As a makeup artist it would be somewhat amiss for me not to be interested in skincare and dermatology. After all, it is the very quality of our skin which determines how certain makeup items will sit. So imagine my excitement when one of my clients (thank you Mary!) invited me to attend an evening a couple of weeks ago featuring respected dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Dr. Nick Lowe MB., C.H.B., M.D., F.R.C.P., F.A.C.P. (whew!). I could not wait to hear what Dr. Lowe had to say.
The event was held at the Kit Cat Club in Greek Street, Soho and Dr. Lowe spoke for about an hour to a rapt audience made up of about seventy women. I learnt so much that evening I have decided to share his top tips with you!
Where possible I have attempted to back up points by cross-referencing online or asking Dr. Lowe directly but ultimately the content below is based entirely on my memory of the things Dr. Lowe said on the night.
If I have mis-quoted Dr. Lowe or some information is incorrect please do flag it. If you decide you would like to investigate any of the points further or even sign up to experience one of the treatments I would strongly encourage you to do your own research. It is your face after all and we are only blessed with one!
Here are four gems from Dr. Lowe’s insightful talk:
#1: WEARING SPF IS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE NON-SURGICAL SOLUTIONS TO RETAINING MORE YOUTHFUL SKIN.
Ha! I can hear the eyes rolling from here. I know, it can feel as if we are constantly told these days, even in hammering rain, to ‘Wear SPF!’ but in Dr. Lowe’s eyes, wearing SPF daily, is what we should all be doing if we don’t want to age prematurely or go down the surgical route.
I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the damage that being in the sun would have on me personally until I developed a whopping great big pigmentation mark on my right cheek after my second year living in Australia (the mark currently measures about 1cm in diameter and I watch for any changes vigilantly). In recent years I have also started to notice feathering on my top lip (ARGH), something I have always associated with much older women (and no, I am not being paranoid). I could attribute the feathering to smoking in my twenties but I am sure not wearing sufficient sun protection over the years has also contributed to it.
So does it matter what type of SPF we wear? Here’s what Dr. Lowe had to say:
- Choose a sunscreen that combines both ABSORBING and REFLECTING ingredients. This will ensure your sunscreen is providing broad spectrum protection from both UVB and UVA rays. An example of a chemical sunscreen ingredient would be something like ‘Avobenzone’. An example of a reflecting ingredient would be Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide. For a more comprehensive list of absorbing and reflecting SPF ingredients click here.
- Buy your SPF from the bigger more established brands (e.g. L’Oreal). Bigger brands are more likely to have tested the products throughly (bigger brands = bigger R&D budgets). Dr. Lowe also added to keep an eye out for is the UVA symbol in a circle which should appear on the front of the bottle (this is the official mark of UVA testing).
“But I need my vitamin D!” I hear you. Dr. Lowe explained that in the winter in the UK (October to early March), sunlight does not contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D so during these months he recommends taking a supplement. He himself takes 5000 IU microtabs of Vitamin D daily but opinions differ online as to how much is too much. For more info about Vitamin D3 and dosage suggestions/safety click here. What is important to remember is that even in the winter the UVA rays can still get through so it is worth wearing an SPF.
#2: DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON EXPENSIVE SKIN CARE (HOORAY!)
Yup, that’s what he said. Topical skincare will only help improve the texture of skin temporarily, even if the marketing says otherwise. Yes, there might be marginal improvement over time if a product is used daily but I think the point Dr. Lowe was trying to make is for us not to expect a skincare product to reverse the signs of ageing. Only cosmetic surgery can do that.
In my career as a makeup artist I have been fortunate enough to try tens of different skincare brands from high street to top end. I have personally invested in luxury skincare (I’m talking over £100 for a single product) and it has also been gifted to me to try. As someone with a marketing and advertising background I appreciate the placebo effect that comes with knowing how expensive something is. It can feel, whether subconsciously or consciously, like a high end experience because of the packaging, the price, the branding, the marketing. When I asked Dr. Lowe about this after his talk (we ended up chatting about the meteoric rise of hyaluronic acid serums) he said that when it comes to skincare if you can afford something and you like the way it feels, then use it. Just don’t expect any dramatic changes.
#3: BOTOX CAN IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF THE SKIN
I don’t know about you but for me this was new news! Dr. Lowe did not come out and say those exact words but he did talk about ‘improved quality’ of the skin after botox and demonstrated this with before and after photos of a woman in her 50s. I have always known botox has the ability to smooth out the skin (hence its effectiveness on wrinkles) but thought this was just a knock on effect of injecting a substance underneath the skin. But that it could improve the quality of a person’s skin? Wow.
I remember hearing Dr. Lowe mention ‘collagen’ and ‘botox’ in the same sentence but my notes didn’t capture the exact detail (damn). Some desk research since then has revealed that certain studies have shown an increase in collagen production after botox. There are various theories on why this might be the case. I found this article from American site consumer.healthday.com really interesting (NB: the article, from May 2015, does caveat at the top that the conclusions presented in the article may have since changed…but still. Pretty interesting nonetheless!)
#4: THERMAGE IS ONLY REALLY EFFECTIVE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 40-55 (APPROX)
If you have not heard about ‘thermage’, it is a relatively new treatment for improving definition to the jaw line (among other things) and is aimed at people who do not want to go down the surgical route. But what is it?
“Thermage is a safe, non-invasive, radiofrequency (RF) cosmetic procedure that’s clinically proven to help smooth and improve skin for an overall younger looking appearance.” The website goes on to say that Thermage uses ‘a combination of heat energy to treat deep tissue, and cooling effects, to protect the skin surface and deliver better patient comfort.” (for more info see – thermage.com).
What interested me most about Dr. Lowe’s comments on thermage – a procedure he offers in his Harley Street clinic – was that he linked the effectiveness of thermage not only to the client’s age (one would think it would work at any age), but also to the client’s pain threshold. As the treatment involves intense heat I can imagine that perhaps the level of effectiveness is somewhat dictated by the individual’s ability to withstand certain temperatures. It reminded me of the time I had my teeth whitened. I had read about the little shocks one can experience both during and after the treatment and was prepared to endure them (I really wanted whiter teeth!) but not sure how I would cope with different levels of heat on my skin.
Hope you enjoyed those points and see you again soon! I am off to compare hyaluronic serum ingredients now I know not to waste my hard earned cash on the expensive stuff. The Ordinary anyone?
NB: This post has not been endorsed by Dr. Nick Lowe or his team at the Cranley Clinic. I have emailed it to Dr. Lowe for his reference and comments.
Image credit: Featured image of Dr. Lowe by Steve Forrest