The salons are closed in my country. We don’t know when life will get back to normal. That doesn’t mean compromising on beauty treatments, especially when you’re a new mama and need pampering after pregnancy and birth. Here’s my go-to facial. The steps are based on when I lived in China, where the K-beauty routine is basically standard. This facial takes about half an hour and includes plenty of time while treatments are taking effect to go sort out the baby. 😉
First, set the scene. Light some scented candles or get your oil diffuser going. Put on some relaxing music (I love Enya or Clannad, which is probably my Irish half). Get into your comfiest clothes or dressing gown. And let’s dive into the half-hour facial for new mamas.
Part 1: Cleansing
If you’re wearing make-up, sunscreen, fake tan or anything else you’ve already put on your face today, start with an oil-based cleanser. I discovered these when I was in Japan and they’re soooo good! This one is my current favourite.
Next it’s time for exfoliation. The key to keeping skin looking firm, hydrated and toned all starts with a good exfoliation. This can be a physical exfoliator, such as the St Ives apricot scrub, which I’ve reviewed here (although I don’t know if they’ve changed the recipe due to the microplastics ban… I really need to try this again), or a chemical exfoliator, such as the Nip + Fab glycolic fix exfoliating pads. If your skin needs some serious TLC, I really recommend the Nip+Fab glycolic fix exfoliating scrub, which combines the chemical exfoliator glycolic acid and physical exfoliation for a very thorough skin exfoliation.
Part 2: Face mask
The benefits of a good vitamin face mask cannot be overstated. My favourite is the Dermalogica multi-vitamin power recovery mask, which contains nourishing vitamins and the clinically-proven anti-ageing ingredient retinol (so avoid during pregnancy as it will burn your skin, but it’s fine afterwards). It’s a great dupe for Kim Kardashian’s favourite Chantecaille Bio Lifting Mask, and I haven’t yet found anything else that’s even a fraction as good as these two, so for me, the Dermalogica one is worth the splurge because retinol doesn’t just make you look younger, it actually reverses the effects of ageing.
Keep this on for at least 15 minutes and don’t get any on your baby (retinol, duh) e.g. by kissing them or snuggling them. If you can’t last 15 minutes without a cute baby snuggle, you would be much safer using my homemade breastmilk face mask recipe, which is especially good for acne-prone skin. If you’re not breastfeeding, my avocado face mask recipe literally just requires some mashed avocado. You can actually leave any of these on overnight (my last tube of the Dermalogica mask had this idea as a tip from a skincare expert inside the box and it really works). I have a Japanese silicon face cover for using with wet masks.
Part 3: Cleansing (again)
You need to wash off the face mask. If you’ve made my breastmilk soap recipe, this is the perfect time to use it, as it’s super nourishing and a gentle but effective cleanser. Otherwise, another homemade soap or plain water will work fine.
Part 4: Essence and serum
Grab your favourite K-beauty essence (mine is Innisfree soybean essence in light) and cover your face in it. I have mine in a spray bottle so I can use it as a facial mist.
The last thing is a replenishing moisturising cream. I have a bad track record for my favourite creams getting discontinued. It happened with my favourite Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden one, then the Manuka Doctor one, lastly the Innisfree Soybean one which I never even got around to reviewing, so I’m constantly wandering the beauty aisle like a nomad trying to find the next great cream. I still think there’s a lot to like about the Olay Regenerist 3-Point Cream, which contains matrixyl which is fab for under-eye dark blue circles, although for overall skin care, I prefer the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, which I reviewed here in 2016 and, in 2020, my skin’s now four years older (33… wow that went fast!) and I think this cream is better for thirtysomethings than people in their twenties as you get the long-term effects as well as the short-term plumping and moisturising effect.
I really love to exfoliate, and feel it’s a must-have in my beauty regime. Over the past 3 months, I was looking for the “perfect” exfoliator. I bought four exfoliating scrubs and two exfoliating mitts and tried them all out to find out which was best. Exfoliating gets rid of dead skin cells, revealing newer vibrant skin, yada yada yada you all know why exfoliating is important for hygiene, stimulating cell renewal, looking your best, and all that lovely stuff.
Tesco Exfoliating Face Scrub: 8/10.
I really loved this one, and it’s scented with a cucumbery sort of body wash smell so leaves me feeling fresh out of the shower. Size: 150ml tube.
Pro’s: It was very gentle and you get a lot of product. It contains sodium laureth sulphate, which is a surfactant (cleaning agent), and a lot of scrubs don’t contain any surfactant, so this one doubles up as a shower gel.
Con’s: The little microbeads were a bit few and far between so I wouldn’t be able to use this as my regular exfoliator.
I was really in love with the idea of this but the reality was less pleasing. It claims to warm your skin (presumably to open pores and draw out impurities) but the warming effect lasts like 2 seconds and only while you’re actually applying it, so your fingers get warm because they’re constantly touching it, but your face doesn’t get this benefit. It seems like a waste of a perfectly good chemical reaction. Size: 100ml.
Pro’s: It does scrub your face, and the actual particles are quite small.
Con’s: Something about the chemicals used to make it self-heating seems to make my face unhappy and I always left the shower with a really (really) red face which was pretty annoying, and my face was also left quite sensitive so I couldn’t put my moisturizer on afterwards. When I put it on my insensitive, normal-skin arms, the same thing happened. I really don’t think this was suitable for my age. While the heating part didn’t work, this product still had some skin-burning ingredients in it. Maybe it’s aimed at people with more mature skin that needs attacking with dynamite to perk it up (why why why don’t 99% of skincare companies put a guide age on the packaging)?!
As far as bottles of exfoliating gloop go, the St Ives wins hands down. I felt my face looked fresher and more radiant after I’d used it and it never looked red and scratched. The only reason it loses a point is it’s slightly dehydrating to my face because I have dry skin. Size: You get 125ml of this in a tube.
Pro’s: It’s WAY more gentle than the Apricot Scrub. It left my skin looking its best. It was good for use on most of my upper body (I don’t exfoliate my boobs), especially the neck/decolette.
Con’s: It’s not strong enough to work its magic on my legs, and I was still flaking when I came out of the shower throughout this entire tube of scrub which I detest. If you don’t have dry skin in this area, this may not be a problem.
Pro’s: It smells nice, the liquidy part of the scrub is very kind to the skin and does leave it perked up and feeling renewed.
Con’s: I didn’t like the scratchy bits (what do you call them – clearly not beads). They were badly distributed through the product and they were of differing sizes. I think they were supposed to look “all natural” (like you’d just be walking through a forest and be like, ZOMG there’s some exfoliating scrub growing out of that tree!!), but I wanted it to exfoliate my delicate facial area and I felt it was too harsh in the parts with the larger particles and too ineffective in the parts with the smaller particles/no particles. This left my face with some angry red scratchy patches in some area and other areas didn’t look like they’d been cleaned properly at all. I suppose this is intended to balance out over time but I don’t think I’d buy it again when I could spend the same amount of money and get a lot more of a lot better product from St Ives.
Alternative Use: I found it was really good for attacking the cellulite or stretch marks (or whatever that stuff is) on my ass!!! My ass is far too insensitive to care about distribution of scratchy particles, it could barely feel this stuff, and it did leave the skin in this area looking fresh and happy, so I added points for this because it was useful. So there you have it, this one’s actually good for a shiny hiney rofl!!
Home Bargains has some phenomenal bargains and it’s a shop I trust when I want to try new things. This was the first exfoliating glove I’d ever tried in my life, and in the shop I’d gently rubbed it against my palm to find out what the texture was like, but somehow I misjudged this.
Pro’s: You could use it as an offensive weapon.
Con’s: The fabric on the “exfoliating” side turned coarse, hard and rough when it got wet, and I only put up with it for one shower because it was horrific. For all that pain, you’d expect to emerge squeaky clean right? So I was profoundly disappointed that it had removed NOTHING and all my dry flaky skin was covering my towel. I HAD TO GO BACK IN THE SHOWER AND USE THE ST IVES TO FIX THIS, DAMNIT!! I really don’t think this exfoliating glove was designed for anyone with skin and I strongly recommend not bothering with exfoliation if this is your only option. I don’t know why I still have this in my bathroom, except to make me feel safer when I’m in the house alone in the shower, because of the previously-mentioned potential for use as an offensive weapon.
Tesco Exfoliating Glove: 10/10.
Pro’s: This was the second-to-last thing I tried, and after all the others, I can definitely say this was far-and-away the very best thing I have exfoliated with recently, and it now lives looped over the handle to my shower door. I know you’re supposed to use both of these gloves one on each hand, but I generally only wash myself with one hand at a time so I put the second glove aside so I can use it when I throw this one away. It’s gentle enough for the face and neck but strong enough to properly get rid of the dry skin on my lower legs. I used it with my usual shower gel, which is the Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree shower gel, and my skin has been really happy with this one.
Con’s: None, really.
So that’s my round up of exfoliators. My conclusion? Save a boatload of cash and buy a 99p fuzzy exfoliating glove in your choice of fun colors. Or, if you really don’t like that idea, grab the St Ives – it won hands down for a liquid exfoliator.
Good skincare is critically important, and this is the WORST time of year for skin maintenance due to a bunch of stuff, so I wanted to talk about how to get your skin looking fabulous, especially since I’ve been ill October through December and need to get back into my full skincare routine. If your skin is already fabulous, you may want to skip this post.
I recently saw a cosplay pic that I cannot show you because it’s to do with a secret project that my husband cannot know about yet. Now there’s more chance of hell freezing over than of him actually reading my blog, but just on the off-chance that he accidentally lands here on an internet search, I’m not going to tell you what the costume was. Let’s just imagine it was a Jessica Rabbit costume cosplay.
All you need to know was that, through the side of the amazingly detailed and accurate dress, there was one very miserable looking, red, pimply, washed out leg poking through what should have been a revealing and sexy split.
It got me thinking that perhaps, when people are doing a cosplay, when someone’s taken the time, expense and effort to make a costume of a well-known character FROM SCRATCH, perhaps buying a £5 pot of skin lotion, drinking a glass of water and fixing their skin wouldn’t go amiss.
*OK, I’m sold, how can I sort my skin out so it looks awesome with my costume and hair?*
1. Get some moisturizer. There’s loads of expensive ones out there, but anything’s better than nothing. There’s myths about parabens, BPA and silocones if you want to buy into scaremongering (literally, it costs a fortune to avoid these; don’t waste your time or cash), if not, go for something cheap that smells nice. You are going to moisturize every time you have a shower.
2. Does this costume show your bare legs? Do some leg toning exercises! Cassey Ho has some fabulous leg toning workouts at Blogilates that don’t require any equipment. I have been using her workouts now for over 2 years and they’re a fast way to get into shape for anything where you need to look your best. Exercise tends to make all of you look good for a variety of reasons.
3. Eat well. More fruit, more vegetables (think half the plate), more protein (to make new skin cells), less crap. Look for foods rich in vitamin K such as kale and broccoli, which will get rid of redness under the skin, as well as foods with vitamin E which stimulates glowing, healthy skin (and eat your vitamin E foods such as avocado about 4 hours apart from the vitamin K foods, otherwise they compete for absorption which is why multivitamins containing both E and K are a waste of time).
4. Exfoliate. This removes the dead skin cells so the newer, nicer ones can shine out, and according to Elle MacPherson it’s the best way to stay looking young well into your 50’s.
5. If all else fails, use fake tan (or gradual tanner, AVOID THESE IF IT’S A WHITE COSTUME), foundation for your face, and dance tights. You might want those last two anyway, especially if you’re cosplaying a caucasian character from before the 1990s or anyone from any musical, as they almost all wear Capezio dance tights in the shade ‘light suntan’ or ‘suntan’ (I’ve worked in the ents industry in various jobs, the Capezio tights are industry standard).
6. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water: These two make everyone roll their eyes but it’s true! You may need to do these both long-term if you need to fix chronic dehydration and sleep loss, so an extra pint today will help you in the long run, but it’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle habit. If you have chronic insomnia, do what you can and focus on everything else.
Barring acne or infections (which require treatment from a doctor or dermatologist), if you want movie-star beautiful skin all year round, rather than for a one-off event, do those 6 things all the time. If you want your skin to look shit, do the opposite for many many years then complain a lot about how some people are just blessed with good skin.
If you want to make this a year-round goal, to really get your skin looking fabulous, make some time to sunbathe for a few hours a week during summer (less for your face, as too much sunbathing causes premature ageing), as a bit of sun will stimulate your vitamin D synthesis, melanin production (in the skin) and it rebalances your serotonin/melatonin production, which will all make you look fabulous (actually, the serotonin/melatonin won’t, but bringing this into balance properly will help get you to sleep which WILL make you look your best). That way, you’ll be ready for cosplay, fancy dress, and dressing up, all year round. Just do it safely; we all know the rules of sunbathing right?
Why do I say all this specifically targetted to cosplayers? Well, people seem to understand that a character is the product of their costume, hair and makeup, but the skin tone and transparency is also very important. If your skin’s showing red patches and veins through all over it, and you’re trying to look like, oh, I don’t know, let’s pretend (again) that we’re talking about Jessica Rabbit; let’s say you want to be the sexiest woman in Toon Town (or whatever, I can’t tell you the real costume I was looking at but you get the gist), you need to fix your diet to improve the skin from the inside and start moisturising to help the skin from the outside.
This is true of all cosplays, and it’s what most real leading actors do who have a long career (I know, I’ve worked with many), so why not make it a routine?
It really doesn’t matter what size you are, whether your eyes or ear shape match the character, whether you tracked down the *exact* shade of eyeshadow used in the original film/series/whatevs, what does matter is getting your skin to look like it deserves to wear the costume which you just spent days, months or years making. Everything else can be worked around or fixed with makeup.
If you look at the most successful cosplayers, the ones on the lists of best cosplay, they’re not size 0, they’re not 34GG of the breasts, they generally don’t innately look like the character, but the reason we find them visually pleasing is because they look vital, radiant and larger than life… which is generally something they share with the characters they portray.
It’s not complicated, you don’t need expensive or time consuming rituals to look good, just follow these steps and you too can score a perfect 10 for your cosplay.