand with the beauty industry as you really do have to look after your skin to achieve this look as lighter make-up means less coverage to hide any blemishes or imperfections.

Skinimalism has become a major buzzword as brands have seen the shift of focus to increasing the focus of looking after your skin and paring back make-up to show off the results of taking better care of the skin. Letting skin glow rather that be concealed.

I work for a natural beauty company and have always said that the best beauty look is aiming to have the best skin you can. Trying to cover up problem skins with concealers and heavy make-ups just starts to look cakey and actually looks more obvious. Less is always more. Also, a heavy make-up doesn’t allow skin to breath, so it can actually make skin conditions worse.

So, for once this will me a trend that I follow, well just a bit….

What Does the Label Mean on Beauty Products?

More than ever, we are hyper aware of what we are putting onto our bodies. But what do the labels actually mean? Unless you’re a chemist you probably can’t make sense of it, I find it confusing ever with some knowledge! It’s important to understand what you are putting onto your body and by reading the label of your products it tells you, legally you have to have this information, so don’t buy products that don’t list the ingredients as they could be fake. Each list is compiled by the order of concentration. Do remember that natural skin compounds are often under the chemical or Latin name.

What should be on a label: the nominal net weight, PAO (Period after Opening) or minimum durability date if applicable, any safety warnings and precautions, the name & address of the Company or Responsible Person that the product is being sold under and most importantly, an ingredients list (INCI) in decreasing order of weight. The 26 most-known allergenic substances must be shown. (There have been discussions to increase this to 90)

Some popular ingredients are listed as; Shea butter-Butyrospermum parkii, Aloe Vera – Aloe Barbadensis Leaf extract, Argan oil -Argania Spinosa, Evening Primrose oil- Oenothera Biennis and olive oil – Olea Europea. All of this are great natural ingredients. But what about the chemicals in your face and body products? There are a huge number of ones to choose from so I have listed the most common and the ones to be aware of most. For more details a great source is the Derma Review glossary which contains accurate information.

Women on average use 12 products a day based on a recent survey. The study found that 12.2 million adults expose their bodies to ingredients that are known to be probable carcinogens.

There are many toxic ingredients to avoid, although some have been banned many are still on the market and in most of the products, we all use. Top of the list are parabens, which can be listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, this are used as preservatives. They are thought to mimic oestrogen and can lead to cancer. SLS and SLES is sodium lauryl sulphate which is a forming agent which is used in shampoos and body washes. These strip the skin, can cause irritation, eye problems and respiratory problems. Mineral oil and petroleum jelly are environmentally unkind as they affect climate change, pollution, and greenhouse gases and can block the proper detoxification of the skin. This is what the best-selling Vaseline contains.

Phthalates are listed as dibutyl and diethylhexy and help a fragrance to adhere to the skin and these have been associated with birth defects.

Triclosan is an anti- bacterial ingredient in hand washes, soap and washing powders, the research is ongoing as to its safety but is said to disrupt hormones and create drug resistant bacteria. This chemical can also accumulate in lakes and streams. 

Triethanolamine or TEA helps to mix oil and water-based products to create a smooth, stable formulation, it doesn’t provide any benefits to the skin. When absorbed into the body over a long period of time, it can become toxic. Even short periods of exposure can cause allergic reactions, including eye problems and dry hair and skin. Typically, it’s used in amounts less than 1% in cosmetics and beauty products.

Diethanolamine or DEA Is an organic substance typically used as an emulsifier or wetting agent in skincare products. It produces foam and bubbles when added often to face washes. it can cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation. More serious is that it over time reacts with other ingredients in formulations causing nitrosodiethanolamine  or NDEA which is a powerful carcinogen that is absorbed through the skin and linked to stomach, liver and bladder cancers. In the UK this is banned.

Dimethicone is used as a skin barrier, emulsifier, to hold ingredients together and to give an easy glide. It can be chemical or natural. According to the FDA and Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), dimethicone is a safe skincare ingredient that calms irritation, minimizes redness, and protects the skin from further damage. One problem is that it seals in oil, sweat, dirt and other things that can clog pores and lead to acne. Also, when washed down the drain, it can feed into aquatic environments and impact fish and plant life.

Phenoxyethanol is a Glycol Ether which is used as a preservative in cosmetic products, which acts as a preservative against germ contamination of bottled products. It’s often used a safer alternative to Parabens. Its side effects can cause skin irritation and can make Eczema worse.

Most antiperspirants are aluminium based. Chemicals like aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium tettachlorohydrex, block the sweat ducts so you don’t perspire and have links to breast cancer. Until recently it was very hard to find affordable zinc and Aluminium free deodorants on the market, but these are becoming more available and well- known brands like soft and simple are introducing affordable Aluminium- free anti-perspirants.

I have barely covered this vast subject, so I may come back to it at a later point. But hopefully this has helped to understand labelling a bit more. It’s alarming stuff and something we do need to be aware of, in some cases safer options are available but at a higher cost to the manufacturer. But the consumer does have the power to choose not buy items with could have harmful effects! So learning to understand what a label means is benefiting your health.

Greening the Beauty Business

For many years Green Business has been on the fringes but now the business world is changing. Environmental awareness is on the rise by demonstrating a commitment to the environment it can enhance a company’s reputation among its existing customers and potential customers and by tapping into a new- eco conscious customer base this also encourages younger consumers, who are very aware of environmental issues. Many consumers believe that companies do have a corporate social responsibility or CSR. This is very much change that is consumer-led.

The Beauty industry is one of the worst offenders, with its unnecessary outer packaging, cellophane and use of plastic bottles and containers.

Greening a business requires putting energy into how to use resources more efficiently. Smaller businesses have been quicker to adapt and make greener decisions but even larger companies like Apple have made huge commitments to sustainable operations, by using 100% renewable energy and zero waste etc. Is this just hype to get more publicity and business, we will have to see long-term!

Exactly, what is a Green Business? This is one that uses sustainable materials to make its products and aims to use as little water, energy and raw materials as possible. As well as reducing its carbon emissions, by using local suppliers and not using excessive packaging. This business approach minimizes the company strain on natural resources and contribution to climate change.

The British Beauty Council in a 2020 survey found that two-thirds of consumers want brands to do more to counter climate change. One in Seven want to use a more environmentally friendly product. Also, according to The Beauty Councils survey packaging makes up 70% of the beauty industries waste. Consumers are switching to brands like Labo or opting for refillable perfumes. Larger brands like Chanel, Guerlain and L’Oréal have been investing heavily in farming communities and sourcing partnerships. Long term relationships that benefit the brand and the ingredient suppliers. Farmers are learning to grow sustainably and the beauty companies are following their raw ingredients every step of the way.

How can we all green our beauty products? Try to use a business that is part of a green Initiative such as the Green Small Business Initiative with gives companies the help to put an action plan in place. Look for products that use natural ingredients that are eco-certified compliant and are sourced from a sustainable supply chain. Look at the sustainability and environmental policies of the business, what are they actually doing to make a difference? Look at using refills where possible and fully recyclable bottles and containers. We also have to think again about wanting to see everything boxed and gift wrapped, nice packaging does look lovely, but in reality, it just adds to the landfill. We can all make a difference just my looking at things in a different way and deciding what matters the most.

There are several green business logos that are shown on shop windows and packaging, I have listed these below:

Forests for all-FSC Forest Stewardship Council when you see this logo, you know that any card, paper and cardboard has been sourced from a responsibly managed forest

Soil Association- This for organic perfumes and perfume ingredients

PETRA– This logo guarantees that the brand has never conducted or allowed testing on animals. This has to be more raw ingredients and the final product

B Corporation– To be B Corp certificated means that the highest standards of social and environmental impact have to be met

Essential Facial Skincare, Natural of Course!

Do you view your skincare as a practice, in the same way as a mediation, exercise or hobby? Or is this just a hygiene obligation like brushing your teeth? Now imagine your skincare as a ritual not a routine. Something sensory and enjoyable. Self-care is not selfish it’s your personal wellness.

In an age of excess, there’s a never-ending array of products to choose, but what exactly do you need? You may be sabotaging your skin by using a toner which is too astringent for you or even using far more products than you need, which is overloading your skin.  Using too much product is actually worse than using too little. It doesn’t really help that, the skin care industry is always coming up with new products, so what to choose is totally baffling.

So, what do facial skincare do you actually need and what do they all actually do? I would recommend the following as essential in your skincare routine. But its very personal and if you are buying new skincare do get advice and if you can do a patch test. (This is using a small amount of the product, to check you have no reactions) Check that any items you are using are in date and its best to keep your lotions and potions in a cupboard. Bathrooms can be too hot and humid so don’t leave products out if you can help it. If your skincare, starts smelling strange, or changes or texture don’t use it, even if it was very expensive as it could be harmful.

To give you a little information: the skins barrier function is called the stratum corneum and is a mix of natural oils a microcosm of beneficial bacteria. At the mention of bacteria, we start to panic, however this protects the skin from the environment, defends against pathogenic bacteria and helps keep in the moisture. An unbalanced skin can be red, peeling or have a rough texture. (Think of Sunburn) Most people have skin that is too dry or too oily and the goal is to achieve a healthy balanced skin.

Cleanser-Cleansing is the first step in any routine, a good cleanser should detoxify the skin and remove any impurities like dirt, sebum, sweat, pollution and dead cell build up. My personal favourite is cleansing lotion, my skin tends to be on the drier/ sensitive side. Cream cleansers dissolve make-up, dirt and epidermal debris, without stripping the skin of its natural protective barrier. . Cleansing gels or facial washes, are formulated to degrease the skin, so work better for an oily skin. High foam cleansers and surfactants can strip the skin of natural moisture. You should cleanse in the morning and at night. Over-night your skin repairs itself and often secretes sebum, cleansing after sleeping removes this. In Japan, it become popular to triple cleanse, is this essential? If you wear heavier make-up double- cleansing may be required to remove all the residue or if you live in a heavily polluted city. When I lived in London, I did double- cleanse as I felt my skin needed it, to remove all the grime etc. For most of us, cleansing once is fine.

Exfoliators– remove the outer layer of dead epidermal cells on the surface of the skin. Which helps with the texture of the skin. Your skin does naturally shed skin cells, however with age this process slows down and sometimes it needs a helping hand.  In general, most people don’t exfoliate or exfoliate too much. Its more harmful to over-exfoliate, as it damages the skins barrier function. Beware of very harsh exfoliators, as these can damage the skin and are intended for only occasional rather than regular use. Personally, I feel a gentle exfoliator using natural ingredients, like orange peel, works the best. There are two types of exfoliations, physical or chemical. Physical exfoliators are rotary spinning brushes, dry lymphatic facial brushes, cloths or pads or granular scrubs. Do be gentle when using any of these, also rotary brushes come into contact with your skin so have to be cleaned after every use.  Many facial scrubs are on the market, it’s best to opt for a fine power scrub rather than a large granular size as the texture is softer. Chemical Exfoliators are professional treatments, these can sometimes be mis-used and never try at home!

Toners– are a must, don’t be tempted to miss this stage out. These are fast absorbing liquid products that restore the skins PH balance, as well as any remaining impurities after cleansing. Your skin needs oil and water to be happy. Facial mists, are a botanical water, produced in the making of essential oils.  I love these and have used them for years, the most popular been rose, lavender and calendula. Mist onto clean skin or use a cotton pad before applying a moisturiser, these are perfect in hot and humid conditions. Astringent toners are often marketed to oily, acne prone skin because they contain alcohol, which can dry the skin. Witch hazel toners can be a good option which will balance and clarify the skin without over stripping it.

Face masks– you ever love using these or don’t like them at all, put using a mask for one or two days (never more than this) week can have a positive effect on your skin. Once again, there is a huge variety to choose from, sheet masks and clay, would be my best choices. Sheet masks are hydrating, often using a gel, with ingredients like royal jelly, fruits and glycerine. These can be ideal as relaxing masks, for a pamper day or night. Clarifying masks are clay or mud based, look for kaolin clay for all skin types, marine extracts or charcoal for oily skin. These are to left on for up to 10 minutes, never longer and should be removed before fully- hard. A face mask can make the most difference and give the most benefits in your skincare routine. They can draw out impurities so always use a few days before any special events, just in case.

Facial moisturisers- provide a thin layer on the outermost layer of the skin, they can slow down the process of transepidermal water loss and enhance your body’s natural functions. They are the last step in your routine. Face creams are known to combat dehydration. They are an emulsion of water and oil. Some people opt for very rich heavy creams, a nutrients rich lighter cream can work even for a very dry skin as heavy cream can block pores, which causes spots.

Serums– are used before a traditional moisture, they are highly concentrated and formulated to penetrate beyond the surface of the skin, so as to repair skin at a cellular level. Often these have anti-aging ingredients added, so are great for a more mature skin that needs a little more TLC.

Face oils– there is not a skin type on the planet that does not benefit from using oil on the face. I am not talking about heavy mineral oils which should be avoided but lightweight, nutrient rich plant-based oils. These helps regulate the skins own natural sebum production. I am a total fan of these and have used them for years. Do buy natural, essential oil- based ones.

Eye creams, the skin around the eyes is the thinnest on your body and does not contain oil glands. So, using a product specially formulated for the eyes is vital. Every need these, even the young, the earlier you start using the better. Aging shows first around the eyes and is the most noticeable.

Buying natural and organic products is best, although these can be a little bit more expensive, a little usually goes a long way and they are free from harmful chemicals. I will go into more details about what to avoid in a later blog.

It can sound like a lot but once you get into a routine or even make it a daily ritual, it can be enjoyable, beneficial to your skin and something to look forward too. A healthy, glowing skin is always in fashion, at any age for women and men. And real men do use skincare!

Make-up a Glamourous History

“Make-up can be seen as a frivolous subject.  But I think it’s hugely important. What we believe to be beautiful is a window on the world we’re living in.” Lisa Eldridge

As a professional make-up artist and Global Creative Director for Lancôme and the presenter of Make-up a Glamourous History on BBC2, Eldridge has a wealth of experience and passion. Over the course of this three-part series, she raises her scholarly spectacles over early make-up and beauty trends and provides an illuminating guide through the evolution of facial fashion, from the early 18th century up to the Thirties. The beauty looks of three periods in Britain are explored and what it reveals about that era: Georgian, Victorian and The Roaring Twenties. You may think make-up is a frivolous business, but Lisa Eldridge argues that what someone puts on the face and why says a lot about the time they live in.

She trawls through the history books and re-created products we haven’t used for decades. There are recipes with crushed beetles, seashells and bear grease (which she substituted with a vegetable oil). She tests them out first on herself and then on a lovely, young model called Queenie. Eldridge really sells her sensory delight in the products and her curiosity about what they meant to the women of the past. The pharmacist Szu Shen Wong, was drafted in to make the more tricky or toxic products in her lab.

It shows the growth of the beauty industry and the start of companies like Boots and the No7 range, which brought beauty to woman of all classes and not just the wealthy, upper and middle classes. Launched by Boots in 1935 as a selection of eleven skincare products this was then expanded in 1937 with some colour cosmetics. The name was reportedly chosen due to the fact that the number seven was often used to signify perfection. It was one of the first brands to really open up beauty for mass audiences and was made available to the ordinary woman. In 2016, Boots celebrated eighty year’s, they continue to sell and hopefully will carry on for many more years to come!

Many lower-class women had to make their own beauty products, in the Victorian age, cleanliness was hugely important and soap became more easily available and used. But beauty products and make-up were only for the rich and wealthy and still had to be purchased secretly as the use of these was seen as immoral. So many upper-class women purchased these under the counter, disguised as medicinal items. Women were expected to be beautiful but only by natural means. To use beauty products or cosmetics was not acceptable to society, only prostitutes and actresses used them. As we all know, even those blessed with natural good looks, still need some help at times, and it must have been impossible for women at the time to follow the rules of Victorian society whilst achieving the expected levels of beauty.

Selfridge & Co. opened its doors in London on the 15th of March 1909. The owner, American, Harry Gordon Selfridge, wanted to make retail exciting and available to everyone.  Selfridges, was the first store to bring beauty products to the front of a department store. Selfridge wanted women to be able try the products rather than them being hidden behind a counter. This was very forward thinking at the time and was to totally change the way retailers sold beauty products, as his competitors rushed to copy him. He supported the rights of women, even though this caused him ridicule. I think that the beauty industry was starting to encourage women to be more independent, rather than the early views of women looking pretty for their husbands, it was more modern to look good for themselves. Just been able to openly purchase beauty products was liberating for them.

This is social history at it’s best and for anyone interested in the world of beauty, unmissable. Surprising, although we wouldn’t want to go back to some of the toxic ingredients used, some of the more natural ingredients were very successful. So, as the beauty industry changes, and moves away from its reliance on chemicals, perhaps it also needs to look through historical archives as our ancestors could teach use a few things about making natural skincare and cosmetics.

We take it for granted that we can just go into a shop and buy the products we need or want and for most, historically this wasn’t available to women, in particular working-class women for quite some time. I loved this series, and hope that it returns to discuss, beauty in the forties and current times too.

It’s available to view on BBC iPlayer.