It’s a hard-won truth that beauty is more than skin-deep. When I first began working in beauty journalism several years ago, my priority was looking for make-up that didn’t budge, skincare which lived up to its claims, perfumes that didn’t smell like all the others and shampoo that made one’s locks look like they belonged in a Timotei commercial.
And while the quest for all of the above still continues, 10 years of living and working in a busy city have taken their toll and the obvious truth becomes evident that beauty products can only do so much if stress, hormonal imbalance, fatigue and sluggish circulation are at play – it’s about how one decides to treat these issues head on which will determine how bright-eyed and fresh-faced one looks.
Hence why my make-up bag now contains supplements (more on that later) and my beauty “regime” includes yoga, spinning and meditation. Add to this a few diet tweaks following James Duigan’s book Clean and Lean, which is geared around eliminating anything processed and “toxic” fats and I’ve noticed a massive difference and an inner calm I’ve not felt since childhood.
The best piece of advice I could offer to anyone suffering from stress and anxiety is this: exercise in the morning and find half an hour each day to relax. As someone who used to loathe exercise and avoid it at all costs, my morning spinning classes at Psycle have become somewhat of a revelation. Psycle has slowly gained a cult following of busy Londoners, a workout which combines the cardiovascular benefits of spinning with weights to tone the upper body.
I stumbled upon the addictive endorphin rush of spinning around three years ago and have been going regularly ever since. It really is the best thing to speed up the metabolism and make the mind more alert and less prone to agonising. Any post-spinning fatigue can be counter-balanced by Wellwoman Boost tablets, which contain energy-boosting micro-nutrients B6 and B12 to combat the desire to retreat under the duvet.
But for those staunchly adverse to spinning and dread the monotony of a gym, Class Pass is a new initiative allowing you access to a variety of different classes in major cities all over the world for a single set fee. Great for those who like variety or who want to try out a number of classes before settling on a workout regime that suits them.
As for the relaxation part, I recently visited the Jivita Ayurveda treatment rooms tucked away in North West London. Its founder Anu Paalova is a qualified Ayurveda practitioner and has a whole host of remedies and foods for those intrigued to explore and take away with (the little shop at the front is like an Aladdin’s cave of curiosities). Ayurveda is a 2000-year-old holistic practice, aimed at healing the body and mind by seeking an inner balance.
For relieving muscle tension – especially aching shoulders, her Katibasti localised warm oil treatment (£65 for 45 min) is a must. A “nest” of dough is placed on the area of concern and warm oil containing medicinal herbs is poured and contained there for 30 minutes, while massage and warm steam helps the oil absorb (and lulls one into a semi-comotose state in the process). Essential for anyone looking to have their sense of equilibrium restored.
Another way to help the body “rebalance” is through acupuncture – Ka Hang Leoungk is renowned in her field, with a cheerful, approachable personality that is enough to relax you in itself. A main component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is like having a regular body MOT, working on particular pressure points to release energy blockages and rebalance your “qi” (energy).
Having had numerous colds, laryngitis and stress-induced headaches on and off for the past three months, a visit to Ka Hang was enough to get everything back to working order. She also treats many pregnancy-related issues for those expecting or trying to conceive.
For those suffering with poor skin and acne, taking omega 3 supplements is something I cannot recommmend highly enough (other benefits include a healthy heart and improved brain and vision). Having taken cod liver oil for two months, it practically eradicated the acne I had been suffering with since a teenager – as it drastically reduces inflammation in the body (a major factor where acne is concerned). Vitabiotics Ultra Red Krill Oil (£14.95) is a great way to get your omega 3 fatty acids, and is apparently more easily absorbed than regular fish oils.
An alternative suggestion is to seek advice from an expert; one authority on hormonal acne is London-based Dr Terry Loong. Originally trained as surgeon, Dr Loong advises on how lifestyle changes can help address hormonal imbalance and reduce severe skin issues. Cutting down on sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy as she advised was tricky (her somewhat Spartan-like strategy is to give all four up at once, and then reintroduce them one after the other each week, to see which one triggers a flare up.)
Working with different topical treatments Dr Loong prescribed combined with aforementioned omega 3 oils (which I found out about thanks to reading blogger Caroline Hirons’ excellent Acne Cheat Sheet) and my skin finally calmed down.
Whether it’s hormone imbalance or simply the stress of city living, there are plenty of ways to treat your body – and mind – to a little MOT this spring. If it’s one thing years of working in beauty have taught me, it’s that keeping things ticking over from the inside out has a far more powerful effect than the best anti-aging cream or most luxurious shampoo on the market.
by Viola Levy