|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Now they do say that the eyes are the window of the soul. Well, that's as maybe, but chronic skin issues as well as sudden onset dermatological disasters (and I am no stranger to both!) can trigger a dark night of the soul in even the most mentally resilient person.
Squaring dark circles
I have been lucky up till now to have dodged problems such as bags or dark shadows under my eyes. It has all been kicking off lately in the upper eyelid area, mind you(!), but I will save that particular 'rag bag' of bother and doom for Part 2.
Then just recently I noticed dark circles appearing under my eyes for the first time. Having googled them - as you do! - I was pleased to learn that none of the myriad probable causes were fatal, as is of course the way of even the most minor of ailments on the morbidly inclined Interwebs.
But pretty much all of the reasons I found could have applied to me, barring eczema and being a 'person of colour', people of colour apparently being a little more prone to 'periorbital hyperpigmentation'. Yes, I could take my pick really from allergies (like hay fever, which I now have!), fatigue, rubbing or scratching my eyes - me and Truffle both - sun exposure (where do I start?), contact dermatitis (see Part 2!), and loss of fat and collagen due to age (which is rampant pretty much everywhere except my skull, knuckles, and Achilles tendons).
|NB Only turn upside down for brief photo opportunities!|
The problem was, though, that I noticed the dark shadows right before the gig in Preston documented here. That was one of the 'dermatological disasters' to which I obliquely allude in that post. And even though gigs are by definition held at night, I am sufficiently vain to not even want to run the risk of someone spotting my dark circles in the near pitch darkness of the beer garden. So instead of having a pre-gig lie down, as is my wont, I legged it to Debenhams in the pouring rain. Well, after a quick two minutes spent googling 'Sali Hughes best thing dark shadows' and seeing what that fetched up.
The answer is a ringing endorsement of Clarins Instant Concealer. I went for shade No 2, which is actually quite pale compared to the 110 Honey foundation of theirs that I also use, but seemingly that is the whole thing with concealer ie that you need it to be lighter in order to conceal the offending darkness. (I am a bit slow on the uptake, I know. ;) ) Then in order to qualify for four free items of skincare and cosmetics worth about £50 in total, I was persuaded to spring for another product from the Clarins range, which had to be skincare. I went with a make up remover which will feature in my upper eyelid tale of woe, so I shan't do a spoiler on that here...
The lady at the Clarins counter applied a tiny blob of the concealer either side of my nose in small, patting movements, gradually building up coverage. You really don't need much, so caution is advised when squeezing the tube, especially in hot weather, as it seems to be bursting to come out of the nozzle! (I am in fact planning a separate post on tube-related issues.)
|This way up at all times!|
For anyone who would like a budget alternative to the Clarins concealer, Laura Davis of The Independent singles out Bourjois Healthy Mix concealer in this article as her top pick for the under-eye area. And would you believe, I had a similar pre-gig dark shadow incident some weeks later, and of course I had forgotten to bring my newly acquired Clarins remedy (makes a change from my usual hair gunk crisis!), so instead had recourse to a couple of testers in a big branch of Boots. I would have gladly bought a tube as back up, but they had run out of my shades except in tester form. There were at least two (one pale, one medium) that did a very decent job at only £7.99 a pop compared with £21 for the Clarins.
My acne 'hack'
Full disclosure - I have suffered from acne continuously for 43 years. A GP once described me, with perhaps a little more candour than was indicated, as, technically speaking - from a hormonal perspective - 60% man. Another breezily remarked that in my case, puberty might well segue seamlessly into the menopause and beyond. And blow me, but he was right too. I don't know what percentage of the population experience uninterrupted skin eruptions well into middle age, but I know that acne in adults, especially women, is more common than you might think. Spots tend to be confined to the jawline and chin in adulthood at least - when I was 18 I had them all over my face - topping out at 64 in total during the 'acme' of my acne, as it were. It is hard for non-sufferers to imagine the extent of pain and discomfort involved, not to mention the blow to one's self-confidence - even now, it isn't easy to socialise when I get major breakouts, as for one thing having acne seems downright incongruous at this time of life.
One unexpected upside of my problem skin was the fact that it turned out to be my passport to a year spent as a teaching 'assistante' in a school on the Riviera. At an interview to decide whereabouts in France I was to be deployed, I had a chance to defend my top choice of the Cote d'Azur. I think my reason surprised the judging panel, for instead of mentioning the usual suspects of a chance to 'swan about on yachts' or 'go celeb spotting at the Cannes Film Festival', I piped up: 'The sun will be good for my acne', and that was that.
|As you can see, I did manage some yacht-swanning after all!|
Now in my 40+ zit busting years, I wouldn't say I have tested every single remedy out there - I shied away from Roaccutane, for instance, the heavy artillery of acne treatment, though it was offered - and I also didn't try the specialist range of skincare by Proactiv, with which some people reportedly get good results. Over that time, however, I did try umpteen formulations of the contraceptive pill, of which Dianette was the (relative!) gold standard for the condition, as well as umpteen kinds of antibiotic, Dalacin T (a salicylic acid preparation in roll-on form), benzoyl chloride in various strengths, witch hazel, tea tree oil, all manner of toners and cleansers and astringent gels from Guerlain to Clearasil and everything in between - plus a weird calamine lotion that dried like white plaster on my face, such that I had to stay home for three days. Luckily I was revising for my A-Levels at the time. Oh, and following an overnight explosion of some 30 pustules(!) the day the Pope died in 2005, I managed to secure an emergency appointment with a German pharmacist, who - using only an enormous encyclopaedia and a winning smile - knocked up a wonder blend of two antibiotics in cream form, that had the rash subdued within a week or so. Meanwhile, I kept my back to the window in meetings at all times, and cupped my erupting chin pensively in my hand.
Then lately I would say I have had a few breakthroughs - and fewer breakouts - and my current regime is working pretty well. I still get spots - why, only yesterday I found a whitehead in the middle of my cheek, which was most irregular! - but they do feel more under control. I cannot say that anything that works for me will necessarily do the biz for you, as everyone is different, but I can certainly recommend giving some of these things a go. And no, I am not happy about being on antibiotics, but they still really seem to work, as I discovered to my cost when I went cold turkey for two months a few years ago.
My acne armoury:
Oxytetracycline - 250mg x 2 once daily (have got down to half the daily dose at least!)
Nature's Best Acidophilus Extra 4 or 10 Billion - (just take a lot of the beggars, basically, and it does pay to go for a decent brand, I have no idea if probiotics are any good for acne in themselves, but I feel it is important to offset the damage being wreaked to my 'microbiome' by the antibiotics!)
Nature's Best High Strength Fish Oil - 1 capsule of 1100mg a day, though you can take up to 3. It is specifically since starting on the fish oil - I found a bit of science on it here - that I have been able to knock back the antibiotics. The fish oil supposedly has anti-inflammatory properties, which I can well believe.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Astringent Lotion Micro-Exfoliant - it contains salicylic acid which is good for tackling spots, albeit its alcohol-based formula isn't ideal. For though it may seem counter-intuitive, drying the skin out too much with alcohol-containing lotions stimulates it to produce more sebum, whereupon you get locked into a sort of vicious cycle of oily secretions. ;)
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo - the best spot zapping gel I know, and goodness knows I've tried a few!
La Roche-Posay Serozinc - an aerosol spray containing zinc, which is good for calming angry complexions. Thanks to Louise Woollam of Get Lippie for the tip off.
Artnaturals Jojoba Oil - I use this at night to counteract any over-drying from the astringent lotion above. It felt very strange putting oil on my oily skin, but I genuinely think it is helping my overall skin condition, and since this...er...lubricious epiphany(!) I truly haven't looked back. ;)
PS I have historically squeezed and picked my spots - hey, it is one of the few pleasures associated with the whole wretched business! - but luckily my bad behaviour has not led to significant scarring - well, aside from a permanently discoloured area on my chin, maybe. I do, however, have quite a few brown spots on my cheeks that are doubtless due to the combination of antibiotics and/or Dianette AND sun exposure down the years. But for longest time - rightly or wrongly - I thought the drying effects of the sun would be good for my skin, and even now I am a big believer in the morale-boosting benefits of sunshine, enjoyed in moderation, with appropriate sunscreen applied!
PPS I have never tried excluding dairy from my diet, but if anyone thinks this might really help, I'd consider giving it a go.
Do you suffer from either dark circles under your eyes or acne (anywhere?!)
If so, I would be most interested in learning any good fixes you have come up with - whether instant or longer term...