Do you look in the mirror from time to time and find it hard to face the fact that you no longer look as young as you used to? Where is the face you used to have? Where did that natural glow and flawless skin go? Anti-ageing skincare suddenly seems less of an expensive luxury, and more of an everyday essential.
I wish I had been more appreciative of my youthful skin while I still had it. I wish I had taken so much better care of it, protected it from the sun and the pollution and the daily strains of life that accumulate over the years. I wish I had drunk less alcohol and far, far more water. Given up coffee, eaten more fruit and vegetables. You take it all for granted and then one day in middle age, whatever creams you put upon it and serums you rub in, you realise it's gone, vanished and never coming back.
Cosmetic surgery disasters
People turn to Botox, facelifts and lasers in their anti-ageing quest. Presumably, if their treatment is good the rest of us don't even notice that they've had it done. We just think they have great genes. But more often than not, in a city coffee shop or restaurant, we glance in awkwardness away from the table next door where someone has patently had 'work' done. Stretched eyes, stretched lips and foreheads that remain as impassive as marble. We shudder and think "No thanks." But what's the alternative when you want to nudge back the years?
I remember reading a biography of an early Duchess of Marlborough, one of the acclaimed great beauties of her day. She struggled hugely with the arrival of her first wrinkles and the onset of middle age. It was the very early days of plastic surgery, and (I still dread to think of it all these years later) handed herself over to the skills of the surgeons of her day. The results were summed up in a simple sentence that chills my blood even now. "She became a gargoyle and was never seen in public again." Anti-ageing gone hideously wrong - literally.
Natural products and complementary therapies can definitely help. And best of all, non-invasively. No toxins, no scarring and no irreparable skin damage. And usually relatively inexpensive. As we get older, we lose collagen and elastin, and our fibres lose their elasticity. Habitual expressions create deep lines and wrinkles. Character lines we call them, but better to stop them in their tracks before they etch too deep. So how to get the muscles moving and the lymph flowing before they become entrenched?
6 all-natural anti-ageing tips
1. Facial acupuncture
This one definitely works. A skilled practitioner can lift your face, refining your wrinkles (particularly that tricky one between the eyes that makes people look so bad tempered when really they are not!) and the deep lines that run from nose to mouth. Needles are inserted into specific points that send energy and circulation to the areas that are stagnant. I asked once to have just one side of my face done to compare it to the untreated other half. The difference was marked. The problem with this one, for me, is that I am very wimpy. And no matter how fine the needles, it's never a very relaxing hour. Plus, like most of these treatment, you have to keep at it. First an intensive series of sessions, weekly, and then once a month ongoing. But I suppose it's the same with Botox, and facial acupuncture is considerably less costly.
2. Face Therapy
This is the one for me and, as anti-ageing treatments go, this is as pleasurable as it gets. Similar to acupuncture but without the needles, it wakes your face up in the same way that gym wakes up the muscles of your body. I recommend you start a lot younger than I did; that way you shouldn't get so many wrinkles in the first place. There is a set routine of movements that releases tension and floods the muscles with blood, relaxing and invigorating them at the same time. It combines various aspects of complementary therapies such as yoga, reiki, acupressure, head massage, energy balancing and lymphatic drainage.
The therapist works with the tips of the fingers, very gently, moving around your head and face, and sometimes neck as well, massaging deep into the connective tissue. I usually drop off into some deep place of unconsciousness, waking what feels like seconds later to find my whole session over. When I glance in the mirror, my face has dropped a decade at least, and my skin is glowing again as it used to. After a series of initial weekly sessions, I am now on a once a month programme, and remarkably, my skin seems to have a 'memory' and relaxes straight away, remaining fresh for days - and I hope eventually, weeks - afterwards. There are not, however, many practitioners trained in face therapy. The queen of them all is Beata Aleksandrowicz, (0203 290 9070) a magician with healing fingers who is based in Notting Hill. See the video below for more detail on how her face therapy works.
Claudia van der Werff is another skilled therapist who works to deeply relax the muscles of the face. Although her training is different, her massage is similar and she offers appointments from her home in Pimlico, London.
3. Face massage
This is a variation on the theme above and much easier to track down. The therapists use oil and briskly but gently work their way around your face, neck and shoulders, flicking and rubbing your skin until it comes alive, releasing stress and tension and softening your features so you look again much as you used to. It helps reduce puffiness and dark circles under the eyes. A new chain of 'Face Gym' shops have opened in London. It's catching on, looking set to become an anti-ageing essential for growing legions of fans. Personally I would much rather go to the Face Gym rather than the sweatier and far more exhausting body gym!
4. Snail therapy
Sound horrendous? I thought so too. I was going to experiment and report back on it accurately, but couldn't quite face it. My hairdresser has the most terrible psoriasis all over his body and face. He has tried everything to get rid of it, to no avail. His doctors eventually told him he would just have to live with it. Imagine my amazement then, when I walked into the salon to see his face smooth and no longer scarred. He shared his discovery. Snail enzymes. Apparently the slime that snails trail behind them is full of proteins, glycolic acids and that elastin that helps restore the elasticity in your skin. This means that snail slime has potent anti-ageing benefits.
It contains a natural acid that gently eats away the top layers of your skin, nourishing it at the same time. He had found a place that offered snail therapy and was now regularly having treatments. They let a special sort of snail wander all over your face, and hey presto! Don't go searching through your herbaceous borders though, those particular garden snails won't do it!
Snails are one of my least favourite animals, and the thought of having several of them let loose on my face and set free to wander for an hour, was far too icky for me! I was, however, so impressed with the change in his skin, I decided there must be another less 'alive' way of going about it. And there is. Google 'snail mask' and buy yourself a slime mask that you can apply at very little cost in the comfort of your own bathroom. It looks innocuous enough, but my stomach still churns at the thought of where it's come from! The masks hydrate your skin, at the same time as regenerating your surface cells, and each one contains 10,000ppm of organic snail secretion filtrate, whatever that is! This one I did try and can report that if you didn't know what was in it, it would look like any old mask you might buy in Boots. Worth a try. An easy anti-ageing option.
One of the problems with looking older is that it's partly down to the loss of collagen as we age. And be really careful here, because one of the major destroyers of collagen are the NSAIDs - those over the counter painkillers like Anadin, Paracetamol and my beloved Anadin Extra. It's a nasty Catch 22, because people with painful knees and joints pop them regularly to ease the pain, little knowing that their collagen is being further weakened as a result.
So, if losing collagen is much of the problem with wrinkles and ageing, if you put it back, can you reverse the problem? Most science implies not. Apparently collagen pills and capsules don't survive the acid in your stomach and they often give you itchy, rash like side effects. A 2014 study of Pure Gold Collagen showed that only 15% of subjects taking it over 60 days had fewer facial lines and wrinkles than the control group and the researchers felt that even this was probably down to external factors rather than being the effect of a collagen boost.
Zehra, however, is a natural supplement that combines Peptan collagen with vitamin C and CoQ10, and the company has research that seems to show remarkable results. After a 12 week daily programme of supplementation, participants skin was noticeably smoother, more hydrated, younger and more wrinkle free. It's not a quick fix, but incorporate it into your regular anti-ageing regime and watch the years fall away!
6. Aloe vera
This is one natural health supplement with a lot of science behind it. It has been shown to nearly double hyaluronic acid and collagen production in research studies. Sterols, which are naturally occurring compounds found in Aloe vera, increase the production of type I and type III collagen.
7. Natural face masks
Last but not least, these are a simple and effective way to nourish your skin. Used regularly, they will reboot your skin and get it glowing again. Take a pot of organic full fat plain yoghurt, smooth all over your face and wait until it dries. Then, standing over your sink, remove it with gentle circular movements. Rinse, and apply a further mask of mushed up strawberries in the summer, or bananas the rest of the time. Add a little honey too.
Avocado mixed with coconut oil and honey is an excellent moisturising mask for dry skin. Mash half a ripe avocado with a tablespoon of honey and half a teaspoon of coconut oil and leave on for 15 minutes before washing off with warm water. Simple and inexpensive and gets your skin glowing.
Finally, and most importantly...
Don't forget sleep!
Sleep is a key part of anti-ageing and is why they invented the term 'beauty sleep'. Between the hours of midnight and 4am whilst you are out for the count and deeply submerged in delta waves, your body repairs your skin. Make sure you sort any sleep issues (see the last couple of posts) and watch your skin get younger the deeper you sleep! This one could be the most inexpensive remedy of them all....