How do you want your skin to look on your wedding day? Blemish-free? Glowing (not shiny!) in all the right places? While good quality make-up can definitely achieve some of this, nothing can replace the flawless canvas of healthy skin. Here's my guide to taking your first steps towards great skin.
In an ideal world, focus on your skin the minute you get engaged to give yourself time to find products that work for you and your budget. But don't worry if you've left it too late: there's still hope for shotgun skincare newbies! It takes just 4 weeks for products to start showing their effects (the ingredients are designed to work on the deeper skin cells, which take 28 days to come up to the surface). So even if you're getting married in a month there's time to make a difference.
Finding The One
The big question is what or, more precisely, who to choose. There were more than 280 new beauty brand launches in 2009 so if you find it confusing, you're not alone.
'Picking the brand that's right for you is the hardest thing,' says skin expert and facialist Nichola Joss (www.nicholajoss.com). 'Think about your budget, what has worked for you in the past and which brand you want to buy into - organic, designer, aromatherapeutic?' Remember, it takes two to three days to test whether a product is compatible with your skin so always ask for free samples before buying.'
Go with the Pro
If you need a helping hand, invest in a facial. Rather than a pampering luxury, see it as a personal training session for your skin to find out exactly what it needs to function at its best. A great therapist can analyse, diagnose and prescribe - all you need to decide is which company to go with (excellent facial brands include Dermalogica, Aromatherapy Associates, Elemis and Carita). Alternatively, go for a free Skin Health consultation at larger Boots stores nationwide. You'll be examined with a Dermo-Analyser machine (made by the skincare brand Vichy), which scans for lines, hydration, sensitivity and UV damage and compares it to the 7,000 skin profiles stored. An advisor then recommends a personalised product routine with affordable dermatological brands. There's a similar service at Lancôme counters nationwide. Their 'Skincare Expert' checks your skin with their 'Diagnôs Express', a machine with cameras and sensors that measures everything from pore size to wrinkle depth. Both systems are eye-opening and help even the most skin-savvy bride figure out where she's going wrong.
Nichola suggests shopping 'when your skin has been up a little, i.e. lunchtime. It won't be stressed, too dirty from pollution or puffy from lack of sleep, so it'll be easier to read for diagnosing types, textures and problems.'
Once you've picked your brand and know your skin type, 'your basic routine should include cleanser, toner for rebalancing pH levels, moisturiser, eye cream and night cream or oil,' says Nichola. Try adding a serum (an intense gel-lotion) to wear under moisturiser, which carries age-preventing ingredients much deeper into the skin than normal creams. While shopping, pay extra attention to brand-new products at the forefront of skincare, and look out for 'relaunches', where bestsellers (such as Guerlain Orchidée Impériale day cream and Clarins Multi-Active night cream) have been remade using new, more powerful ingredients.
Work it baby!
As for applying these dream creams, 'massage products well into the skin to improve muscle tone and circulation,' says Nichola. So, just like you would with your body, give your face regular workouts and by the time your wedding arrives, you'll have the fittest, healthiest and most radiant skin possible.