Big bust, little bust, cardboard box

Apologies for the title – I trust you’ve heard of the dance move “big fish, little fish, cardboard box”? Sorry not-sorry about that ūüėČ

As an¬†ing√©nue, I don’t want or need bust emphasis. Whilst shopping online today I was thinking about bust size and how it influences the styles that flatter us (or not). Here are my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t, depending on whether you’re small or large of bust.

Small bust

What works: high necklines, a yoke*, detail above the bust, halter necks if shoulders aren’t too wide, long necklaces, polo necks, chokers.

Avoid: Low v-necks and any neckline that is too low.

Top with short yoke
Excellent example of a short yoke here. You can see how this model is very slim and how this would be rather unflattering on a large bust, not least because the top would sit away from the body, giving the illusion that the wearer was several dress sizes bigger than she actually was. Top from Next.
Pretty high lace collar and yoke blouse from ASOS. Small bust required.

Large bust

What works: lower necklines (scoop, v-neck), boat neck (works for medium-sized busts), detail below the bust, e.g. empire band or belt, avoid too much bulk at the bust e.g. ruffles. Romantics might be able to get away with the latter.

This neckline is a cross between a scoop and a v. Better for bigger busts. You could go a little higher if you wanted to slow less cleavage. Black lace top from ASOS.

Avoid: Long necklaces that straddle one asset (if you catch my drift) – necklaces that rest above the bust, as opposed to on the bust, are better. A large bust, when not dressed well, can give the impression of you being heavier than you are.¬†Pepperberry, if you’ve never heard of them, make clothes for the big of bust.

This top needs to hang straight down. A bigger bust will make this top stick out and make the person look bigger overall. If it was fitted beneath the bust (empire line) then it would work better. Blouse from ASOS.

Sheer tops can make higher necklines more wearable for bigger busts, I find.

The neckline here is too high and small. Frustrating that this is marketed at so-called plus sizes. This doesn’t flatter the model, I can’t imagine it flattering any wearer.

Several months ago now I visited Bravissimo in Norwich and it was somewhat life-changing. I was certain I was wearing the right size bra.¬†Turns out I was wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small. The right bra can take years off you and completely change your silhouette,¬†as I discovered. I can’t recommend a visit strongly enough. If your outfit is fabulous but your bra isn’t¬†you can be sure it’ll sabotage your look; I’m not being overly dramatic here. Alas, I digress…¬†There seems to be a lot of high necklines in the shops at the moment, which means I’m struggling. I can see that the slim models look better in these necklines, but I do not.

The above are, of course, only my observations – do you agree? What do you find works for you?

* yoke = a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached.

Another experiment: no make-up day!

PREFACE (and spoiler): I very nearly didn’t publish this blog post, because of the reaction I got from people. That is, no-one noticed I wasn’t wearing make-up, and I felt embarrassed at having to write a blog post confessing this. I had been expecting people to tell me I looked sick but they didn’t, and on looking back at the photos I realise it’s because there’s really not much difference between my very natural look and me wearing nothing at all on my face. The reason I decided to publish this is because I think there are lessons here. Something that was re-iterated to me doing this is that photos are useful. Sometimes they can be misleading, but for the most part they are useful in helping us to see ourselves as objectively as we humans can. I use them sometimes when buying clothes. If you look at the photos below you’ll see that on both counts, the colour overpowers me. This wasn’t obvious to me in real life, but the photos helped me to see things more clearly (both dresses were returned!).

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I loved the lace but wasn’t sure about the waist definition. The photo showed me that actually the red was too bright for a Summer!
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I loved the pattern and at the time I was desperate for new dresses to go with leggings or tights. I could see how washed out I looked in the photo though, so it went back.

As a result of this experiment I won’t, in future, worry about going to the supermarket without make-up on. I’ll probably still wear make-up to work, because there is some improvement when I wear it of course, but I will no longer bother putting make-up on to go to the gym or the supermarket (that might sound ridiculous to some of you, but I really was that self-conscious¬†about my skin). Most importantly, I learned that how we feel about ourselves is what really matters. Someone might look at someone else and think they look silly / spotty / awful but ultimately if people feel comfortable and themselves¬†in what they are wearing, that’s all that matters.

* * *

I’ve suffered with acne since I was a teenager and I’ve only managed to get on top of it fairly recently. I still have scars, primarily on my chin, but they are fading. I can’t remember the last time I had a spot but I still wear foundation every day and feel utterly naked leaving the house without it. If I do leave the house without it I literally wear a scarf and hide my chin¬†behind it, even if I’m just going to the supermarket. My husband thinks I’m completely ridiculous.

I thought, then, that a no make-up day would be another uncomfortable but (hopefully) interesting experiment to do. It requires considerably less preparation than the style experiment did although I suspected it’d be equally nerve-racking. I didn’t share a photo of myself on Facebook sans make-up when the whole #nomakeup thing was going round, despite being nominated three times. I couldn’t bring myself to. There seemed to be a whole plethora of #nomakeup selfies from people who, quite evidently, didn’t need to wear it anyway thanks to having already flawless skin. I had a little look on Twitter actually before writing this post to see if the #nomakeup hashtag was still being used and, of course, it very much is. It’s certainly interesting. There’s a lot of pressure for women to look good without make-up. Cosmetic companies rely on it to create insecurity in order to sell us things. The fact that I wear make-up and feel self-conscious about not doing so is a rub for me. Of course I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. Of course I don’t want to fall into the insecurity trap and regularly spend a (not insignificant) amount of money on make-up. I don’t spend a lot on make-up as it happens, but I do spend some, and regularly.

This experiment was inspired by my clients who literally always seem to look better without foundation and positively glow with the lightest brush of blusher. I’m going to go one step further in my experiment by wearing absolutely nothing at all, but if I’m honest blusher is the least of my worries given the fact that my chin is still scarred from acne. My skin also goes very blotchy in the cold. It’s not exactly warm out at the moment where I live.

How will I feel?¬†Will anyone notice? I had no idea. I was nervous because I assumed no-one would notice when I did my style experiment but they really did. I was fully expecting people to ask me if felt¬†unwell, repeatedly. I definitely wasn’t expecting compliments. My husband says make-up makes me look different, not better. I wasn’t so sure.

Currently I am using two skincare products I couldn’t live without: the bareMinerals Active Cell Renewal Serum and La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser. If I’m completely honest I doubt I’d have even contemplated this experiment without them! Whilst my¬†skin is pretty clear at the moment I still have scars from the acne and, to my delight, sometimes I get bitten in the night by spiders or mosquitoes which result in some pretty unattractive, red marks on my face.

Here is me wearing make-up. I actually wear very little (thanks to the aforementioned products). I’m definitely a fan of the natural look. Who wouldn’t like to feel as though they don’t need to wear any make-up? I’m very fussy about my foundation – colour match is vital and something I struggle with because I’m so pale and have very cool undertones. It took me a long time to settle on bareMinerals original foundation but I truly love it now when used with their BB primer. I like a matte look, I think it works for a Summer. I want to add here: I’m not being paid by anyone for mentioning¬†products in this post! I’d hate for anyone to think that. They’re just products that, after a lot of trial-and-error, I happen to have settled on and love.

Me with make-up. I'm wearing very little foundation, a little blusher and mascara. That's it. I feel comfortable.
Me with make-up. I’m wearing very little foundation with a touch of¬†blusher and mascara. That’s it. I feel comfortable.

This is me without make-up. It’s definitely not awful, I’m aware of how much worse I’d have looked even a few months ago when I just couldn’t get rid of my spots. My eyelashes haven’t been tinted in yonks so this really is me completely bare-faced. I don’t think I look bad, but I think I look a bit blotchy / bare-faced. I decided to wear red on the day of the experiment because it’s one of my very, very best colours (even better than navy on me). I figured I needed all the help I could get.

Me without make-up (literally not a scrap). I'm very aware of my acne scars.
Me without make-up (literally not a scrap). I’m very aware of my acne scars.

When I told my husband I was doing a no make-up experiment he said “Good! I’ve always told you that you don’t need makeup! You’re gorgeous without it.”¬†I truly underestimated how uncomfortable I’d feel¬†on the day. On my way into work, I ended up hiding my skin behind my scarf as I walked in. I was genuinely scared to look in the mirror too – I very nearly chickened out after seeing how I looked in the mirror before walking out the front door. I didn’t though. It’s only one day after all, right? I kept having to tell myself that. I reminded myself that even if people noticed and thought I looked ill, they wouldn’t remember the one day in their lives when Janine didn’t wear make-up for a day.

None of my colleagues commented, unlike last time. When prompted after lunch, the most astute of them did say “I thought your face looked different but I couldn’t tell what. Mouth? Lipstick? Or is it eyes?” I replied, “All of it – am not wearing a scrap of make-up today.” I was relieved when he said “Doesn’t actually show”, after which he promptly insulted my make-up application skills (it’s that kind of working relationship).

Not one other person commented on my (lack of) make-up and actually I thought twice about publishing this post because it seemed like such an anti-climax. As it happens, people really don’t study faces as closely as we think they do. Admittedly I didn’t see as many people as I could have done in my job today, so perhaps I should have done it on a day when I had more going on (although I suspect that if my astute colleague didn’t notice or comment, others wouldn’t have either).

I learnt several useful lessons doing this experiment (mentioned in the preface) and the one that stands out for me is this: what matters most is how you feel in your own skin.

* * *

On an unrelated note, I’d love your opinion on something! A brilliant blogger I know and follow, Kristen Kalp¬†of Brand Camp,¬†offers her blog posts as podcasts too (they are brilliant I might add). She reads out her posts and I’m curious to know if you’d like something similar. What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to know! Just post a comment below. I’m toying with the idea of doing something similar for up-and-coming stuff.

More style experimentation

I visited Matalan a while back on the hunt for some more leggings (the search is endless, I swear), and couldn’t resist some more style experimentation. I took some photos… Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves…

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My head looks separate from my body here. Do you like the lovely coral heels that do absolutely nothing for my legs?
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Jessie J would rock that chain. Me? Not so much…
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MY EYES! There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Lily Allen would wear this outfit well I think.
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This isn’t how an ing√©nue does sexy… Nope! The black is completely dominating.

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that none of these outfits made it home. I showed these photos to friends recently, and their replies were not repeatable in polite company. One of my friends commented on the consistency of my style usually, so these clothes are a stark contrast to my usual Summer Ing√©nue Natural look. I imagine a Winter / Bright Spring Dramatic would look good in these. They are pretty much exactly what I shouldn’t be wearing; mostly Winter colours with a little Spring, Dramatic style, large scale, heels. For the sake of completeness and contrast, here’s what I usually wear if I’m going out to something that requires a smarter look…

IMG_3160
I can’t remember why I wore this now, but this is my version of ‘dressing up’.
IMG_3162
Sometimes I’ll swap the leggings and flats for navy tights and kitten heels if I need to go smarter. I do get a little bit scared sometimes when I realise I’m leaving the house dressed like a princess.
20151018_111846
Apologies for the headless shot! If I need to do “going out / clubbing” (not that I’m a big fan of clubs) then the cord hot pants come out, with a pretty blouse.

So there you have it! When I’m next out shopping, who knows, I might experiment some more ūüėČ

Is colour analysis for me?

Excellent question. I’ll start by answering first who it ISN’T for.

It’s not for you if:

  • You are completely invested in the colours and make-up you already wear and you wouldn’t consider changing them. I hasten to add, this isn’t the same as having favourite colours and wanting to wear them regardless of the outcome. Chances are (as I’ve seen again and again), if there is a colour you particularly love it’s almost certainly in your palette (I’ve yet to see this NOT be the case). Even if your favourite colour isn’t in your final palette you can still wear it! Of course you can.¬†These are very much guidelines, not rules. You can do as much or as little with the advice I give as you like. In addition, you don’t have to wear every colour in your palette if you don’t want to. As a Summer I have some beautiful shades of pink in my palette but I feel apprehensive about wearing them because it feels vulnerable to do so. That’s totally okay. You don’t have to love every colour, although chances are you’ll fall in love with them when you see what they do for you.
  • You’re going to give yourself a hard time afterwards if 100% of your wardrobe isn’t already compliant. (See previous comment about my advice being guidelines, not rules!) Self-compassion is where it all begins. Be kind to yourself.
  • You have plenty of money and enjoy shopping and the thrill of a new buy and don’t mind wearing something once and then getting rid of it. You’d rather buy something (even if it doesn’t particularly suit you) rather than return home empty-handed.
  • Keeping up with trends is uber-important and you don’t care whether¬†what’s in suits you or not.
  • You don’t think your dyed hair really suits you, but you wouldn’t change it anyway. The problem with this is that even if you’re wearing all the right colours in your clothing, your hair will still throw the whole show off, and in quite a big way given it’s right next to your face all of the time.
  • You can’t think of how you could apply the information you’ll be given to your life. If you’re not interested in applying what you’ve learnt to your¬†hair, make-up or clothing then there’s probably little¬†point in you spending money on a colour analysis session.

It’s for you if:

  • You’re curious and ready to experiment with what you wear.
  • You enjoy shopping but you’d like to refine the process so you can see more quickly what might work for you.
  • You don’t enjoy shopping and you’d like to be quicker and more efficient at it.
  • You would quite like to dye your hair, but you want to be sure that the shade you choose¬†suits you.
  • You’ve long since suspected that some colours suit you whilst others don’t but you don’t know why.
  • You feel like you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time.
  • You understand that despite the outcome of the colour analysis session, you are still free to wear your favourite dress / shoes / top even if it isn’t in your palette. I’m not the fashion / colour / style police!

I understand that some are apprehensive about having their colours done. I am very sincere and serious when I say I wouldn’t want to drape anyone who didn’t want it done with one exception – my husband – whom I bribed with beer and he was quite happy with this arrangement (turns out he was an Autumn as I suspected, and had been wearing and buying the right colours all along). If you’re still having trouble deciding, you might find¬†my¬†previous post, ‘The difficulty in explaining colour analysis’, useful.

A Winter and a Summer :)

Photography: Carla Watkins I had the pleasure of draping two friends a couple of weekends ago, one of whom¬†is a photographer, hence the brilliant photography! (Thank you Carla!) After an exciting morning we discovered that¬†one was a glorious¬†Winter and the other a super-pretty Summer. I see them both regularly and actually it’s hard (for me […]

My wedding

You’ll probably not¬†be at all surprised to hear that my colour and style knowledge was immensely¬†useful when it came to planning my wedding. As you know, I visited House of Colour back in 2010. You might not know that I got engaged in February 2012 and married in May 2014. Armed with my colour and […]

The Golden Globes

A friend of mine earlier this month alerted me to the¬†Golden Globe awards and posted a link to an article containing¬†all the red-carpet outfits. She asked me what I thought from a style and colour perspective and I couldn’t resist having a look.¬†These undoubtedly beautiful women have access to the best¬†designers in the business in addition to stylists and make-up artists. Despite this I often find myself thinking that the outfit they eventually decided upon could have suited them better.

I thought Rosie Huntington-Whiteley chose well.¬†She is a woman who knows what colours suit her although I wonder if she’d gone for a soft silver instead of a soft gold whether that would have improved the look even more (perhaps, perhaps not). I imagine rose gold looks great on her. She’s almost certainly¬†a Summer or Autumn who looks best in the softer shades. Notice that she’s a low-contrast woman in a low-contrast outfit, even her nails aren’t a distinct¬†colour. This really works, she doesn’t look naked like some can when they are wearing a nude or nearly-nude shade. What do I mean by low-contrast? I mean that there isn’t a great variation (in terms of colour value) between the colour of her hair, eyes and skin. She has pale skin, light hair and pale green-blue eyes. An example of someone with high-contrast colouring would be¬†Zoey Deschanel with her pale skin, dark hair and bright eyes.

Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley

I thought Jennifer Lawrence chose well too. I’d have swapped the silver jewellery for gold because she appears to be wearing a warm red (which suits her) but otherwise it works. The dress is quirky, like she is.

Jennifer Lawrence

My favourite might just be Saoirse Ronan whose style I suspect isn’t a million miles from my own and who has an ethereal quality about her. What I like most about her outfit, apart from the harmony, is how different she looks to everyone else. She knows what suits her it would seem, and she’s sticking with it. I imagine there¬†must be a fair bit of pressure on¬†celebrities to wear the latest trends to seem current (remember that Stella McCartney bodycon dress Kate Winslet wore one year?). Saoirse did well to choose this dress.

Saoirse Ronan

Kate Winslet is an interesting one. The colour certainly seems right, it does nice things for her skin. I’ve always suspected she’s a Summer. I’m not completely sure about the style though, I’d like to see her in something with more movement in it.

Kate Winslet

I’m sure Amy Adams is a warm season. She carries that orange well. I’ve seen her look great in coral before now too. Excellent choice.

Amy Adams

Jenna Dewan-Tatum looks great. A great¬†dress for¬†a high-contrast woman. What’s telling about this dress I think is that despite it’s size and pattern my eyes are still drawn to Jenna’s face which tells me that she’s¬†getting it right. She’s probably a Winter with those striking eyes, pale skin and near-black hair, and the cool dress flatters her.

Jenna Dewan-Tatum

I’m not sure about Julianne Moore. I think the dress is too cool for her. Her head looks disconnected from her body and she looks a little washed out. Style-wise I like it for her, but the colour isn’t right.

Julianne Moore

Black on¬†Lady Gaga is too severe. Black is hard to wear at the best of times for most of the population, the velvet only increases black’s harshness as it absorbs the light. With the bleached hair and black eyeliner I don’t feel as though I can see her at all.

Lady Gaga

Olivia Palermo is a stunning woman but sadly this outfit is not.¬†My eye is so confused. The cool fuchsia lipstick clashes with the gold necklace and the colours in the dress. The black eyeliner is demanding in a way eyeliner shouldn’t be.

Olivia Palermo

I love Lily James’s dress but¬†for someone with such striking, contrasting features, it doesn’t work. Her head seems at odds with the rest of her.

Lily James

Another example of someone struggling with black, the high neckline really isn’t helping. Emilia Clarke isn’t a Winter. She looks like I do in black.

Emilia Clarke

I looked at Emmy Rossum for a long time and ended up Googling her¬†before I could figure out what was going wrong. She looks like she could be a Winter but actually I think she’s a warm season, an Autumn who suits the deeper shades of the palette would be my guess. The silver jewellery and black eyeliner are jarring. I don’t like the straight hair or the straight lines of the dress. I nearly didn’t recognise her when I first stumbled on the photo.

Emmy Rossum

Lola Kirke looks a lot like a cool season wearing Autumn’s mustard. Look at the shadows on her face. The lippy suits her but not the dress.

Lola Kirke

Sarah Hay’s choice is a very interesting one. First off, I strongly suspect the dress would have looked better in pale gold than silver (on her). In addition, I find the style of the dress jarring. It’s pretty, delicate. The cleavage looks inappropriate. I suspect it’s a dress that would best suit an Ethereal Ing√©nue but would need some adjustment so it wasn’t so revealing.

Sarah Hay

Eva Green. Such a striking woman, but not in this dress. She looks positively unwell. The warm lipstick isn’t working and in that nude dress she looks like a floating head. As Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale she was pure Winter perfection.

Eva Green

These¬†truly are all beautiful women, they just haven’t necessarily made the best choices for themselves. Before I had my colours and style done¬†I’d have days where I’d look ill and put on extra make-up to compensate. I had no idea that khaki / black / lime was the culprit, not my health.

If you’re interested in seeing more red-carpet outfits you can find¬†them all here:¬†http://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/Golden-Globes-Red-Carpet-Dresses-2016-39742645?stream_view=1#photo-39742589.

Off-topic post: how I got rid of my acne

UPDATE: I have since posted about my revised skincare routine as two of my favourite products were discontinued.

I hope you’ll forgive me for the off-topic post. I really wanted to share this information just in case someone finds it as life-changing¬†as I did.¬†If your skin is fine and you don’t get spotty then that’s awesome. There’s nothing for you here ūüôā Normal service will resume shortly.

Disclaimer: What I’m about to describe are the changes I made to my skincare routine which led to the demise of my acne. I’m telling you in the hope that this information might help you, but there’s no guarantee that it will.

The short story

After I stopped taking the combined contraceptive pill my teenage acne returned. I made the following changes and now I don’t have any spots at all¬†99% of the¬†time (despite eating¬†dairy / chocolate / junk when the mood takes me):

  • I switched to using bareMinerals make-up (more details below).
  • I switched to using the Oil Cleansing Method (jojoba oil as the carrier, I put a few drops of¬†lavender oil on my chin on top of¬†the jojoba).
  • I introduced an acid toner into my regime (I really rate Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner which contains 2% salicyclic acid).
  • If I’ve been wearing make-up or anything with SPF in it I wash my face twice, to ensure I’ve got rid of it all (I use a gentle cream cleaner first –¬†Garnier’s Softening Cleansing Lotion¬†– and then I use the Oil Cleansing Method).
  • I switched to using a non-comedogenic face moisturiser (La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+] is the winner in this category as far as I’m concerned).
  • Optional: I use (before putting moisturiser on my face) the bareMinerals Active Cell Renewal Night Serum. It pains me to say it as it’s not cheap, but this made a real difference to spots as well as skin tone so is worth the cost if you’ve tried everything else and you still get a few spots from time-to-time. Now my skin is clear 99% of the time. I would recommend, if you’re going to take the plunge, on getting this from bareMinerals directly so that if you don’t like it you can return it for a refund.

The long version

From the age of about 14 I started developing acne. I think it coincided with me starting to use foundation and moisturiser. Of course at the time I assumed it was hormones (and admittedly they will¬†have had a part to play too). My Mum, who’d never had a spot in her life, introduced me to the¬†foundation and face moisturiser she was using.¬†At 18 my acne was considered bad enough that I was prescribed the pill. It took a long time for my body to adjust and I had to be patient. After 3 months on the pill my skin was so bad I returned to my GP who told me I just had to wait, and so I did. It took 2 years for my skin to clear. I stayed on the pill for a very long time (12 years). I couldn’t bear the thought of coming off it. My older sister also suffered with acne so I was under no illusion. I knew that the acne would return if I were to stop taking the pill.

After 12 years of being on the combined pill I decided, for health reasons, to come off it. The first three months were okay. I was very strict with my diet (no diary, nothing with a high GI, no junk food) but after that (and with the diet slipping) I started to get spotty again. Coming off the pill had its own set of benefits though (I think it was negatively affecting my mood, amongst other things) so I decided to tackle the spots in isolation.

At first I thought it was hormonal, except according to the interwebs I didn’t have any other symptoms associated with hormone imbalance. I tried to control my diet very very closely but completely avoiding dairy and sugar and wheat was very difficult. Whilst my diet did improve (and I did lose a bit of weight) it didn’t make a big difference to my spots. I did notice that some alcohol and certain types of dairy did cause them to flare up¬†though so I avoided those.

bareMinerals

My friend (with PCOS and acne) introduced me to bareMinerals make-up. I switched to it and I noticed an improvement within a day. Prior to using bareMinerals when I removed my make-up at the end of the day my spots were red and angry and my face was inflamed. I just assumed hormones or pollution was to blame and I didn’t think much of it. I had been using the same foundation for 10 years so surely it couldn’t be that? I was wrong. I noticed that my spots were no longer¬†angry when I used bareMinerals. I still had them, but my spots¬†were definitely less irritated and red. The bareMinerals foundation I used also gave excellent coverage. The concealer brush was my saviour. Using the foundation powder as concealer meant I got a seamless finish. Staying power wasn’t great (top-ups needed during the day on chin and nose) but I stuck with it because I could see my skin was happier for using it and when I first applied it to my face the finish was excellent. I found that switching from the Flawless Application Face Brush to the Handy Buki Brush¬†hugely improved the finish, ease of application and staying power.

The bareMinerals products I use daily are:

If you’d like more details on how exactly I apply these then leave me a comment below ūüôā

With its limited shades the Get Started Complexion Kit will probably not contain the right foundation shade for you although it is the cheapest option. The Flawless Complexion Essentials Kit is pricey and contains more than you need (in my opinion). Having said that it’s cheaper than buying brushes and foundation individually so you might as well purchase this kit if you were interested in trying bareMinerals (you can always sell what you don’t want on eBay).¬†Whilst I do really rate bareMinerals I imagine that any mineral foundation will¬†have similar if not the same benefits.

Mineral foundation took a LOT¬†of getting used to, I’d spent my whole life using liquid foundation. What moisturiser you use underneath a mineral foundation makes a difference to staying power and how it wears (more on face moisturisers¬†later). I wasn’t used to using brushes. A lot of experimentation was required. I learnt that you can’t skimp on primer. If you do, the foundation can end up looking cakey. It’s also important to clean your brushes regularly so that the product goes on nicely and so you don’t introduce more bacteria to your face. You will absolutely need to get colour-matched in store before you buy your kit. Make sure when they put the foundation on you that you see it in different settings before you buy it so you can be sure it’s absolutely definitely the right shade. Don’t worry if they put too much on – in-store make-up artists often do, you can put much less on at home. It’s the shade match that’s important. I’m thrilled to say that bareMinerals understand the concept of cool and warm undertones which means they are much more likely to have the¬†correct shade for you.

The Oil Cleansing Method

So without a doubt switching to bareMinerals made a difference. But I definitely still had spots, every single day, and sometimes they were hard to cover up depending on how bad they were. The same friend then introduced me to the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) and that’s when I really did start to notice a difference. The OCM is where you use oils to cleanse your face (which you then wash off with a hot¬†flannel or, in my case, a¬†Emma Hardie face cleansing cloth). My friend was raving about it so I decided to give it a go. The oils weren’t¬†expensive so I didn’t have a lot to lose and I had read on the Paula’s Choice website that the exfoliating wash I was using most mornings could be doing more harm than good. I switched to using the OCM and noticed another marked difference. There were days when I had no spots at all, although the trend was still that I had a couple of spots every few days (which would then leave a scar, to my frustration). I could tell it was right though, my skin was definitely happier, so I kept doing it. The oils I started off using were jojoba¬†(safe to use neat all over your face and recommended for acne-prone skin) and then once I’d put the jojoba oil on (just a few drops applied with my fingers, massaged all over my face) I’d put a couple of drops of tea tree oil (see ‘The Final Piece of the Puzzle’ for why I wouldn’t recommend tea tree oil) on my chin where I was getting spotty (on top of the jojoba oil so it didn’t go on neat).

The Oil Cleansing Method has had some bad press. On the Internet there seems to be a clear divide between those that love it and those that complain it made their skin worse. What I did notice online¬†was that those who complained it made their skin worse were using castor oil or something equally harsh. That struck me as rather risky from what I’d read about it, so I never included it in my regime.

Non-comedogenic face moisturiser

So, with the OCM and bareMinerals I was noticing a significant improvement to my skin. I then purchased ‘Spotless: The Essential Guide to Getting Rid of Spots and Acne‘ (highly recommended) which advised I use a non-comedogenic moisturiser on my face. I hadn’t given any thought to my moisturiser before (I’d been using the same one for YEARS) but decided to change it. I tried Neutrogena Visibly Clear Spot Stress Control Hydrating Spot Treatment,¬†Neutrogena Visibly Clear Oil Free Moisturiser and¬†La Roche Posay Effaclar H Soothing Moisturiser, all of which were good.¬†Then I tried La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+] and was completely blown away. I can’t recommend it enough.

Acid toner

The next step in my skin improvement came after I stumbled upon Caroline Hirons’s fabulous blog (I’d highly recommend reading her acne cheat sheet) and¬†from her I learned¬†that I ought to try introducing an acid toner into my routine. I tried and loved the¬†Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner¬†and could tell it was making a big difference to my skin. In conjunction with the Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser I could see (and feel) just how soft my skin had become. The texture of my skin improved too.

The final piece of the puzzle

Switching to a non-comedogenic face moisturiser made another marked improvement but I was still getting the occasional spot. The final piece of the puzzle slotted into place when I switched the tea tree oil in my oil cleansing routine to lavender oil. What a¬†difference! I started using it over Christmas (2015) and despite eating utter junk not a single spot¬†appeared. I was waiting for them to appear but they never did.¬†I think the tea tree oil was just a bit too harsh for my skin. It’s very potent. Lavender oil is recommended for irritated / inflamed skin, insect bites and even cuts whereas tea tree oil shouldn’t be used on irritated skin at all. Lavender oil also smells nicer than tea tree so that’s another reason to use it!

The key thing I learned about acne is that it’s essentially inflamed skin. If you treat it as oily skin you just end up stripping your skin of its natural oils and your skin works hard to replenish them. If you treat your skin as inflamed / irritated skin and you take steps to reduce inflammation (such as eating more carefully and using products that don’t irritate your skin at all) you’ll find your skin responding positively (as opposed to rebelling).

The acne threshold (and how to stay below it)

I believe that everyone has an acne threshold. I believe that I was inadvertently pushing my skin closer to it (and beyond!) by using products that weren’t suited to my skin. Diet has a part to play too. Here¬†are a list of things I think takes you closer¬†to your breakout threshold, and a list of things that I believe helps keep you away from it.

Things that will take you closer to the break-out threshold

  • Sleeping in your make-up
  • Eating junk food
  • Eating anything rich in dairy
  • Face wipes
  • Stress
  • Alcohol (both in products that you use on your face and the alcohol that you drink)
  • Sugar
  • Pollution
  • Touching your face during the day
  • Picking spots
  • Drying skin out with soap or foaming cleansers
  • Washing with a rough flannel (they will irritate and cause inflammation, muslin cloths are¬†considered better, I’m a huge fan of the Emma Hardie face cleansing cloths)
  • Harsh exfoliants (be nice to your skin!)
  • Hormones
  • Not having clean hands before you apply things to your face that require you to use your hands (e.g. moisturiser, foundation). You want clean hands, not the remains of your hair oil or body moisturiser (which might have mineral oil in, which will in turn cause spots)

Things that will steer you away from a break-out

  • Wash your flannel / muslin cloth daily
  • Low GL diet with plenty of fish
  • Drinking plenty of water (dehydrated skin is more prone to spots)
  • Use a separate hand towel to dry your face and wash it regularly
  • Wash your bedding regularly (particularly your pillowcase)
  • Use a toner with Salicylic acid in it (e.g. Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner)
  • Use non-comedogenic make-up (e.g. bareMinerals)
  • Wash make-up brushes regularly (I use the brush shampoo¬†bareMinerals sell, a small bottle will literally last years)
  • Use non-comedogenic moisturiser (e.g. La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+])
  • Don’t use anything harsh on your skin (e.g. anything containing lots of alcohol or tea tree or witch hazel or sharp scrubby bits)
  • Cleanse your face twice a day
  • If you’ve been wearing make-up, you’ll need to double-cleanse

Summary

I understand that what¬†worked for me might¬†not work for everyone given we’re all different, but I’ve seen it work for others too so it’s certainly worth a go in my opinion, especially if you’ve been struggling for a while and have tried a lot of different lotions and potions as I had. My advice would be to try the Oil Cleansing Method (jojoba¬†and lavender) first and a non-comedogenic face moisturiser. If that improves matters¬†but your spots haven’t completely gone then it’s definitely time to look at your make-up and think about introducing an acid toner. It’s worth looking to see if you’re doing anything unwittingly that might be taking you closer to your breakout threshold. I highly, highly recommend the¬†Emma Hardie face cleansing cloths, I do really believe that most flannels are too harsh for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

I have a beauty recommendations board on Pinterest if you’re interested. I only pin the products I really rate and could not live without:

I understand how much of an impact acne can have on confidence so I really hope this helps someone. It took me a long time to figure out what wasn’t working for me (I assumed it was diet, I didn’t think for a moment it might be my make-up or¬†moisturiser). I do get spots very very occasionally, but thanks to my new regime they don’t last long at all, and thanks to the acid toner they don’t scar like they used to (and the scars fade very quickly). I couldn’t justifiably say now that I have acne. Most days I can’t claim to even have spots, I literally haven’t had any in weeks. I really hope, if you are suffering as I was, that this article might help you ūüôā