Beauty consultant Caroline Hirons is full of expert advice to keep you feeling fabulous. We've compiled her most ingenious beauty tips to help you look your best. From what you really need to include in a basic beauty regime to whether facials are worth bothering with, she answers all your questions on skincare, makeup and beauty.
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An effective skincare routine is especially important as you get older as skin tends to become dehydrated and dull. While it's certainly not necessary to purchase a cabinet's worth of beauty products, there are a few simple daily steps you can take to keep your skin looking radiant.
"I wash my face with soap and water, but confess I have no 'beauty regime' other than that - is this a disaster?"
Depending on your age and your genes, you will, at least, be dehydrated and therefore more wrinkled or, at the worst, a handbag in the making.
Counteract the soap with a hydrating moisturiser to protect your skin.
"Regular monthly facials - yes or no? I have been told yes, but I often get spots erupting afterwards. When I don't continue with facials, which I only started fairly recently anyway, my skin seems to settle down and become smoother."
It's a definite 'no' to monthly facials. It's a treat if you can afford it, so have a facial with the change of each season. If not, try twice a year and go to a named facialist rather than a department store brand if possible.
"I have always believed the edict that two litres of water a day is essential for clear skin, but a) this has begun to play havoc with my bladder and b) I read something recently that says that this is all a myth in the first place. What is your opinion?"
I know where you're coming from with the bladder, but hydration is essential for a healthy body, good skin, sleep... and pretty much everything. I drink approximately three litres a day. I recently moved to sparkling water which makes it slightly less tedious and is infinitely more refreshing in hot weather!
"I read somewhere that although moisturiser helps plump up skin in the short term it has absolutely no long-term effect. What is your view? Do you think the proliferation of products - not just cleanser (or having to double cleanse) but toner, and not just moisturiser but day cream, night cream and eye cream - is just about trying to sell us more? What, in your opinion, is the least we can get away with?"
There is definitely an element of the industry that will try to tell you that you need 15 products a day and preferably all from their brand. The bare minimum, depending on your age is:
It's really the serums and pre-moisturiser products that plump the skin. A moisturiser is essential as a protective barrier, but a separate eye cream is recommended. If you have budget constraints, however, a normal moisturiser will work just fine.
Skincare can be tricky at the best of times, not least when you have sensitive skin. From pigmentation to sun damage, here's what you need to know.
"What are the little red marks, like freckles, which have appeared in recent years on my hands and forearms? I'm sure they must have been caused by sun damage, but wonder are they age spots, which I thought were brown?"
They are indeed signs of sun damage and pigmentation, but everyone gets them, unless you've been covering yourself in SPF since you were born! There are now new formulations of hand creams available that encompass SPF and vitamin A derivatives that both prevent and cure pigmentation.
"I asked a beautician the other day if she could remove some tiny pin-head sized lumps (or spots) that have appeared on my face recently. She had a look and said I should ask the GP to remove them. I was astonished - I thought a good facial might do the trick."
It's hard to be specific without seeing your skin, but they sound like milia. They are almost impossible to remove yourself (I don't even take my own out and I'm qualified!) so you need a specialised facialist or skin specialist to remove them using a needle to lance them, and specialised equipment, such as a mag lamp. If you go for a facial to get them removed, make sure you ask beforehand if your beauty therapist knows how to remove them and has experience, or you can be scarred.
"In middle age, I have developed spots on my back and chest. They aren't there all the time, but when they are they're very itchy and if you scratch them they spread. The GP hasn't a clue. Tea tree concealer helps a bit. Have you got any ideas?"
Itchy and spreading signifies infection. Many GPs are often clueless when it comes to skin and don't take our concerns seriously. I would try to keep on hand something like HealGel, available at victoriahealth.com, as it is soothing and may help. If you can, I would also get yourself tested for food intolerances, as that is a classic skin reaction.
"I'm certainly not a sun worshipper, but in the past have spent considerable time outdoors with children, horses and dogs. I'm getting an increasing number of brown blotches on my face despite using preventative cream. Can anything remove them?"
It sounds like pigmentation from sun damage. Going forward, I would use a high SPF to stop them getting worse. There are a number of products on the market aimed at pigmentation, which is on the increase. Avene have launched a line specifically for helping with pigmentation. Look for ingredients such as vitamin A, niacinamide and arbutin.
"I have really bad rosacea. How can I camouflage it without really heavy foundation. Nothing seems right."
To cover, I would use the Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. To help the rosacea itself, I would ask what your current routine is and recommend you alter your diet slightly and stay away from alcohol, sugar and dairy to start with.
"I have sensitive skin and try to buy products that are 100% natural and ideally unperfumed. But I still react. Why?"
Natural products are no different from chemical products when it comes to skin reactions. A product only has to have the smallest amount of natural extracts to be labelled "natural". It can still have plenty of rubbish in it. Equally, they may use essential oils as fragrance which are also big irritants. I would ask you what you've used that works for you, look at the ingredients and try to stick to something similar.
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Finding the right skincare product can be a minefield, especially if you're on a budget. Whether you're after concealer, moisturisers or even cream to firm up the skin on your neck and décolletage, Caroline has given her pick of the best. Warning: not all of these products come cheap.
"What is the best concealer in your opinion? I have been using Touche Éclat for years, but apparently there are better versions. I find they either go incredibly quickly or are too claggy. I definitely need some concealment!"
Touche Éclat is a marketing phenomenon, as it was originally designed to be used as a highlighter! If you actually need to conceal something, there are much better options available.
If it's for spots and blemishes and discolouration on the face in general, the best concealer in my opinion is Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage (you must buy a brush to apply).
"What is a good moisturiser for middle-aged, normal to dry skin?"
Depending on your price bracket, you can usually get something that works by brands like REN and Decléor. Go for labels such as nourishing and anti-ageing.
"There was a lot of hullaballoo about a supermarket's baby bottom cream being the best thing to use on your face EVER. If this is the case, why pay a fortune for really expensive face cream? Or do you really get what you pay for?"
I'm aware of the cream in question. In theory, it would work for someone with incredibly dry skin, such as eczema or psoriasis, as a protective barrier cream, but it is incredibly thick and would give any other skin the possibility of breakouts.
I'm not a fan of the £500 face cream. You should be able to get the best quality between £30 and £75.
"Is there a cream or anything which can protect the face from chlorine? I swim regularly, and don't want to keep my face out of the water because that's supposed to be bad for your neck and spine. But my skin is sensitive and the chlorine makes my face go red."
There are balms that you can apply pre-swim that can definitely help protect from redness and irritation caused by chlorine. The aforementioned baby bottom butter being one! Neal's Yard make a brilliant product called Wild Rose Beauty Balm, which is perfect for this situation. Just make sure you wash your face properly when you leave the pool to rinse chlorine residue away.
"I would love some advice about my décolletage. It's always something I have been happy to show off, but lately I'm noticing the odd wrinkly line. How can I firm it up?"
The French believe that facial skincare ends at the bottom of the breast. If you incorporate your normal skincare routine, including your décollete and breasts, everything will firm up. You can buy specialised bust creams, for example by Clarins and Mio for that area.
When it comes to makeup, even the smallest tip can go a long way and will often help to replace any bad habits picked up over the years.
"Have you any lipstick tips? I find I increasingly have to wear lighter colours as I age (red just shows the lines round my mouth and is too harsh), but I feel a bit silly in pink. I can't wear anything with a slightly orange tint as it makes me look like one of the baddies in Batman."
I'm a fan of lip glosses and lip balms, or lip stains. In an ideal world, you could use a lip stain around the centre of the lips and go over it with a coloured lip balm or gloss.
Stay away from the edges, as the product will gravitate towards the area anyway. Batman is never a good look!
"How do you avoid getting lipstick on your teeth?"
When you apply your lipstick, stick your finger in your mouth, wrap your lips around it and pull it out. All excess lippy will be on your finger, not your teeth.
"What is the best oil-free way of removing makeup? I like having fake lashes, but you're not really supposed to get oil on them. When I don't have fake lashes, I love the Shu Uemura cleanser."
If you have lash extensions, you can use micellar waters by brands such as Avene, as they are oil-free and non-irritating.
Sidenote, the Shu Uemura cleanser is mineral oil-based, and not the best thing for your skin.
"Are there any tricks to achieving a smooth line with eyeliner on older skin with the inevitable wrinkles? Do any of the cosmetic firms make a 'filler' that could be applied first?"
In terms of older skin, eyeliner and filler, brands such as Daniel Sandler offer makeup pens that temporarily smooth over the area and help makeup last longer.
Finally, Caroline Hirons reveals a few tricks of the trade that will no doubt revolutionise your skincare and beauty routines.
"Eyebrows...pluck, wax or thread? Or go for the full Dennis Healey?"
When it comes to eyebrows, I'm not a fan of waxing, as it stretches the skin. I'm a threader with plucking as maintenance, but plucking is fine if you can't afford regular threading.
"Please tell me what fake tan I can use that won't streak horribly!"
I prefer gradual tan moisturisers, as you can apply them daily until you can get the coverage you need. Also, they don't smell and they are less likely to streak. Lots of brands make them - my current cheap version is Garnier Summer Body Gradual Tan Moisturiser.
"My heels and soles are so dry. I've tried having pedicures which sorts them out for a few days, but then they are as bad as ever. Someone recommended cocoa butter and socks overnight. I'd welcome any other suggestions."
Dry feet or trotters, as I like to call them, happen to all of us, especially if you're a flip flop wearer. I would recommend a foot file from someone like Diamancel. My feet were atrocious, so I bought the strongest one a few years ago for around £50. A little file every evening before bed with cream takes care of it. High outlay, but so worth it!
"Are makeup wipes any good?"
Makeup remover wipes are acceptable in hospital, on flights and for sticky children. That's about it!
"What is wrong with mineral oil cleanser?"
Mineral oil is used in skincare because it's cheap. It can block the pores and causes a barrier on the skin. Natural oils found in cleansers, such as those by Emma Hardie and OSKIA, are much more beneficial, while still giving a good cleanse.
"How long should we keep and use products, especially sun creams and lipsticks?"
Sun cream should be changed every year and all leftovers should be thrown away especially when used on grandchildren. As for lipsticks and face cream, I would go by the smell - if they don't smell of the fragrance that came with them, they belong in the bin. Get rid of mascara as soon as it starts to dry out. The most long-lasting products are airtight products in pumps and tubes.
A third generation beauty expert, Caroline Hirons has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. She is also the founder of Give and Makeup, a not-for-profit initiative which aims to get essentials to women suffering from domestic violence via Womens Aid. Visit Caroline's website for more information.