Make-Up for Acne: Summer Series

We all need short-term make-up fixes - however good our preventative regime, everyone gets a blemish from time to time, usually when you need it least. Unfortunately some formulations can make breakouts more prevalent - so how do you stay covered but avoid feeding the acne flames?

These are my current go-tos for summer; a time when you want the least amount of product on your skin. I like to keep base super-light and real - Lancome’s Skin Feels Good is really just a light dewy wash that does a little evening out of skin. A damp Beauty Blender means I’m not ruffling up any dry areas or sunscreen. 

Strategic amping up of coverage can be done by using a teensy dab of Vichy Dermablend Liquid Foundation mixed in to the lighter base, to ensure a custom tone that can be used just where it’s needed. And then as I like to avoid powder, I tote around a foundation stick on the go so I can do pinpoint concealing to mask any redness or blemishes as the day goes on. 

I used:

Lancome Skin Feels Good - 010CPORCL
Vichy Dermablend Fluid Corrective Foundation  - Opal 15
Lancome Teint Idole - 005 Beige Ivoire
Nars Matte Complete Concealer - Custard

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Acne Awareness Month

Acne Awareness Month couldn’t have really come at a more salient time - in fact, I’m hazarding a guess that 2018 could be Acne Awareness Year. And I’m thrilled about that. So much of my work at the practice is now devoted to trying to find solutions for acne. And you know what?  I never tire of seeing the impact sorting someone’s skin out can have.

It's so easy fall into the mindset that nothing can be done when you’ve had a skin problem since puberty, especially if you’ve tried a few different topicals but not perhaps been given explicit guidance on how to use them and what products to use along side them.

I would encourage anyone with significant acne (particularly if there’s scarring involved) to try to find a sympathetic dermatologist with an interest in acne to help them structure a comprehensive routine which eliminates all guesswork, make-up included.

Remember that our pharmaceutical toolkit is constantly evolving and that newer formulations might well offer greater tolerability and cosmetic elegance than treatments you’ve previously tried.

With acne, there’s no doubt that God is in the details.

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Summer Beauty Discoveries

There’s nothing I like better than planning a bit of work on holiday. Whilst that might sound masochistic, it’s actually a great time for me to trial new discoveries and maybe experiment a bit, away from the rigor of everyday life. This week’s Skincare Club event with Obagi is on the topic of Summer Skin Hacks, so it seemed the perfect opportunity on vacation in Morrocco this month to look at my own holiday habits. 

I’m definitely never going to be a bronzed goddess but I do like to feel comfortable showing a little skin and a pared-back dewy finish to skin is perfectly matched with a translucent liquid bronzer for evenings to mimic the look of sun-kissed skin safely – so this Bare Minerals Serum Bronzer was a pleasure to use dabbed on cheekbones, nose and temples. 

I’ve yet to find a better SPF for face than my trusty Elta MD UV Clear for minimizing blemish-prone skin’s tendency to break out in warmer climates but I was also pleasantly surprised by the performance of their UV Sport on the body – the first practical zinc oxide-based water-resistant SPF I’ve found for the body (it doesn’t make everything white) and it didn’t break me out or make me rash-y over my chest – a win in my book. 

For hair, I impulse purchased The Ouai’s Dry Texture Foam from Selfridges and I LOVED it – so good for disheveled beach waves and imparting texture. So much so, I’ve continued to use it at home. 

And for the odd late night out dancing and drinking margaritas, the colour corrector in Apricot from Vichy Dermablend was a godsend – a great texture and excellent at amping up the blue-neutralising effect of my usual under-eye concealer the morning after! 

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Sunscreen Under Make-Up (Take Two!)


So this is the topic of my most-watched video and I thought it was time for a fresh take on the topic. Since then we have newer formulations that make it even easier to incorporate proper sunscreen into a daily routine without a feeling of dread. 

For it to work well and offer the level of protection you’re promised on the tube, look at the following: these are the key

  1. Is it an amazing formula?
  2. Am I using the correct amount?
  3. Am I planning correctly, to permit smooth building of layers?
  4. Do I apply make-up correctly, to avoid dislodging the underlying layer of SPF?

I’m just back from holidays and my skin is a bit all over the place so I’m trialing a new tinted SPF from Obagi to neutralise a bit of redness (I always get irritation on my chest from sunscreen in hot climates, the topic for another video!) – it may be a little warm for my skin-tone on reflection but I think that what’s important with this video is technique and the steps I take to make sure that SPF is applied properly and doesn’t ball up, that most annoying of outcomes when you’re rushing in the morning!!! 

I’m layering that with Burberry Bright Glow in Porcelain and Sisley Phyto-cernes Under-eye Concealer in Shade 1. I’ve used a medium size Beauty Blender (for blush) to apply foundation – I find it a more precise tool than the Classic one. And I’ve used a mini Beauty Blender for the under-eye area. 

Hope you find these tips helpful!

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Retinoids in Summer

Can I let you into a surprising secret?

I use my retinoid right through summer. No interruption in service. People who reside in hot countries make it happen so why should we abandon all of a sudden just because we’re going on vacation?

A few myths abound regarding retinoid use:

Myth 1) We use retinods at night because they make us burn during the day.  Not true. We use retinoids at night because most are UV sensitive, which means they might be rendered useless if applied as part of our morning routine. As for burning more easily, studies suggest that they don’t change the MED for a sunburn (the minimal amount of UV light required to redden the skin).

Myth 2) The changes in climate will reak havoc for a retinoid user.  Actually, your holiday destination might make using your retinoid dreamily easy. I have patients based in the Far East who can happily skip moisturiser, their skin is so dewy from humidity.

Myth 3) Retinoids might cause damage to the skin in the long-term.
Quite the opposite. We actually sometimes use oral retinoids to reduce the risk of skin cancer in those on immunosuppression and topical retinoids have been shown to reduce the development of actinic keratoses, a precursor of skin cancer.

So what’s the practical interpretation of all this?

Well, if you’re serious about your skin (and I assume any retinoid user is), then you’re going to be smart and have good sunscreen behaviour and use sunglasses/shade/proper hat to manage your UV exposure. Making sure you have proper water-resistant sunscreen for doing sports outdoors and that you apply it IN THE CORRECT QUANTITY is vital. If you’re doing all this, continuing with your retinoid is fine. My caveat would be for a new user – it can be hard to manage the dryness from initiating retinoid use whilst ensuring proper UV protection so wait till autumn if you’re not confident you can stick to the ‘rules’ above. Hopefully that’s reassuring to you.

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Skincare in Humid Climates


I’m a shiny gal. I’ve come to know this and accept it. Holidays are probably not my most glamorous days; I suit a cooler climate (Northern Ireland, my homeland is perfect). However I have learnt how to relax and let it go when en vacance somewhere balmy; here are my tips for thriving (not wilting).


1) Get prep right. This is the one time I might consider adding in a cleanser with salicylic
acid if skin is very oily; a t-zone swipe of salicyclic acid is also a good idea skin is more normal/combination.

2) Minimise steps but stay protected. This is the one time where I’ll really think carefully about my morning layers. My combination skin handles going without moisturiser a lot better and if I choose a tinted SPF that I can top up over course of the day (so I can skip make-up), that’s even better. My pick for my redness-prone, acne-prone(!) skin is Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50. Elta MD and Jan Marini do great physical SPFs with a warmer tint; I also like La Roche Posay Anthelios Extra-light Fluide SPF50.

3) Don’t skip on anti-oxidants – they’ll help combat pollution, visible light and infra-red, plus any UV that slips past your sunscreen.

4) Consider augmenting sun protection with an internal supplement like Heliocare Ultra, which contains the fern extract Polypodium Leucotomos.

5) Continue with retinoid no matter what. See my previous video for my thinking on this.

6) Rethink make-up – lighter coverage, use blotting papers, skip powder and foundation stick on the go all ensure that base stays workable and top-up-able.

As I head off to Morrocco, I’ll be putting this all into action. Hope you find these humid climate cheats helpful!

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How To Confidently Layer Skincare

Skincare can seem confusing. There’s no doubt. I literally hear this in my practice every single day. And the results can be seen from many a confused Instagram shelfie. When fashion blogger Kiki Siantar Huillet messaged me asking for a breakdown of a successful skincare equation and importantly, what not to combine, I rose to the challenge!


So I’m going to let you into a little secret – it’s really all about prioritizing the right things. You don’t have to include every latest ingredient you hear about into your routine; the most important thing is to be consistent with the right ingredients for your personal concerns.



So what are the big skincare No-Nos?

Most of them involve retinoids - which is why they’re best used on their own at night (with the exception of Niacinamide, which is fine)


1. AHAs + retinoids

Too much potential for irritation - you’ll just end up a peely, red mess.



2. Salicylic acid + retinoids - The fragile retinoid molecule may be rendered inactive - disaster!


3. Vitamin C + retinoids They are formulated at different pHs so get their multitude of benefits by applying Vitamin C in the morning and your retinoid at night.


4. Benzoyl peroxide + retinoids If you have a pimple, treat it with this effective spot blaster in the morning, rather than using at the same time as your PM retinoid -the risk of irritancy and inactivation of your retinoid is high.



In my latest video I share the tips that make all the difference to my own skincare layering and cover the ingredients you should seek out in combination. What’s in your skincare sandwich right now?

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Why Acne Might Be An Anti-Ageing Blessing

Seems madness, right?


But this topic generated such great discussion at my Skincare Club, that I felt compelled to do a video on the topic. 60% of women in the UK and probably at least 30% of men suffer from blocked pores or blemish-prone, oily combination skin. Yet 75% of the market offerings for these concerns are targeted at teens.


In my practice, the commonest reasons for seeking a consultation BY FAR are concerns involving acne, clogged pores and post-inflammatory pigmentation from blemishes.


But guess what; almost everyone, teens aside, is concerned with prevention and treatment of the signs of ageing. And in fact, attempting to tackle these issues with poorly formulated products, is often a major trigger for deterioration in acne.


So how to manage this seemingly paradoxical situation?


First, sort your Basics. This means:

1) Non-comedogenic (non-clogging)

2) Unperfumed

3) Supportive

4) Flexible


So gather a non-foaming cleanser, a lighter moisturiser for oily days and a richer one for dry nights; and a well-formulated sunscreen that has excellent UVA protection with ingredients such as zinc oxide.


Then, sort your Actives. Key ingredients to look for to satisfy the Overlap situation (in order of importance, in my opinion) are 1) Retinoids 2) Niacinamide and 3) Azelaic Acid.


Complete the picture with strategic lifestyle measures; choose carbs carefully, boost your intake of Omega 3 fatty acids and moderate dairy.

Seek out nutrient-dense foodstuffs, and focus on a varied plant-based diet with good quality protein and you won’t go far wrong.


The psychological benefits of putting a sound plan in motion are immeasurable. But it’s interesting - I find it often takes a long time for people to adjust to good skin; longer, often, than the corrective treatment programme itself. Often there’s almost a 100% turnaround over 6-12 months – but if you’ve suffered for years or decades, that can be hard to fathom.


There’s a huge change in self-perception. No-make-up days become a reality.

Skin compliments come as a genuine surprise – it can be hard to grasp that others might actually envy their skin. Now, isn’t that a good reason to put an action plan in motion today?



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Skin Positivity and Acne


Embracing imperfections is not something that comes naturally to me, or indeed many women, it seems. So it’s no surprise that the Skin Positivity movement has been so warmly received and has gathered such momentum. It’s the lack of kindness that gets me the most. Cruel or thoughtless comments of the acne-orientated variety literally crush the human spirit. I know from experience, it’s happened to me. I’ll never forget exiting from a long-haul flight to see a boyfriend post exams only to see his face register my bumpy, inflamed skin and look somewhat….disappointed. Spirit crushed like a bug.

With increased dialogue, comes a shift in attitude and a greater willingness to share the many ways troubled skin impacts on quality of life. Increased awareness reassures you that you’re not alone, that the problem spares no-one (celebrities and models included) but most importantly increases dialogue about proper solutions. So much mythology exists around acne treatment, and a lot of this stems from the feeling that it’s a beauty problem, rather than a medical one. But good, science-based skincare really is the route to happier skin, with results that can be sustained – and that’s vital. Because ultimately the best way to acquire true Skin Positivity is to have skin that doesn’t need thinking about.

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How I Hold It Together - Stress Awareness Month

 I’ve decided to resuscitate my blog. Ironically at the beginning of April, which marks the beginning of Stress Awareness Month. There does rather seem to be an Awareness day for just about everything these days, but this seems rather a major feature in my life at the moment, so I thought I’d share what helps me unravel the knots in my shoulders, the whirring sound in my brain and generally help me keep my sh*t together on a trying day. 


I’ve always been a stress bunny. And I recognize the patterns I can spot in myself in lots of the women I see in clinic. Jaw clenches. Sleep quality plummets. Worries and anxiety mount, and hurtle around on a loop until they completely derail your higher cognitive processes, making decision-making a nightmare. Skin gets dry/bumpy/red/unhappy. Retinoids and good moisturiser can only help you get away with so much if the stress persists, after all.


So to make my decision-making easier, I’ve finally got myself an organizational tool (Evernote)I can stick to (I have a number of abandoned ones with half-finished to-do lists cluttering up my phone that just didn’t click). And I’ve mastered the art of not saying yes to everything. That was a hard one, I’m not going to lie….


And that when I’m feeling really troubled, the only thing that reaffirms life is the euphoria that follows  physical activity to the point of exhaustion (Psycle), accompanied by electro-beats. And short, effective yoga routines (BohoBeautiful) I can do anywhere stop my computer arm cramping from overuse.


And with all of that, I might get a decent night’s sleep. Which is the key to it all. And maybe there’s something that comes with the realization that stress is an inevitable part of life. Just the right amount helps us perform, achieve our goals and satisfy ambitions. But the big stuff, the stuff that really knocks you for six, is the stuff you don’t see coming (Baz  Luhrmann wisdom –  EveryoneShouldWearSunscreen). But maybe by practicing good stress management most of the time, it can become a habit; one that makes you that little bit more robust in the face of true adversity. Wishing you all a stress-free April!

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How To Not End Up A Hot Mess + Care For Your Skin After Hot Exercise

Keeping fit has become a sticky business of late –  it makes sense, as you are bendier and less likely to hurt yourself when everything’s warm’n’limber. But staying beautiful (especially if you’re headed back to the office after a reviving mid-day work-out) becomes a challenge. Especially, if you suffer from acne. This is clearly a recurring phenomenon – in my recent visit to Psycle (THE place to get your groove on whilst having a massive endorphin hit) I overheard exactly 3 women bemoaning blemishes during the time it took me to go to the loo. Girlfriends who do Bikram say the same thing. Here’s my plan for keeping it together:





1)   Keep make-up light on work-out days – use a non-comedogenic, light-textured tinted moisturiser (love Nars). Conceal where needed (Vichy Dermablend Foundation Stick won’t block pores and can mask Vesuvius – a must-have in your kit). Skip powder + use blotting papers if 11 o’clock shine is a problem (love MAC ones)– you can work with base that isn’t powdered; you can’t when it is. And of course, keep eye make-up to a minimum – curl lashes and use only waterproof mascara, obv.


2)   Hair up – loose topknot works best. Bobble water for hydration. Forget face.


3)   Blot face. Inspect the damage. If you’ve kept it light, you should just be able to touch up your base/concealer where needed. Blusher should be unnecessary. A bit of lip-colour and you should be all set. For body, I think wipes are acceptable. If breakouts are an issue, use a medicated one like Murad Clarifying Wipes or get Stridex Acne Pads from the US. For hair, spritz volumising spray on roots (I like PhytoVolume Actif Volumizing Spray) and use dryer and round brush to get a bit of root lift and restyle front sections of hair. Blast it underneath near the nape of the neck.


4)   Work on your complexion – don’t acquiesce to breakouts; get a plan. This will save you so much time in the long-run, not to mention free up valuable headspace for much more important things (like what colour to get Lexie workout gear in). Get a kit together consisting of something like: La Roche Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel and Effaclar Duo and Effaclar H (for day). Swap Effaclar Duo for Avene Triacneal at night. And of course a broad-spectrum sunscreen that works like primer (MUST be non-comedogenic). If that isn’t improving things, go see a derm.

Originally posted on : 15/03/14 Dr Sam Bunting Word Press

Is Your Make-up Bag Ruining Your Skin?

A woman’s make-up bag is the cornerstone of handling the ‘no-time’ trend – whether its about finishing lipstick application ‘dans la tube’ or transitioning from a day-to-nighttime look in the office loos.  However its important to manage this vital toolkit wisely, especially if prone to problem skin. Think about an item like a compact foundation – incredibly convenient for touch-ups, but that applicator is in constant contact with both hands (which may, or may not be clean) and face (oily t-zone, anyone?), so will rapidly become dirty and a breeding ground for bacteria.

There are some key steps to avoiding skin issues due to the murky depths of your make-up bag:

1)    Wash brushes once a week in gentle shampoo to avoid the harbouring of acne-promoting bacteria.

2)    If using a compact foundation, be scrupulous about sponge hygiene. There is nothing ickier than a sponge in need of a bath.These are breeding grounds for bugs, so wash regularly, allow to dry thoroughly and replace frequently.

3)    Choose products that are non-comedogenic, especially if looking for longlasting products to survive the full work day. I see a lot of patients with a condition called perioral dermatitis – red bumps around the mouth that look like acne – and their cosmetics almost invariably play a role in this annoying and frequently recurrent disease.

Besides: if your make-up promotes blemishes, you will end up spending more and more time covering up your skin in the morning – a rather futile spiral.

4)    Avoid putting fingers into a jar of cream, however indulgent that might feel. Use a clean spatula to decant product hygienically.

5)    NEVER use saliva to wet make-up brushes or correct make-up mishaps. The mouth is a dirty, dirty cavity.

6)    Don’t borrow or lend make-up, especially eye products. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and leads to a red, sticky eye (not attractive).

7)    Finally, pay attention to the physical properties of your make-up. Unfortunately many cosmetics don’t have an expiry date. Liquid foundations and mascara have the shortest shelf-life – they should be replaced after as little as 3 months. If a foundation changes texture or a mascara acquires an unusual odour, it’s time to bin it. Bacteria can colonise products and the preservatives might not be work quite as well as they did when you first opened it – so to reduce this risk by seeking out products in a pump, rather than in a pot or open-necked bottle.


Originally posted on : 5/7/14 Dr Sam Bunting Word Press