Why sugar hates your skin (and how to quit it without going crazy!)

If it wasn’t bad enough that sugar wreaks horrors on our health (diabetes, Alzheimer’s, mood swings, candida, hormonal balances, cholesterol… anyone?) research now shows that it’s terrible for our skin as well. An excessive intake of processed sugars can fast track the aging process, leading to dark circles, wrinkles, fine lines and loss of radiance.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

sugar-and-skinFirst, let’s look at the way sugar wrongs our skin

  • Sugar leads to premature ageing: When sugar enters your blood stream, it binds to proteins in a process called glycation. Glycation destroys the flexibility and density of collagen and elastin (skin’s protein-based building blocks), thereby leading to wrinkles and sagging.
  • Sugar breaks down antioxidants: This breakdown in proteins and collagen also weakens the body’s natural antioxidants, leaving it vulnerable to all kinds of environmental damage.
  • Sugar increases dark circles: The process of glycation produces toxic compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (commonly shortened, appropriately, to AGEs) that are directly responsible for dark under-eye circles, yellowing of skin and dullness.
  • Sugar suppresses the Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH helps regulate body composition, muscle and bone growth, fat metabolism and even the heart function; low levels make you look and feel older.
  • Sugar leads to chronic inflammation: A diet high in sugars is associated with inflammation, which leads to all sorts of skin and health issues (like loss of skin elasticity, broken capillaries and breakdown of cells). The result? Fast track ageing.
  • Sugar decreases the lifespan of skin cells: The sudden spikes in energy intensify the activities of cells and tissues, making them divide more rapidly and thereby decreasing their lifespan.
  • Sugar causes acne: Finally, sugar can also contribute to acne flare-ups, since they rev up all the body’s functions, including oil production.

How much is too much?

Ideally we should eat no processed sugars at all. Instead, sugar should come from  a wholefood diet such as grains, fruit and natural food. The American Heart Association recommends most women get no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day. That’s about 6 teaspoons (or 100 calories) – a little less than the amount in one can of soda. However, the average American woman eats more than 18 teaspoons of sugar every single day.

And exercise? Sorry to break the news but current medical opinion stresses that unless the exercise is extreme and the food is eaten directly afterwards, it is has little effect on blood sugar.

Fresh vegetables salad with croutons and chickenHorrified about the thought of giving up the sweet stuff? There is good news on this front. Forsaking sugar doesn’t have to be a miserable and tasteless existence. Neither should it give you the shakes, destroy all hopes of comfort food or take away the promise of chocolate. Rather, kicking the sugar habit should kick your mood and energy through the roof. So here are my tips to kick sugar without hating your life!

  • Drink water: Sometimes those sweet cravings are actually a sign of dehydration. So, instead of the sugar-laden beverages, opt for filtered water, coconut water or green tea.
  • Read the ingredient labels: Sugar is hidden in unlikely foods, from salad dressing to deli meats. Do a quick scan of the the ingredients and don’t just look for sugar –  it’s often disguised as glucose, evaporated cane juice, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar, fructose, dextrose, caramel or syrup.
  • Switch to low GI foods: Low GI (Glycemic Index) foods like whole grains and nuts, release glucose more slowly and steadily. This avoids the drastic spike and crash normally associated with sugary ingredients. The crash makes you crave even more sugar, thereby creating a vicious cycle.
  • Have a pre-meal: Eat a protein-based snack like hard boiled eggs, or an apple with a dash of almond butter, before hitting a party. This will keep you from making bad choices later in the night.
  • Experiment with spices: Not all spices are hot. Many – like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – will add natural sweetness to your food. Certain spices, such as cinnamon, will also help to lower the blood sugar.
  • Eat every 4 hours: Fill up on healthy foods at periodic intervals so you are able to maintain stable blood glucose levels and don’t get have sugar-rich cravings. The more you eat sugar, the more you’ll crave sweet stuff.
  • Go easy on the booze: Alcohol is metabolized as pure sugar. Plus it makes you hungry, likely to overeat and prone to making poor choices. So, try to cap it at 2 drinks and drink water between refills.
  • Rid your kitchen of sugar: Throw out or give away any foods in your kitchen that contain added sugar. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Relax: Because when you’re exhausted or sleep deprived, the body craves sugar-laden carbohydrates.
  • Slow down: For many of us, sugar has become an emotional crutch, a comfort zone, a reward or a way to relax. Instead of falling upon this sweet poison, slow down and decode your cravings. Identifying the real need behind the sugar is the key to kicking your sugar habit for good.
  • Go gourmet: If you simply have to indulge, stick to dark chocolate or truffles over high sugar candies. When baking, use unrefined sweeteners such as natural honey, molasses or maple syrup.

You slipped up… now what?

However, if you are like me and are reduced to tears with the mere thought of a life lived without chocolates and cupcakes, there is still some hope. What we need is moderation in our diet along with products that can neutralize sugar’s damaging effects on the skin. And the beauty industry is fast coming up with solutions.

How much sugar are you consuming on a daily basis?

12 beauty trends that are going to be HUGE in 2017

Who would imagine that 2017 is already here. And thank God for that. Between Brexit, Donald Trump, India’s demonetisation, the bombings across Europe, the acceleration of the refugee crisis and multiple other national and international issues, 2016 is a year we would soon like to forget. Then there was George Michael’s Christmas swan song, Princess Leia finally succumbing to a greater force and her mother Debbie Reynolds following in grief a day later, and other screen and music legends like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Prince bidding us goodbye… 2016 couldn’t get over soon enough.

Which is why, I guess, we are happy to put on our nostalgic glasses and turn back to the 1980s, when life was a lot more rocking. So bring on the side parts, party glitter, lipstick-bright blush, color-pop lips or lids (or both together – whatever, who cares!) and that reborn love for the ’80s rave scene is going nowhere in a hurry. As an informed opinion, I would say it’s the overarching trend that will inform most of 2017. And here’s how to can incorporate it in your own beauty arsenal.

Color shock

Yellow eyebrows, bright orange lips, violet eyelids, even emerald green earlobes… it’s the time to celebrate color in all its hues, views and avatars. The easiest way to wear it is big and bright, popped onto one feature at a time. Subtle just doesn’t cut it any longer.

Daring lips

Speaking about our new found abhorrence for the subtle, lips are the easiest way to make a statement with bold color. For added fashionista points, go ombre or two-tone: An orange-red combo is the easiest to pull off; try a red-fuschia when you crave more drama! Pair with clean, crisp makeup everywhere else for a modern effect.

The smudgy eye

This one’s my personal favourite: A smudgy, messy, the-morning-after-the-night-before eye that doesn’t require the skills of a cartographer. There are no neat lines, only free-hand application with a lived in feel. Think cigarette ash smudged into the countertop (that was the literal inspiration at Christopher Kane). Powdered kohl and creamy kajal work best. For a more amped up effect, top with a bit of MAC Studio Eye Gloss.

Lipstick = blush

Draping is the new contouring: Applying blush from high up on the corners of your cheeks to the side of your eyes. It lifts up the whole face and makes you appear younger and brighter. The key in draping is to use a bright blush, with additional points for a creamy texture, which is where makeup artists have been putting pinkish lipsticks to double duty. So, you don’t need to invest in a whole new cream blush – just swipe a bit of your lipstick across your cheekbones and blend lightly.

Glitter all the way

Glitter, glitter and more glitter… whether you call it the Pat McGrath effect or attribute it to our reborn love for the ’80s, glitter is the most important product in your party beauty arsenal for the coming months. Pat it onto lips and lids, sprinkle on your hair, rub some into your ear lobes… everything works!

Clean skin

With lips and lids this bold, fresh and clean skin is practically de rigeur. And with celebs going bare faced all over town, this look is set to rule 2017. Keep it creamy and dewy, with concealer only on trouble spots, then play up one feature if you are stepping out for an event or formal dinner. That’s. It.

Pick your plait

From super-tight plaits to the hastily braided topknot, this is clearly the overarching hairstyle of 2017. And it plays well with no-heat hair, so bonus points for going this route.

Quick tip: Rub some styling cream between your palms before braiding to add grip and keep the plait going longer.

Blunt hair

Forget the layers… this is the time of the all-one-length blunt cut. It’s a statement within it’s own simplicity. Pair with…

… deep side parts

Ditch the middle parting for a slick side part. It’s more authoritative than pretty and will polish up your look instantly!

… and no-heat hair

Hair dryers, straighteners, curlers, crimpers… our hair has had it with all the torture and pledged to go heat-free in 2017. Simply work in some leave-in conditioners or styling cream and leave your follicles to recover their health this year.

A photo posted by Sam McKnight© (@sammcknight1) on

Focus point: Ears

This year is going to be all about the year, with attention grabbing earrings ruling the roost. How in the world do you make up your ears, you may well ask. If you want to go the extreme designer route, try painting them with silver glitter (Giamba) or coating them in yellow pigment (Proenza Schouler). For a simpler take, sweep and tuck back hair to leave ears exposed, then dress them up with an ear clip or statement earrings.

Chrome nails

Nails are going super-smooth and mirror-like with a special chrome pigment that’s buffed into nails and sealed with a top coat. For an at-home take on the trend, try one of the new nail polishes that recreate the chrome effect without the buffing.

My first book: The Paris Bath & Beauty Book

A deliciously warm, sweet and slightly powdery mist rising from the cobblestones, flower stands spilling with freshly cut lilies, bustling cafés serving smoky teas, cozy boulangeries waking up the mornings with crusty baguettes, the rich wood and crystal interiors of Versailles, the endless eras of history peaking out of the Louvre, women dressed in red lipstick and a splash of No. 5… is there any wonder that I am totally and irrevocably in love with Paris?

And that I would choose the city of love, lovers and eternal seduction as the inspiration for my very first book?

So, presenting to you: The Paris Bath & Beauty Book. My very first book, co-authored with Chrissy Callahan and published by Cider Mill Press. A book that celebrates the beauty secrets of Parisian women, right from the regal Marie Antoinette face mask to a gorgeously aromatic jasmine hair mask and a luscious rose petal lip balm.

These are recipes gleaned from the pages of history, the dark libraries of musty chateaus and the annals of the Parisian oral tradition, where secrets are handed down through the generations till they almost become coded in the nation’s genetic memory.

paris-bath-and-beauty-bookTime then, to light a pretty candle, cuddle under the duvet, sip on some champagne and pick your favourite recipe. And pretty please do drop me a note, however short, to tell me what you think. Because, like all first loves, this book is the one that will always hold my heart within its pages. I am already working on another one but nothing will ever come close to the thrill I felt when holding this little creation in my hands. So, do let me know if you get your hands on one (it’s available on Amazon here and Barnes & Noble here).

Here are three of my personal favourite recipes to give you a little preview.

paris-bath-and-beauty-book-2Lavender and coconut milk hair mask

Both lavender oil and coconut milk are great at replenishing hydration without weighing down your strands. Bonus: they’ll make your hair smell amazing!

What makes it Parisian?

Because it’s lavender! And because French women love soft, naturally glossy hair that doesn’t need to be subjected to styling tools!

What does it do?

The lavender oil and coconut milk are perfect for softening and adding gloss to dry and brittle strands. This recipe makes enough for shoulder-length hair; there should be just enough to coat your strands lightly without dripping. If you have longer hair you may scale up the volume accordingly, maintaining the one-to-one ingredient ratio.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon lavender oil
1 teaspoon fresh (or canned) full-fat coconut milk

Method

1. Combine the lavender oil and coconut milk

2. Massage the mixture into dry hair before you hit the bed; leave the mask in your hair while you sleep

3. Simply wash and condition your hair as normal in the morning… you won’t believe the texture!

French milled soap

French milling creates the smoothest, most luxurious bar of soap in the world. No self-respecting Parisian would go for anything less!

What makes it Parisian?

This is an ancient soap making technique discovered by French soap makers in the 1700s.

What does it do?

Milling extracts excess water from the soap. This not only creates a longer lasting product but also ensures that the ingredients are well blended and that the soap bar’s texture is smoother and more uniform, sans impurities.

Ingredients

3 bars any unscented natural soap
1 cup warm water or coconut milk
Additives (choose from aromatic essential oils, herbs, colloidal oatmeal, flower petals etc.)
Cheese grater
Double boiler or non-reactive pot
Wooden spoon
Soap molds
Wax paper

Method

1. Grate soap bars into a double boiler or non-reactive pot, then add water or coconut milk; mix well

2. Heat on low, stirring often with a wooden spoon. If bubbles form, stop stirring until they cease; if soap starts drying out, add more water or coconut milk

3. When soap flakes melt, remove mixture from the heat and add additives (except essential oils)

4. Stir mixture until it’s cool but pourable, then add oils

5. Spoon mixture into molds, packing well to avoid air bubbles. Once molds are full, tap gently against counter to settle soap and remove air pockets; then set aside to dry

6. Once hard, remove soap from molds and set on wax paper in a cool, dark place to cure thoroughly (this may take a few weeks)

7. Turn soaps once weekly; they’re ready when you can press them with your finger and not leave an impression

8. Wrap soaps in fun paper of your choice to gift or store!

AlmondsAlmond paste for hands

This paste feels slightly coarse and you will need to really massage it into the skin – but it’s all worth the effort for perfectly smooth hands.

What makes it Parisian?

Almonds from the South of France have long been revered the world over for their skin-nourishing properties and robust scent.

What does it do?

Almonds are très rich in calcium and minerals and leave skin soft and smooth.

Ingredients

1 cup bitter almonds
3 cups whole milk
4-5 white bread crumbs
Mortar & pestle (or food processor, set on low)
Heavy bottomed kettle

Method

1. Blanch almonds in warm water and remove skins; Leave to dry out completely

2. Beat the almonds in the mortar or food processor, adding just enough milk to form a paste.

3. Soak bread crumbs in milk and add them to the almonds; beat together until everything is well mixed. Pour this mixture into the kettle

4. Add enough milk to completely cover the mixture and let simmer over low heat until it turns to the texture of a soft paste; keep adding more milk if the mixture starts to look dry

5. Scoop paste into a glass bottle and store in the fridge

Any thoughts on The Paris Bath & Beauty Book?

How to drop a dress size in 20 minutes

how to drop a dress sizeThe weekend begins and it’s time to get out that body hugging dress and paint the town red! Or is it? Unfortunately, life is rarely that perfect – especially for those of us whose days normally consist of rushed meals grabbed off fast food counters and late night spent chasing deadlines. The result? Bloated bodies that make you want to slip into a tent-shaped kaftan rather than risk the unforgiving cocktail number.

But despair not – there is help at hand, courtesy Thai damsels of centuries past, whose herbal wraps are superb at drawing out body impurities, banishing bloat and firming up the skin. No, you won’t lose 10 kilos in one session and the effects last only a few days, but if it gets me from a size 10 to a size 8 in time for Saturday’s bachelorette bash at the Four Seasons, it’s good enough for my needs! My personal favourite is this super-simple wrap recipe from the Six Senses Spa at the Evanson Hua Hun, which promises to rejuvenate even the most weary.

You will need

1 oz (20 gms) ginger
3 oz (80 gms) turmeric
Handful of rice
Warm water as required

How-to

1. Grind together the ginger and turmeric.

2. Powder the rice to a coarse, grainy texture.

3. Add everything to the warm water and mix till it makes a thick paste.

4. Massage the paste all over your body in circular motions, paying special attention to areas with fatty deposits such as thighs, stomach, hips and upper arms.

5. Leave the paste on for 20 minutes* and then rinse off with warm water. Follow with a moisturiser of your choice.

* You can increase the recipe’s potency by wrapping your body (or at least the problem areas) in plastic sheet or strips of cloth.

how to drop a dress size 2Why it works

This is a super-potent wrap as the ginger stimulates circulation and reduces water retention, turmeric acts as an anti-oxidant and detoxifier, while rice removes dead skin cells and drains impurities through the skin’s outermost layers. What’s your surefire way of losing those pesky pounds in an instant? Do share!

UPDATE: I have been getting a lot of messages from readers who are concerned that turmeric will stain their skin with yellow streaks. Actually, genuine turmeric does not stain the skin when used in face or body pack-appropriate quantities. The problem is we now have a lot of spices that use artificial dyes to give the impression of better quality and it’s these pigments that cause the stain. Just to be on the safe side, I would suggest doing a patch test on the back of your hand before using a turmeric-based skin treatment. And if you do get a stain, rub olive oil or castor oil into the skin and then wipe it off with a warm cloth. You might also try using a mild alcohol-based astringent on the stained area of skin. This should clear it up quickly!