Part-time blog!

As you can see I don't devote a lot of time to my blog but I'm trying to improve!

By Abigail Butcher, May 11 2017 12:50PM

Keeping my skin in any semblance of order given what I put it through is no mean feat. I’m a travel, adventure sports and ski writer which means it is subjected to harsh environments week in, week out. When I’m travelling I have no routine, too many late nights and spend too much time on airplanes and in air-conditioned or over-heated hotels. I’m often found climbing or skiing mountains in sub-zero temperatures, whipped by wind or under the harsh glare of high-altitude sun. When I’m at home I do get a bit more sleep but more of my time is spent sailing, riding bikes or swimming in the sea with my ridgeback than is spent inside at my desk. Very little that I do would appear to be skin friendly (particularly because my other love is partying) — so how do I manage not to look 60? (please don’t tell me I do)

Probably because I have good skin genes, for a start, but also because I’m a health writer and after 20 years battling for health of mind and body, I know a thing or two about keeping myself in decent nick and staving off the effects of a hectic lifestyle.

Water, water and more water

The first is to drink water, plenty of it, each glass with a tiny pinch of natural, unbleached salt — that sticky grey stuff free from additives. I begin each and every day, no matter where I am in the world, with two large cups of hot water with a slice of lemon (and some ginger when I’m feeling run down). I don’t feel normal without it. Then I drink around two litres of water per day — more when I’m exerting myself or have had too much booze the night before. The salt provides essential minerals and helps you hydrate on a cellular level — so many of the nutrients that used to be in our food are no longer there thanks to modern farming methods and the length of time it takes for them to reach our plate.

Eat boringly clean — it works 

Yes, it’s boring, but I eat ridiculously clean when I’m at home. In between weeks spent in the Alps trying not to stuff myself with too much cheese, I eat lean protein with tonnes of fresh fruit and veg. I don’t eat anything that I haven’t made from scratch (my definition of fast food is eggs — scrambled eggs take less time to make than a piece of toast) and I try to load my plate with as much colour as possible. I don’t avoid gluten when I’m out, but the only bread I really eat at home is organic sourdough made by The Baker Boys that I buy from Lymington's Saturday market, slice up and freeze ready to be topped with squashed avocado and poached eggs — and LOTS of butter. That said, I’m not completely strict with my diet and can easily eat an entire bag of Kettle Chips in one sitting and when ’m out or away travelling I eat normally but try to avoid starchy carbs wherever possible.

Exercise — but not endurance

A few years ago I wrote an article for the Daily Mail about how exercise affects the elasticity of your skin, and as well as having the above points (water, eating clean) rammed home to me, the importance of the right exercise came top, too. To maximise the collagen-boosting effects of exercise you need to do it in moderation — the cortisol (stress hormone) that our bodies produce in endurance sport is aging, as it starts to break down our cells. A one-off long-distance event (like IGO’s N60 that I did two years ago) is no problem, but make a habit of training for endurance events and it will affect your whole body, not just your skin. Similarly, too much running makes everything sag — skin and boobs included ladies, so watch out.

I mix it up with yoga, running, biking, climbing, sailing, horse riding, weights, HIIT — as much for my skin as my sanity — and make sure that a lot of my exercise is 'functional', so I'm fit and strong for the things I want to do in life (like climbing mountains) through doing those things, not just lifting weights for the sake of it.

Collagen rocks, seriously

Until I started to approach the grand old age of 40 I didn’t pay any attention to my skincare. I heeded none of the warnings about sun screen and didn’t have a ‘regime’ — just used a good old flannel and water, along with some E45 cream morning and evening. As a travel writer, you can't drag a big washbag around the world with you! Then one day, I was asked to write a piece about winter skincare for Metro. I called in a load of big-name products from which QMS Medicosmetics fast became an out-and-out winner. I went from being someone who spent £2.99 a month on moisturiser to spending considerably more — but the results were incredible. I use the Day and Night Collagen Set religiously and the Dermabrasive gel a couple of times a week — more regularly during the winter. The products are not cheap, but they’re amazing.

Feed skin with a bio-active face oil

The last piece of the jigsaw fell in place earlier this winter. Struggling for an intensive moisturiser (my stupid, sensitive skin tolerates little other than the aforementioned E45 and an emollient I get on prescription for my periodic bouts of eczema) a friend presented me with a bottle of Rosalena Frank & Sense — a beauty oil teaming with antioxidants, beta-carotenes and bio-active ingredients that is basically magic. It works as a natural anti-inflammatory to calm skin, support collagen protection and nourish weather-exposed skin — and since January I’ve been slathering it on two, sometimes three times a day. It absorbs quickly and is so soothing, moisturising and nourishing that in four months I’ve become utterly hooked and am already a good way through my second bottle. What's more, the bottles are tiny, so fit nicely into that travel writer-sized washbag.

By Abigail Butcher, Jul 7 2013 08:36PM

Last Tuesday, under the #TTOT travel hashtag on twitter, travel pros were naming the top five things they couldn’t travel without. I’m not exactly a travel pro, but I pitched in with what is, in my view, a miracle suncream — Riemann P20.

I have wanted to blog about this for a while, but thought most people were wise to the benefits of the once-a-day suncreen — but some sun-savvy visitors this weekend to my seaside town of Lymington made me realise many are not.

P20 was launched in 1979 and is now the fourth best-selling sun protection brand on the market. Until early this year, it was only available in one sun protection factor (SPF) — 20, as the name suggests.

I first tried it when sailing in a trans-Atlantic race last year — when fellow crew members had one bottle each that lasted them the entire 15-day trip. Being naturally fair, SPF20 wasn’t often enough for me during most of that race (from Gran Canaria to St Lucia) but I used it on the last few days and loved it.

Then in January, P20 was launched in SPF15, SPF30 and SPF50+ and it has revolutionised my life at home and when travelling. You put P20 (or 30, as the case may be) on in the morning (a clear spray or lotion) and it lasts for 10 hours. It is “very water resistant”, working for up to 80min in the water, and although nothing on the packaging says so, it seems brilliant on sensitive skin. It doesn't sting my eyes however much I perspire. And, most importantly, no matter how expensive a cream I’ve bought in the past they all give me a rash — P20 is the first sunscreen I’ve found that doesn’t irritate my face when I get hot.

I’ve used it skiing, sailing and cycling and two weeks ago I used it every day while on a press trip to the Maldives — not burning once despite being constantly in and out of the water swimming, paddle-boarding, snorkelling and sailing.

P20 is active 15 minutes after application, and contains both UVA and UVB filters. It’s non-greasy, doesn’t smell and is paraben-free, which is probably why it doesn’t give me a rash like other creams.

So, apologies if you’re already aware of this brilliant sunscreen – but the parents of a toddler and the semi-pro sailor who visited me this week had no idea that P20 was available in different factors now — nor that it actually worked. It does — Riemann P20 does exactly as it says on the tin.

By Abigail Butcher, Jun 15 2013 09:53PM

In early March, I snapped my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and tore a few other bits in my knee while skiing in Saalbach Hinterglemm. It’s been a painful time — I had a reconstruction on the knee (using an autograft of my hamstring) on 22 April, and a month on it was still stiff, swollen and generally giving me gyp.

In an attempt to ease the pain and inflammation, and help get things moving, three weeks ago I headed to the Bad Hofgastein, for a week of intensive rehab in the medical spa at Grand Park Hotel and help from the mystical Bad Gastein healing caves.

I arrived at the hotel tired, stressed and in pain, still using crutches: although five weeks post-op, I had set myself back by tearing my hamstring in a fall. But they set to work on me straight away, and in my first afternoon in Austria I had a consultation with resident doctor Liane Weber who talked me through my treatment programmed and an anti-inflammatory diet (lots of pumpkin seeds and green tea, plenty of berries, protein at lunch, no animal products at supper, no dairy products, no raw food…). She also gave me acupuncture and a tuina massage, a form of Chinese therapy known to add acute (or chronic) musculoskeletal conditions, to stimulate fitness and healing. I knew I was going to enjoy this week.

The next day I headed to the Gastein healing caves “Gasteiner Heilstollen” where I put my clothes in a locker, donned my swimming costume and a hotel bathrobe and boarded a tiny train along with 100-odd other “patients” and chugged deep into the warm mountain.

Gasteiner Heilstollen are the only warm radon caves in the world, and are said to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and stablise the immune system through a combination of heat and humidity (they range between 37 and 41.5C and 70-100% humidity) and radon content. I was sceptical, but shared the hotel bus from Grand Park with a 41-year-old Egyptian man from Cairo who told me he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis when he was 10. Moenis was a wealthy businessman with access to the best healthcare in the world: his father had been a radiographer at Oxford. But three years ago he discovered the Gastein healing caves and since his first visit in 2010 has been completely pain-free. He used to take painkillers every day of his life but no longer has any need. It’s stories such as Moenis’s (I heard many others like it) that make you believe.

I shuffled in silence into the cave, and lay down on a sunbed in the dark, wondering how quickly the hour will pass. I hate being in a sauna and how miners worked in these conditions, I don’t know. But pass it did, quickly, and before I knew it I was on the train chugging my way out, feeling that at the very least the heat and humidity would have helped rid my body of the toxins from my general anaesthetic and the co-codamol I had been swallowing daily. That evening my skin looked amazing, after months of looking grey and pallid I had life in my cheeks and I was in less pain: I was going again.

My routine, set by Dr Liane Weber at Grand Park, combined daily visits in the caves with physiotherapy, hydrotherapy in the hotel’s thermal water pool and manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). This was another therapy that filled me with scepticism – particularly when it turned out to be akin to soft skin brushing — until I was kept awake until 1am the night of my first treatment, with burning hot legs as my body rid itself of toxins. MLD is used post-operatively in hospitals in Austria; this nation seems far more connected to nature.

I wish I’d taken 'before and after’ photos of my knee — when I arrived my entire left leg was red and blotchy, swollen and with really poor circulation and desperately lacking muscle tone. A week later, I literally bounced out of the hotel, almost forgetting my crutches discarded in the corner of my hotel room. I hadn’t taken a painkiller since the plane on the way over.

The staff at Grand Park felt like friends, they were all so keen to help and interested in my progress — running over with ice packs whenever I appeared in reception and tempting me with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries every morning. I hope to go back for the ski season to try the ski area and do another week of treatment in the caves (usual treatment time is two or three weeks, not one). But for now, I have accelerated down my healing track.

Two weeks after returning home, at seven and a half weeks post-op, my physiotherapists tell me I am at the same stage as someone who had their ACL reconstruction three months ago. Today I went out on my road bike, and I have been riding horses since I returned home on 3 June. I have no doubt that the caves, therapy and diet made this amazing difference.

For more information about Grand Park Hotel and the Gastein Healing Caves, visit

Healing an ACL skiing injury: inside the Gasteiner Heilstollen
Healing an ACL skiing injury: inside the Gasteiner Heilstollen


Freelance journalist & editor