Sunday, 1 March 2015

Hormonal Acne Help


Here we bloody go again! Although hopefully not for not much longer.

I really need to start taking my own advice more, the trouble is when faced with spots, it's really hard not to panic and go into overdrive on the skincare front - which is so often the main factor in my skin blowing up.

I've always been plagued with hormonally-related acne, the classic T-Zone of spots is not my problem, it's exclusively a U-Zone for me.

If you're dealing with hormonal acne, there are two main indicators: Your breakouts happen along the lower third of your face, and it gets worse during times of hormonal upheaval - like before your period, during pregnancy, and now for me since I've stopped breastfeeding.

I had huge success with diligent Benzoyl Peroxide application throughought my pregnancy (from about 3 months in - when my skin was at it's all time worse) and for all the time I was breastfeeding I experienced the clearest, calmest, skin of my life.

So whatever hormone was dominant then, suited me to a tee, and bearing in mind I was one of the lucky few who experienced a complete absence of fertility until 5 or 6 weeks after completely weaning my baby from the breast (at around 18 months).

To my horror within weeks of said weaning my chin and around my mouth blew up with horrible, painful cystic like spots - I panicked - went out and bought some of the awful astringent skincare junk cruelly targeted at acne sufferers - and got trapped in a damaging frenetic skincare hopping cycle.

Thankfully I woke up one morning and saw the light. I gathered all of the skincare in my possession, handed it over to my mum to take away from me so that I couldn't be tempted to use any of it, and armed myself with my trusty Dr Bronners, Cetaphil, and Obagi Benzoyl Peroxide.

It's taken a lot of strength to adjust my acne-fraught mindset, and to adopt a sensible, rational GENTLE skincare approach.

As Dr Sam Bunting (my new skincare hero) so rightly put it "I’ve heard so many times about the ritualistic way women will get home from work, remove make-up (‘because its bad for my skin’) and then spend the evening playing peekaboo with their magnifying mirror, squeezing everything in sight. Occasionally with tweezers. In fact, the disabling variant of acne known as acne excoriee is sometimes largely a consequence of human behaviour; the acne itself may not be so severe, but the fallout of self-help can be disastrous, leading to pot-hole scars and persistent pigmentation. I see this a lot in women with adult acne and the cycle can be extremely disabling – even though they know its harmful, they can’t help themselves."

Sound familiar?!

The most important thing I've learnt and want to share about treating acne is that, unfortunately there are no overnight cures. Gentle cleansing, Retinols, Benzoyl peroxide, and certain pills, should all work at clearing up most cases - BUT you won't see any major improvements for at LEAST six weeks.

Most people give up with a treatment after a couple of weeks if they don't feel that it is working - but in reality you need to wait out at least 2 skin cycles (roughly 3 months) before deciding whether or it's working for you.

During the first few months of my benzoyl peroxide journey I would read - and re-read - this petty accurate BP timeline. It helped me greatly in staying on track, and sticking with it.

Some other things I want to mention, as most people reading this may have found my blog because they are troubled with pregnancy and postpartum acne, and are particularly worried about what they can and can't use on there skin.

What I've learnt is that anything too strong would be prescription strength and any doc/derm would advise you of that at the time of your appointment.

Retinols aren't clear cut to be avoided - retinyl palmitate is one of the mildest forms and shouldn't cause you any problems. Retinoids that are again - prescription - or at a high percent would clearly state that on the label.

Only the stronger variants of retinoids are advised to be avoided - and in all honesty, unless it's in a prescription (which wouldn't be given) - the risk is minimal. Companies are terrified (understandably) of being sued. Look for retinyl palmitate. Exceedingly mild, does the job, just does it slowly and safely.

Take Bio oil for example. It's basically mineral oil. It does, however, have retinyl palmitate in it - Vitamin A - which disproves the whole 'can't use ANY retinol products whilst pregnant' as that range is very cleverly marketed almost entirely towards pregnant/post pregnant women!

You can use pretty much anything unless it is a really strong vitamin a product - which would always be written on the box.

Stay away from certain essential oils in body/bathing products - rosemary, clary sage, juniper etc - are contraindicated. Literally pretty much everything else is ok.

I feel/hope that I'm on the right path again, and wanted to share this information - as there's a lot of misinformation out there. If it can help anyone else I'll be thrilled - as the psychological effects of 'bad' skin should never be taken lightly.

So the key things to remember are...

* The general rule is 4 to 8 weeks although it can take as long as three months, and symptoms may get worse before they get better. It is easy to get disheartened and give up so it is important to persevere and keep any routines going, even if there is no immediate change for the better.

* In terms of cleansing, stick to the simplest varieties with no pokey active ingredients, I like Cetaphil, Dr Bronners Baby Mild, and La Roche Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel.

* Use lukewarm water, not hot or cold.

* NO SCRUBBING.

* Allow skin to dry completely before applying Benzoyl Peroxide.

* Leave spots to heal naturally – picking them only makes them worse.

* Only apply non-comedogenic moisturiser, and makeup.

* Stay hydrated and try to get enough sleep.

* Aim for a diet full of low-glycemic-index foods, and I also recommend probiotics and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help calm inflammation.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Postpartum Style tips for Nursing Mums


I thought that I'd better write this post before it becomes a distant memory - and mine's shockingly bad post pregnancy - does anyone have a clue when the whole 'nappy brain' thing is supposed to wear off?!

When I was pregnant, I spent months writing lists and curating all the 'must haves' I anticipated needing - I naively didn't consider that once Ernie arrived, anything I wore would need to have access to my chest at all hours of the day.

The last thing I wanted to wear were trousers or leggings (you've most likely spent your entire pregnancy in them), so for me, the shirtdress was a life-saver.

The loose fit of this style is great for post-natal tummy issues, and of course the button-down element is perfect for breastfeeding.

There are plenty of dedicated nursing wear brands - but I managed to survive 18 months of breastfeeding without the need for any specialised clothing, I don't even own a nursing bra - I preferred to wear bralettes with my ingenious LilyPadz, they are really worth checking out too.

So to avoid finding yourself in my predicament, and having to go out clothes shopping - at the worst possible moment - changing room mirrors are unforgiving at the best of times consider adding a couple of shirt dresses to your shopping list - the best bit is, if for whatever reason you don't have a long breastfeeding journey, nothing's gone to waste as either way they're a great addition to your post-pregnancy wardrobe.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Saying Goodbye to Breastfeeding


This is by far the hardest post I've had to write for this blog. Insert teary faced emoticon!

From the moment you find out that you're pregnant it all becomes about milestones - you track your baby's development from 'poppy seed' to 'watermelon', and it doesn't stop there.

Oh no, the angst continues - I doubt it ever goes away, but there is one significant milestone that's not discussed in the open so much... the day you stop breastfeeding.

And for obvious reasons, you'll most likely be suffering - not just from engorgement - but guilt, whether you lasted a week, months, or even years.

After I passed the one year mark, I became determined to let my son self wean, and I'm sad/glad/guilty to say that my breastfeeding journey has come to an almost natural end at 18 months.

It all started with me becoming a bit worn out and exasperated with our lack of 'bedtime routine' - sorry I hate that word too, but you know what I mean.

I'd marvel when friends would mention their kids happily going to sleep in the early evening.

I had no issue with my co-sleeping situation, nursing him down, or even the frequent night feeds - but by the end of the day Ernie would be overtired and by the time my husband got home from work it all seemed to descend into chaos, and I began to feel like I was failing.

I knew I hadn't come this far practicing attachment parenting techniques to suddenly subject us both to a lot of tears - the cry-it-out approach was not for me - I hoped, and felt in my heart that there was a better way.

So I did a bit of googling and stumbled on Elizabeth Pantley's the no-cry sleep solution.

Hallelujah! This woman gets it! She's a genius, and this book gave me back my sanity.

If any of my friends get pregnant, I'll be giving them this at their baby showers - along with the obligatory White Company rabbit.

I read it cover to cover, a good few times, and really took on board her advice, and when the time felt right for Ernie and I, I started to SLOWLY put it into action.

It's pretty simple stuff really, and before I knew it, Ernie was falling asleep on his own, without me having to nurse him down, and at a reasonable hour to boot.

Dropping that evening feed, led to him becoming easily distracted from day-time feeds, and before I knew it all we had left were a few early morning sessions.

They weren't causing us any real bother, but one night I found myself singing to him instead of feeding him at 4am, like we had been doing at bedtime, and it worked, he rolled over and fell back asleep - and I guess that was the beginning of the end.

I've summarised a lot here, this all took place over a good few months, but I believe it's all possible, and with minimal upset - when you're both emotionally ready.

I was prepared to breastfeed Ernie for as long as he wanted to (I secretly hoped that I wouldn't be breastfeeding a seven year old), and none of this would have even been conceivable a short while ago, he simply wasn't ready.

So I believe our success came down to the fact that he'd reached an appropriate level of maturity and understanding, necessary for a tear-free breakaway.

He's a joy to be around, happy and bright, and the absolute light of my life.

I'm really proud of my breastfeeding journey, and so happy to have gotten this far.

I'm tentatively entering new motherhood territory - I'm back to cursing my hormones - my milk's rapidly drying up, and I feel pretty damn rough!

FYI babyhood passes way too quickly!



Saturday, 24 January 2015

Wholemeal Banana Muffins


These make a perfect wholesome treat for when the cupboard is bare.

They're absolutely delicious - they never last long in our house!

Ingredients

Makes 12 small muffins

1 Medium organic free range egg
½ tsp Vanilla bean paste
55g Unrefined golden caster sugar
1 Large, ripe banana, well mashed
55ml Coconut oil, liquid consistency
85g Wholemeal flour
½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate soda
¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
Pinch sea salt (omit for under one years)
A hand full of oats
12 Baking cases

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan. Line 1 muffin tin with small baking cases.

2. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick, stir in the banana and coconut oil.

3. Sift on the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt (if using). Then add the vanilla extract and bran left in the sieve, to the bowl too.

4. Stir together until just combined.

5. Spoon into cases (around 2/3 full) sprinkle some oats on top, and bake 12-14 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Remove and cool.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Wholemeal Honey and Vanilla Cake


This cake is quick, easy, relatively healthy, and a fun one to make with small children.

I think it's really important not to fall into the trap of giving your toddler sweets or processed snacks. Toddlers who get used to eating healthy snacks are more likely to continue the same habits later on in life.

However, it would also be wrong to make sweets the forbidden fruit, and risk your toddler craving them all the more, and gorging on them whenever he could.

I'm always surprised by how sophisticated Ernie's palate can be - we let him eat food from our plates - he finds it much more interesting than his own meal, and we find that we can entice him to eat more this way.

When baking with Ernie in mind I try to cut out undesirables as much as possible, but there's always going to be an occasion for sheer uncompromised treats.

This cake is a happy medium, it has a lovely flavour and a very moist texture - is perfect for a child's tea party, 1st birthday, or simply a fun baking activity.

Ingredients

Makes two cakes

For the Sponge:

125g Wholemeal plain flour
80g Golden unrefined caster sugar
40g Honey
125g Unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Organic free-range eggs at room temperature
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp Vanilla bean paste

For the Curd:

You can buy a jar, or make your own following my recipe here.

To Decorate:

75g Raspberries
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, line a 8x8 inch tin with baking paper.

2. Put all your ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth.

3. Pour into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave the sponge to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and allow to cool to room temperature on a rack.

To assemble...

Cut out four circles of cake. I used a cookie cutter, but you can use a glass or do it by hand.

Spread half of the yoghurt on to the base sponge, and arrange some raspberries in a circle on top.

Spoon the curd over the layer of raspberries, and top with final layer of sponge.

Dollop the rest of yoghurt onto the middle of the cake and pop some more raspberries on it.

Repeat with the second cake or let your toddler have a go!




Thursday, 8 January 2015

Slummy Mummy Makeup


I recently heard the saying “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”

Being a stay-at-home mum is an amazing job. I love it!

However, it's all to easy to fall into a beauty rut, and feel nothing to do with the outside world, let alone ruling it!

Changing nappies, constantly cleaning, endless piles of laundry, and so much more (I won't bore you with) - can cause you to lose your focus.

It turns out motherhood can wreck your looks way beyond the pitfalls of pregnancy.

Are you still in your pyjamas in the afternoon? Has it been months since you shaved your legs let alone your armpits?

Anyone can fall into that rut, even Betty Draper had her down days, and no one should fault a woman for it. 

When you don't have a reason to leave your house all day, it's hard to find the inspiration (let alone the time) to fix your hair and make-up. 

On the flip side though, I sometimes find myself in the rather embarrassing predicament of getting a bit carried away getting ready - only to be embarrassed about how ridiculous I'm going to look when I take my child to the small town supermarket.

It's funny watching my husband do a double take when he walks through the front door.

There's definitely a happy medium to be had, above all else, it will help to keep you feeling sane - it's no mean feat being a homemaker - so when you start feeling more slummy than yummy mummy, a little makeup, and getting changed out of your pyjamas can be all you need to start feeling better.

If this sort of frustration sounds familiar, it's time to take a moment for yourself - to at least have a shower and put some slap on. You'll be surprised how quickly the rest all falls into place.

My 5 minute makeup can make a huge difference to my mood, and inspire a more productive day.

So I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the very basics, whilst taking into account the fact you probably couldn't care a less sometimes.

You really don’t need to do a lot to look half decent...

Starting with cleansed and moisturised skin...

- Even out your skin - I like to use a BB cream (and save foundation for special occasions) if you need to conceal any blemishes apply concealer where needed and try dusting over a little Bare Minerals Blemish Remedy - I like this as it sets your cover up in place, helps to heal at the same time - and doesn't really feel like an extra layer.

- Highlight - I like to use a liquid highlighter like Soap & Glory Hocus Focus or RMS Living Luminizer, absolutely everyone should highlight, it will leave you looking 10 years younger and like you have perfect skin. Use it to accentuate cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, inner eyes, under the arch of your brows, temples, and your Cupid's bow.

- Sculpt your brow - With the correct shade of Anastasia's DipBrow Pomade, and an angled brush, no matter your brow shape, you can subtly build volume, and dimension. This will instantly leave you looking polished. The eyebrows are one of the most important elements of the face. A perfectly groomed and shaped brow is the most powerful, non–invasive way to define and enhance your features. FACT.

On a regular day, when I'm not experimenting, or trying to impress ;p,  I don’t do an eye. I don’t wear eyeliner or eye shadow,  really—those are the most time consuming.

- Curl your lashes - and apply a couple of coats of mascara, I'm loving Boots SEVENTEEN Falsifeye HD Mascara. It's only £6.99, and rivals some of my high end formulas. You could, if you're no leaving the house, skip mascara altogether . Curling lashes alone will make you look more awake, and for an extra wide eye'd look - get them tinted (blue/black) and apply some nude eyeliner to your waterline, I love Sephora'sLong Lasting Kohl Pencil in Infinite Beige.

- I don't always wear blush, my cheeks are naturally quite flushed - but if you like a rosey look you can brighten cheeks with some cream blush, something like M.A.C. Cremeblend blush in Posey - and to truly save time you can apply it to your lips too.



Monday, 5 January 2015

Split Pea Soup


We love a good Jamie Oliver recipe in our house.

I'm pretty sure we've got all his books, well, not his latest Comfort Food extravaganza - I'm going to wait until the indulgences of Christmas are well and truly behind me before investing in that one.

If you managed to watch the accompanying TV series you'll understand why.

This heart warming soup is from Jamie does... Sweden, and it's well worth making.

Ingredients

Olive oil
2 Sticks of celery, trimmed and finely diced
2 Onions, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 Teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 Teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano
500g Dried yellow split peas, thoroughly washed
250g Piece of cooked, smoked ham, the best quality you can afford
1.5 Litres chicken stock, preferably organic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Mustard of your choice, to serve
Crisp bread, to serve

Method

1. Get a large pan on a low heat and add a good lug of olive oil. Once hot, add the celery, onions and dried herbs and cook for 10 minuets, stirring occasionally, until soft but not coloured.

2. Add your washed peas and ham, pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer over a medium low heat, then pop the lid on and cook for around 50 minuets, or until the peas are lovely and soft. Use tongs to pull out the ham and move it to a board. Chop and shred it up, discarding any rind and fatty pieces. Roughly mash the peas with a potato masher to give a nice texture, then str in your shredded ham. Have a taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Divide the soup between your bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and serve with a good dollop of English or Dijon mustard on the side to pimp the flavour and some nice crisp bread for dipping.


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