I like to think I’m pretty good at taking care of my skin, but when it comes to knowing the science behind the products, I’m completely lost. The lovely Amber Moss, a bespoke facialist and skincare specialist based in Edinburgh, recently invited me along for a facial and not only did I enjoy a wonderful, relaxing treatment, but I also picked up lots of tips and product recommendations to incorporate into my routine.
“Obsessed with skincare since I was an acne ridden teenage over 20 years ago, through trial and error – plus a real passion – I have built up an extensive knowledge of skincare ingredients and products.” Amber Moss
I loved Amber’s personal and knowledgeable approach to facials; it made the experience much more relaxing and rewarding than other treatments I’ve had in the past. We’ve all been there – having expensive products layered on our face by a beautician who knows little about the ingredients within the products, usually in a clinical setting or a blingy beauty salon. Instead, Amber’s facials are results driven and include follow up skincare advice for people who are serious about skin health.
Amber has a background in environmental science and has developed a love for clean, natural and organic skincare. She’s not affiliated with any brands, so uses a range of products that are naturally active and meet each of her clients’ individual needs. So, I picked her brains and here are some of her very best skincare tips!
What are your hero skincare products?
I’d say that coconut oil is a standout hero product for me. It is really versatile and works wonders in skincare. Coconut oil can be used as a cleanser and eye makeup remover by massaging onto your face and removed with a hot flannel. It can also be used as a moisturiser (face, as well as body) or included in a DIY face mask – there are lots of recipes on the internet. Mix with lemon juice and it makes a great moisturiser for your hands. Ensure that you buy organic and raw coconut oil, which can be picked up for as little as £2.49 from supermarkets.
I also love acid toners. These gently exfoliate the skin without being abrasive. Great for improving skin tone and texture and decongesting it too. You’ll also find that your serums and moisturisers will absorb better too. There are two main types, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs include glycolic and lactic acids, these exfoliate under the surface of the skin and stimulate collagen production and improve fine lines and dullness. They can make your skin sensitive to sunlight, so use an SPF after using them. BHAs exfoliate inside the skin pore and are great for oily or acne prone skin. They keep pores unclogged and regulate sebum production. BHAs however, can be drying on the skin. My suggestion is to build up gradually with acid toners, using a mild AHA a couple of times a week increasing to daily and a BHA once a week or so.
And what skincare products should you avoid?
Definitely avoid sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) in cleansers (in fact any skincare). These are surfactants that are added to products to make them foam. Your skin has a pH of 5.5, using SLSs makes your skin alkaline, which can breed bacteria. Maintaining your skin’s acid mantle helps to avoid breakouts. Cleansers containing SLS can be harsh on your skin, stripping it of its natural oils. Stripped skin will often produce more oil as a defence mechanism to balance out the loss of moisture in your skin.
Instead, use an oil, balm or milk cleanser removed with a hot flannel. There are a number of non-foaming cleansers out there, to name but a few… Clinique’s Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter and Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil, Superfacialist Vitamin C+ Skin Renew Cleansing Oil, REN Rosa Centifolia Cleansing Balm, Merumaya Melting Cleansing Balm… even coconut oil!
What are your tips for dealing with dreaded hormonal spots?
Diet wise – avoid sugar, drink lots of water and reduce your dairy intake. I also suggest taking fish oil daily, or if vegetarian, flax oil, as well as including oily fish, seeds and nuts, as these are high in omegas which have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin.
With skincare, keep it simple and avoid aggressive and abrasive products. Cleanse using an oil or balm cleanser, ensuring you’ve rinsed properly. Use an acid toner and then use a face oil rather than heavy cream. If you have a particularly nasty spot dab an acid toner on it for a minute or so and then put an oil on top. This ensures the spot doesn’t dry out and leave a scar. The Ordinary’s Squalane Oil is good for oily/blemish prone skin.
If you have hormonal spots, don’t wear heavy makeup as it can clog your pores and make your skin worse. Instead keep it light – try tinted moisturisers, rather than long wear foundation. Build up coverage where needed.
What are your best tips for finding great skincare on a budget?
Spend your money on serums and treatments for your skin rather than on cleansing and moisturisers. Although saying that, The Ordinary, which launched last year, has a range of effective skincare treatments at affordable prices. Their no-frills functional skincare offering can be a bit daunting, however there is a great routine guide written by Arly of Detail Oriented Beauty, which is really useful (I have printed it off and laminated a copy – it’s in my bathroom cabinet!).
Go for ‘clean’ skincare, which avoid many key synthetic ingredients such as parabens or synthetic fragrances, and if you can afford it, go for products that are made from natural or organic ingredients and are certified. Also search online for beauty bloggers best buys, there are a number of inexpensive cult products such as Superdrug’s Simply Pure Hydrating Serum (£2.99) and Aldi’s Caviar skincare range that starts at £6.99.
What are the biggest skincare mistakes people make without realising it?
Don’t use face wipes, they don’t clean your face! If you are too tired to take your makeup off last thing at night, do it when you get in the door. I do mine when the kids are in the bath, and see it as a self care ritual rather than a chore. Also, wash your face after you’ve showered, as it will get rid of shampoo and conditioner residue, which can lead to breakouts. It also means you won’t use a foaming face wash and the cleanser you do use will be rinsed off properly!
How would you recommend incorporating facials into your skincare routine?
It depends on a number of different factors. Your skin’s condition, whether you have a particular problem or issue you’re trying to solve, or if you have a special occasion coming up. Needless to say how much you can afford to spend on facial treatments and skincare. For most people that are aiming to maintain healthy skin around every 4-6 weeks is optimal. This is because your skin cells regenerate and shed in this timeframe, and a facial will remove any build up, ensuring your skin will be in best possible condition.
Amber’s bespoke facials encourage collagen production and blood flow. They include advanced facial massage to release facial tension, whilst lifting and sculpting facial muscles, smoothing fine lines and contouring the face, leaving skin glowing and uplifted. A facial with Amber in her gorgeous Edinburgh treatment room is £55, see ambermoss.co.uk for more information.