Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The White Feather in the Tar

A somewhat different post from me this week, but I thought it might be useful for those whose skin tends to suffer along with the rest of their body at the hands of their chronic illness.

I have two separate recommendations for people to try – one a general skincare range, and the other a make-up one. .

I can hear the people who know me well giggling already at the latter. I am to knowledge of make-up what Jeremy Clarkson is to political correctness. It might be fun to flirt with it on occasion, but in general we just don’t get along.

The skin care is the Bodyshop’s Aloe range. A set of the cleanser, toner and day cream were gifted to me for Christmas and I have now been using it for about a month on a daily basis.

To give some context, I’ve tried a lot of the brands which recommend themselves for sensitive skin in the past to no avail. My skin became so angry with the Simple moisturiser for example that I was almost waiting for the day when the inflamed redness along my cheekbones would start to spell out swear words.  

However, the Aloe range seems to be the Holy Grail for my skin. One of the best key indicators was that none of the three products caused any initial sensation – usually, anything I put on my skin causes an immediate burning sensation. Anyone who tells you “That just means it’s working!” is wrong – it means your skin doesn’t like it.

The Aloe products don’t do that and thus far I’ve had no reaction at all. The redness across my cheeks is pretty much invisible, and albeit the unevenness underneath is still present it is nowhere near as pronounced as it was. Remarkably even when I was in a full flare-up following losing Misty my skin barely altered, whereas previously it would have been incredibly noticeable.  Price wise a full replacement set would be about £15 and using them daily the individual products would probably last a couple of months.

(Image from productreview.com.au)

 Now, the giggle-inducing part. My mum visited this weekend and we went ostensibly shoe shopping - yes, I’m nearly 25 and still can’t shoe shop on my own because shoes are terrifying and don’t make any sense. The shoe mission was painlessly successful in the end and I started scouting for a proper set of make-up brushes.

I’ve been slowly teaching myself a couple of “looks” as it were – I highly recommend Lisa Eldridge’s make-up videos on Youtube for anyone wishing to try this themselves – and had come to the inevitable conclusion I actually needed to buy  some half-decent gear if I was going to have any chance of success. I still view make-up as something to play with when I’m going out in the evening or to something special in the day – it will never be a day to day consideration. Having said that though, it would still be nice to learn a couple of things to a good standard.

Shoring up some courage I went to talk to a lady at the Liz Earle counter in John Lewis. The name actually meant nothing to me but it turned out to be an accidentally wise choice.

Previously I’ve always avoided make-up counters like the plague, mostly because when I was first flirting with the idea of make-up when I was in college, most of the make-up counters in our local Debenhams and similar were staffed by in majority young girls who had nothing better to do but tear apart their hapless previous customers for what they looked like and the stupidity of their questions. In my head they were therefore havens of hairspray-scented cattiness and were generally very unpleasant places.

It’s probably not surprising therefore that the reaction I expect upon approaching a make-up counter and admitting my lack of knowledge is one of “What idiot let this creature out?”

As it happened this couldn’t have been further from the truth. The lady in question probably spent the best part of an hour with us getting a feel of what I wanted and tailoring her advice to suit, as well as happily giving tips and tricks that were outside of the “official line”.  She then proceeded to try some of the products on me and I ended up coming over a little emotional at the results. The difference is staggering when somebody professional does your make-up. I don’t generally associate myself with the subtlely enhanced and rather pretty face looking back at me.

So, why do I think Liz Earle is a good choice for people whose skin is sensitive and flares up?

Answer: because you can’t feel you’re wearing it.

(Apologies, but I don't have anybody else's face wearing the make-up, so you're going to have to put up with mine.)

The make-up is so light and breathable that the only way I could fully tell I was wearing the product was from the slight cosmetic-y smell I kept catching on occasion. I couldn’t actually feel it. By the end of the try out I was wearing a base, concealer and blush on my skin and the lightness of it was tremendous. Score one against my idea of foundation being the sum of all evil and feeling like having wet cement painted on your face.

To further prove the fact, I took the make-up off last night and today my skin is clear. No redness, and it didn’t require the usual scrubbing away with water to the point of my skin actually feeling sore that I usually associate trying to remove make-up at the end of the night.

Liz Earle products get further plus points for their policy to not test any of their range on animals, and the fact that the make-up brushes and accessories are made from 100% man-made fibres.

The downside is it isn’t cheap. I spent a slightly eye-watering amount, but in hindsight it’s not as if I’d have to spend anywhere close to that amount in one go again in the future. You’re never going to be replacing everything at once (one hopes) and in my case the sparing usage will mean they last forever.

Talking about make-up and skin care seems to encourage a negative attitude from some people, that any interest in such makes you overly vain or alternatively that you must be attempting to hide behind the “war paint” because of crippling insecurities and confidence issues.

From a chronic invisible illness perspective, there's the even more irritating assumption that since the use of cosmetics can you make you look more lively and awake, "better" if you like, then you must be feeling better. If make-up is your day to day routine this can even lead to the assumption there's nothing wrong at all. I grow weary of the explanation of this, so I'll end with a simple thought.

Sometimes self-expression is just that and nothing more. 

I don't think I'm turning horribly conceited or hiding from anything (especially not my illness) in making some forays into make-up, I do look forward to on the rare occasions I want to look a little bit special being able to do so without the fear of angry, sore skin as a consequence.

I hope those suggestions are useful for others – please do let me know!

If anybody would like the details of the specific things I’m wearing in the photo or the Aloe skin products I’m using, please do shout up as I’m happy to share.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

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