Saving Face

Saving Face

It's around this time of the year that skin looks its worst, right? Everyone in the office has been crawling up to my desk begging me for skin SOS, and if you're in a complexion crisis too, here's why:

1) The environment. A normal day involves going from a warm house to the cold/snowy/rainy/windy street to a sweaty and polluted tube or bus, then back out onto the street and into a dry hot office. It sends your skin so many confusing signals, no wonder it's exhausted and thirsty.

2) Last month's excesses. It takes four weeks for deep-seated cells to travel up to the surface of your skin. What were you doing four weeks ago? Drinking, partying, over-eating and staying out all night, then suffering from a hangover and drinking too much coffee. So when you look in the mirror today, those big under-eye bags and sallow grey skin are pretty much the results over all that toxin over-indulging. Plus, when skin is vulnerable like this, it's prone to spots and blackheads.

But don't worry - it will get better. All your recent angelic behaviour (early nights in, lots of water, healthy food etc) will repay you with clear, healthy skin very soon.
In the meantime, the most important thing you can do is focus on your cleansing and dedicate a couple more minutes to it every morning and evening. This will exercise your facial muscles and tone up your skin, deep cleanse those pores and clear away dead skin cells so that your serum and moisturiser can work efficiently.

Looking to upgrade your cleanser? I urge you to invest in Emma Hardie's Amazing Face Professional Cleansing System. It's honestly the best cleanser I've ever used. The kit includes a buttery-textured Moringa Cleansing Balm that smells of orange blossom, a tiny pot of Rosehip Exfoliating Seeds (which you can add to the balm if you want a deeper clean) and a Polishing Cloth (with a muslin side to remove the cleanser and a soft microfibre side for buffing). After three days use, my skin is perky, bright and soft.

Whatever I got up to four weeks ago, I've wiped my skincare slate clean!


Emma Hardie Amazing Face Professional Cleansing System, £39 is available at www.spacenk.co.uk and www.emmahardie.com

The Scotsman Hotel Spa in Edinburgh

The Scotsman Hotel Spa in Edinburgh

Take a weekend away from all the wedding preparations at five star boutique hotel, The Scotsman in Edinburgh. Housed within the old Scotsman Newspaper building, the hotel is perfectly located for stunning views across Edinburgh - think Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, The Frith of Forth and beyond - you'll stay in rooms where attention to detail is paramount: from the beautiful tiled bathrooms to the early morning edition of the Scotsman paper to keep up to date with the day's news. While sightseeing is definitely recommended, you can escape the buzz of the city at the hotel's spa, The Scotsman Spa and Health Club. Unwind with the indulgent Top To Toe spa treatment, which consists of a mini-facial using Thalgo marine products and a relaxing body massage of sea salts and algae petals, finishing with a foot massage to leave you feeling thoroughly spoilt. Absolute bliss. When you're finished in the spa, a decadent lunch at North Bridge Brasserie in the hotel is recommended, followed by a wee dram of whiskey from the bar's extensive list! The Scotsman's signature Top To Toe Spa Treatment is £100, visit www.theetoncollection.com for rooms rates and more information.

Beauty Sleep

Beauty Sleep

The night before my wedding, I went through all the classic steps to ensure I had a good night's sleep: I ate a light meal, watched an unstimulating movie, drank water (not wine), massaged lavender oil into my temples and tucked myself into bed at 10pm.
And, of course, I had a sleepless night.
I tossed and turned and a million thoughts raced around my head: have I set my alarm? Is my fiancé handcuffed to a tree? Did I lock the back door? Is our best man going to embarrass me in his speech? Would any guests not turn up tomorrow? Did I tell the caterer to prep a meal for the photographer? If I don't get seven hours' sleep will I have big ugly bags under my eyes? Does my wedding dress suit me? Will it ever stop raining? Why am I so tired but can't fall asleep? If I take a massive dose of Night Nurse will I ever wake up in the morning?
On and on and on.
Eventually I nodded off, as one always does, but I wish I had had a few tricks to help me calm me thoughts and stop the ridiculous, irrational mind-mess.
Now when it happens, I know exactly what to do. The secret is to clear those thoughts, to not think about anything controversial or provoking. To do this, focus on one simple image in your mind. It can be anything you want, as long as it's basic, clear and neutral. For instance, a sleep expert I once met told me to think about a black cat, sitting on a black cushion, sitting on a black armchair. It sounds absurd, but it makes sense: if you spend enough time visualising one simple idea (rather than a thousand dilemmas), you relax your mind and it's easier to drift off to sleep.
The cat thing wasn't really doing it for me and I've since used a variety of ideas, including concentrating on the backs of my eyelids (don't ask me why, but it works every time!). Recently, I've been picturing a small pyramid, with a cool blue pearl of light shining inside it. I think it may have been inspired by a passage on yogic meditation in Elizabeth Gilbert's novel Eat, Pray, Love. Anyway, the more I focus on the glowing blue pearl, housed safely in that pyramid, the less I think about everything else - thus, I'm asleep before I know it.

It's a weird idea to get used to, but if you train your mind to visualise sleep aids, you'll get conditioned to the process and falling asleep will get easier and faster.

Exercise helps immensely too. It's quite primitive in a way: spend the day being active, running and hunting (venting all your frustration on stabbing a mammoth/pounding the treadmill), and allow the body to rest and recuperate at night.

In the meantime, those eye-bags are still an annoying reality so invest in Bobbi Brown's ace new Eye Brightener pen (lighter and less cakey than a concealer, not as bunny-in-headlamps as YSL's Touche Eclat) and rest assured that even if you just get a couple of hours' kip, you can still look fresh and fabulous the next day.

Bobbi Brown Tinted Eye Brightener, £22, www.bobbibrown.co.uk

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From Paris, With Love

From Paris, With Love

Fashionista brides rejoice - the latest fragrance from the must-have designer label, Balenciaga, is coming! Balenciaga Paris is a light scent imbued with antique spring violets and a woody, peppery note that makes for an intriguing combination. Ideal for sun-dappled spring or summer weddings, the perfume is inspired by Anglo-French actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg - the muse of Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière - and is certain to give your day that final touch of essential "je ne sais quoi". £42 for 30ml, available exclusively at Harvey Nichols from January 17 and at selected department stores from February 15.

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