Dear reader, I’ve had a revelation. It’s about sunscreen, and how we should all wear it, all the time. Yes, ok, it’s not entirely original - Baz Luhrmann had this realisation in 1999 (and he stole it from a 1998 essay by journalist Mary Schmich, and not enough people know that).
The uncharacteristically hot British summer we’ve been enjoying of late has put my new skincare regime to the test. Where previously I was a sun worshipper, my face leaning toward the sun at any opportunity, almost involuntarily like a flower on a windowsill, now I have a sense of there being something of a contest between this huge fiery orb in the sky and my naturally pale, now super-sensitive and ‘going through a difficult time’ skin. And (no-brainer alert) I’m just starting to realise that’s not really a fair match. That’s why it makes so much sense, suddenly, to give my skin a fighting chance.
Now, I appreciate the idea of putting sunscreen on your face is not normally something to get excited about. It conjures up images of small children grimacing and trying to wriggle free on a beach while mum applies some thick white paste against the child’s protestations. But! Hallelujah. There’s a whole world of products out there that protect you from the aforementioned fiery orb in a pretty serious way, but rub in just like your fave moisturiser. Who knew?! I didn’t - and I feel the need to evangelise on this point. I’ve told countless friends about my sunscreen surprise in the last few weeks and the news has been warmly welcomed by all.
We spend so much time (and money) trying to make our skin look younger, and this is the obvious, and easy, way to prevent it getting old in the first place. Not to mention, as the song points out, being pretty important for your general health too. I’m currently using Obagi Sunshield SPF 50, which I got through Dr Sam, but there are ‘normal’ versions on the shelves of Boots that are also non-comedogenic, rub in super easily and have high protection. Oh, and won’t cost the earth - try La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF50 (£16.50). I’m covered in it every day (and re-apply happily if I’m lucky enough to escape the office for the sunshine): me and my face, my eyelids, my ears, my neck and chest - we’re sitting pretty in the sun now, skin-safe, Baz-Luhrmann-approved and, brilliantly, sans sunglasses marks or burnt nose.
And what about my beloved tan? The thing I’ve looked forward to most summers of my adult life almost as much as long evenings, Pimm’s and the promise of a new wardrobe? The thing that instantly makes all your clothes look better and your teeth look whiter? That makes mere mortals able to pull off fluoro yellow?! Well, if you can’t make it (or your skin won’t let you), it’s time to fake it. Only now am I realising that this route is not only an option for those rare, warm March days when your legs are emerging from hibernation and you haven’t seen the sun yet, but it’s a healthier choice all round. Watch this space as I grapple with perfecting my fake sun-baked look - unless the rain returns and I’m forced back into skinny jeans, of course...
Such a convert am I to the religion of good skincare, I felt like a happily smug pupil who’s done all her homework when I ventured back into the cool and shady halls of Harley Street this week, to check in with Dr Sam. And, like a happily smug pupil, I got a gold star reward for good skin behaviour - no more antibiotics - but also found out I’ve still got more to learn. Now my skin has to try to cope without the tablets - as Dr Sam put it "we're taking the stabilisers off".
To make sure my treatment doesn't grind to a total halt, then, there are a few changes and additions to my routine. My new morning cream is Finacea, which not only kills bacteria but will help my skin recover from the ‘correctional’ phase of my treatment. At night time I'm using Isotrex, which is a bit of a superhero - preventing acne, reducing pigmentation and doing a bit of anti-ageing too. Now my skin's used to the Duac, I'm going to be using it as a one-off spot buster. And I’ve realised now that one-off spots are something I now have again, rather than just a mass of acne. I notice when I get a new spot, and can target that, which is a huge change from when I first turned up at Dr Sam’s clinic in May (we checked the photos she took, just to be sure).
It's hard to remember exactly how I felt when I had my first Harley Street appointment, but I knew that this time around, something had changed. I no longer feel a piercing, teenage-like self-consciousness about how I look. I am aware I'm wearing a lot more makeup than I used to, and my skin is a world away from what you could describe as 'clear', but I feel now like a girl with troublesome (and highly sun-protected) skin - not an acne-riddled face with a girl attached.