Top skin tips from a travel writer
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.