Skin Improvement Epic Part 1: Alpha-H Skincare

Friday, 27 January 2012

* Long post alert: This is going to be a lengthy post. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and call it a 'feature'. If you've ever had acne, are suffering with adult acne or know someone who is you/they may find it useful. I really, really hope so. This is not a paid for/sponsored post and there are no affiliate links. I've always purchased my own Alpha-H products excepting a recently launched skincare set I was sent to trial which I will review at a later date. 

 Alpha-H 5-piece
 Anti-Ageing Discovery Collection
 Picture credit: Salon Skincare

I'm going to rave. Not in a 1990s Charlie Says style (far too old for that), but in a this-skincare-is-life-changing kind of way. I've always been skeptical when people dub a cosmetic 'life-changing'. I mean, a face cream isn't going to sprout arms and legs, hop up and perform CPR to the beat of Stay'in Alive (love those Vinnie Jones ads). What I think is actually meant by the phrase, is that sometimes a product can be utterly confidence-changing. And that is a feat every beauty brand wants to achieve; results on the outside that affect the way we feel on the inside - or vice versa.

Lately I've been getting lots of compliments on my skin. I know that sounds smug to repeat but let me give you a bit of history. I've suffered, and I don't say suffered lightly because it has killed my confidence at times, adult acne from the age of 18 - 35. It's been mild, moderate, severe and everywhere in-between. What it has also been is incredibly resistant to treatment. I've taken antibiotics, changed contraceptive pills, chugged vitamins, used Retin-A, tried scores of miracle skincare 'solutions' and consulted a dermatologist who prescribed Roaccutane. I was too scared of the possible side effects to take it.

I know how awful acne makes you feel. Want to use sumptuous, beautiful skincare ladies and gents? You're having a laugh aren't you. Oh no, don't be a silly. That's not for us. We can have the pick of a teenage boy's sock drawer; the stuff you'd find nestled in amongst the lads mags and Lynx. That'll do the trick, or maybe it won't. How especially ironic, given that as you get older there's often the dual problem of wrinkles + spots = wonderful (sarcastic face).

I also know that a good deal of time is spent staring into the mirror and shaking an angry fist at the god of reactive skin praying for a 'normal' adult complexion, whatever normal is. Having to cover a face-full of spots every day of your life is boring, time-consuming and depressing. That's what it is. People may kindly say it's not noticeable (my specialist Mastermind subject would be concealers I've known and loved), and you are still pretty but you can only ever know how it really feels if the spotty face belongs/belonged to you. Like any condition that chips away at self-esteem it subconsciously rules you. So to stumble across something that quite unbelievably WORKED (when I wasn't expecting it to), was life-changing, confidence-changing, actually just bloody brilliant. Here's my review...

It started with Alpha-H Liquid Gold 2 years ago.

No prizes for pretty packaging - but the
 results speak for themselves

If you're big into beauty products, read blogs, check-out skincare forums, or watch the QVC shopping channel (that's me on all counts), you will probably have heard of this brand before. Alpha-H is an Australian skincare range used in salons in Oz and worldwide, that is tunnel-vision focused on results. You don't buy into fancy-pants packaging - the white and black labelling is seriously low frills - but what you do buy into is what is inside the tube, tub or bottle; here, it's the formulations that absolutely count. As an aside, I think there is something psychologically very powerful about using a product that works so effectively and is yet unassuming, almost under-achieving in appearance. I really hope Alpha-H never rebrand.

Anyway, I began with the 'hero' product Liquid Gold. It's a golden liquid which you apply with a cotton pad up to three times a week, nightly on cleansed skin. Couldn't be simpler and you get to bed quicker since you don't apply any other serums or night creams. Liquid Gold is packed with glycolic acid (which features heavily throughout the range), an alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane which has a small molecular structure allowing it to easily absorb into the skin and effectively deliver key ingredients, such as pigmentation-diminishing liquorice extract. It also sloughs of surface dead skin cells reducing the appearance of fine lines, pores and wrinkles.

Alpha-H are unapologetic about the fact that their skincare is designed to send your cells to boot-camp - that's the whole point. It acts as a catalyst and, if you look at other online reviews, seems to be particularly good at kicking the stubborn butt of problem skin that is resistant to change. You are VERY likely to feel a tingle when you start using this product and some sensitive skin types may find it too potent. In which case I would slot the Balancing Cleanser into your routine, another awesome product that is gentle yet effective.

Back to the Liquid Gold. After just one use I could see a difference in my skin's texture but then I had a set-back. Over the next fortnight things got a whole lot worse before they got better; every pore seemed to start unblocking. Plugs of debris came to the surface and rolled off. Eewww! TMI, I know. This could just be indicative of my skin but I felt I should point it out in case it happens to you. I decided to hang tough and took it as a positive sign of purging activity. Sure enough, two weeks later my skin was looking unusually clear. 

I'm no dermatologist but something I had long noticed (and you might recognise it too), was that although the surface of my skin was dry underneath it was excessively oily causing, almost, a papier mache effect. Once that layer was whisked away it seemed as though my skin were free to function. It's just an observation but I do think there may be something in it.

As you can probably gather I'm an Alpha-H girl. I use the Balancing Cleanser everyday which is SO lovely and luxurious (it's like cleansing with a light, aloe-vera based moisturiser), despite the fact that it comes in a container that looks like it should hold engine oil - I buy the 500ml salon super size! Twice a week I also use the Liquid Gold Intensive Night Repair Serum which contains glycolic acid and vitamins A and B3, both useful for skin regeneration and health. Honestly, I'm not keen on either the feel or scent of this product (it reminds me of smell of Shreddies), but the results far override the sensory experience.  Finally, I also use the Alpha-H Balancing Moisturiser with 10% Glycolic Acid which seems to totally address the blemish-prone nature of problem skin whilst adding the moisture that oily skin often craves.

For a good year I stuck with Liquid Gold alone adding the above products into my routine along the way, so don't feel that you have to go the whole hog. However, if you did want a great value starter kit I highly recommend the 5-piece Anti-Ageing Discovery Collection from Salon Skincare which at £21.25 is around half the RRP and contains three of the key products I use plus a sample size of Micro Cleanse and Liquid Gold Smoothing and Perfecting Mask. 

Phew! And breathe... So, we're nearly there. Congratulations if you got this far. 

Overall Alpha-H has, dare I say it, balanced my skin to the point where I am now able to occasionally use facial oils (I know, MADNESS!), pampering masks and balms without ill effect. I can count the number of spots I've had in the last six months on one hand and my pigmentation marks have been significantly reduced. My complexion isn't absolutely flawless (you can't go through 17 years of acne without a few marks) but hey, that's fine. Ultimately, it's now acceptable to the harshest of critics - me. Which is all that really matters. 

Thank you for reading x

* If you find this post in the throw of breakouts have a big virtual hug ((  )) and take a look at this brilliant tutorial on concealing acne from make-up maestro Lisa Eldridge. It's exactly my philosophy and the way I have always cheated clearer-looking skin. Great minds must think alike ;) 

Blogmark 1#: Love Thing

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

I'm having a ball blogging and following other people's offerings. I've stumbled upon so many exciting, interesting blogs that my reader's stacked high with post feeds - at present I've got 157 unread to get through. So, I've decided to start an occasional series called 'Blogmark', which will feature an edit of the sites I find particularly inspiring. 

dazzlelight91's turquoise twist on a classic smokey eye

I wanted to kick-off with one of my favourite beauty blogs - Love Thing by dazzlelight91. I've come to realise that you know you've found a 'favourite' when you see a new post pop up and think 'ooh, fantastic. I'll save that for later with a nice cup of tea ...'

I first spied Sara's work on the Irish beauty blog She was guest-posting with an amazing purple eye make-up tutorial (take a sneaky peek here), and when I clicked through to her blog link I was hooked - an hour later and I was still scrolling! I'm totally wowed by Sara's skills (absolutely impeccable blending and false lash application), the range of looks and colour combinations she creates (there's something for everyone - even tired mama's), and just how visually inspiring her step-by-step tutorials are. If you've lost your make-up mojo feast your eyes on the images below. I defy you not to want to crack open an Urban Decay palette at the very first opportunity. The girl's got heaps of talent :)


For more beautiful make-up ideas, inspiration and step-by-step 
tutorials hop on over to Sara's blog - here

* All images are reproduced with kind permission and remain the copyright of dazzlelight91

Spring Nailed!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Have you noticed that Spring is trying its best to shoot into life despite the winter chill? In the park, BB and I recently inspected clusters of stoic buds braving the icy breeze. If I were them I would've stayed bedded-down in the warm ground a while longer. Catch a lie-in while you can, and all that.

Yesterday, more signs of spring emerged in my over-crowded inbox. Aren't these stunning Max Factor nail shades enough to make you want to dig out fresher, crisper clothes and accessories?

Spring 2012: new creamy pastel 'nudes' - 
brooklyn collection

I hands-up-have-to-say I've yet to get my mitts on the above but I wanted to bring you a sneaky peek because, sure as day turns into night, these will sell out - mark my words. There are 18 hues in the new collection, inspired by the mood of the four fashion week cities. Brooklyn (New York) is my favourite comprising of milky on-trend pastels whilst Dalston (London), has a neon-vibe that I hear will continue to be a hot! hot! hot! nail look for spring/summer 2012. I'm trying very hard to find the love for Neon as a trend, really I am. On paper it's fierce and fabulous but on my middle-aged fingertips? - undecided. Apart from Cool Jade (pale aqua green), I'd probably chicken-out and wear these electric brights on my toes instead.

Brighter than bright: neon continues as a
strong colour theme - dalston collection

The remaining collections are Via Tortona (Milan) and Marais (Paris), transitional winter/spring shades which would be an excellent choice if it feels too early to be blooming.

* Max Factor Colour Effect Mini Nail Polishes are on sale now at Superdrug priced £3.99 each and will be available at Boots from January the 18th. 

Reviewed: Suti Fabulous Foot Balm

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

At present the natural beauty market is like a rolling ocean of product. A new range spinning a new line on the negative effects of chemicals in cosmetics seems to dip a toe in the water every week. It's easy to feel engulfed by the swell and wonder what is actually good, wholesome truth versus glossy marketing fiction - a subject I will return to in another post. Still, I love finding a brand bobbing about in the midst that a) I've never heard of before and b) has a backstory/ethos that I genuinely believe in and which piques my interest. 

Suti - packed with holistic learnings and expertise

I met Susannah and Tina, the founders of organic skincare range Suti at a launch for the brilliant Nutribeauty website. Susannah is an accomplished complementary therapist with an extensive list of therapies under her belt including Reiki, reflexology, aromatherapy and homeopathy. Having studied to be a reflexologist for the past year, I find I'm in awe of the more holistically knowledgeable and really enjoyed learning about the line. Tina, a graphic designer by trade and busy mum-of-three, is responsible for the brands very lovely, stylish packaging (again, in awe of the juggling). Together, they are sisters-in-law and the product partnership Suti. See what they did there? 

The range comprises of formulations borne out of the bespoke blends that Susannah has created, over the years, for use during client treatments. It all makes perfect sense to me. If you're in the business of caring for the wellbeing of others then it stands to reason that you're very likely going to care about what you apply to their body. 

Sensory salve: a lovely treat for worn-out feet

Back to the Fabulous Foot Balm. I've been looking for a medium to use during reflexology sessions that aids the flow of the sequence whilst enhancing the sensory experience. I ordered a jar to use on family and friends (I was lucky to get a 30% press discount), and I/we LOVE it. The scent is divine. It has an intense, herbal, earthy aroma that smells like potted wellbeing - if that makes sense. And, although Fabulous Foot Balm contains the classic foot-loving peppermint oil when I unscrew the lid the first thing I notice is the aroma of rosemary and eucalyptus -  a refreshing change. Also in the mix are, amongst others, oils of pumpkin seed, lemon, avocado and olive along with unrefined shea butter which help to rehydrate dry skin leaving it feeling more comfortable and supple.

I spent an age trying to capture in pictures how rich and meltable this balm is, isn't the natural golden colour of the oils beautiful? It's worth noting that because Fabulous Foot Balm is free from chemical stabilisers and preservatives it may solidify in cooler weather, though emulsifies on contact with the skin - you need the tiniest amount. Tired, neglected soles absolutely deserve this treat.

* Fabulous Foot Balm (50ml) is £16 and available from Nutri Beauty and Suti.

[Not suitable for use during pregnancy]

Thank You, Darling!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

How sweet and cheery are these hand-painted thank you card designs by Ez over at Creature Comforts? I've become ever-so-slightly addicted to diy project/style inspiration blogs since acquiring an iPad and have spent more evenings than I care to share wrapped up in their twinkly-lit, romantic, mood-board ambience. (Before tripping over a bike, scooter and mountain of washing on my way to bed...)

Pink flamingos wearing scarves: what's not to love?

If, like me, you've still got thank you cards to (ahem) send, why not hop on over to Ez's post HERE to download the free, printable PDF. I do warn you in advance that Creature Comforts is like a vortex. Take tea and biscuits; you may be gone for some time...                                                                              
(P.S: Ez has also created a downloadable/printable 2012 Calendar and will be releasing one page per month in her email newsletter. Hit the subscribe button on her blog if you fancy that too!

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