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How the Perimenopause & Menopause can change our skin

How the Perimenopause & Menopause can change our skin

 

How getting our skincare on point can help us to feel a little bit more ‘Meno-poised’

Perimenopause and menopause are massive life events for women. Seen as a taboo until very recently, discussions and awareness are thankfully welcomed more now than they have ever been. Yet these changes are still misunderstood, misdiagnosed and sometimes ignored. I am a Menopause Coach and my aim is to pass on some sound advice. If you are suffering right now or think you are at the beginning of this journey I want to empower you to recognise what is happening within your own bodies. Providing some confidence to seek help from your GP or a health specialist. Plus if you are reading this but not affected by the menopause personally I hope to arm you with some useful knowledge to be able to understand and support others around you.

 

In this article I’m going to talk about the difference between perimenopause and menopause. I’ll also discuss some of the changes we may experience in our skin and what we can do to alleviate these.

 

Almost every women will go through these changes which arecaused by long term hormone deficiencies. Ultimately, it’s when we stop having periods because our ovaries stop producing eggs and, as a consequence, our hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall. But this is generally not a smooth transition because our hormones fluctuate rather than fall steadily causing all sorts of issues. It’s really important to say that we must recognise it’s not just women in their forties and fifties that will experience this. Those who are non-binarythat were female at birth, trans men who haven’t gone through gender re-assignment surgery, anyone who has had a hysterectomy (uterus removal) and/or oophorectomy (ovary removal) and in rare cases teenagers and even children can also experience these symptoms.

 

Research has shown that one third of perimenopausal and menopausal women in the UK wait at least a year to receive treatment for their symptoms and for one in ten it takes more than nine doctor appointments to make a diagnosis. This is all whilst experiencing a multitude of symptoms which can cause real suffering. Physical and mental health can decline during this time. We shouldn’t have to endure these changes just because it’s a ‘natural’ process that women go through. Withthe appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes it can be effectively managed and quality of life can be improved.

 

What is Perimenopause?

This is when we are experiencing menopausal symptoms due to hormone changes but we still have our periods. Even if these are changing in frequency and nature. The average age to start having perimenopausal symptoms is around forty five. Although everyone’s experience is different. The perimenopause can last for many months or years and can be a rocky road.

 

 

What is Menopause?

In Greek it translates as ‘month’ and ‘cease’ and is when wedon’t have a period for twelve consecutive months. The average age of menopause is fifty one and forty nine for BIPOC  communities (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). But again this can be different from woman to woman. Most people concentrate on the menopause but it’s the perimenopause beforehand which can be really disruptive.

 

What is Post Menopause?

The time in our life after the period of twelve consecutive months with no period.

 

What part do Oestrogen & Progesterone play?

For many of us the hormones oestrogen and progesterone work in synergy to regulate the menstrual cycle and produce eggs. They are preparing our bodies for possible pregnancy every month and we experience a period when pregnancy doesn’t happen. As we approach menopause our ovaries make fewer of these hormones and our fertility decreases. Once we are post menopause we can’t become pregnant. Testosterone also has an important role to play in growth, bone mass and maintenance of the female sexual anatomy. So can cause problems when it too starts to decline.

 

Oestrogen is a big player in keeping our whole bodies running smoothly, not just our menstrual cycle. It directly effects our immunity, mood, muscles, hair and skin to name just a few. So when it starts to fluctuate during the perimenopause and menopause this leads to a deficiency resulting in a whole host of symptoms.

 

What are the symptoms?

There isn’t a test available that can give us a definitive diagnosis. If you are not feeling quite like your normal self, ‘out of sorts’, experiencing symptoms you haven’t noticed before I would suggest keeping a diary of your mental and physical health or better still use a menopause app to track what’s going on. There are nearly forty different symptoms associated with this period in our lives. It’s not just hot flushes and feeling a bit cranky! Below are many of them although this isn’t an exhaustive list:

 

Feeling tense/nervous
Trouble sleeping
Dizziness/feeling faint
Loss of interest in sex
Muscle and joint aches and pains
Difficulty concentrating
Irregular periods
Heart palpitations
Tiredness/lack of energy
Crying frequently
Feeling irritable
Headaches
Stress incontinence
Skin becomes dry and itchy
Loss of interest in things
Hot flushes
Brittle nails
Numbness in parts of body
Vaginal dryness
Osteoporosis
Feeling unhappy
Body odour changes
Bloating
Night sweats
Breathing difficulties
Memory loss
Mood swings
Breast soreness
Changes in body shape and weight gain
Recurrent urinary tract infections
Digestive problems
Hair loss
Tinnitus

 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, keep a note of them and read what you can from reliable sources. Make an appointment to see your GP or a health professional armed with your evidence and knowledge.

 

How does the perimenopause and menopause affect our skin?

Many of us will see the biggest changes to our skin during this time. It may feel tighter, drier, itchier and rougher with a dull appearance. Rosacea and broken capillaries may develop. Fine lines will seem more prominent. We may even see a return of acne or experience it for the first time. Much of this isn’t exclusive to the skin on our face either, changes happen to the skin all over our body.

 

So why does this happen? Most of the cells in our skin have oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen has four key functions within our skin which, when depleting, will cause changes:

 

1.Oestrogen produces hyaluronic acid

This is a gel like substance produced just below the skins surface. It’s a natural hydrator and is able to retain water so it’s a real skin superhero. It gives the skin fullness, reducing fine lines and dryness. But as oestrogen declines, so does the production of hyaluronic acid. Therefore our skin finds it harder to retain moisture leaving it dry, dull and scaly. The natural shedding of dry dead skin cells slows right down too. The radiant glow we maybe once had seems to fade away. When skin cells don’t shed effectively skincare products that are applied cannot penetrate effectively and do their job.

 

Oestrogen stimulates the sebaceous glands

Therefore sebum (oil) is produced to keep the skin nourished and smooth. When this depletes skin becomes drier, scaly and rougher.

 

 

Oestrogen also builds collagen

This is a connective tissue that gives skin its strength and structure. When they decrease, stiffen and break apart this results in deeper lines, sagginess and loss of tone.

 

Oestrogen produces ceramides

Ceramides are a lipid that binds the top layers of the skin together so that it can retain water and protect from irritants.When these decrease the skin finds it harder to hold on to water. Again resulting in drier skin which can become sensitised due to its protective layer being compromised.

 

It’s been found that oestrogen levels start to decrease in the skin up to ten years before we are fully menopausal. So these symptoms of decreasing moisture and changes to the structure of the skin can creep up on us over a period of time. Testosterone can also wreak havoc by producing excess sebum which can lead to an oilier skin, blemishes and blocked pores. We can also see an increase in facial hair too. The rate in which our skin cells renew slows down massively. But help is at hand, we can tweak our current skincare routines to seepositive results.

 

What can I do to improve the health of my skin?

There are lots of small changes we can make to see and feel a difference in our skin. Healthy radiant skin is possible whatever our age and no matter what treatment for perimenopause and menopause we decide to take.

 

Start with reviewing your current skincare routine

Focus on the basics, don’t have an over complicated regime. Choose products that are gentle, nourishing and hydrating by looking for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalene to support the skins natural barrier and moisture. Peptides and retinoids are collagen boosting ingredients and will help to combat loss of firmness and fine lines. Treat skin as ‘maturing’ skin and try to see this as a positive because it is. We are lucky to see our skin change and develop with age, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times.

 

Choose gentle cleansers such as balms, oils and milks which won’t strip the skin.

 

Always keep a facial mist to hand. These are wonderful hydrating sprays that you can use any time of day or night.

 

Opt for serums that contain vitamin C to brighten the complexion and hyaluronic acid to hydrate.

 

Use a gentle exfoliator to remove dry dead skin cells and encourage new cells to form.

 

Try not to over use acids and peels such as glycolic or lactic acid. They still have a place in many skincare routines to exfoliate, brighten and stimulate the skin but pare back a little.

 

Retinoids (vitamin A) are an incredible addition to an evening routine but if you haven’t used them before introduce themgradually. They can make a real difference to the appearance and texture of the skin.

 

Moisturise with a cream suitable for your skin. Don’t feel you have to use a super rich formulation if your skin isn’t particularly dry. There are lots of different textures to choose from for this age group.

 

Sunscreen should be a daily staple, even in the winter, and especially after applying retinoid the night before.

 

Don’t overload the skin with too many thick rich products.  Be mindful of how your skin looks and feels and if it needs more product you can apply it. I always suggest cleansing the face and applying your evening routine products several hours before bed. This way you can then see and feel if you face needs more moisture just before going to bed.

 

Treat the skin on your body much the same as the skin on your face. You may be experiencing dry, dehydrated, rough, itchy skin as hormone levels fluctuate. Use a gentle shower gel and moisturise daily. Use a gentle body exfoliator once or twice a week to remove dry dead skin cells. You don’t need to use harsh scrubs as this might make the situation worse. Many body care products contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides etc. So keep your eyes peeled for these if you have particularly dry skin.

 

Ultimately concentrate on feeding and nourishing the skin. Think of your new skincare routine as a real act of kindness to yourself.

 

And also think about:

 

Feeding the skin from the inside

Keeping hydrated with drinking water, feeding our body nutritious gut friendly food and reducing our sugar intake will not only benefit our skin but all systems of the body. A good quality Omega 3 supplement can make a positive impact.Omega 3 are a crucial component of the lipid membrane of skin cells. So this is also a good place to start feeding the skin from the inside out. Check with your GP before taking if you have any concerns.

 

Breakouts

Don’t treat the skin harshly if you experience spots and blackheads. There is no need to try to strip the skin of oil. This will only create further problems. Treat the area where the spots are rather than the whole face.

 

Moles

Keep a check on moles as it’s more common to find pre-cancerous and cancerous changes at this time.

 

Bruises

We are more prone to bruising due to the falling levels of oestrogen but also simply because the skin is thinner.

 

Healing

Our skin is slower to repair and heal as we get older. We don’t have as many growth factors and stem cells to regenerate.

 

Stress

The route of all evil. If we are able to reduce stress in our lives this will have a positive impact on our perimenopause and menopause experience including what happens with our skin.

 

Below are some handpicked products stocked at Perfumery & Company which are perfect for perimenopausal and menopausal skin. However, they do stock many more items suitable for maturing and hormonal skin so do check out their website or pop in if you are local to them:

 

Clarins Super Restorative range

This range has been specifically designed for menopausal skin. Like a comfort blanket for the face. The day and night creams have been formulated to our specific needs at these different times of the day, protecting the skins barrier during the day and reactivating the skin cells at night. Containing organic harungana extract which is a tree sap with healing, soothing and revitalising properties. It’s known as one of nature’s retinols so is ideal for skin of this age. This range offers face creams for different skin types. I have been trialling the day and night cream for very dry skin. If your skin isn’t very dry you could opt for the moisturisers for all skin types.

 

Clarins Super Restorative Day Cream

Suitable for very dry skin (another cream is available in the range for all skin types and has a lighter consistency)

Containing vegetal squalene to rebuild and protect the skin’s natural barrier encouraging a smoother surface texture. What I love about this cream is that even though it’s for a very dry skin it isn’t too rich. It penetrates effectively into the skin so shouldn’t feel too heavy for someone with dry skin. Apply in the morning onto clean skin after serum. Always take the cream down the neck and onto the chest area.

 

Clarins Super Restorative Night Cream

Suitable for very dry skin (another cream is available in the range for all skin types and has a lighter consistency)

Along with organic harungana this cream contains a vitamin C derivative to brighten and organic sea lily to improveoverall hydration.  This is a super nourishing cream for dry to very dry skin. Apply in the evening onto clean skin after serums/oils.

 

Neals Yard Remedies Women’s balance range

This is a body care range featuring a specific blend of essential oils that smell like a spa in a bottle – Rose Absolut, geranium and frankincense that not only nourish parched skin but are clinically proven to bring about balance and harmony to mind and body. A lovely delicate fragrance. This range has been designed specifically for women’s natural cycles and life stages. They are a joy to use and help to relax and calm.

 

Women’s Balance Shower Oil

Suitable for all skin types

I love a shower oil and this one is no exception. Macadamia and sea buckthorn cleanse and nourish dry, dehydrated skin perfectly. Whilst the unique blend of essential oils definitely brings some calm and balance. Massage into wet skin and see it transform into a milk to provide hours of moisture.

 

Women’s Balance Massage Oil

Suitable for all skin types

This is a luxurious massage oil to use after a shower on dry skin. Containing the same incredible essential oil blend apply any time to restore feelings of calm. Warm a few drops in your hands and breath in the aroma. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths before massaging in circular motions all over the body. I like to use this in the morning after my shower as it doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy, it sinks in beautifully. But I’ve also used it at night, specifically to give myself a warming foot massage before bed. Remember to gently exfoliate once or twice a week to ensure the massage oil can penetrate effectively.

 

Body Cream

Suitable for all skin types

Containing hyaluronic acid to intensely moisturise, this rich body cream feels like a real treat to use and is perfect for dry skin. It will keep your body moisturised for up to twenty four hours. It brings immediate relief and comfort to skin that feels parched and itchy leaving it smooth and moisturised. Containing the same spa like fragrance as the rest of the Women’s Balance range, it has definitely formed part of a relaxing bed time ritual for me.

 

I really hope to have imparted some useful information about this much misunderstood stage of life and shared a few hints and tips on ways to look after your skin through this time.

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Serums – The crème de la crème of performance skincare

Serums – The crème de la crème of performance skincare

 

Serums are the doer, the hard grafter of the skincare family, addressing specific skin concerns. We are lucky to have so many to choose from. Serums treat a plethora of different issues ranging from lack of radiance, pigmentation spots, dehydration, oiliness, large pores and spots, redness, fine lines and they can even exfoliate. Many will tackle more than one issue under the umbrella of ‘anti-ageing’. I’ve said before that I don’t like the term anti-ageing. Surely we want to live until we are old. This is the aim, right?! However, serums are designed to deliver a powerful hit of active ingredients, such as vitamins, peptides and high tech molecules, directly to our skin and can offer all kinds of benefits. This is why you will often find that they are of a higher price point compared to all other skincare steps. They cost more to produce because they contain more active ingredients. Think of your serum as having the biggest job to do. This is where you treat, repair and correct your skin. It’s stimulation for the skin. So if you are able to invest in the right one, your skin will thank you for it.

 

What types of serums are there?

Thankfully there are many kinds available, so you should find one to suit you and you may benefit from more than one. Below are the main ones:

 

Vitamin C

This is an antioxidant powerhouse, a true skincare superhero, that helps protect skin against free radicals which can cause damage. They do this by breaking down collagen and elastin production. Pollution, cigarette smoke and other factors within our everyday environment are nasty culprits but vitamin C fights back. It improves the look and feel of the skin by boosting collagen production and is glow giving . Vitamin C is recognised as an anti-ageing ingredient and I use it every morning without fail.

 

Vitamin A

Retinoids are a form of vitamin A and are the best topical treatment (a product applied to the skin) for long term reduction in fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, along with many other skincare concerns. Some are able to reduce the appearance of pores, improve acne and psoriasis. They work by promoting skin regeneration and can be quite potent. So most need to be introduced gradually into your skincare routine as they can cause flaking and redness but this doesn’t last long. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. Don’t be tempted to slather it on. Less is definitely more to start with. Vitamin A products must always be used in conjunction with a broad spectrum sunscreen as the ingredients can leave the skin more sun sensitive. It usually takes several weeks to see a difference in the skin. It’s an investment and one that needs patience but don’t give up. The results can be incredible. There are many brands now triumphing natural alternatives which is wonderful for consumer choice. They tend not be quite as potent which might appeal to some. I use a Vitamin A serum every other night as part of my evening routine. When I first started I used it twice a week and built it up. I haven’t suffered any adverse effects.

 

 

 

Vitamin E

This is a skincare all-rounder.  It’s found naturally in the skin but when we are exposed to the sun and free radicals it diminishes.  It really helps to retain moisture, is an effective anti-inflammatory, a wound healer and can reduce redness. This is a great option for those with really sensitive skin.

 

Hyaluronic Acid

This might sound scary but if you’ve read my blog about acid toners you’ll know that there is nothing to fear. These products don’t contain harsh acids. Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance which is already present in your body. It has the ability to hold more than a thousand times its own weight in water. It will grab onto water in your skin and plump it up as well as brighten the skin tone. So by doing this it helps the skin to look and feel plumper and smoother. It’s widely used in serums as well as creams, foundations, body lotion, lip balms and can be used on any skin type. Perfect for this time of year when skin tends to be drier and more dehydrated than normal. I love it because results can be instant. I use this in the morning when I feel my skin needs it and sometimes in the evening.

 

Peptides

These are collagen boosters that stimulate the skin’s stem cells. When collagen breaks down, as we get older, it releases peptides. By applying a topical peptide it encourages the skin to make new collagen. Copper Peptide is certainly a favourite. It accelerates collagen production and increases the skins natural moisturisation encouraging firmer more hydrated skin. I have a peptide serum which I use a few times a week when needed.

 

Niacinamide

Also known as vitamin B3. It has been shown to work well for acne/blemish prone skin. It works by enhancing and strengthening the barrier function of the epidermis (the outer layers of the skin), therefore protecting against bacterial attack. It works well to soothe redness and irritation so it’s good for rosacea, hyper-pigmentation and fine lines. I keep a Niacinamide serum in my bathroom cabinet at home as I sometimes get a rosacea flare up on one cheek and will use it to calm the area.

 

When should I use a serum?

As a rule - every day. Don’t save them for best.  They are the boss of skincare products so weave them into your routine. As a general rule use Vitamin C in the morning after cleansing, toning and applying an eye product. Then follow with moisturiser and your sunscreen. Vitamin A can be introduced gradually into your evening routine after cleansing, toning and applying an eye product. Then follow with facial oils, night creams and blemish treatments. Hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and peptides can be fitted in as and when you need them. Try to always follow with a moisturiser because, even though they contain more active ingredients than a moisturiser, they don’t tend to contain enough moisture. Remember – use your serums every day. Make them your friend. Having said that, you don’t need to have every one of the serums that I’ve mentioned. Start with a vitamin C and use it in the morning. You can then add others to your skincare shelf as and when you want to.

 

 

 

How much serum should I use?

Most serums come with a handy pump dispenser or pipette (dropper) which makes them super easy to use as they dispense the correct amount. Always follow the product instructions but they will generally say one pump or half a pipettes worth. A little goes a long way to cover the face. They are normally light water based formulas which means that they sink into the upper layers of the skin easily and tend not to leave an oily residue. Massage in well to face, neck and décolleté, there is no need to gently pat the product in unless this is specifically stated (but even then I always massage it in).

 

In what order should I apply my serums?

If you are applying more than one serum, for example a vitamin C and a hyaluronic acid always apply the lightest consistency first. Although most serums are quite light, there is a mixture of textures available. They are designed to be layered under a moisturiser and will penetrate into the upper layers so ensure skin is regularly exfoliated with a physical exfoliator or acid toner. This will mean that the product will effectively penetrate rather than sit on the surface with the dry dead skin cells. We want those active ingredients to absorb well.  Your moisturiser then works predominantly on the surface of the skin.

 

Serums according to age:

Here is an outline of what you could use according to your age and the condition that your skin is in. It is a loose guideline as you will ultimately know your skin best.

 

Teens

A vitamin C would be great but a very gentle one. It doesn’t need to be too active or aggressive.

 

20s

An antioxidant serum like vitamin C and niacinamide plus a hyaluronic acid serum. From our mid-twenties our cell turnover slows down, this is the start of the aging process. Skin will find it harder to retain water and oil, this is called trans epidermal water loss, and so Hyaluronic acid will really help to combat this.

 

30s

A good antioxidant serum like Vitamin C and niacinamide. Use daily in the morning. Also a daily dose of a good quality hyaluronic acid to combat trans epidermal water loss which is quite common at this age and can get worse. From our mid 30s we can step things up with the use of peptides and retinoids too. Don’t leave these until you notice lots of signs that your skin is getting older, if you’d prefer to keep them at bay.

 

40s 50s 60s 70s 80s & 90s

A good quality antioxidant serum like Vitamin C. But you may also want to spend money correcting issues i.e. a good quality pigmentation serum, good quality hyaluronic serum, Vitamin A, these should be a staple as the skins cell turnover is very slow at this point and vitamin A will help to speed it up.

 

Perfumery & Company have lots of serums for you to choose from and lots of knowledge and advice to help you select the right one for you. Below is my review of several on offer:

 

The Organic Pharmacy

This London based brand has only recently been stocked in Perfumery & Company. They were the first pharmacy dedicated to all things organic and have been trading for two decades with a factory in West London.  They use organic ingredients whenever possible and are sustainably sourced. Many of their products are vegan and none have been tested on animals. They fuse ‘nature with nurture’. The best of both worlds.

 

The Organic Pharmacy Hyaluronic Acid Serum

For all skin types

This is a vegan 95% organic lightweight, easily absorbed serum that works wonders on parched skin. It delivers a hit of hydration to lock in moisture. This enables skin to appear more plump by reducing the appearance of wrinkles. One full dropper is enough for the face, neck and décolleté every morning and evening. It sinks in easily and doesn’t leave an oily residue.

 

The Organic Pharmacy Stabilised Vitamin C Serum

For all skin types

91% organic and vegan friendly.

This serum is effective in brightening and evening skin tone. It gives a lovely glow. It’s a great choice for anyone who’s noticed a lack of radiance, dull complexion, some pigmentation. Apply one full dropper every morning. The organic Pharmacy suggest every evening too but you may decide to use another serum instead. It’s a lovely light consistency.

 

The Organic Pharmacy Skin Rescue Serum

For dry and sensitised skin, eczema, psoriasis

98% organic

Think of this as your first aid serum for skin that needs calming, soothing, healing and hydrating. It’s a great serum for eczema and psoriasis. Once applied it restores some elasticity to the skin making it more comfortable and adds a layer of protection against external aggressors and the potential of water loss from within the skin. Apply between two to four drops up to one dropper full each morning and evening and whenever it’s needed. A light consistency which doesn’t sit heavy on the skin.

 

The Organic Pharmacy Four Acid Peel

Suitable for all skin types

90% organic and vegan friendly

This is a serum that gently exfoliates and brightens the skin to reveal a smoother complexion. It helps to fight blemishes and boosts the radiance of the skin. No need to wash off and no exfoliating particles. A Combination of plant derived acids naturally dissolve dry dead skin cells including glycolic, lactic and citric acids. Super easy to use and a lovely lightweight texture. Can be used once a day but I would start off with a couple of times a week.

 

The Organic Pharmacy Retinol Night Serum

Suitable for all skin types

93% Organic and suitable for vegans

This is The Organic Pharmacy’s retinol offering for targeting signs of skin getting older i.e. fine lines, wrinkles, reducing enlarged pores. It speeds up the renewal of new skin cells. It contains an encapsulated retinol which means that the retinol is protected from degradation, increasing its stability and improving its delivery to the skin. The Organic Pharmacy suggest using one full dropper on the face, neck and décolleté every night to clean skin. I’d say introduce it a couple of evenings a week, then every other evening and then every evening. This serum works well being applied after the Four Acid peel (which aids better penetration of products). All of these have a light texture that is really easy to work with.

 

Clarins Double Serum

Suitable for all skin types

This is without doubt one of Clarins hero products. It has a cult status as a fantastic comprehensive ‘anti-ageing’ product containing twenty one plant extracts. Improved radiance, firmer and plumper skin, smoother fine lines and skin texture and reduced appearance of pores. It has a light fluid texture which sits brilliantly under a moisturiser creating a lovely base for makeup. It can be applied morning and/or evening. The special rotating push button also delivers the correct dosage of serum. I can also be mixed with your foundation for a beautiful dewy look or under a mask for an extra skin boost. I love this product, it’s a great allrounder and can see why it gets so many rave reviews.

 

L’Occitane Immortelle Overnight Reset Oil in Serum

Suitable for all skin types

I am a real fan of L’Occitane’s Immortelle range. This is an overnight oil in serum which has a light gel texture, it contains 92% natural origin ingredients. It’s an effective night time treatment to encourage rested skin, improve radiance and reduced signs of tiredness. Some of the ingredients relax muscle tension whilst soothing skin from redness and tightness. The formula stimulates microcirculation and increases collagen production. It doesn’t leave the skin oily or tacky. Apply to cleansed and toned skin and follow with your regular serum and moisturiser.

 

So, make friends with a serum. They won’t let you down. They are a hard worker and your skin will be so thankful that you met.

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