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.
What do you do when when you think a shop has discontinued one of your favourite face creams? I had finished one full jar of the Sanctuary Spa Active Reverse Peptide Protect Day Cream SPF 20 and I’d actually even gotten all the cream off the sides and bottom of the jar. I don’t normally do that, but it was still good and I hadn’t gotten round to buying a new jar yet. I like to rotate products to get multiple benefits, which means I’ve been using it one or two times a week since about August 2015, so it was time to get a new one. It was an integral part of my skincare routine for just over a year, so even though I got it for £10 on offer, I could justify paying full price of £20 this time.
I went to Boots….
And they didn’t have it. They had replaced their entire Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden range of products with new ones. Only they hadn’t replaced the Peptide Protect Day Cream SPF 20 with anything. I checked Sanctuary’s website and there was no mention of the Sanctuary Spa Active Reverse Peptide Protect Day Cream; it’s been discontinued, clearly. And now it’s selling on Amazon for stupid amounts of money. I’m annoyed it’s been discontinued without warning, and that there’s nothing online telling me what to try instead (and of course, the pre-Christmas party season is such a bad time for this to happen!!!), so I decided to do my own investigating.
Firstly, I’m not going to buy discontinued cream, because while I’m sad it’s been discontinued, it’s not a good enough product to cost that much (it’ll only keep getting more expensive if it’s not being made, and it will expire/go inactive, so there’s no point clinging to the past), especially since I only use it once or twice a week, so I thought it was a good time to try some new things.
I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and go for the retinol creams. After all, some websites suggest you should be starting retinol in your late twenties, and I’ve just turned 30 less than a month ago, so it’s time to try it. I like the look of the ROC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream (that’s for UK Amazon, and holy COW that cream’s cheaper in the US) so I’ve ordered a tube and let’s see how it performs on early expression lines and general skin quality.
A big beauty concern for me is keeping my blue circles under control, and the Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden was one of the ways I did that, because one of the main ingredients in the Sanctuary Spa Active Reverse Peptide Protect Day Cream was Matrixyl, a peptide (Matrixyl is palmitoyl pentapeptide-4), which helps get rid of under-eye circles in combination with allergy remedies, and Matrixyl is also in the Olay Regenerist 3 Point (which I keep meaning to review), so since it’s also a peptide cream, I might switch to that more regularly for my peptide fix; if Olay Regenerist 3 point had an SPF, this would be my everyday day cream, but the reason the Sanctuary one was so good was because it had SPF20.
I’ve said before that wearing a daily SPF is so important for good skincare, not least because it prevents dark circles, which are caused by sun exposure and ageing. I already fight blue circles on a regular basis; I don’t want to be grappling with brown ones, too! Since the ROC retinol cream (a night cream) might make my skin photosensitive, I’ve decided to splurge on the Age Smart by Dermalogica Active Skin Recovery, which is SPF50. I will let you know how it all goes.
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.