sali hughes skin and me life lessons

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Skincare Life Lessons with Sali Hughes  

Beauty and skincare polymath Sali Hughes is one of the UK’s most successful beauty journalists. She is also a broadcaster, podcaster and successful brand founder. Sali’s the author of the delightful new book, Everything Is Washable & Other Life Lessons and we’ve rounded up a few of our fave bits of her advice – from retinoids to mental health – to keep your life (and skin!) in order.


What are retinoids? A reminder: The term retinoid encapsulates both over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoids. These derivatives of vitamin A are converted into retinoic acid for use in skincare.

Retinoids are superstars of the skincare world because they help to clear, smooth and boost collagen production for a healthy, glowing complexion. Retinoids are used to accelerate skin cell production and fight acne but also tackle skin-ageing.

Tretinoin (you may find this prescription-only active ingredient in your Daily Doser) is the most powerful retinoid available. 

Here’s Sali’s take on retinoids, and what they can do for you.

Sali on retinoids:

“I myself have a love/hate relationship with retinoids, having used them on and off for over a decade. I love what retinoids do to my pores (they smooth them dramatically), how they curtail my milia (tiny white lumps around my eyes) and how they all but magic away my pigmentation….But what I don’t love so much is actually using them.” 

On easing into retinoids:

“It is perfectly fine to combine long-term retinoid use with other active skincare like acid exfoliants, and antioxidants like vitamin C. I use all three most days (the former before bed, the rest in the morning). But in the beginning, while your skin is becoming accustomed to any retinoid, give it space by temporarily pausing the others.”

On retinoids and consistency

“Retinoids must be used regularly to be effective. After any stage-gating [increasing concentration of active ingredients] nightly application is optimal and important if you’d like to see consistent improvements. Give it a good six months, perhaps even nine, before taking a view on whether you’d like to continue.”

On retinoids and sunscreen

“You simply must wear SPF by day when using retinoids by night. It does not matter if you didn’t apply it last night, or if it doesn’t seem sunny. When you sign up to any retinoid, you sign up to daily sunscreen of at least factor 30”

Self esteem and good mental health

Our Dermatologist’s at Skin + Me has spoken previously about the brain-skin connection, the value of managing stress and working to maintain good mental health as part of our holistic wellbeing. It’s an ongoing commitment. But here’s the good news, there’s lots of little things we can do everyday to tip the positive wellbeing balance in our favour. 

Self-compassion when we look in the mirror, reframing how others see us and something as simple as a long bath can keep things in perspective. Here’s Sali’s take on tiny acts for mental health that can work for you. 

On how to look in the mirror

“Women are lousy at looking in the mirror. They are too critical, too blind to see the beauty. Quicker to spot perceived flaws than virtues. While it’s no wonder we often see ourselves described negatively, I wish we were encouraged to see ourselves as the vast majority of people do.”

When someone glances in your direction, the best they will think, oh so fleetingly, is ‘she looks nice’, then be on their way. At worst they will think nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that, in its own way, is wonderful.”

On keeping clean

“Simply exchanging a couple of morning showers per week for long evening baths can prove extremely mood-enhancing. It’s part of my ongoing effort to turn the functional into the pleasurable, to reclaim my life from the schedule of responsibilities, to slow the hell down. Keeping clean has become the highlight of my day.”

On accepting what you can and can’t control:

“All any of us can do is live as much as possible offline, clean up our own side of the street, examine our own behaviours and look out for others where we’re able. This has been the hardest lesson to learn. But it’s a shift in attitude I’ve had to embrace for the sake of preserving sanity.”

NOTE: This feature was compiled using Sali Hughes book, Everything Is Washable & Other Life Lessons — available wherever you buy your books.

Don’t forget to check out Sali’s podcast Beyond The Bathroom, conversations with guests including Sabrina Elba, Diane Morgan and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, about all things beauty. That’s our evening listen sorted.

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