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Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid, pronounced as ‘sally-sillic’, is a beta hydroxy acid. You may have heard this being abbreviated to ‘BHA’ and wondered what the heck it stood for! Another abbreviation you may have heard is ‘AHA’ which stands for ‘Alpha Hydroxy Acids’. 

AHA and BHA are organic acids that are used in skin care. BHA’s like Salicylic acid, are better for oily skin types or acne prone skin. This is due to BHA’s being more soluble in oil than in water. AHA’s are better for treating sun damaged skin and sun spots.

So back to Salicylic acid specifically! I wanted to write a blog about this as it is a key ingredient that is added into a major amount of premium and drugstore skincare at the moment and it could be confusing as to whether you need it or not!

Salicylic acid is a derivative of aspirin and has antibacterial properties. It is mainly used as a non-beaded exfoliant ingredient to unclog pores. It dissolves keratin and regulates skin cells. Due to its ‘stripping power’ it is really important to try and use in the evenings. If you do use it in the morning you will need to use a high SPF to protect your skin throughout the day as you will have just removed your skins first layer of defense which is usually made up by a thin layer of dead skin cells. 

Not only is it a great product for targeting acne prone skin, black heads and white heads, but it can also fade dark spots and discolouration like melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (discolouration left after a spot goes.) If it is only the dark spots that is an issue then AHA’s would target this skin problem better. 

The strength of the ingredient is important to note and gradually building up your usage is critical. Anywhere between 0.5% and 2.0% is safe to use. Overuse can cause mild stinging and skin irritation. Salicylic acid should not be used by pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding.

Hopefully this has helped you understand Salicylic acid and analyse if it is something you feel you need in your skin care regime or not. Here are some products I would recommend.

Nip & Fab have recently released multiple skin care ranges specialising in power ingredients. Their teen range is the Salicylic acid range. They are all cruelty-free products. If you are environmentally conscious maybe avoid the pads and face masks as they are one use only products.


My new favourite versatile skincare range Paula’s Choice have a great collection of BHA products with sample products you can order and try. This is also a cruelty-free company.

The Ordinary have a great skincare range that is cruelty-free with 2% salicylic acid. 

*If you have any skin concerns please speak to a dermatologist before using Salicylic acid.

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Sensitive Skin

Sensitive Skin is a recognised skin type, although surprisingly there is no dermatological definition of what sensitive skin actually is. It is more so defined by individuals experiences and like all things some individuals are affected more seriously than others. Common side effects of sensitive skin include:

  • Sometimes feels hot and itchy after cleansing
  • Flares up easily after using new skincare
  • Is more irritated at certain times in the menstrual cycle
  • Can be oily, combination, dehydrated or dry
  • Can be sporadic 
  • Is prone to being hot with itchy red blotches that get worse if they are touched
  • Sometimes looks angry post-shower
  • Burns fast in the sun 

If you are looking at those symptoms and I’ve hit the nail on the head- then you have sensitive skin. The most important thing to understand about sensitive skin is that each case is different. What works for one ‘sensitive skin sufferer’, might not work for the next. It’s important to spend more time getting to know your skin and what it does and doesn’t respond well to. 

The process of getting to know your skin can be time consuming, but will be rewarding when you find out what pesky ingredient is causing you jip! You need to scale your skincare right back and then introduce ingredients one by one over a long period of time. Ingredients that are most likely to be the culprit, (and are a good place to start), are:

  • Sodium lauryl sulphate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulphate
  • Salicylic acid
  • AHAs
  • Alcohol
  • Mineral/palm/paraffin oils
  • Fragrances (very common culprit for sensitivity problems)
  • Parabens
  • Harsh soaps
  • Toners
  • Astringents (ingredients that are designed to make the skin less oily)

There are other reasons someone might have sensitive skin for example eczema or rosacea. For this reason, always consult a dermatologist before trying this method of getting to know your skin. If it is one of these conditions your dermatologist will be more equipped to help you with your skin.

Download the app ‘Think Dirty’. This is an amazing tool where you can scan the barcode of products or search by name and it will give you a break down of all the ingredients in that product and how ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ they are. People also review products on this app and it can be really helpful to have a read through and see what other people with similar skin types say! 

A Skincare Plan for Sensitive Skin


  • Cleanse
  • Hydrating serum if dryness is a problem
  • Moisturiser
  • Sunscreen- opt for sunscreens with zinc or titanium (mineral-based sunscreens) rather than those with chemical filters that have the potential to aggravate sensitive skin.
  • Makeup


  • Cleanse
  • moisturise

Avoid exfoliation altogether as it will aggravate the skin even more. If you have any urgent sensitive skin issues please see your doctor or dermatologist. For any product recommendations please get in touch at 

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Acrylic Nails

I have recently trained and received a qualification in applying, maintaining and removing acrylic nails. Inevitably, conversation regarding Chinese nail salons and their code of practice surfaced whilst on the course. So for the benefit of my readers, I thought I would amalgamate the information I’ve collected, along with some research, to let you know some facts. 

Firstly, for any of you who do not know, acrylic nails are nail extensions that are held on by
a mixture of monomer and powder that combine and solidify on top of the nail. Extensions can be filed to create a variety of nail shapes. With regular maintenance and correct aftercare they will last for months. Acrylic is a porous product which enables you to soak extensions off
using 100% acetone.

There are a large number of acrylic nail shops in the UK, whose workers are predominantly of asian heritage. They are known for being cheaper, quicker and there is one in almost every town in the UK. There have been growing concerns about the materials these salons are using. There are 2 types of acrylic liquid monomer used by nail salons around the world – Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) and Methyl Methacrylate (MMA).

MMA(Methyl methacrylate) liquid monomer – is a chemical compound that is mainly used in the dental industry for the production of bridges and crowns. It’s a flammable liquid that serves as bone cement – after it solidifies – during joint replacement surgical operations by orthopedic surgeons. MMA also found extensive usage in the production of resins, Plexiglas, and some flooring products.

When used on nails, MMA monomers – composed of tiny molecules – penetrate both the nail plate and skin pores, consequently hardening underneath and sandwiching the natural nails. MMA monomers are extremely hard when they solidify and are significantly more rigid than your natural nail.

When you accidentally jam a fingernail made with Methyl methacrylate, its resistance to breaking is so enormous that your natural nails can rip off completely. This brings about excruciating pain, especially if the breakage occurs near the eponychium. Permanent loss and damage of natural nail, numbness of the fingers, and severe infections are the outcomes of such an occurrence.

MMA is also resistant to solvents, thus it takes an unbearably long time for users to remove MMA acrylic after soaking their fingers in acetone. If you don’t have the luxury of time, the nail technicians will suggest to drill it off. Some nail techs may even decide to forcefully remove the MMA acrylic by forcing the tip of a nail between the enhancement and the natural nail. This can be an agonizing experience that you should not have to go through. What is more, some nail techs don’t care about preserving the natural nail underneath the enhancement product.

MMA cannot stick well without grooves, so nail techs proceed to create them with drills, thus damaging the nail plate in the process while prepping for the enhancement. MMA was not designed to be handled by novices or used outside the confines of a laboratory, but by well-trained professionals within a heavily controlled lab environment. Even though MMA is only dangerous in its liquid state and less dangerous when hardened, it is still not considered safe to use by non-professionals.- UV Hero. (2019). MMA vs EMA Acrylic. Confused? Here’s What You Need to Know!. [online]

A little bit of History

Back in the early 1970’s the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began receiving complaints about injuries caused by nail products containing Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). They began investigating these complaints of fingernail damage and deformity as well as dermatitis. After lots of research and many discussions with medical experts, the FDA filed several lawsuits and injunctions against companies in the US. The FDA made it clear to the public that MMA was not to be used in nail products. Despite internet rumours, MMA is not completely banned  in the US (read about nail products from the FDA site). It is however banned by over 30 states in the US that chose to take action themselves. It is also banned in Canada and New Zealand. MMA is not “banned” in Australia either. Why? Because it “can be used safely in other areas” (eg. dentistry).

Ok, so EMA is Good, MMA is Bad – remember that.

Why do some salons use it?

NSS or unsafe nail salons use MMA because it is much cheaper than the safer alternative EMA. It also sets harder and stronger – which may appear to be a good thing, but it isn’t (see below). They think that it will last longer on your nails.

What MMA really does to you

Exposure to MMA can cause:

  • Irritation
  • Redness and Swelling
  • Skin Sensitisation (tingling or numbness)
  • Respiratory problems or eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Discolouration of the nails (yellowing)
  • Nail damage or deformities
  • It’s not really known for certain whether or not MMA can cause problems in a human fetus. However, it is known that inhaled MMA can reach an unborn child.

What to be on the lookout for?

    • Unusually low prices – MMA costs about a quarter of the price of EMA and is found in discount salons
    • Nail Technicians wearing masks – certainly not an immediate indication of MMA use (many employees wear masks), but all the clues will start to add up
    • Vague description of brand and products – unlabelled containers and technicians who won’t (or can’t) tell you what they are using. (No recognisable brands such as The Manicure Company, CND or Star.)
    • Much stronger odour – acrylic nails do tend to have a distinctive odour, but MMA has a much stronger and unpleasant fruity odour
    • The acrylic nail turns yellow over time
    • Electric files used on the natural nail – very dangerous and a big warning sign
    • The acrylic nail is very hard and not flexible
    • They will ask you to pay in cash so that there is no record of you attending that nail salon should anything go wrong.

-Polished Beauty. (2019). The Dangers of Cheap Nail Products (MMA) in Cheap Nail Salons. [online] 

“BBC Inside Out has discovered that many budget nail salons are using methyl methacrylate (MMA) which can cause permanent nail damage and severe allergic reactions. 

When reporter Amy Harris visited one nail bar for an undercover manicure she was told they did not use MMA. But when the air sample was tested at the University of Leicester’s laboratories, she discovered MMA had been used.”- BBC News. (2019). How safe is your manicure?. [online]

Legally, only one person needs to be fully qualified in a nail salon if the other people in the salon are ‘training’. They can be in ‘training’ for 1 year before they must get their acrylic nail qualification. Conveniently, once the year is almost up, these unqualified nail technicians then are moved to another franchised nail salon in a different area where the process starts all over again. These workers often don’t get paid fairly for their work, they don’t get to keep their tips and there are rumours that large groups of them are forced to share overcrowded accommodation all in the name of cheap labour. 

If you suspect that you have been exposed to MMA acrylic during your last visit to your local beauty salon, there is no need to fret. The first thing you should do, however, is to remove the nails immediately. If you can’t do it without hurting your natural nails, pay a visit to a reputable salon to get it done for you. Since proper nail maintenance requires getting a fresh set of nails regularly, switch over to EMA-based acrylic nails as soon as possible, and your worries will be over.

*Read on for definitions of the ingredients and processes used in acrylic nails.*

And in short, be aware of the products you are exposing your body to. Do your own research and be educated on MMA and the problems it can cause. Always go to a qualified nail technician who uses branded products from their original packaging. Be aware that some of these nail salons are not what the are cracked up to be!!

The Science

LIQUID (MONOMERS)​ – these are liquids that are used in liquid and powder nail extensions. They ​are a molecule that can mix chemically to other molecules to form a polymer. Monomers consist of one basic molecule, whereas polymers are made up of many monomers. Billions of molecules must react to make just one sculptured nail.

POWDER (POLYMER)​ -​ ​Polymers are very long chains of molecules linked together. Polymers can be liquids but in the nail industry they are usually solids in the form of a powder. The name Polymer comes from two words poly = many, mer = units.

INITIATOR- is an ingredient within a product that will start a reaction in the liquid and powder system. The initiator is present within the polymer (usual Benzyl Peroxide).

CATALYST- is a chemical that speeds up or slows down a chemical reaction. In the instance of applying acrylic nails the catalyst is the heat in the air and the heat in your clients hands.

POLYMERIZATION- is the setting that takes place when a monomer and a polymer are mixed together. To control this reaction an Initiator is needed to start the reaction and a catalyst to control the reaction. – Capital (2019)


BBC News. (2019). How safe is your manicure?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

Capital (2019). BEGINNERS ACRYLIC NAIL EXTENSIONS. Faceforward Ltd, p.4.

Polished Beauty. (2019). The Dangers of Cheap Nail Products (MMA) in Cheap Nail Salons. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

UV Hero. (2019). MMA vs EMA Acrylic. Confused? Here’s What You Need to Know!. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

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Combination Skin

Combination skin is another one of the more common skin types where you experience oily skin in some areas of your face and dry skin in other areas. Most commonly the oily areas are in the T-Zone and drier on the cheeks but regardless of where the problem lies, the way to treat it is the same. Most people will experience mild forms of combination skin at some point in their lives and it’s the skin type most likely to be affected and brought on by hormones.

Typical Symptoms that would suggest you have combination skin:

  • Dry or flaky skin around the upper or lower cheek area
  • Flaky skin around your nose but also oily at the same time 
  • Oily T-zone
  • Larger pores around T-Zone (nose, chin and forehead)
  • Makeup tends to slide off of the t-zone first and ends up patchy
  • The feeling of tightness when you get out of the shower.

Using products that contain harsh or skin-aggravating ingredients will inevitably dry out some areas of your face; while stimulating oil production in other parts (especially around the nose) that were already oily. This is where the trick lies with treating combination skin. You have to very carefully select your products and apply them to different locations on your face as and when they are needed. This sounds like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of it you’ll see good results very quickly.

Get a sample set of Skin Balancing Products from Paula’s Choice for just £4 and find what works for you!

Oil-absorbing or matte-finish ingredients that work great on the oily areas, will be troublesome on the dry areas. This means you will need to apply a more emollient moisturizer over the dry areas, but if you apply that all over your face, the oily areas will become oilier. That’s why keeping things separate is important. And the same for the products that absorb oil; keep them away from the dry areas.

For the oily areas, you will need to use the lightest weight but most effective formulas possible. Potent, concentrated amounts of beneficial ingredients in products with a gel, thin lotion, or liquid texture will work great over the entire face. You should then only need to use an emollient booster, serum, or moisturizer over the dry areas, including around the eyes. The secret to balancing combination skin is knowing when and where to layer your product.

As for cleansers, you can choose gentle formulas labeled for combination skin, avoid foaming face wash and in particular those containing sulphates (SLS). A balm, oil or cream cleanser is more sympathetic to unbalanced skin. For your daytime moisturizer with sunscreen, go for the lightest possible formula but apply a rich moisturizer or facial oil to the dry areas first.

A Skincare Plan for Combination Skin


  1. Cleanse 
  2. Serum – (Use an antioxidant serum if ageing is a concern)
  3. Moisturise with a product that contains SPF. For combination skin, an extremely feather-light formula with a soft matte finish works best all over the face and don’t forget to apply to the neck! Click on the link to view our recommended product, pictured left.
  4. Then apply your makeup. (Mattifying primer and setting spray are your best friend!!)


  1. Double cleanse (the goal is for it to effectively remove impurities, debris, and makeup without leaving skin feeling tight or dry or greasy.)
  2. Spot Treatments if needed.
  3. Use a nighttime moisturizer with a gel or serum all over your face that contains things like antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients. These are imperative to help calm skin, lessen excess oil on skin’s surface, and improve dry areas, including around the eyes. When combined, these types of ingredients have amazing anti-aging properties for the skin. Apply an emollient serum or oil booster to relieve any dryness and give those areas extra nourishing enriched hydration, while leaving the oily areas with just a layer of lightweight moisture.

Exfoliation or face masks once a week can also provide benefit to this skin type without causing any problems with irritation. You can also use a gentle, non-abrasive, leave-on BHA exfoliant. This is an optimal choice for gently but effectively exfoliating combination skin. A BHA exfoliant helps skin shed dead skin normally without abrasion (meaning no scrubs or stiff cleansing brushes), unclogs pores, reduces oily skin, and at the same time gently smooths rough, dry, flaky skin and revives a healthy glow. For combination skin, a gel or weightless fluid or water-like liquid BHA exfoliant is best.

If you would like any more advice on what to use on combination skin please get in touch!