Webchat with Liz Earle
Problematic pores? Eager for exfoliation advice? Adult acne that only clears up when you're pregnant? We welcomed queen of skincare Liz Earle to MNHQ in September to field your most complex complexion questions.
Liz is a broadcaster and best-selling author of more than 30 books covering a wide variety of beauty, health and lifestyle issues. She is also co-founder of the award-winning Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare range. Liz Earle products are beloved by Mumsnetters, and her Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser is cited across the boards as a 'must-have' beauty product.
StantonHarcourtTheThird: I have had eczema and sensitive skin all my life, and have loved using your products over the 10 years. However, I now seem to have developed a spot problem on my neck and upper back. can you recommend something that will cope with sensitive eczema prone skin, and spots?
Liz: Sorry to hear about the spots - if they have just started after a decade are they perhaps hormonally related? Could be worth a GP blood test for hormone fluctuations. Meanwhile, do you have someone who could Cleanse & Polish your back? Also, you could try the Deep Cleansing mask, which is very good as it contains calming and healing propolis and manuka honey.
JulesJules: I can never decide which moisturiser to go for as my skin ticks several boxes - tends to be combination, slightly sensitive, getting a bit haggard er, mature. Which would you recommend? And do you use serum as well as, or instead of moisturiser?
Liz: If you have mature, sensitive, combination skin, I would definitely recommend our Superskin Moisturiser and Superskin Concentrate. I think that a little Superskin magic is just what your skin needs. Specially formulated with powerful naturally active ingredients rich in GLA, omega-3 and antioxidants, these botanical skin-savers plump, smooth and deeply moisturise mature skin.
Use our Superskin Concentrate as a restoring night-time treat for your skin after cleansing and toning before or after moisturising. With softening argan and organic rosehip oils, soothing neroli, lavender and chamomile essential oils plus protective natural source Vitamin E. Kim and I actually made Superskin Moisturiser for ourselves as we grew older - this rich luxurious and fragrance-free moisturiser is specially formulated to help mature skin. I would never leave home without it.
margherita76: When I buy a moisturiser, the one thing that always gets me confused is if we should buy one for the day and one for the night? Is it just a matter of SPF?
Liz: That's why our moisturisers are for both daytime and night-time use - although if you do like a richer, more nourishing cream you can use Superskin at bedtime. I do think you need to use a separate sunscreen when going out into the sunshine (not so critical in wintertime). Do remember than make-up gives some degree of physical protection too - ie foundation, powder, will give some UV cover also.
deepdarkwood: Other than your own products, what do you recommend for fabulous skin <hoping for wine and curry, but know it's more likely to be water and sleep>?
Liz: You are right, water and sleep are essential for healthy beautiful skin but here are five other top tips.
- Keep it simple. As far as our skincare routine is concerned, keep it simple, as more is not necessarily better.
- Feed your skin. I swear by natural-source Vitamin E as an internal and external natural beautifier as it's the most important of all the antioxidant vitamins for helping to maintain a youthful glow.
- Never ever use soap and water on your face! All soap is alkaline (some soap very strongly so) and our skin is naturally slightly acidic, so every time you wash with soap you upset the delicate pH balance.
- Switch to plant power. Pure plant oils are naturally rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients and do more good for your skin than bland mineral oil or paraffin waxes.
- For brighter, smoother skin on your body, I highly recommend body brushing. It's an easy and inexpensive way of keeping the skin smooth, especially on lumpy, bumpy areas such as upper arms, hips and thighs. Use a long-handled, natural bristle brush to literally brush she skin from top to toe (working upwards from the soles of the feet), concentrating on hips and thighs to help shift cellulite.
Oh yes - don't forget wine is full of healthful antioxidants (especially red) and I had a curry last night so maybe that helps, too. Laugher and sleep are also good for you.
haliborange: Since I turned 30 I have the skin of a very unfortunate teenager, which is terribly annoying since I had about three spots during the whole of my teens! The only time my skin is OK is when I am pregnant and obviously I have no desire to spend my life that way.
I was wondering what routine you would recommend for my troublesome skin, given that I have quite a high-powered job, two kids, a falling-down house and very little time for facials etc. Also, when I do get a spot, what should I do about it? My inclination is to pick at it until there is nothing more to pick but I don't want to end up looking like Kevin the teenager.
Liz: Acne occurring past your teens can either be hormonal, stress or diet related. I would advise against a high intake of salt, sugar and cow's milk, and recommend you choose anti-inflammatory foods (such as garlic/omegas 3 & 6) and food rich in antioxidants.
Select skincare products high in protective ingredients such as naturally sourced vitamin E and plant oils. Our Deep Cleansing Mask (with green clay and manuka honey) is a great treatment for excess oils, inflammation and breakouts. It can be mixed with Cleanse & Polish or used alone as an intensive mask twice weekly for 10 minutes.
With spots, my top tip is to avoid squeezing. Although tempting, spots should be left alone to heal - squeezing can result in painful infection, scars and cross-contamination. To help clear breakouts, regularly apply an alcohol-free spot treatment that won't irritate the skin. Essential oils including antiseptic and antibacterial tea tree oil, purifying melissa and healing lavender will stop spot-causing bacteria in its tracks.
Curlylox: Can you recommend something for acne scarring please?
Liz: Superskin Concentrate is really good for this. Not an overnight miracle cure but used little and often is can really help, thanks largely to the organic rosehip oil it contains (don't use this on 'active' acne though as it could cause a flare-up).
I also use our Superbalm Concentrate on post-surgical scarring, stretch marks and other similar issues.
mackerel: I really like the Superskin Moisturiser in the winter when my skin is very dry and I'm getting a bit wrinkly too, but as I have vitiligo on my hands, arms and feet which started after my first pregnancy, I've been advised to use a high SPF on my face to limit the possibility of vitiligo spreading there (something I'm quite worried about).
I'm slightly confused about your facial moisturisers and the SPF issue. Do they offer the same degree of protection as other face creams?
Liz: Really it's best to use a separate sunscreen to give you proper protection, especially when dealing with something as tricky as vitiligo. We have a great mineral-only sunscreen, which I use on face and body - less likely to irritate sensitive skins than the synthetic variety (watch out for benzophenones and cinnamates on the ingredient listings - can be problematic for some, especially with prickly heat).
WreckoftheHesperus: Do any of your products help stop cream foundation sliding off the skin after about 30 minutes?
Liz: You could try Skin Repair Light. Very matte and loved by make-up artists as a great base for the skin. Good at 'mattifying' too if you have shiny patches.
Dreamsinbinary: I like the Instant Boost Skin Tonic very much (it smells divine) but what does toner do?
Liz: Often ignored, toner is useful for temporarily refining the appearance of open pores and prepares skin for moisturiser. Instant Boost Skin Tonic does exactly what it says on the bottle - gives skin a visible lift and boost. I can really see a difference in terms of brightness and vitality on the days when I use the tonic versus the days I don't.
I also use our spritzer version to rehydrate skin when I need a boost; I took it to hospital recently in my labour bag and I keep a small spritzer bottle in the glove box of the car! It's also great for setting your make-up and giving a fresh, dewy look.
ilovemydogandMrObama: While I try to use only natural sun cream, and love yours, I'm quite concerned about the effectiveness.
Liz: Using the right type of sun cream is crucial. I only ever use a sun cream with a physical barrier, such as a blend of the minerals titanium and zinc oxide, which give broad-spectrum UVA/UVB coverage. These minerals stay on the surface of the skin and act as a superfine protective veil, literally bouncing the rays away from the skin.
All sun protection products, conventional and mineral, must undergo stringent testing before they go on sale. New EU labelling guidelines recommend that UVA (ageing) protection must equal one-third of a product's stated SPF levels, which relate to UVB (burning) protection. You can be sure your sun cream conforms to these new guidelines by looking for the round UVA symbol on the pack.
I firmly believe suncare should focus on high-performance, safe, mineral-based sun protection with added skin-saving benefits from potent plant-based antioxidants, such as green tea and pomegranate. Mineral-based sunscreens are also the safest for your skin as they reflect away rather than absorb harmful UVB and UVA rays, which can lead to skin damage and premature ageing, and they provide protection from the moment they are applied.
They are also far less likely to cause skin sensitivity than synthetic chemical versions (I've written quite a bit about this on our website and in my Skin Secrets book).
JackieNo: How young would you suggest is OK to start using the Cleanse and Polish? My daughter is only 10, but is getting quite spot-prone around her nose. Would C&P help, and should she use the light moisturiser as well, or just C&P on its own?
Liz: I also have a daughter fast approaching 10 and she uses C&P a couple of times a week. She doesn't need Skin Repair Light yet - probably around the age of 13-14, depending on whether she turns out to have inherited my dry skin or not.
Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser is the most perfect choice as it gently exfoliates and deeply cleanses pores without stripping or irritating hormonally upset skin. Its blend of pure plant oils (not pore-clogging mineral oils) dissolves plugs of sebum whilst purifying extracts of antiseptic eucalyptus and rosemary help bust spot-causing bacteria.
The muslin cloth is also perfect for the gentle daily exfoliation needed to keep skin clear. Good for both boys and girls, Cleanse & Polish is the most-pinched item from my bathroom by my teenage daughter and son (but it gives great skin results, so I don't actually mind!).
Pannacotta: I love the Liz Earle skincare range but have stopped using it since the company was taken over by Avon. One of the main reasons I used Liz Earle skincare was for its strict no animal testing policy; Avon doesn't share this approach so I no longer shop at Liz Earle.
Liz: I'm really sorry to hear that you have stopped using our products. However, let me reassure you that nothing has changed and that none of our products or ingredients are tested on animals. We are still BUAV and still operate a fixed cut-off date. Avon fully supports all of our brand values and will not change any of this. Ever.
rookiemater: I didn't know the Liz Earle range had been taken over by Avon until this thread. The sad consumer sucker that I am it makes me less likely to pay top range prices for a mid/low range brand. Liz, what made you do this?
Liz: The reason is not to change anything in the UK in any way at all, but to give us the resources and local knowledge needed to take our small but highly-prized Naturally Active Skincare range and our message worldwide. Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare will continue to operate as an independent, stand-alone beauty brand, led by my co-founder Kim Buckland, me and our original management team. No changes there at all - and none planned either.
Our new ownership gives us an international platform to fly the flag globally - but we will remain firmly rooted in our home in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, which will remain the brands heart and home. We are all very excited by the new opportunities now open to us. Really hope this goes some way to reassure you.
Sixtyfootdoll: As nice as your packaging is, there is a lot of it. Are you going to reduce it?
Liz: Well, we use a lot less than many beauty brands with their cellophane-encased boxes etc. Over the years though we've been working hard to improve our environmental impact in many small ways, all of which are starting to add up to a big difference.
Our packaging development manager is part of our Green Team and by using the hierarchy of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Recover, we are constantly and actively looking at improving both our primary and secondary packaging footprint. The vast majority of our packaging is already made from recyclable materials. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is predominantly used in our range. All of these packs can be placed in your recycling bins for collection and sorting.
We've also been working hard to reduce the number of plastic bags we have to use as a business and our Green Team has been able to cut these by 95%.
curlytops58: What about the Fair Trade side? I know that not all parts of the product can be protected but it surely stands a better chance with a smaller organisation?
Liz: I agree - we work with so many overseas NGOs in developing countries as well as organic farmers and growers more locally in the UK. Fairtrade was originally developed for food ingredients, so there are only a few ingredients that can be used in skincare that are classified as Fair Trade. However, we always consider a great number of factors, including local, sustainable, organic, community projects, support for the smaller farmer etc when sourcing our ingredients. It is so important to us that we have our own in house ethno-botanist, Jennifer Hirsh.
ASecretLemonadeDrinker: Are you ever going to think about branching into cosmetics? I love going quite bare-faced, but I would love to see a 'matching' simple set of make-up that I know is good quality like the other products, and that the ingredients work together.
Liz: Our customers really are at the heart of everything we do, so we pay close attention to their requests and needs. Although there are no immediate plans to launch a cosmetics range, its something that we know our customers would love (and is something I definitely would love to launch).
Pollytechnique: Is there a reason why your products are not widely available in shops, eg Boots? Is that your decision, or theirs?
Liz: We really pride ourselves on great customer service; from the way our in-house ethno-botanists expertly source our naturally active ingredients, to the careful hand-tissue-wrapping of our products before they are mailed to our customers so they arrive like a special present, to the information-packed newsletters that we send to our customers and the specialist training of our customer care team.
Customer service is at the heart of our brand and because of our commitment to service and John Lewis offered us the perfect retail opportunity to put this into practice. It is a partnership between two companies with a like-minded philosophy of delivering first-class service, honesty and integrity and with stores that provide national coverage in key cities and towns across the UK. Every store has dedicated Liz Earle customer advisers who are experts in all things 'Liz Earle', drawing on their expertise to resolve any skin concerns or questions a customer may have. All this takes time and we have yet to be stocked in every John Lewis branch.
EstroGena: Would you ever consider plastic surgery?
Liz: Well I haven't so far, and I also don't do any Botox or fillers, face-freezers etc. Any procedure carries a risk, however small, so it really has to be a personal decision of risk versus benefit. I have to say, more broadly speaking, that I don't think we should obsess about every wrinkle - ageing is not a disease needing treatment.
Pennies: How come there are no paraben-free SPF15 (or more) daily moisturisers on the market? I'm also interested in your view on parabens in cosmetics in general.
Liz: Firstly, I have to say that I don't know about all products on the market but I think you have raised two very interesting points - parabens and UV moisturisers. Ultimately, product safely is of absolute and paramount importance, especially when products are being used around the eyes and mouth or any delicate skin areas. I have bought non-preserved products in the past only to find they have grown some pretty nasty bugs.
According to leading British dermatologist Professor Michael Cork, some unpreserved or poorly preserved skincare has been found to contain the superbug MRSA and could even be fatal. So I hope that puts the safety issue into some kind of perspective. Parabens occur naturally in nature - blueberries (ironically a 'superfood') are full of them and are the reason they last longer in the fruit bowl than strawberries. Their bad press can be traced back to just one piece of (now discredited) research, which even the author has admitted to being flawed.
If you would like to find out more about parabens please take a look at our online preservative fact sheet. I've written about this issue at length (also in my Skin Secrets book) as I think it's really important.
If we then turn to UV moisturisers, this is a product area that I have also thought long and hard about and I'm not sure it's a good combination. If we think about UV protection then this has to be regularly applied and at a level to ensure the right amount of protection. A moisturiser is used in such a small amount that its UV screening properties end up being extremely small (some might say negligible).
If you were to apply a moisturiser at the level needed for sun protection (ie very thickly) then you could start to overload the skin. Although a moisturiser is important during the day, it is equally important at night and of course we don't then need UV protection then. So, given all this, I genuinely believe it is better to have a separate moisturiser and then a sun-protection product that I can wear with it to ensure that I have enough protection without overloading my skin.