Capetonian summer

Laying flat down-and-out on my hotel room bed after almost 24 hours awake I still can’t block out the sounds from outside the partially open window. The sounds of cars accelerating unnecessarily fast on the freeway; the melodic bird song commingling with distant laughter from the people down in the parking lot below. And looking out: Signal Hill, majestic and bare, framing the narrow view of Cape Town waterfront from my rooms modest view. in Sweden it’s midwinter right now. In Dubai, it’s winter as well. If anyone from the northern hemisphere can ever truthfully refer to an average of +20C as winter, that is. But in Cape Town, it feels just like the first summer day. A European summer day. Dry, intense heat. Vaguely cloudy, vaguely breezy. Completely enjoyable.

Later I walk down sun-drenched Bree Street and the bottles of red clink in the bag for every step. On both sides of the sloping road quirky cafés and charming eateries line up wall to wall, and I catch myself missing having my regular go-to places. The ones you can only have if you live in a single location. Observing the rambunctious everyday life going on here is like watching a movie. A couple of friends caught up in conversations so captivating their coffee gets cold. A first date noticeable due to an exchange of shifty eyes and an awkwardly large distance between the two. A job interview, palpably stale and a candidate in overdressed attire. While observing these people going on with their lives, I think about how there’s an invaluable value to everyone who lives life likes vagabonds, to have this kind of permanent sanctuary. Somewhere to escape whenever feeling the need to. However, when the sun rises in the south today, and in the north tomorrow, the sanctuaries will never be one of the same. And that’s a sacrifice for some, a blessing for some. Personally, to somehow starting to miss having a place to take for granted, makes me feel a little more mature than before. 

Enjoying a late lunch outdoors at the V & A waterfront enhances my sentiments of this haven. As much as I despise tourists and the mindsets of such, they’re good fun to watch. The German couple next to me insisting on placing their order in German and the waiter rolling his eyes behind their back despite having no problem to understand. He’s done this song and dance before. A British company in the autumn of life a few tables away, laughing genuinely and uncontrollably loud, who have forgotten to look at the menu, even the third time the waiter comes back. Me, being depraved and drinking Shiraz in the middle of the day, watching the clouds rolling in over the ledge of Table Mountain as if to swallow the entire city right before they dissipate into thin air. Kids taking a spin on the big Ferris wheel, screaming jovially to their parents on the ground. To live in a place where real life is so present seems so very attractive while sitting here.

Cape Town is a vivid and colorful city, both metaphorically and literally. It’s not the safest place to dwell, Lord knows, but one might ask oneself where is 2017? There are parts of this multicultural Metropole to avoid, and there are areas so expensive only the most well-heeled elite can afford to sniff. The gaps between the ones who have and the ones who haven’t have deepened, but from an outsider’s perspective it’s not easy to identify the issues. Gentrification has settled a lot of the unrest over time; it’s not hard to recognize that central areas looked a lot different not many years ago. Cape Town is a little like patchwork, and that’s what gives her it’s charm. Shiny facades of glass flashing future, on cracked streets where millions have already walked. Old paint chipping of houses, providing a home to new stores and restaurants. Old fashioned road signs leading the ways for modern cars. If the city were a person, she would have the old humble look of someone where life has left its marks. And that fits with how I see South Africans; strong in their opinions, but polite and passionate, not only at work but in life. Hot-spirited at times, but always honest. And courageous and outgoing, even when a situation might require the opposite.

SKINCARE like your life depended on it

To jump straight to the point; being introduced to this new world of skincare and self-preservation has been an awakening experience for me, and I need to share it without any further delay.

In the time span of five months, my face has gone from being quite gloomy and ordinary, to radiant and extraordinary. My pores have diminished to invisibility, and my fatigue wrinkles are long gone. And people tell this to me, so it’s not in my head. I see vibrancy and luster for the first time; qualities I didn’t know I lacked in the past. And I’d say, when you look a bit more alive, you probably feel a little bit more alive as well. Something which in reality goes beyond the actual skincare and just revolves around a self-orbiting ritual of feeling like you’re making an investment in yourself. Just like going to the gym, or reading a good book can make you feel. That You-time, which is not exactly a boring feeling.

People ask me what my secret to clear skin is, and the answer is simple. Acids. All of them. I’ve come to learn though that the word acid is a highly stigmatized word, and for people to understand that we’re not talking about the clinical-strengths-acids-impossible-to-get-over-desk who Samantha in Sex and the City uses, I’ll explain a bit further. But before doing so, I want to clarify that most people tend to think that acid is an independent product, but this is not the case. Acid is a substance, an ingredient, which mainly can be found in any products of your skincare routine; In your day cream, in your exfoliator, in your night mask etc. I could go on and on about this topic until infinity, but here’s a quick run-through about the two acid types most often found in skincare, before illustrating how I implement them into my routines.

AHA-acid. AHA is the common name for life’s finest or glycolic acid, which can either be naturally extracted from fruit or artificially produced. It removes excessive cellular debris on the skin through a chemical process, which is considerably less abrasive than a peeling with beads, and for that exact reason, it’s also better suited for sensitive skin types. It promotes a more even skin tone by battling both sun damages and hyperpigmentation, and I’ve seen these results in myself. AHA is a water-soluble acid meaning it won’t have the same effect for oily skin as for dry skin, so to everyone with dry or combined skin, listen up! AHA comes in different strengths, and on that same note, it’s very subjective what your skin can tolerate. I don’t mind a little pain to achieve certain results, but that’s just me. The peeling process is as good as invisible on my skin, and only when I’ve used a somewhat stronger acid peel, I can notice it a few days afterward.

BHA-acid. BHA is another name for salicylic acid; an entirely artificial acid which in a way is AHA’s opposite since it’s used for oily and impure skin. This acid immerses into the pores and cowers them by dissolving the fat in them, which works well for both blackheads and acne. I’m not knowledgeable enough to be able to say if BHA is the sole answer for someone with severe acne, but I’ve seen astonishing results for myself and other’s with impurities in their skins. The thing about BHA as well is that it doesn’t dehydrate the skin, like soap or water would, and a dehydrated skin is the root of all evil. BHA is also milder than AHA, but the effects are just as impressive. I sometimes face an oily T-zone, and that’s where BHA comes into my life. All kinds of acids do make the skin quite sensitive to the sun, and since the sun is not as present not as strong in the winter months, there’s no better time to go all in with acids.

This is my full program:

MORNING ROUTINE

1. Facial cleansing. As if waking up in the morning and facing life isn’t enough of an ordeal to start of the day with, you’ll also have to cleanse your face. Because despite how dull and unappealing it is to wet your face and go through this burden, it simply cannot be eluded. Cleansing your face day and night is probably the key element of healthy skin, and I try always to do it in two steps. I force my way into the bathroom where I use a dedicated facial cleansing gel from one of my favorite brands, French La Roche-Posay. Comes in a handy dispenser bottle, and is very simple to administer. I splash some lukewarm water over my face, and then I dispense two to three portions of gel and start massaging it into my face in circling motions. It says on the bottle that you don’t need to rinse afterward, but sometimes I do if I feel like there’s a lot of residual gel left. Easy peasy. This one’s  also rehydrating, and that’s beyond important since dehydrating your skin with hand soap or water is amongst the worst things you can do for your skin. This would trigger your sebaceous glands to produce more fat to compensate for the dryness, and you’d break out in a heartbeat.

1.2 Micellar water. Regardless of how clean you might feel after the first step; you’re not. So what I use next, is an innovation I was enamored with at first sight; Micellar water. Also from La Roche-Posay. Unlike regular water which de facto is extremely dehydrating for your skin micellar water is a gentle solution consisting of particles which absorb impurities and dirt from your skin with a magnetic effect. I use a cotton pad or two over my entire face, and despite how clean my face seem to be, they always come out black. So this is magic kids. Needless to say, micellar water is great for makeup removal even if this isn’t the purpose I use it for. I’ve never used any makeup, but I have a lot of male friends who do, and they love it. Using make-up is permanently damaging to your skin despite what temporary changes it might bring, and that’s been the main factor for why I’ve chosen to refrain. And f there’s something that the skincare world has taught me, it is that proper care will bring you a naturalness makeup will never do. And the simple truth is that healthy skin always wins over makeup.

2. Toner. Since cleansing your face upsets the pH-balance in your skin, I always restore it with one of my favorite products. 2 % BHA liquid from Paula’s Choice, and when I used this the first time, it was like seeing colours again. So needless to add, this is one of many products I use including acid! Due to its watery consistency, I usually use a cotton pad to apply this as well, but you can buy this toner like a gel as well. Whatever floats your boat. If I’m not in a hurry, I’ll leave the BHA for maybe 15-30 minutes to maximize it’s exfoliating, pore-reducing and rehydrating effects, but since this is rarely the case, I just jump straight to the next step.

3. Serum. In all honesty, I don’t always use a Serum because I don’t always feel the need to, but if I find myself in a dry and cold climate, it’s a definite no-go step of my routine. The serum penetrates the skin all the way down to the second layer of skin (dermis) unlike basically all moisturizers which are only absorbed by the outmost layer (epidermis), and hence the serum makes the skin more amenable for the moisture that’s about to hit it. The effect is more long-lasting, which some days is a real bliss. I generally go for one named Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, also from Paula’s choice but I love to alternate.

4. Moisturizer/Essence. Coming down to where I find myself in the world I will use either a regular moisturizer or an essence to moisture my skin. If I’m at home in Dubai or another tropical climate, I’m right now using a cream called Healing cream, from Korean Mayu. This gem has a scent of orange blossoms and immerses into your skin straight away. The fact that it costs no more than a mere pittance in Korea where I pick it up from just adds to the wow-factor. I tend to use this before going on flights as well, and it keeps dryness at a safe distance. I love this cream like a dear friend.

If I’m in Sweden or some other country which faces seasonal climate I tend to go for an essence from another Korean darling; Innisfree. Essence is similar to Serums but the thing about essence is that it’s more like water than cream, which means that it never makes you feel like your skin freezes when you go out into temperatures below freezing, something that a fat cream can do at times. If I’m in the mood I put the essence and THEN the moisturizer, but who’s got the time? Jeju lava-seawater essence is the name of mine, decanted into a sleek blue glass bottle. I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging, and this one’s a winner. Also budget, but oh so good.

5. Eye-cream. Eye cream is used to reduce dullness and tiredness in the eye areas. Simultaneously it also adds moisture and fat to an area a bit more sensitive than the rest of the face, and that’s not exactly boring promises if you ask me. Since the skin is thinner around the eyes, it needs extra care, something a dedicated eye cream does provide. An eye cream is often lighter than a regular moisturizer which allows it to work it’s purpose without leaving the eye area in an oily state, something a regular cream would potentially do. And since this area is one of the most prone to wrinkles due to constant movement, a regular dose of m is nothing but a good idea. Again, La Roche-Posay is my go-to brand. By the way, use your pinky fingers to apply, as they’re the softest.

6. Sunblock. Last but definitely NOT least is the most important step of all, and that is SPF. I think most people know or can understand that exposure to the sun is responsible for about 90% of the skin’s aging, so obviously this is something to bear in mind when contemplating to skip SPF. I personally don’t care about the anti-age aspect, because I think lines and wrinkles are endearing and it’s good to look like your age. In saying that, though, there’s no need to look older than you’re supposed to. But what’s even more important, though, is the actual danger of UV-exposure. Skin cancer and other related skin-deceases are numerous, and by not protecting our skin we are exposed to all of them. What’s your incitement is up to you, but for me, this is the greatest. I strive to use a non-greasy Spf50 from Clarins at all times, i.e even when the sun’s not out, and regardless of where I am in the world. Spf30 is probably enough in some countries, but I’d always rather be safe than sorry. And the answer to this is yes; I’m left almost ghost pale at some times, but knowing full well how a suntan is just a sign of damaged and exposed skin, that’s something I can live with. Worth to mention as another precious aspect which I’ve already mention in passing, is that when using acids your skin becomes extra sensitive to sunlight, and by not applying SPF you’ll be walking down death row for your skin. So just make a habit of always using it, acid or no acid.

NIGHT ROUTINE

The night routine is a bit different from the morning one because this is where most of these lovely acids make their appearance in the show.

I’ll only elaborate the steps that differ.

1. BHA/AHA-acid exfoliator. This tube of love comes from American Murad and is a cleanser as well as an exfoliator. Very mild despite steaming of acids so that you can feel the miracle-working process. I splash some water on my face before patting this gel into my face. I leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing with more water. I try to use this a few times a week, and the times I refrain I use the same cleanser as I do in my morning routine. Reasonable price if I don’t recall wrong.

2. Micellar water, just to be and feel on the safe side.

3. Toner, the 2% BHA liquid from Paula’s Choice. Love love love.

4. Serum if in need. But it’s a luxurious feeling, regardless of the condition my skin’s in.

5. Night Mask. Why use a night cream when there are plenty of great night masks? Night masks often do so much more than night creams. Balances the skin, evens out and works against sun damages. Doing the work I do I sometimes tend to sleep for long, and there’s nothing worse than waking up with your face feeling like a desert.  There’s enough desert in Dubai as it is. But nevertheless, this has been known to happen to me, so it’s been tough to find the right night mask, but I’ve made it! Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask. This can either be used as a rinse off mask or as an overnight mask, and I use it for the latter purpose. Like a French kiss for the skin.

If you made it all the way to this point, a big kudos to you. I hope you learned something from all this preaching, and I hope I didn’t neglect to mention something utterly essential, but I’m sure I did. Before I let you go, here some minor additions to my routine I couldn’t go without.


Sheet-masks. Sheet masks are the ones you put on your face for about 20-30 minutes while you either do nothing or keep yourself busy. It’s a real moist treat for the skin and superb for your luster. I try to do it a few times a week and especially after having abused my skin either by shaving or a nasty (lovely) acid peel. Just leave on and then you rub in the residual gel if there are any. Expensive unless you go to Korea where they cost about 0.5 dollars each. A solid investment, though!

Acid-peel. My fave but also my horror. An acid peel so strong a child would be brought to tears, so if you’re the sensitive kind I urge you to refrain from this. It is a Pumpkin Enzyme Peel from Peter Thomas Roth, and it says on the jar it should be left on for 3-7 minutes, which I don’t doubt because this creates genuine pain. Nevertheless, I typically stretch it to about 10 minutes since I find it nice to feel the work being done. The peeling smells of gingerbread, which creates a festive atmosphere whenever used. I pay about 65 USD for a jar, and that’s very well invested money.