Complete guide to buying designer clothes from charity shops

Have you ever wished you could find designer goods in charity shops? This guide covers how to do just that! From an environmental standpoint, the more things we reuse and recycle, the better it is for the resources of the planet. And buying a secondhand vintage designer piece is also better for your wallet!

With such a big fashion revival right now, secondhand designer clothes have never been so on-trend! Keep reading to find out how to identify designer clothes in charity shops, how to avoid fake designer clothes, how to assess the condition of the piece and why you should only buy things that fit/suit you.

Find something that you actually like/suits you

This is rule number one, and I learned this the hard way. Don’t just buy a designer item for the label. Remember, no one will see that label except you. But a designer item because it is a work of art. A stunning reminder of the very best of fashion. A piece that inspires you to be something bigger than the boxes other people try to put you in. Because that’s the point of good fashion. Don’t be a fashion victim. Buy something you love. Buy something that flatters your shape and size. Enjoy your vintage fashion.

When we moved to China, I had to pack our lives into two big suitcases (one each) and a carry-on each. We were such inexperienced travellers that we didn’t know about sending your belongings around the world as freight (thank God we didn’t, I dread to think what rubbish we would have kept) and we didn’t know about paying for extra bags.

My designer collection now only includes items that I completely adore, which still fit me (sniffle, my favourite Vivienne Westwood shoes had to go when they started being painful to wear because I’d worn them too much), and which make me happy. But it wasn’t always that way.

Back in 2006, when I first started investing in designer pieces, I bought some minor disasters. My worst buy by a long shot was my Givenchy silk suit. It was £20 on Ebay which seemed like the bargain of the century. Except it wasn’t. First, it was a size 10 and I was an 8. Now, that shouldn’t have been a problem as it was vintage (80s at least) and everyone knows sizes have changed since then. However, when I actually tried it on, the skirt’s waistline was so low on my waist that my shirts barely tucked into it and left an unsightly silhouette around my boobs as they rode up over the course of a work day. The jacket, on the other hand, didn’t have a flattering neckline (this neckline was wayyy too wide to look good on my DD-cup boobs) and instead of making me look pulled-together, it just looked awkward and shapeless.

But by far the worst problem with it was the colour. In the Ebay pictures it had looked a beautiful deep grey-blue colour, but when it arrived, it was pale grey. None of my shirts or shoes matched it.

Did I send it back? No. I was 24 and too determined to hold onto something because of the label. I kept that bloody suit for 6 more years and only got rid of it when we moved to China, at which point, you’ll be glad to hear I at least sold it for the price I paid.

Another early disaster was my Armani jacket. I’d thought it was black. It was brown. And from a time in the 80s when shoulder pads were the same size as the wingspan of a jumbo jet. The waistline was… generous. The silhouette was very androgynous. And, again, a size 10. I looked lost in it. This year it would have been so on-trend it would have been a massive classic as oversized blazers are the biggest thing ever at the moment. But fifteen years ago, I had a jacket I was (mostly) embarrassed to wear. Did that stop me from wearing it? NOPE.

I’m stubborn.

If you don’t remember 2006, it was one of a few years in the early 2000s when Victoriana was the big trend in workwear. Everything suit-based was fitted. Skirts had fishtail hems and generally came down past the knee. And since we were still living with the hangover from the 90s to some extent, no one in the 2000s wore anything that looked like workwear outside of a formal office setting. It wasn’t like today, where you can chuck a blazer over a pair of skinny jeans (we didn’t have skinny jeans yet) and go out.

My big mistake of the following year was not understanding that designer sportswear is never, ever going to be a classic piece. And that designer brands all have sub-brands which are more affordable but not “proper” high fashion. I had this gorgeous Armani Jeans tracksuit (this wasn’t a shell suit, don’t worry), which comprised a hoodie and jogging bottoms in pale blue. I loved them and wore them on slouch days for about two years, but those sports lines are never made to be as durable as the expensive main clothing lines so buy them, enjoy them, but don’t expect them to last.

How to identify a designer item

Familiarise yourself with the names and logos of the brands you are looking for. This will make it quick and easy to recognise labels. Be aware that some brands have changed their labels/logos over time so if you’re looking at true vintage stuff, the label might be a little (or very) different. However, be aware this could also be the sign of a fake.

Avoid the really obvious fakes

You won’t always be able to avoid fakes, the thing about a really good fake is it’s indistinguishable from the real deal. However, you can learn to spot signs that something isn’t as it seems, especially if the item costs more than you wanted to pay for a secondhand charity shop item.

I’d avoid any secondhand Louis Vuitton bags and purses unless you can get it verified independently. Those Louis Vuitton brown bags with LV all over them are literally everywhere. I could easily pick up about a hundred fakes in the markets in Italy for the price of one genuine bag without batting an eyelid and they were rife in China, too. I actually tune those bags out now if I see them, and when I see people with them, I’m more likely to think you bought a fake than that you paid full price for one, unless you’re obviously dressed at the same price as your bag. The multicoloured LV bags suffer from the same issue. I feel very sorry for Louis Vuitton as a brand as the sheer amount of fakes is shocking.

If you see something like this (or a high street brand with a very similar design to a well-known fashion piece) my advice is to steer clear. Copyright infringement in fashion is rife everywhere, and you can actually get into legal trouble in some countries if you’re walking around with a fake item (notably, Italy, where many of the fakes are being sold, and where the police are trained to spot them).

Fakes are less well made and made from cheap imitation materials, so they damage easily and don’t last very long compared to the real deal. People bringing these things back from a holiday then tire of them and give them to charity shops, so always check inside.

Here are some tips for avoiding fakes:

Check the lining. Usually in a genuine product, the lining is attached in a way so you see almost none of the inside stitching. This is true of coats, skirts and bags.

Look at the stitching around the edge of the product. Is it neat, even and straight? A true designer piece will not have any mistakes in the stitching.

Check for loose threads and “imperfections” in the piece. Loose threads on any item, a weird black blob on a leather bag, purse, or belt, or a place where the edging doesn’t quite match are all giveaways that this piece isn’t genuine.

Smell it. For leather goods, if it’s supposed to be real leather, it should smell like quality leather. If it smells like plastic (a sort of oily smell), nothing at all, or very strongly of tanning dyes, it’s a fake.

Look at the sheen. If it’s supposed to be real silk, the sheen is slightly less shiny than satin (which is usually part-silk, part polyester, cheaper to produce, and used more often on fakes) and definitely less shiny than polyester. Silk is usually quite thin and delicate, and may show damage more readily than other fabrics, so take extra care buying anything made of this fabric.

Don’t rely on labels that say “100% silk”, or “100% leather”, or “made in Italy” (the amount of marketplace items I saw in China that said “made in Italy” on the label was unbelievable. Italy is NOT importing designer goods to Chinese markets, I’m sorry to break it to you). Always use your senses to check for yourself, because the best fakes won’t put their real materials on the label. Why would they? They’ve lied about the brand already!

Assess the condition of the piece

Check for bobbles, especially around the armpits, where you also might find stains. Some people have ways of getting stains out. I don’t buy anything with stains because I find it a bit disgusting. Bobbles, however, are just areas of fabric that have rubbed against each other too much. They can be removed with a cheap bobble remover.

Many high-end items are dry-clean only. However, charity shops often have a protocol dictating that they have to steam clean every fabric item that comes into them. Check the piece for steamer damage and washing machine damage (in case someone got confused and put it through a wash at any point in its life).

You’re looking for shrinkage. This usually manifests as lining poking out at the bottom of sleeves/hems on skirts, items being a little mis-shapen or tight in some areas while the correct size in other areas. If any shrinkage of the fabric has occurred, I don’t recommend buying the item because it won’t hang correctly or flatter your form.

Check the labels.

Always take a good look at every label on the piece. There should be a brand label in the neck (or back of the waist in skirts/trousers) and a care label somewhere else in the piece. If the brand label is cut down the middle, this is “seconds” quality, which means it didn’t pass its final inspection at the factory.

With a cut label, it’s still a genuine piece, but it may have mistakes. The tolerance for mistakes depends on the brand. Some brands will reject a piece if the stitching is more than 1mm away from where it’s supposed to be. Other brands will might have a 3mm or 5mm tolerance for where the stitching should be. Items with holes or snags that were caused during the production process may also be classed as seconds by one brand, where another might send items with such severe faults straight to destruction, never to be seen by a consumer. Some companies don’t have seconds at all.

Seconds tend to have a much lower resale value later down the line, even if they’re a second of a very rare item, because it’s understood that the quality isn’t the same. However, they can still be worth buying as long as you’re happy with the item and it fits and flatters you, as you can get a great bargain compared to buying a first-quality piece.

If a piece has no label at all, it probably isn’t even “seconds” quality. Whether you decide to buy it anyway or not is up to you. I would probably look for a better quality piece.

Which areas of the UK are likely to have designer clothes in their charity shops?

I don’t know every area in Britain so comment on this article if you have suggestions, to help out other readers! Basically, you’re looking for a reasonably affluent residential area that doesn’t have a (proportionally) huge tourist/student footfall. This is because you want a shop that gets a good supply of designer stuff but without so many shoppers snapping it all up.

You also want an area that doesn’t have grabby charity shop managers. I’ve known a couple of managers and several volunteers at various shops in York tell me that they get the first pick on the best stuff, leaving none for the actual customers!

Google Maps Reviews of the shops in question are a good way to spot which ones often have designer wear and also which ones are selling overpriced Primark tat.

These reviews are also a good way to get the measure of the manager at any given shop. If they’re only responding to positive reviews, or if they’re arguing with negative reviewers (or accusing reviewers of lying or not being genuine customers), you know they’re a bad sort and that it’s not worth wasting time visiting their shop. If they’re not responding at all, you know they’re probably busy running their shop.

Northern Ireland: Holywood

Scotland: Edinburgh Morningside area or Leith (gentrification, y’all).

The North: Hebden Bridge, Harrogate.

Midlands: Lichfield, Ashbourne.

South East: Aylesbury, Ascot.

South West: Chipping Norton, Bath.

London: Kensington. The charity shops here are absolutely designer central. There are some outstanding ones in walking distance around South Ken underground station. I’ve also heard similar about Covent Garden but I haven’t seen it myself.


This is part of a series on buying ethical Christmas gifts. Here are the others:

How to buy ethical Christmas gifts for children and teens

Seven ways to become an eBay bargain ninja

The beauty trends to know for 2021 (Guest post by Wang Fang in Mandarin)

这些美容和化妆趋势将主导2021年 
无论您是要更新妆容,头发,指甲还是皮肤,我们都会请专家(例如Vincent Oqendo和Elle)来告诉我们本年度最佳的美容和彩妆趋势。
去年是改变一切的一年-包括我们的美容习惯。我们中的许多人发现自己在家里被隔离,无法修指甲,少化妆,甚至剪自己的头发。豪华水疗,睫毛膏和鲜艳的唇膏的时代已经一去不复返了-我们将它们换成面膜,环光灯和精选护肤品。
随着我们翻开新的一页并进入2021年,美容趋势已经适应了这一时刻-明亮动人的眼睛在面膜后弹出,大量有趣的指甲趋势等等。我们聘请了化妆,指甲,头发和皮肤方面的专家,向我们提供了一些有关到2021年将要出现的最大趋势的内幕信息。
多彩的眼睛
在2019年,亮妆出现了。从那时起,五颜六色的化妆就变得最受欢迎了-特别是现在我们戴着口罩。名人化妆师文森特·奥肯多(Vincent Oqendo)预测,大胆的眼影膏颜色将在2021年流行,在每种彩虹色中都如此。
裸钉
名人指甲艺术家埃勒(Elle)预测,今年中性凝胶修指甲将成为主流。她说:“它可以是哑光或有光泽的,可以看作是手的延伸,可以延长手指的外观。”如果您想使外观更上一层楼,她建议您添加金色饰物或一些火花,以打造精致而又不至于过于压倒性的外观。专家提示:选择杏仁或圆形指甲形状可以使手指看起来更长。
大胆的眉头
奥昆多说,他今年已经看到了更多的眉毛。“我听到很多人说,隔离区使他们终于长出了眉毛,”奥昆多说。走。”
柔和的指甲设计
根据Elle的说法,花卉印花设计在2021年春季的跑道上非常庞大。您可以在沙龙里索要花卉粉彩,但在家里比您想象的要容易得多。挑选出香蕉黄色的阴影,然后选择淡粉色或绿色等花瓣颜色。将牙签浸入花瓣阴影中,使点围绕中心点形成花瓣。薄荷色阴影也可用于在花朵周围创建叶子。”
秀色可餐
现在是时候用前所未有的眼妆玩游戏了:“我发现眼睛周围有很多贴花,” Oquendo说。考虑在眼影周围添加珠宝或闪闪发光,或尝试使用阴燃的眼线笔-这是本季的另一大趋势。
自然皮肤
许多人选择抛弃沉重的粉底和遮瑕膏,以不间断地炫耀其皮肤。这种趋势全都围绕着您所处的皮肤。Kagha博士说,她看到越来越多的患者进入办公室,例如填充剂和提拉皮肤,这些过程可以使皮肤无需化妆即可看起来新鲜。
您想尝试什么新趋势?在评论中让我知道!谢谢

Translation:

The American trends in 2021 are very exciting. Make up artists share their fashions for the face and nails in this article.

Our beauty habits have changed. We did not make our nails, wear cosmetics or cut our hair. In the new world, trends transformed into the new era.

  1. Eye color is bright and inspirational.
  2. Nails are plain with neutral colors and gel manicures.
  3. Eyebrows thicker and darker people will not have thin eyebrows because they were at home with no threading.
  4. Flower nails a second design for nails is flower blossom or lotus flower design.
  5. Jewel eyes stick jewel to eyes to make attract attention on video conference.
  6. Natural skin with no foundation or powder, skin will mention the times without hesitation!

What new trends do you want to try? Let me know in the comments! Xiè xiè!

Review: Innisfree Jeju Orchid vs Cauliflower Mushroom range

Today, I’m reviewing the Innisfree Jeju Orchid and Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom (aka Innisfree White Fungus) range.

Let me start by saying “cauliflower mushroom” and “white fungus” are both terrible names for a beauty product, even if that is the active ingredient. That’s the elephant in the room with this range.

I was lucky enough to get a set of miniatures of both the Jeju Orchid range and the Cauliflower Mushroom range. I’ve reviewed the comparable items here.

This article covers:

  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Skin (toner) vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin (toner)
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Essence vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Essence
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Lotion vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Lotion
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Cream vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Cream

I’m going to start with the toner.

Innisfree Jeju Orchid Skin (toner) vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin (toner)

I decided the best way to test the toner was to put orchid skin on one side of my body and cauliflower mushroom skin on the other side of my body.

I have been using K-beauty for a while (about 3 years now) and although I used to follow a 10-step routine, I have largely developed my own K-beauty routine which works best for my skin. But I could never quite figure out where to place the toner, and where other people said to put it (after essence and serum) didn’t work for me at all.

For the record, I’m 34, my face skin is still looking under 30 but my arms and legs have been ageing faster since my late twenties due to spending a lot of time in the sun in foreign countries. It’s the price you pay for being a travel blogger. But I’d still like to improve things and I’d heard that skin/toner was the product to use.

See, some K-beauty skin/toner products are exfoliating, using AHA or BHA to reveal the fresh skin and clear away the dead cells on the surface.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know what’s in Innisfree products imported from South Korea because, of course, the labels are in Korean. When I bought their products in China, the labels were in Chinese. Go figure. And the American products are so translated that half the time I can’t even tell if something is the same product or a reformulation for the US market.

So anyway, on the one hand we have a bottle of gloopy toner in pretty purple packaging that is orchid scented and on the other, we have a bottle of toner in brown packaging that is… you guessed it. Cauliflower mushroom scented.

That’s about as good as it sounds.

I wasn’t entirely sure whether these toners should be left on or washed off, and toner seems to be one of the steps in the K-beauty routine you hear the least about. Maybe because no one else is sure whether to wash off their toner or not, too. Or maybe because most people doing K-beauty are, like, seventeen (I’m sorry, but statistics show most beauty bloggers are on average fifteen years younger than me) and therefore have no need for anti-ageing products.

So I used the orchid toner on my left arm and leg, and the cauliflower mushroom toner on my right arm and leg, then I left them for about ten minutes. They went on slightly sticky, feeling a bit like shampoo, meaning they definitely have things in them that should be washed off again. Like western exfoliating face washes.

I stepped into the shower and washed off. I had applied them to dry skin because they were quite watery and I wasn’t convinced that they would do much on wet skin, and I’m far too impatient to make my body damp then stand around in the Belfast November cold waiting for gloop to work.

When I came out of the shower, the difference was profound. The orchid skin toner had given a very mild effect, but the crumpled paper sort of appearance of the surface of my skin still remained when I pinched it (when you get to a certain age, when you pinch or squeeze your skin all these lines appear that you don’t usually see), and it felt rough to the touch, like it needed moisture ASAP.

The cauliflower mushroom skin toner had done something completely different. It had left my skin feeling smooth to the touch, and when I pinched some of my leg skin between my fingers, the crumpled paper appearance had drastically reduced.

My skin felt renewed and looked and felt younger.

I was very impressed. And also shocked that I had never seen anyone writing about this product because it’s incredible! I don’t know if it’s because the name cauliflower mushroom doesn’t sound appealing in English or because the packaging is a lot browner than the orchid’s pretty purple packaging (which I’ve commented on before in my review of the orchid eye cream vs. the perfect 9 eye cream).

The Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin/Toner is the best exfoliating toner for anti-ageing needs I’ve ever come across.

I don’t say it often, but Holy Grail alert! And I’ve had it sitting in my cosmetics drawer for months and never used it!

I wish this toner was more accessible to the UK market.

I wasn’t planning on doing this, but given how good this toner is, I am going to compare it to the Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peeling Exfoliator in a separate article.

Wow. So let’s look at the other products:

Innisfree Jeju Orchid essence vs. Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom vital serum

Essence and serum are sometimes used interchangeably but actually, they can sometimes be different things, such as in the Innisfree Soybean Energy range, where there used to be a (now-discontinued) serum which was different to their mega-amazing bestselling Soybean Energy Essence (which I swear I will review one of these days). Usually, however, “serum” is the English translation of “essence” which is a shame because essence is a prettier word. In the case of these two products, the word is interchangeable.

An essence or serum is sort of like someone put all the active ingredients of a cream into a container without any of the moisturising or hydrating properties. Sort of.

I’ve been using the Innisfree Orchid Essence on my face for several months, now and if I’m entirely honest, I’m not very impressed with it. I spent ages researching which products to get to replace the Soybean Energy Serum which is now discontinued and was my favourite product ever. The research I did said Orchid was just as good.

It isn’t.

I’m sorry if you’re a fan of the Innisfree Orchid Essence and I know it’s one of their bestselling ranges alongside the green tea seed products, but honestly I don’t like the Orchid Essence and I don’t feel like it’s doing anything to my skin. All told, I’m glad I got it in an Autumn Festival sale rather than paying full price for it.

So the bar was pretty low and tl;dr, the Cauliflower Mushroom essence was a lot better. I’m not rushing out to buy a full-priced bottle because there are so many serums out there to choose from and I don’t think it’s the very best, but at the same time I felt like it was at least doing something for my skin. It left my face feeling soft and hydrated.

I didn’t use the essence on my arms and legs because the bottle is a miniature and it’s even smaller than all the other miniatures in this set, so there isn’t much product.

Innisfree Jeju Orchid Lotion vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Lotion

After my shower, I did put the Orchid lotion on my left arm and leg, and the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion on my right arm and leg. The Orchid lotion was thinner and came out of the sample bottle very easily, whereas the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion led to me doing the Innisfree Miniature Bottle Dance, which is where I spend about ten minutes tapping the mouth of the open bottle against my hand until enough product comes out to actually use.

If you’ve ever had an Innisfree gift set, you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean. They don’t put anything in a squeezy bottle.

Anyway after many minutes I got the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion out of the bottle and applied it to my arm and leg. It was honestly worth the wait. The Cauliflower Mushroom lotion was instantly hydrating and made my skin feel smooth. The paper bag appearance when I pinch my skin was totally gone, and I credit the Cauliflower Mushroom skin/toner and lotion combo for this.

For a lotion, the effect was very impressive.

Innisfree Jeju Orchid Cream vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Face Cream

This is the last pairing in this review and I am not sure I need to really write it, at this point, because if you’ve been following this article, you can clearly see what I’m going to say. Except I’m not.

I have been using the Orchid cream for a few weeks on my face. I hadn’t opened the Cauliflower Mushroom miniatures set until today.

The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is not as startlingly good as the Perfect 9 eye cream, which I think is my favourite Innisfree product right now. The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is richer than the Orchid face cream, though, and which one you prefer will depend on your current skin needs.

It was super clear-cut that the Cauliflower Mushroom Skin/Toner, lotion and serum was better than the Orchid range, but when it comes to the face creams, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is a lot richer than I currently need, and my skin wasn’t able to absorb it very well, suggesting it’s aimed at ladies who are ten or fifteen years older than me. The Orchid face cream was largely ineffective. Both creams left my face feeling weighed down (if that even makes sense) and over-saturated, and neither addressed my anti-ageing needs especially well.

So when it comes to the face creams, I wouldn’t buy full sized versions of either of them. And I’m glad I didn’t (I almost bought a full size pot of the Orchid one).

Conclusion:

Need a toner? Cauliflower mushroom. Need a lotion? Cauliflower mushroom. Need an essence/serum? Cauliflower mushroom. The Cauliflower mushroom range does these products extremely well.

But if you need a daytime face cream, I would suggest you keep looking, because neither of these quite hit the mark for me.

How to travel with cosmetics: Complete guide

This guide to travelling with beauty products is going to cover every different type of travel, including taking cosmetics on airplanes (carry on only and checked luggage, domestic and international), high altitude travel with cosmetics, including mountaineering, and protecting cosmetics from extremes of temperature, especially during overland travel with beauty products or flights to/from hot countries.

My cosmetics go nearly everywhere I go, and you’d expect nothing less since I’m a travel and beauty blogger. I’ve had to make up my own solutions to some of my travel-with-cosmetics problems because the hacks most people came up with only work for very specific situations. I’m in the process of writing a separate article on how to decant literally every cosmetic, and will update this article with links when that one is done.

This article contains:

Carry-on beauty hacks for travelling light.

Checked luggage beauty hacks to protect your cosmetics (and your other stuff).

How temperature and altitude affect cosmetics: Read before going ANYWHERE (especially overland)!

Carry-on beauty travel hacks:

When you’re travelling with only a carry-on, your cosmetics need to be as pared down as possible. I know when I pack for a longer getaway, I’m always in a dilemma because I want to travel light but my cosmetics case could easily fill half a normal-sized suitcase, never mind a little carry-on bag.

All airlines worldwide have limits on how much liquid you can take onto planes these days, which makes it even more complicated for women to travel and look their best.

Here’s how to pack cosmetics for 7 days with a carry-on:

  1. Shampoo: Instead of a bottle of shampoo, take a shampoo bar. You could make your own, using one of my recipes such as my green tea shampoo bar, or buy a ready-made one. When you only have one sandwich bag at the airport in which to put all your liquid cosmetics, a bar makes sense.
  2. Conditioner: Another unnecessary liquid. The way I see it, there are three ways to solve the conditioner issue. Either buy some when you land (potluck as to whether you’ll find any as soon as you need it, so not great if you’re going long-haul), make your own conditioner bar such as my easy natural hair conditioner bar recipe, or forego the conditioner completely and use coconut oil instead.
  3. Deodorant: Take a deodorant bar. The only good one I’ve found (ever) is the Lush Aromaco bar which is unisex and actually works as advertised, unlike most natural deodorants. Unfortunately, I don’t have a homemade alternative yet.
  4. Toothpaste: If you can get to a dentist before you travel, they almost always have free samples from toothpaste companies, and these are perfect for travel. If not, a full-size tube will use up your liquids allowance, but you may have to suck it up or buy a new tube when you land. No one wants dirty teeth.
  5. Lotion: If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll usually get a new tube of this every day. If not, my conditioner bar, above, doubles up as an intensive on-the-spot treatment for very dry skin (use sparingly).
  6. Face cream: If you’re going to South Korea, absolutely under no circumstances take face cream. They have face cream. And it’s better than anything you have at home. Otherwise, decant your face cream into a smaller pot such as a mayonnaise pot (these tend to leak less than the cheaper “travel cosmetics bottles”) or a miniature jam jar. Remember to label it.
  7. Sunscreen: Take a travel mini if your face cream doesn’t contain an SPF. You can also make powder sunscreen using zinc oxide but it’s not suitable for dry skin like mine.
  8. Foundation: Take a cushion or a powder foundation, or boldly go natural with no foundation. A cushion with a high SPF is great for hotter countries.
  9. Eyeshadow: An eyeshadow pencil is your best option so you don’t have to worry about powder breakage on the flight or use up that precious liquid allowance!
  10. Eyeliner: Is very small, so unless you’re seriously pressed for space, just take liquid eyeliner if that’s your go-to, and put it in the baggie at security. Otherwise, an eye pencil can double up as a brow pencil if you choose your shade wisely and take a makeup pencil sharpener.
  11. Highlighter and contouring kit: Ditch. Not worth the extra space in your makeup bag. If you want to contour, very lightly apply your brown eyeliner or eyeshadow pencil to the areas you need to contour and blend, blend, blend until it’s looking natural. White eyeshadow or concealer doubles up as highlighter if needed.
  12. Lipstick: These are often classed as liquids. I prefer a tinting balm with an SPF unless I have a very formal occasion or a cosplay to attend.
  13. Mascara: Get a miniature sample of your favorite mascara either from a store like Bloomingdale’s or from Amazon. It takes up way less space than a big chunky plastic mascara tube. I prefer waterproof brown mascara for travel, and I pair it with Mascara Melt-Off by Too Faced.
  14. Perfume: If you can’t get a travel miniature, just leave it at home. It will only attract unwanted stray men.
  15. Blusher: I use the Benefit Do the Hoola miniature.
  16. Pore strips: If you’re prone to blackheads, especially if you’re traveling to a hot country, take some Bioré pore strips.
  17. Concealer, if you use it. The Urban Decay ultimate holy grail concealer travels REALLY well and covers up tattoos (ideal for travel to Japan).

And here’s what you don’t need when travelling with a carry-on:

Spray Deodorant: Buy this when you land. A big spray bottle will use up your liquids allowance with carry-on luggage.

Dry shampoo: It’s actually really bad for your hair and unless you’re going for an interview when you land you could just shower, instead.

Setting spray: Seems useful, but if you’re in a situation where your makeup won’t stay put, consider whether you need it on your face or not. In the sort of heat that makes makeup migrate down your face, your pores are open, leaving you undefended against blackheads and spots.

Lip plumper/lash growth serum/false lashes: I love all of these, but unless you’re travelling for a big event, you can live without them for a week.

Hair spray/mousse: Use coconut oil (or a small amount of my homemade conditioner bar applied to dry hair) instead to fix flyaways.

Checked baggage beauty hacks

The first time I travelled with a checked bag, we were moving to China. I stared at my open suitcase thinking I could take anything at all and it would all fit in this ginormous case.

Unfortunately, I soon learned that wasn’t true. I also didn’t know about excess baggage, so I thought I could only take this one case and a carry-on. In case anyone else has never been on a long-haul flight, you just pay for more suitcases and it’s not an abominable amount (about $80-ish with the US airlines; about half that in China).

On the plus side, I’m not a huge fan of traveling with tons of bags and, if you’re a solo female traveller (or a lone female heavily-pregnant traveller, as I was on one infamous long-haul flight from China to Helsinki to Heathrow), you will absolutely want as little crap to carry as possible because you will have to lift your bags at various points.

  • Take all cosmetics out of their boxes/packaging. If you’re Youtubing, film the unboxing video before you pack! Remember to keep any applicators/spare parts and photograph any instructions in case you need them later.
  • Decant unwieldy products into smaller, lighter containers.
  • To avoid leaks, wrap any cosmetics in cling film/saran wrap and put them in a waterproof cosmetics bag before putting them in a checked bag. Especially ampoule type sleeping packs!
  • To minimize damage, keep powder cosmetics and any container that won’t easily wipe clean in a separate waterproof cosmetics bag to your liquid cosmetics! Store these in another part of your case.
  • Put anything like books, electricals, clothes that may stain, etc, in packing cubes or supermarket bags to protect from cosmetics or food leaks. The supermarket bags can then be used to go food shopping when you reach your destination! I had a carton of wine explode in my suitcase once because I packed it wrong on a 17 hour flight, and the mess was not pretty! I was gutted because it was the nicest wine I ever tasted, too (a Californian Pinot Noir, if you’re curious).
  • Protect your cosmetics from damage in checked luggage by wrapping them in (bagged) clothes, so if your bags are dropped or crushed, your cosmetics are safe.

How heat affects cosmetics during travel

The issue with taking cosmetics in checked bags isn’t so much space, but whether the conditions your bag will be in are safe for cosmetics. For example, at Dubai Airport, temperatures can regularly hit 45 degrees celsius, sometimes reaching higher, and while your bag is on the tarmac waiting to be loaded onto a plane, things could melt.

Most cosmetics are intended to be kept between 10-25 degrees celsius, so any major divergence from this could cause the active ingredients in anti-ageing creams to become… well… inactive. Essential oils also have problems when they get too warm.

Collagen in our bodies degrades even in average room temperature, although in cosmetics it’s safe to about 45 degrees celsius (120F to be precise) when collagen breakdown’s reaction rate increases [reference] to the point where it can be broken down within about 6 hours.

Hyaluronic acid is even more susceptible to heat damage – just 30 minutes at 50 degrees celsius causes 81% of the hyaluronic acid in a product to break down [reference – PDF download of research paper]. This actually happened to me when I took my By Nature New Zealand eye cream on a long round the world trip including Kathmandu, Dubai, Istanbul and Athens in the August heat during the 2018 European wildfires. By the time I got back to China, the creams were no longer effective and when I looked into the science, I found out it must have been all the airports where my bag sat waiting to be loaded onto/unloaded from planes. Anything with hyaluronic acid should say home or go in your carry on.

Peptides like Matrixyl are the most resilient to heat exposure. Even at temperatures of 100 degrees C, they won’t break down! [reference]. Peptide creams with no other active ingredients can go in your checked bags with no problems!

Vitamins fare even worse! Vitamin C breaks down from 30 degrees C (86F) [reference]. That same reference states pro-vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), found in many haircare products, is also very heat sensitive.

Vitamin A (a retinoid that converts to retinol) is partly affected, too – after 3 months at 45 degrees C it degrades by about 30% [reference], which isn’t an issue for anyone in transit, but will be a consideration for archaeologists and aid workers, and anyone else camping out in warm climates for prolonged periods who uses retinol cream. On your return to a cooler country, you may need to replace retinol-containing cosmetics. The same reference shows Vitamin A also loses 10% of its potency when stored at 13.5 degrees C for 3 months, up to 34% loss of potency after 9 months.

On the other hand, most other cosmetics can stand to be frozen – in fact, they will often reach freezing temperatures during transport. When I worked for Avon (cosmetics company) my deliveries would regularly arrive frozen.

The main exception to this is Coenzyme Q10, aka Q10, a well-known anti-ageing ingredient which is actually very difficult for your body to absorb. It won’t absorb properly if it’s anything other than body temperature and at low temperatures, it forms crystals and becomes ineffective. In fact, it’s less effective at any temperature below 48 celsius (10 degrees hotter than body temperature), although this is likely to be a temporary effect that will go away when the cream is warmer [reference].

So using this science, we can see that most anti-ageing creams need to be carefully packed in a stable temperature to protect them. For this reason, I reiterate they must be taken to hot countries as carry-on luggage to maintain their effectiveness.

Anything containing Q10 or retinol also needs to be in your carry on when travelling to or from very cold countries. Anti-ageing creams are usually expensive and packaged in bulky or heavy containers so I recommend leaving the container at home and decanting your product into a smaller jar with enough for your trip.

How does altitude affect cosmetics?

There was very little published research about the effect of temperature, I had to cross apply studies on food or other biological applications of certain ingredients, and there’s even less work done on altitude.

Kinetic theory tells us you can increase the effectiveness of any chemical reaction by increasing temperature or pressure (or both) of a reactant. This is why products break down in heat.

But this means they will also break down under very high pressure (e.g. when diving, but who takes their cosmetics SCUBA diving?) and that low pressure (e.g. at high altitude, on mountains or high cities like Lhasa, Kathmandu, or most parts of Peru and other areas in South America) will usually make things less reactive. Except for one issue…

The boiling point of water is lower at altitude. All other liquids are affected in a similar way. This means the temperature at which ingredients will denature will also be lower at altitude (the pressurised cabin of an aircraft doesn’t count here).

Most high-altitude areas are quite cold, but some, such as Kathmandu, can get hot at certain times of the year, so don’t leave your cosmetics on windowledges or anywhere without air con. This is especially true of Lhasa, which is over 3600m above sea level (that’s 11,800 feet).

Cosmetics also have a bad habit (due to the low-pressure environment) of working their way out of jars at high altitude. This is more likely in the low pressure cargo hold of some planes rather than on land but if you’re doing Everest, the last thing you need is to faff with cosmetics (my recommendation for cosmetics to take up a big mountain like Everest or K2? Just SPF 50 sunscreen, chapstick with an SPF or coconut oil, and some soap for hygiene).

If you’re overlanding, you might not even know you’ve reached high altitude, so pack your cosmetics well and don’t take any big expensive ones, just in case they get ruined.

Humidity

Humidity is another consideration for travelling with cosmetics. Powder cosmetics suffer most from this. They can go hard and difficult to get onto an applicator or brush, or they can even dissolve. You could keep powder cosmetics in a makeup bag with a sachet or two of silica gel to protect them. Keep silica gel away from babies and pets.

Humidity will also affect electricals. Beauty devices are more robust than a lot of devices, however, so are unlikely to stop working unless they actually get wet (aka 100% humidity).

If your bags are likely to get wet, e.g. travelling in a rainstorm or typhoon, put beauty devices in a plastic bag and surround them with clothes to absorb any potential liquid. Also keep them well away from any part of the zippers as these are the weak point in most bags and suitcases, where water is most likely to get in.

In a campervan or other long overland adventure, humidity is the biggest danger to your cosmetics because you’re breathing in your vehicle and causing the air to become saturated with water vapour. This becomes very problematic at night (you’ll see the windows steam up from it).

You can get a non-electric dehumidifier which uses crystals, they’re available at most bargain stores like Home Bargains (UK) or Dollar Tree (US). It could be worth taking one of these with you and putting it somewhere where it won’t get knocked over (they get messy and then they cause more issues than they solve because the crystals are toxic). Keep these well away from children or pets.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the science behind exactly how to pack to take the best care of your cosmetics while travelling, which cosmetics travel well and which ones you can do without! Some cosmetics are seriously expensive, so if in doubt about whether you can safely pack them, leave them at home (especially if they’ve been discontinued and are therefore irreplaceable).

Review: Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream High End Luxury K-beauty

In this article I’m going to review the high-end K-beauty product Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream.

It costs about £75 or $100USD from Nature Republic’s official website. For that, you get a full-size jar and this contains 50ml (just under 2oz) of product.

Packaging and first impressions:

It comes in a green cardboard box with a sleeve giving you product details (and stopping the cardboard box opening). Inside the cardboard box is a crystal-style big square jar which is colored green in a gradient from clear to dark green.

Everything about this product screams pure luxury. I heard about it from a friend who asked me to bring her a jar back from Seoul when I lived in China.

Here are some photos:

The white lid is a screw top and underneath, there’s a black protective second lid.

The cream itself has a jelly-like texture and consistency. It’s clear and colourless apart from the 24 karat gold pieces that are embedded in the cream.

It has a sort of perfumed scent, I think it would pair well with Chanel No. 5 because the scent is in the same style but different.

Active Ingredients:

Every active ingredient in this product is a powerhouse from nature. They’re all slightly a big deal in South Korea (slightly), and since we know for a fact K-beauty is all about the skincare, this product should be top of everyone’s list in the fight against ageing.

The active ingredients in this product are royal jelly, silk amino acids (known for their repairing properties for skin and hair), and extract of red ginseng.

Royal jelly is well-documented as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. It contains antioxidants that work against free radical damage. Reference here.

Ginseng is a superfood that has been used as a supplement for decades in the west to help with middle-aged women’s problems. It stands to reason it’s going to bring its A-game to skincare products, and in K-beauty, it’s currently everywhere. Red ginseng contains vitamins B1, B2 and B12, and it helps increase oxygenation and circulation to skin cells. Reference here.

The 24 karat gold is supposed to improve your complexion. Reference here.

Gold is still the next big thing in skincare, especially Korean skincare, so whether or not it’s an effective ingredient, at least you’re getting some actual gold for your money. Gold is technically inert as it’s unreactive (chemistry, yo) but it can illuminate and brighten your complexion so there’s that.

Really, the gold is there to make it look pretty while the other ingredients do the hard work.

The ingredients also list zizyphus jujuba fruit extract, which is a well-known ingredient native to South Korea which they also make delicious jujube tea out of. It’s a superfood, darling, and it’s the Korean skincare equivalent of Japan’s matcha green tea extract except that’s an understatement because this stuff is packed with vitamins. Jujube is the nutritional lovechild of goji berries and matcha powder. Reference here.

Another powerful ingredient, much higher up the list, is Cāng Zhú, aka Attractolydes Root Extract, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. It is harvested in Springtime and it has antimicrobial properties. It increases your chances of sunburn (like retinol creams do), but conversely, attractolydes has also been shown to have anti-cancer cytotoxic properties, so wear sunscreen with this one! Reference here.

How good is it?

It depends on what your skin is like, your age, and how you use it. I am 34 with some minor first signs of ageing like fine lines which I can still disappear with the right creams, masks and exfoliations (just about).

When I first opened my jar of Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream, I mistakenly used it as a day cream and as a result I didn’t like it. Bad, bad plan. It’s FAR too gloopy for that. Instead, use it in place of a sleeping mask/night cream, or in the evening if you’re staying in. Don’t try using this cream with makeup, the results will be damp and sticky.

In fact, the texture is damp and sticky anyway, which is why I think this is much better as a night cream or sleeping mask. Keeping this on for 8 hours uninterrupted is going to do your skin a lot of good. When it touches your face, it literally feels packed with goodness. It’s like making your face take a bath in a 24-karat superfood smoothie.

I tend to use this Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream in the evening after the sun has gone down, and over winter, when my skin needs more nourishment due to the weather and more time spent indoors with the heating on.

For best results, pair this with the Ginseng Royal Silk Essence.

Over several months, I’ve found that my skin has become brighter and holds moisture much better than before I was using this product. I’m liking it better than the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream although that’s a thin day cream and this is a very thick night cream so the two could work extremely well together. I’ve reviewed the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream separately.

I don’t think this cream is targeted at people in their twenties at all. You won’t find any benefit from it. If you’re in your mid-thirties onwards, this cream really comes into its own. Unfortunately, the vast majority of beauty reviewers in the world are in their teens and twenties which obviously makes it difficult for them to review anti-ageing creams.

The reason I took so long to review this cream is on the first use it didn’t seem like it had made any difference. The reason it’s hard to assess on one or even a few uses is because it doesn’t have those skin-plumping ingredients found in many western creams that are actually just a quick fix and really useless for long-term anti-ageing.

This cream is so powerful, that after using it every night for 3 weeks, I started only using it twice a week and alternating it with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender, because I don’t need to use this cream every day, yet, so now I’m just using it for maintenance. This means if you’re under forty, one jar will last you FOREVER. Well, a long time, anyway.

The Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream is a long-term fix for your skin. It’s skincare rather than skin-fakery. And that’s what makes it worth buying.

Travel Packing:

The packaging of this cream is a little over the top. I weighed it on some scales, the jar by itself was over 500 grams (over 1lb)! It doubles up as a great paperweight. However, this is definitely not a jar of cream that you would want to take on vacation or any business trip, especially if you like to only take a carry-on.

If you regularly take excess baggage on flights and don’t mind dealing with really heavy suitcases (I absolutely detest lifting heavy bags), you could probably take the whole jar, but I’m not a fan of carrying things when I’m on vacation and I find that even executive-level rooms at the Marriott or Hilton are not big enough for more than a couple of suitcases, which is two people’s normal luggage, so this cream is good for travel only if you are booking a whole suite or apartment.

If you’re travelling and need a K-beauty fix, I recommend you take Laneige Water Sleeping Mask in a little travel pot, instead, or decant Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream into a travel container. Since this product increases your sun sensitivity, I’d suggest the Laneige product if you’re travelling to a very sunny destination like the Seychelles, Maldives or Malaysia. Likewise, if you’re under 30, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask should be your go-to night cream/sleeping mask.

Where to buy:

You can buy direct from Nature Republic’s UK website www.naturerepublicuk.com or in the US you can get it on Amazon in this incredible offer of the Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream, Ginseng Royal Silk Essence and FIVE miniatures for $130, saving about $60 on the RRPs of getting all this separately. In South Korea, just pop into any Nature Republic store where the assistants will be delighted to advise you.

The verdict:

An investment in your future skin.

Add-to-cart potential: High.

Easy AHA exfoliating melt and pour soap recipe (variations for all skin types)!

This recipe is super-easy and so good for skin, especially in wintertime when dryness can be an issue. It seems like the combination of leggings, hot air indoors and going out on cold wintry days can cause skin to become flaky.

Add to that, on a cold day, no one wants to spend time moisturizing when they get out of the shower. I know at this time of year I’m so busy and cold, my skincare routine always goes right out of the window!

If you need to know how to get started with soapmaking, go here. Otherwise, read on and find out how to make an AHA exfoliating melt and pour soap. This recipe makes 1 bar of soap that should fit into a rectangular silicone soap mould, so scale it up to suit your needs.

Ingredients:

10 ml Cherry kernel oil

90g Melt and pour soap base

1 ml Cherry blossom fragrance

A pinch of sliced up loofah

Method (makes 1 soap weighing 100g):

  1. Cut about 90g (3 oz) of soap base from the block of melt and pour base. Chop the base finely and place into a glass jug.
  2. Heat the soap base in the microwave or place the jug in a pan of boiling water until all the base has melted.
  3. Add 10ml cherry kernel oil and about 0.5ml of fragrance.
  4. Mix in the sliced up loofah for extra exfoliating power. Once it’s all stirred up, pour into a soap mould and wait for it to harden.

How it works:

The cherry kernel oil is a natural AHA exfoliator, that helps get rid of dead skin cells on the surface of your face and body, increasing cell turnover and ditching dry skin.

Most AHA ingredients found in shop-bought products are chemically derived, whereas the cherry kernel oil retains its moisturizing properties, making it perfect for exfoliating dry winter skin!

The loofah helps speed up the exfoliating process by physically removing any dead skin (the stuff that can sometimes flake when you’re drying off after a shower).

An advantage of melt and pour soap is there’s no lye to handle, so this recipe is safe to make around pets or children. Having said that, be sure not to let them eat the finished product or any of the ingredients!

You can probably turn this into a cold process soap recipe, if you’re the sort of person who likes to customize every last ingredient in a soap recipe, but if, like me, you’re more excited about the finished product than the process taken to get there, melt and pour is a great choice!

Any melt and pour soap base will work fine with this recipe. I prefer the goat’s milk one but obviously, if you’re vegan, you would want to avoid that. The standard SLS/SLES free Stephenson’s melt and pour soap base is always a good choice, but there are so many choices for melt and pour soap bases, you’re bound to find one which becomes your favorite!

Variations:

Combination skin (oily and dry)? If you want this recipe to work better on oily skin, switch the fragrance oil for tea tree oil instead. The tea tree oil will help with hard-to-clean blocked pores and encourage spots to clear.

Super-dry, sensitive skin? Add 10ml avocado oil to this recipe, use no fragrance at all, halve the amount of loofah and be sure to use your usual cream(s) after the shower. Avocado oil is super-hydrating without being greasy or weighing your skin down (there’s nothing worse than feeling shiny after a shower, is there?) and many people with extremely dry skin find fragrance oils can dry them out even more, so making it unscented will help, too. By reducing the amount of loofah, you still get rid of dead skin cells but without causing irritation.

Oily skin? Add 1/4 tsp of French Red Clay (ultraventilated) and switch the fragrance oil for tea tree oil. The French red clay will help control oil production from your pores, and draw impurities out of them, while the tea tree oil will help with problem spot areas.

Did you try this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Why I got rid of my silver hair

If you’d asked me in October 2018 whether I would ever stop dying my hair silver, I would have replied with a resounding no. I’ve written so many tutorials and made so many videos about how to dye your hair silver and how to get white hair that I think I spent about 1/3 of 2015 just teaching other people how to get silver hair at a time when no one else was doing it.

I explained the science, how to get your hair to a point where you can bleach it, and what to do if you accidentally over-bleach your hair (I’ve achieved that at least twice, haha. This was before protein filler was perfected. Hair grows).

I still have dreams where my hair is that beautiful color, then I awaken and see myself in the mirror. Dark hair. Washed-out face. Different. Older.

I still think silver, white and white blonde hair are the three most stunning colours you can dye your hair. The next most stunning? Purple.

In October 2018, I took about 3 bottles of Renbow Crazy Color Platinum, 2 bottles of Crazy Color Lilac and a medium bottle of silver shampoo and another of conditioner back to China with me in my suitcase, along with other western staples I just don’t like living without (coco pops, decaf coffee). They got through New York JFK airport no problem, and I couldn’t foresee a time when I would stop coloring.

Fast forward to December 2018, when I was stuck in the bathroom in our apartment in Malaysia, just being sick constantly. Pharmacy. Test. Positive. The most exciting day of our lives up to that point (it was about to get a lot more exciting). We had seen half of the world, flown over Everest, learned to cook in Cambodia and driven to Rome from York in our homemade Citroen Picasso campervan. It all paled in comparison to this. We were about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives.

After years of trying and heart-wrenching disappointment, our baby was finally on the way.

We had four miscarriages before now, including two in England, one in Nepal and one in China. I was not going to take any chances on anything at all. I occasionally had wine before now, but when we got that positive test, I stopped drinking. I wore socks in my sandals which is the Chinese way. I wore nothing tight around my waist and didn’t even wear a bra for 7 months. I slept on my side. No coffee or tea. Vegetables. Vitamins. I wanted that baby to have everything.

This pregnancy was kind to me, especially contrasted with my first pregnancy, where I’d had hyperemesis and ended up in hospital on IV fluids. And finally, when the baby arrived, I thought I’d start doing all the things I’d done before.

I didn’t.

See, there’s this thing called breastfeeding, and it turns out, you’re not allowed to do anything while you’re breastfeeding. Except make cosmetics with excess milk. So I left my hair alone. And left it. And left it. Eventually, I had this block of white which was around my collarbone, and lots of dark hair further up. In February, I got most of it cut off, and the rest went in July, so now all my hair is brown.

I’m still breastfeeding. Jellyfish is 15 months old and I will keep giving him boobie milk as long as he wants it. I could probably dye my hair again with no major problems, but honestly, at the moment, I don’t have any interest in doing it. White hair is ultra-high maintenance. Silver hair is labour-intensive, too. I don’t want to spend so much time on it. I thought about (gasp) getting it done at a hairdresser but they’re all a) closed and b) always tell me not to have silver hair which leaves me frustrated at wasting money on a hair colour I don’t want.

There’s a box of Schwarzkopf silver permanent dye in the bathroom. It’s been there since last August, when I bought it without thinking. Every time I go in there, the girl on the box stares at me, her gaze penetrating into my soul and calling to me, like Poe’s raven. Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

And like the raven, my hair will be silver again… nevermore.

Okay that was way too serious. It’ll probably get attacked with bleach in a year or two. IDK. I don’t want to say never but I’m not feeling a full-color whiteout right now.

How about you? Have you stopped coloring your hair? Started? Let me know in the comments!

How to get rid of blackheads on your chin

Ok so you were looking for how to get rid of blackheads on your chin, and all the articles were general advice, usually aimed at getting rid of blackheads on your nose. But the chin area is the second commonest place to get blackheads and they can be especially hard to remove in this area because the skin on your chin is different to that on your nose.

First, are you sure you definitely have a blackhead on your chin?

What is a blackhead?

They are usually straightforward to spot, because they look like black dots on your face, however, on the chin, they can be confused with ingrown hairs, so knowing how to tell the difference between the two will help you know how to treat them.

An ingrown hair often has redness around it, and the skin covering the ingrown hair swells as the hair grows. There usually isn’t an obvious opening (a pinprick-like black dot, for example) and it often resembles a regular spot or pimple, but black under the surface of the skin.

By contrast, a blackhead is a pore in your skin which opened and then dirt got inside it, making it look black. The black dots of blackheads are a lot smaller than the blackness of ingrown hairs and usually a blackhead doesn’t hurt. In a blackhead, it’s only the open part (the clogged pore) which appears black; there won’t be any blackness beneath the skin.

Just to confuse things, blackheads can sometimes get swollen but these are rare.

To understand how to get rid of blackheads on your chin, we need to look at what actually causes them and what you can do to get those pesky blackheads to go away!

What causes blackheads on the chin?

Like other types of blackheads, the ones on your chin are caused when a pore is blocked. There are many reasons this can happen but a toxic mix of several factors make it more likely.

It happens more in warm climates because warmth makes your pores open up. Then when you are out in the environment with pollution and tiny particles of dirt being blown around by the wind, these can get inside your pores.

Bacteria that lives on the surface of your skin, along with dead skin cells, also fall into the open pores, like sea pouring into a big hole on the beach.

Even if you wash your face regularly, you can still get blackheads on your chin. Bacteria can grow in external clothing, such as turtle necks or scarves, and on necklaces. When these brush against your chin, they cause the bacteria to get into the open pores. Your pillow can also be a culprit, if your pillow case isn’t changed often enough.

Microscopic food or drink residue from cups and bowls can get in there, making a physical obstruction but also feeding the bacteria and causing them to multiply. When you sneeze, a fine mist of bacteria can get onto your face, too.

And it doesn’t need to be a hot day for blackheads to form. Your pores open for a lot of different reasons, even in winter (although blackheads are more likely in summer and warm climates). Wearing a warm scarf, doing exercise, resting your chin on your hands, the warm air in your car’s heating system, all cause your chin’s pores to open up, making them vulnerable to blackheads.

Once the pores are open and things have gotten into them, the sebum your skin produces will mix with the dirt. Sebum is supposed to keep things clean, but when there’s an overload of environmental factors getting into the pore, the sebum begins to harden and stops it all getting back out. Because the pore is forced to stay open, it doesn’t close over like a regular spot.

Once the sebum has hardened, your skin struggles to naturally clear the blackhead. At that point, you have a newly-minted blackhead on your chin and your face needs help to clear the blackhead. It’s rare for blackheads to form in isolation; usually the conditions that form them will affect dozens of pores at the same time.

How can you get rid of blackheads on your chin?

There are a lot of articles telling you to use steam, that certain essential oils work, or that you need to pay for a pimple popper. The reason very few articles can agree on how to get rid of blackheads is they are all valid methods. One will work better for you than the others, everyone’s different!

Here are the best ways to get rid of chinheads:

  1. Bioré charcoal pore strips. These are the big guns when it comes to clearing blackheads. These say they’re for oily skin but mine is ultra-dry and these are the best thing. If you can’t get a chin pore strip, cut down a nose one to get several chin blackhead strips. #moneysavingexpert
  2. Steam. You can try sitting over a bowl of hot water, maybe with some tea tree essential oil in it, although I find that while this opens up the pores, it doesn’t actually get the stuff to come out of them, so I would combine this with another method.
  3. A pimple popper. Not all pimple poppers are created equal. Some work quickly to clear your spot. Others are a useless beauty device that does nothing at all.
    Get a good one such as this one.
  4. Wash the area with a tea tree or witch hazel face wash. For natural results, tea tree and witch hazel are both good at helping with clogged pores. Witch hazel is an astringent which has been used as a toner for decades and tea tree is a natural antiseptic. Dab a bit on a cotton swab and swish over the affected area 1-2 times per day.
  5. Use an exfoliating AHA or BHA scrub, such as one containing salicylic acid. This is a great prevention, too, especially if you find a good scrub. I like the St Ives Apricot scrub which contains salicylic acid and the Nip+Fab glycolic fix one, which contains glycolic acid. To use, massage in circular motions with your fingers. Exfoliating scrubs containing these ingredients are really good for clearing problem areas such as the chin where you can really get those circular movements right. I’d recommend only using them 1-2 times a week once you’ve cleared your skin because they’re strong exfoliants.
  6. Use an electrical device. These are great for prevention and cure. The Clarisonic is a good option if you have the budget, otherwise I love my infrared sonic skin peeling tool, which uses infrared light and ultrasound to “bounce” the dirt right out of pores.

And the things that don’t work…

There are a lot of things that truly do not work to get rid of chinheads, but people keep doing them. Here’s a rundown of the worst offenders:

1.. Don’t squeeze a blackhead. They will splodge under your skin and spread, turning into horrendous spots.

2. Don’t scratch them. I always thought this was a given, then I met this guy who did this every time he had a spot. And he wondered why he was inundated with them. *facepalm.

3. The toothpaste method does not work for blackheads. That’s the one where you put a dot of toothpaste on the spot and leave it overnight. As the toothpaste dries, it sucks the gunk out of the spot. Doesn’t work for blackheads of any type or any location. This is good for other types of spots and pimples, though.

4. Don’t use a needle to dig them out. My mum used to swear by this. She had permanent scarring from it, and pore damage. Bad plan.

5. Don’t use oil-based products (except tea tree oil in small amounts) on the affected area until you’re sure the blackheads have gone away and when you use them, make sure your pores aren’t open or they’ll fill up again.

6. Don’t wait to take action against blackheads on your chin. The longer they are there, the more likely you are to have permanent damage from them. The pores can get stretched to a point where they’re always big and open.

7. Silver powder. Total pseudoscientific nonsense that’s been doing the rounds since the 90s. Don’t waste your money.

That’s basically all you need to know about blackheads on your chin. Here are my product recommendations for getting rid of blackheads.

Top products to get rid of blackheads on chins:

  1. Biore charcoal pore strips (cut up nose strips to get strips for your chin as they don’t seem to sell them separately).
  2. St. Ives Apricot Scrub
  3. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Scrub
  4. Witch hazel toner (alcohol free)
  5. Tea tree oil. Use this sparingly as it’s potent stuff!

Top electrical devices to get rid of blackheads:

  1. An ultrasonic skin peeler and blackhead remover. These work really well to clear the skin. I recommend the Gugug Skin Spatula which is a steal at $21.99. I love mine so much and I use it once or twice a month as prevention.
  2. A complete skin cleaning device. The Clarisonic Mia is the gold standard but they’re very expensive and the Olay Pro X is a brilliant dupe (I used the Olay Pro X weekly to clear my husband’s problem skin in the 12 weeks before our wedding day… #guyfacial) and at $39.99 it’s less than half price of the latest Clarisonic tools.
  3. A specific blackhead sucker. The ones with blue light work well to kill the bacteria. A great choice is the Lonove Suction Blackhead Remover with Blue Light which is currently $24.99 although prices fluctuate.
  4. A facial steamer such as this one will focus the steam better on your face than a bowl of hot water, and as a bonus, it comes with a complete set of pimple-popping tools too! If $26.99 is too much to spend on something like this, a bowl of hot water will still help.

Got any blackhead-killing tips? Share them in the comments!

It’s Skin Q10 Effector review vs Q10 supplements: Inside or outside?

After my article yesterday about eating beautiful, I thought I’d talk about whether the It’s Skin Q10 Effector Serum is better than taking a Q10 tablet as a supplement to improve your skin, because it’s in a similar vein.

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Basically, Q10 is a beauty ingredient that’s supposed to be good for anti-ageing, if we believe the L’Oreal advert and Naomi Campbell. Now, until I was about 27, I was completely in love with Q10 and it was the only thing I was using to make my complexion look good. One of my friends was getting seriously bad first signs of ageing (she liked coke, and I don’t mean the drink) and she was using the same products as me: Lacura (Aldi own brand) Q10 day and night cream.

Then, I had a bit of a problem. That cream seemed to become less effective. I needed more ingredients in my beauty regime, in a stronger cream. But I couldn’t find any better creams with Q10 in them that weren’t targeted at the over 40 crowd. It’s a bit soul destroying when you’re 27 and are contemplating creams that say 40+ on the back. Although, I think the cosmetics companies exaggerate to hit your self esteem and to make you think the creams for older people will work better. Certainly, at 28, I didn’t think Avon’s line of creams for women in their twenties was going to do a whole lot. But their next stage of products was for age 35+. What?? This was one reason I began beauty blogging: There’s a lot of nonsense out there, and finding the right products can be a minefield.

If anything, my skin has gotten BETTER since I hit 30, and I attribute that to two things: Diet and finding the right range of products.

So Q10… I’ve not been using a Q10 face cream since I was 27. But I *have* been taking Q10 supplements since I was 29. I think these have overall done good things for my skin. It’s not as instantaneous as vitamin E supplements, but Q10 doesn’t wear off as quickly, either. When I was taking vitamin E tablets, every day I didn’t take them, my skin looked worse. Vitamin E supplements also interfered with the vitamin K I needed to take, and it gave me bad headaches.

Because the effects of Q10 are subtler, it took me a while to decide if it’s been effective or not. Overall, I’d say it has, alongside all the other things I’m doing, and it gives my skin a bit of a boost when I can’t seem to get rid of the surface dryness which makes my makeup cake (when I actually wear makeup).

While I was in Korea over the past couple of weeks, I went shopping for loads of beauty products, and one of the things I bought was this incredible Q10 effector serum from It’s Skin. If I ever doubted the effectiveness of Q10, I know now that it’s definitely a good one for my skin. So which is better, supplements or direct application? The It’s Skin Q10 Effector Serum applies straight on my face, and it works really quickly and it complements the other products in my beauty regime. I’ve been away from my beloved Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum since I left China to go to America in February, then I spent 2 weeks in Korea, and that gave me a a great opportunity to try out this new serum.

Five stars, would recommend. The only drawback is now I can’t decide between the It’s Skin Q10 serum and my Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum on a daily basis. So I use one in the morning and one at night. Luckily, you don’t have that problem! It’s Skin Q10 serum is available in the US for about the same as I paid in Seoul, South Korea, and my favorite Innisfree serum is not. This is also half the price of the Innisfree one, so if cost is a factor, this one definitely wins out! Also, when looking at Korean products bear in mind that date written on the bottom is the date it was MADE not the expiry. 😉 Shop smarter than all the people who gave this product unfair shitty reviews.

New products for blue and purple dark circles under eyes!

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This article is about some products that are supposed to help improve under-eye dark blue and purple circles that appear under eyes, especially in people with pale skin.

I’ve talked quite a lot in the past about how to make lifestyle changes to get rid of blue circles and some quick fixes for blue and purple circles, but one thing people keep asking me for are articles about concealers, color correctors, and products designed to target these areas. I’ve said in the past that the targeted products don’t really work, but since I wrote my original, really long article about getting rid of blue under-eye circles, things have changed a little. That article is still packed full of good blue circle busting advice, but there’s some more products on the block that might also help you out:

So let’s first look at the two on the left: The Maybelline The Eraser Eye Perfect and Cover Concealer (in the US it’s called “Age Rewind” but for some reason they changed the name in the UK). The two on the left are different shades: Light and medium.

Firstly, they now contain peptides, which, as I’ve said before, if used over time will improve the appearance of blue and purple circles because they thicken the skin. Thinning of the skin is one of the main causes of blue under-eye circles.

Secondly, however, they also act as a concealer. The coverage isn’t huge but it does visibly reduce the under-eye blue and dark circles, especially in photographs.

I have found this product works really well in the short term, but I don’t know if there’s just not enough peptides in it, but I only noticed a very small improvement in my under-eye area over a longer term. I think you still need to make lifestyle changes overall, but this is a nice quick fix.

The only downside? It only comes in two shades: Light or medium. I’m an NC20 in the MAC color spectrum and I found light was sometimes a little too orange for me. If you have the same issue, the only way to get it to blend with your skin is to wear foundation. Obviously, that’s not a great solution if you don’t like wearing makeup or if you can’t wear it. I also found it slightly drying of the under-eye area, but I solved that by using an under-eye moisturizer under the Maybelline The Eraser Eye Perfect and Cover Concealer aka Age Rewind Concealer.

Now onto the pandas: These are the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Cooling Eye Stick and the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base. They look the same, but they’re quite different. The cooling eye stick goes on like a gel, and feels light and refreshing from the moment it touches your skin. The brightening eye base is a solid white stick.

The brightening eye base is the least pleasant to apply, because it tugs on the under-eye area, but it is also the most effective of the two, for getting rid of dark and blue circles. The other one is mostly a feel-good product.

My best tip is to use the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base first, then to go over it with the Maybelline Age Rewind concealer.

I’ve also found both the Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base and the Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer have good longevity: I bought them six months ago and they’re still going strong. I highly recommend both of these as tools in the war against blue under-eye circles. The only thing I didn’t like is with both the Tony Moly products, the stick seemed to pull itself off the base inside the panda, and now they sort of wobble loosely meaning I have to hold the actual sticks of cosmetic in place while I use them, and then I get product on my fingers during application. Of course, that doesn’t stop me recommending them.