For the love of skin part II #guestblog

In the same way that it’s important to look after your fitness between swims, it’s important to look after your skin and well-being too. Last week, guest beauty blogger Gilded Magpie gave some recommendations for products to keep in your kit bag to use after a session. This week, she explores products to use at home.

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Hi all! Gilded Magpie back again with some more skin care recommendations to help you keep your swimmer’s skin looking distinctly un-swimmery. Last week  I suggested some lovely products to keep in your kit bag, today I am going to recommend a few bits to keep in your bathroom.

All products are suitable for women and men, except those marked with a * which smell a bit feminine.

Firstly: body products.

I know from experience that chlorine wreaks havoc with the skin on your upper arms particularly. Little patches of dry, tight skin abound and any existing skin conditions can be exacerbated. Moisturiser is a must and, if you get on with a bog standard body lotion then more power to you. Sometimes my skin needs a bit of a boost above and beyond the in-shower moisturisers I mentioned last week. For this I like to use a smoothing body lotion – these are moisturising but also contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids which gently exfoliate. Dry skin patches and chicken skin begone! Palmers do a really good priced version called the Anti-Ageing Smoothing Lotion* (£4.39  here) but I simply cannot stick the smell of the stuff. I have been testing Clarins Renew Plus Body Serum* (£40 for 200ml here) and Ameliorate Skin Smoothing Body Lotion (from £17.50 for 100ml here). Clarins to the left of me, Ameliorate to the right (thanks to Stealers Wheel for the memory trick) and I have to conclude that they are about equal in terms of skin smoothing and chicken skin busting. The Clarins smells infinitely better however – Ameliorate has an odd, jarring chemical smell that hangs around all day. It isn’t over powering and I doubt any one would notice but Clarins edges it for me for that reason.

Secondly: the face.

I like to use different cleansers in the morning and evening. I like to be refreshed and woken up in the morning and nurtured and cosseted in the evening. Swimming regularly adds another dimension to this in that your skin needs to be cosseted and nurtured whatever time of day it is. For this reason I would chose Ultimelt by Soap and Glory (£10 here) for the morning. This is a beautifully unctuous cream cleanser with oils and skin treating ingredients but it rinses really well and has a tiny bit of a tingle to it. Skin is left soft and supple feeling, perfectly cleansed and balanced for serum and moisturiser. In the evening thicker balms are the order of the day. Make up needs to be destroyed, skin needs to be pummelled and nourishing oils need to be introduced. Boots Botanicals do an excellent Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm (on offer at a bargainous £5.99 here) which is thick and effective. Even quite heavy make up is removed easily but it feels really nourishing and rich on the skin below. For something a touch lighter but still emphatically balmy Lush’s Ultrabland* is for you (from £7.50 for 45g here). Slightly creamier than the Botanicals balm this is still very luxurious feeling and smells deliciously of honey. Both these products will need to be removed with a flannel. The Boots one comes with a muslin but I find these a bit mimsy – flannels feel much more like you are having a bit of a facial and are more effective at removing all the product/end-of-day-face-grub.

For faces suffering the wrath of the elements/overexposure to chorine a bit of exfoliation is probably a good thing. I like to exfoliate with acids, as with the body lotions mentioned above, rather than scrubs but each to their own. A gentle acid tone, after cleansing 4+ (depending on your skin type – build up) nights per week can do wonders for dry, flaky and irritated bits of skin. I use a plethora of different acids but I would say that Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme (on offer for £9.97 here – I need to get me to Boots!) are a good and well priced all rounder. Do not be fooled by the ‘Extreme’ labelling, these have less alcohol and dryness-causing ingredients than their ‘gentle’ version but they also contain more types of acid to work at different levels on the skin. They smell deliciously grapefruity too.

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I love a facial oil and feel that, particularly for faces that have had nourishment sucked from them for whatever reason (and swimming would be one such reason) you get the best bang for your buck in terms of skin improvements with them. Generally they aren’t cheap but they last ages so offer reasonable value for money. I know people with oily skin baulk at adding oil but, counter intuitively, it can help to balance the skin’s oil production and keep the complexion more even. Boots Botanicals have a really good version for an amazing price (on offer at £6.66 here). This is quite oily so you’ll only need 5-6 drops per application but it smells delicious, has a good range of oils and is 100% organic. A dryer oil, and one of my personal favourites, Caudalie’s Polyphenol C15 overnight detox oil (£29 here) is a superb fix for combination skin and uneven skin tone. I try to ignore the ‘detox’ in the title because that means little to me and focus on the benefits I see in the mirror – brighter, softer and more even skin. 6 drops of this natural, plant derived oil are all that you need for a thorough massage and it lasts for ages. I have just bought a new one after over a year of regular use.

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Finally for facial products: night creams. I am a big fan of Eucerin Hyaluron Filler Night Cream – I am on my 563rd (approx) pot and I always return to it with guilt for ever doubting its efficacy after trying alternatives. It is a delicious blanket that keeps all of my other night skin care in place. It contains the all important hyaluronic acid which is superb for treating dehydration and it helps to plump and soften the skin. I love it and for £19.50 (admittedly on offer but it often is) here it is hard to beat. Every now and then I do break out of the usual routine to give my skin a more intensive hydrating treatment. For that I have BioEssence Hydra Tri-Action Aqua Droplet Mask (£29  here). This stuff is watery but in a way that is accessible to your skin. Droplets form on massaging which you then pat into your skin to super-hydrate it. Leave on overnight for beautifully hydrated morning skin.

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Thirdly: treats.

The following products will not necessarily help your skin but they most certainly will help your mind, body and spirit. A few weeks ago Rowan wrote a post about how knackering swimming can be. Your limbs feel heavy and you seek comfort. Well look no further: bath products are the tops for providing relaxation and restoration by the bucket load. I love the Mandara Spa range, developed by the team behind Elemis but budget friendly and available in Sainsburys the Bali Santi is my favourite scent. The Island Paradise fragrance which is fresher and more citrusy runs it a close second and the bath soak is pleasingly bubbly and luxurious (£10 here). For bigger budgets/gift lists everywhere Laura Mercier Creme Brulee Honey Bath* (£33 here) smells like heaven and is skin softening and mind transporting in equal measure. For aching muscles and frazzled minds Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts will ensure a sound nights sleep and restored muscles so you are ready to face the water again the next day.

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Again, I will haunt the comments section for questions. I hope there are some recommendations above that can be incorporated into your routines and will really help with nourishing and hydrating your skin.

Enjoy, Gilded Magpie XOXO

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Feminism is for men too

International women’s day, and among the social media stories of inspiring, strong women came the plaintive utterances of a few men: “why isn’t there any International Men’s Day?”

For a start, a simple Google search would have answered this question: there is. It’s on November 16th this year. But also, International Women’s Day is not about man-bashing. Just because man is the only other option to woman, it doesn’t a playground game of one-upmanship (or upwomanship) make.

The same can be said of feminism. Men often seem to feel threatened or displaced by feminism, confusing sticking up for women with the putting down of men. Feminists, even among other women, have an image of man-hating, pubic hirsute drinkers of their own menstrual blood. Geri Halliwell, ironically herself a victim of the pressures put on women by an unbalanced society to tragic proportions, once proclaimed that feminism had ‘done its job’.

But it hasn’t done its job. And though the rise of feminism has caused something of a crisis of masculinity as gender roles, even genders, have become blurred, it is triumph for men too, releasing them from restrictive expectations. Just as women can now choose careers, men can choose to stay at home with their children, marry other men, cry at the sad bit in Dumbo and wear skinny jeans.

I go back to my grandparents, who I blogged about here. My dear grandpa died on International Women’s day. The date isn’t without significance. My grandpa was the epitome of the 1950s head of the household: quiet, dignified, well-read, wise, respected. He fought in the war, and suffered huge injuries, including the loss of a leg. He was hero, a rock, a patriarch.

To mention what he wasn’t isn’t to disrespect his memory because he was what society expected from his generation (plus I adored him): not emotionally available, involved, or hands-on with childcare. My granny, as I have said, was a work horse. She was all of those things; and what that entailed in real life is a bigger picture than words can paint.

Now, just as I have had more choice than my granny, my husband has had more choice than my grandpa. He shares household chores, childcare, and an equal relationship with me. For one adverse to washing-up, this may not feel like progress, but when I watch him kick a ball about with our son, or plait our daughter’s hair, or listen to her torture her clarinet, I know that his relationship with his children is progress beyond words. He said that he’d be happy if any of our children were gay. A sentence that would’ve been unthinkable for my grandpa’s generation, and a true indication of how comfortable he feels about them.

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My husband with our boys.

As though better relationships with your children weren’t enough, men have also benefited from freer, better sex; reproductive control; equal relationships; protection from hate and sexual crimes; sexual freedom; more choice at work… the list goes on. True feminism is about gender parity, and that is good for all human kind.

Someone needs to tell the boys. I feel like I have a one-woman mission to make sure my two boys grow up as feminists. I have to confess that when I first looked into the eyes of my eldest, I felt raising a boy was the easier option. But I’ve changed my mind, and aside from teaching him how to bake (he does a mean lemon-drizzle cake), I’ve realised that I need to teach him how to understand that porn doesn’t represent true sex, that girls don’t aspire to look like Barbie, that it’s fine to cry if someone hurts your feelings.

It’s a hard message to teach. You just have to look around the playground to see that gender stereotypes are hard-wired. Still. After all this time and all this talking. The problem is that men talk to men, and a flaw in feminism is that too often us women focus on one another.

Geri Halliwell is wrong on so many levels. Her ginger spice body one minute stacked on Buffalo trainers with a crotch-skimming Union Jack dress, the next minute painfully thin on a beach, has been transformed because what? Because she feels the pressure to sell herself on her sexuality and looks rather than talent. Ok, you could argue that she lacks talent, but she certainly lacks insight and wisdom when she says that feminism has ‘done its job’.

Until there is true parity between the sexes, feminism has a long way to go. Until men stop being jealous of women and girls being in the limelight, and until women like Halliwell stop undermining feminism, there’s still a lot of talking to be done.

Us mothers can make a start by raising our boys in a way our grannies couldn’t raise our fathers and uncles. We can remember our grandfathers with love, and show our sons how much better equality has, and can continue to make the world better for all humanity. I like this blog on raising sons as feminists.

My last word goes to International Women’s Day. It’s about acknowledging, celebrating and respecting women while recognising how far society must come before gender parity truly exists. It’s not about saying women are better than men, it’s about equality.

For the love of skin #guestblog

If you’re anything like me, your skin suffers from all that training. I frequently get that tickling, crawling sensation that comes with swimmer’s itch, and before I consulted my guest blogger, I suffered hard, white pimples under my skin.

Let me introduce Gilded Magpie, an experimenter, an expert, a nurse and a beautiful woman herself. She tries all manner of skincare products from high end to budget. She really gets into what goes into products, and how the ingredients work. And, like any good nurse, she knows exactly what’s good for you…

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As a skincare enthusiast and sometime beauty blogger I have been asked to recommend a few products to keep in your kit bags/bathroom shelves to keep your skin all lovely looking despite exposing it to the ravages of chlorine, or (for open water lovers) the elements.

Honestly I could go on forever about skin care/beauty gubbins but I have tried to keep in mind the practicalities of limited bag space, suitable packaging and cost. I will be around in the comments to answer your questions…

(Apart from those marked with a *, all are equally good for men and women.)

First up: kit bag essentials.

Boots does a really broad range of travel minis so you should be able to easily find a shampoo/conditioner combination and shower gel to suit there. Post washing I think your skin would thank you if you added in a body conditioner. I know there is some controversy around these in shower moisturisers but I find them easy to use and genuinely effective. I think the people who argue that any benefit is washed away simply haven’t tried them! Nivea in shower Body Moisturiser Dry is an absolute bargain at £3.69 (Boots). I use the lighter version but if you are swimming regularly then this more meaty version is just what you need.

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More luxurious and much more hydrating and oily (and appropriate given the name of this blog’s owner) is Lush’s Ro’s Argan body conditioner*, from £16.50. It smells gorgeous, a tangy rather than overly floral rose, and leaves a heavenly soft oily feeling behind on the skin. A little goes a very long way but I love to slather it on and let it sit for a bit before rinsing. The packaging is not completely kit-bag-friendly but it would be worth decanting this and keeping some at home too: you’ll want to use it all the time!

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Your face is the first place that any dryness or dehydration as a result of exposure to swimming pool chemicals or extreme temperatures will show. There is very little that you can do during your swim to limit exposure (though decent waterproof sunblock is an absolute must) but you can really treat your skin once you are back on dry land.

I think a lovely luxurious oil based facial cleanser is a must to remove any chemicals and to start your skin rehabilitation. If money were no object, and you had infinite space in your bag for enormous glass bottles then I would go with Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser* which is delicious and rinses really well so no need for a wash cloth. More realistically Una Brennan does similar oil cleansers which rinse well and are much more practically packaged and priced. My top pick would be the Vitamin C Skin Renew Cleansing Oil (£10.99 from Boots) for its mild resurfacing properties but the Rose Miracle Makeover Facial Oil* (£14.99 also from Boots) has better packaging for toting around pools and plages. The Rose Oil also doubles as a decent night oil (more on which later) but is much more expensive than the Vitamin C, which could always be decanted.

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In order to restore the moisture to your newly soft-from-oil cleansed skin I think a decent hydrating serum is a must. For pure hydration with no bells or whistles Vichy Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Serum (£22.50, Boots) cannot be beaten. It feels lovely on the skin and is absorbed quickly and really really works. Patchy dryness and those very fine lines that get worse with dehydration will be a thing of the past. For slightly more cash and with slightly more age defying ingredients Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum (£30, Boots) is also super hydrating but contains a plethora of peptides and collagen boosting gubbins to minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and “surface irregularities”. I know, I know, we’ve heard it all before, but I really rate this serum and the brand behind it. They use their science well and their products do seem to deliver.

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To seal in all that goodness a decent moisturiser is an essential finishing touch. I know it isn’t the absolute cheapest but I cannot speak highly enough of Skyn Iceland’s Arctic Hydrating Balm (£25, M and S). It is a beautiful product, deeply hydrating and an amazing base for make up. Even though I use it pretty much every day I remain surprised at the longevity of its moisturisation. It is also a brilliant carrier for oils/moisturiser boosters and I often add a couple of drops of jojoba oil, or even a night oil, if my skin is feeling undernourished.

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You should now be ready to sally forth all clean and conditioned! A word of caution before I leave you: talc is an absolute no no. Having worked in swimming pools for years I know it is completely revolting when wet and no one likes to step in or clean up the grey slime left behind. If that were not reason enough to NEVER use it Johnson and Johnson have recently been ordered to pay out $72million to the family of a deceased woman who’s ovarian cancer was linked to talcum powder use. Just say no folks.

I’ll be back next week with some home based product recommendations to maintain that lovely skin. In the meantime, like I said, I will stalk the comments section below for any questions. May your skin always be glowing and your swims always swift…

XOXO Gilded Magpie.