Skin Care with Rebecca Pearson
by Rebecca Pearson
With years of experience in the modelling industry, Rebecca Pearson has learnt a thing or two about skincare. Pearson chats to us about how her experiences modelling have taught her to look after her skin and inspired her to go on to become an aesthetician.
“Sarah Ann and I met at a Pukka retreat around a year ago, in our capacity as model/writer/nutritionist and model/writer/wellness blogger respectively. I know, it’s a lot of slashes! I’ve modelled since 2001 – yes, I’m a dinosaur and you probably weren’t even born then – and throughout my career I’ve studied, been to Uni, dabbled in journalism and started my own website, Modeltypeface.
I founded my website to provide industry advice to other models, because I was always being asked questions that others were too afraid to ask our bookers. It’s weird, because even though it’s their job to tell us what a job pays/what we’ll make/when we’ll be paid/why it’s quiet/whether a client’s behaviour was OK…WE DON’T! We don’t want to seem uncool, or bother them, or ruin our chances by being seen as a ‘moaner’. Well, people have always felt comfortable confiding to me, so I thought I’d share my advice on a wider platform. It’s led to appearing on BBC and Sky news, writing for the Telegraph and generally becoming lots of people’s modelling mother (or ‘big sister’ as I prefer because it makes me feel less ancient).
I’m sort of onto the next chapter now, as I’m currently studying to be an aesthetician. I love modelling: Bookings are a fabulous agency, and I’m happy to have all the writing and degree, but none of it feels very ‘definite’, whereas being able to do facials (I can administer peels, skin needling, laser, facial electrics as well as just stroke your face and make you feel relaxed) feels like a more solid vocation. It’s been tough because modelling is still my job and main source of income, so of COURSE I’ve had to turn down lots of work while I study (sorry Bookings!), but the great thing about modelling is that I can hopefully integrate the facials side of things slowly, rather than a big shocking life change.
What led me to beauty? Well, the day after I was scouted and signed by Premier, I got acne. Just like that. And not ‘a few spots on my chin’ sort of acne, but full-blown, cystic, painful, pus-coming-out-of-my-face, angry, tight AND oily acne. We have beauty blogs and Instagrammers sharing tips now, but back then, education around skincare was far less comprehensive. I’d walk around with layers of cheap concealer on my face, wearing a hat so that my hair would stay in place, covering most of my face. I’d head to jobs full of fear of the make up artist’s reaction (they were always kind, but you’d see a slight look of ‘right, here we go’ as they picked up the concealer), the photographer moaning about expensive retouch and, of course, WHAT IF I WAS DROPPED?!?!? (Also: no boys wanted to snog me). Despite my constant picking, and USING DETTOL TO CLEANSE MY FACE, the acne eventually cleared with antibiotics. But it came back at 19, and then went away again with the pill and antibiotics. Was that it? NO! It came back mid-way through Uni, and cleared eventually with the pill, but the scarring took a while to clear up as I was older by then.
I know how debilitating bad skin is to your confidence, as well as your modelling career. I dreaded going to the Co-Op, let alone castings, or the ultimate worst: the agency. I felt as though I was living behind my skin, and that everyone was judging me thinking that I was disgusting. I have never forgotten the fear of waking up thinking ‘what’s my skin doing to me today?’, let alone sitting in a naturally-lit café on a date with a guy I fancied, wondering if the sunlight was highlighting the layers of concealer, foundation, more concealer, powder (or even worse, if one had developed a yellow head). I know that acne scarring and other skin disorders can affect someone’s happiness and actual life choices (I didn’t really date for years because of it). So learning about beauty ingredients, and procedures, and lifestyle choices so that I could help myself and now others felt like a natural progression.
Looking After Your Skin
Sarah Ann asked me to share my skincare tips for getting through Fashion Week and modelling in general, but before I start that, I thought I’d explain what skin actually IS, and how it’s made up. Doing my aesthetician course has given me an appreciation of the make up of our bodies that I never really got from GCSE biology!
Our skin is the biggest organ of our body, and performs lots of very important roles. Think of it like a lovely protective tarpaulin covering our organs and skeletons, without which we’d all collapse like an accordion and shrivel up and die. It keeps everything in, whilst protecting us from the outside environment. It’s full of fancy cells, like Langerhan cells, that help fight invading bacteria, and get our bodies repairing themselves when we’re cut. And it helps us secrete toxins, as well as absorb good stuff like sunlight (in careful quantities) that we turn into Vitamin D.
Our skin is divided into three main layers: the subcutaneous fat layer, the dermis and the epidermis. The epidermis has no blood supply of its own, and is divided into lots of mini layers that I won’t go into now, but just think - squidgy new cells at the bottom are being constantly produced, that travel upwards and gradually get hardened, flattened and filled with keratin (a protein), until they reach the top where they’re constantly sloughed off. The dermis has a blood supply, and it’s where our hair follicles, sweat and sebum glands live, as well as collagen and elastin, which are what give us youthfulness and stretch. Lastly, the bottom layer is our subcutaneous fat layer, providing insulation and, of course, plumpness! Diet too much and this diminishes, so always eat seconds like me ;-).
The Science Part is Over
…Or is it? I just thought it was important to say that…Our skin does a pretty good job, on the whole, of looking after itself. Sweat and sebum get a really bad name, because we think ‘B.O.’ and ‘grease’ but actually, combined on our epidermis, they form what is known as ‘the acid mantle’. This maintains our skin’s delicate pH and forms a defensive barrier, sort of like our ‘front line’.
The reason I’ve given you this information is that once you realise that oh - most products we use strip off these natural protective layers, and the rest replace them with what we’ve taken away - the penny drops. It’s more about ‘supporting’ our skin than ‘fighting’ it.
Skin During Fashion Week/Modelling
In city environments, our skin is under constant attack from pollution, UV rays and then add onto that lack of sleep, stress, make-up, harsh products, constant powdering and poor kit hygiene from lots of make up artists, it’s little wonder that our skin often flares up with spots, dryness, outbreaks or dullness. Here are my tips for getting your skin back to working order:
Determine Your Skin Type
Most of us get this wrong, so let me clear this up in a way that certainly helped me! There are 3 skin types: dry, sensitive and oily/combination.
However, there are then many skin conditions such as sensitised, ageing, acne, dehydrated, sun damaged, etc. This is what confuses us: for example, we may have dry skin, get an outbreak and use products targeted at ‘oily’ skin, and dry it out. Or we may have oily skin that is dehydrated, and clog up our pores with heavy moisturiser. We often aggravate our skin this way.
Find out your skin type. Dry skin has small, tight pores and often feels tight. Sensitive skin is delicate and prone to redness. Oily has larger, visible pores and a more sallow quality. The best way to work this out is to cleanse your skin and do nothing to it for half an hour to an hour, and see what state it is in. For me, I will have tight areas around my mouth but a VERY shiny nose: I have oily/combination skin and treat it accordingly.
Then you can treat your skin complaints; for example I might use a hydrating face mask on my cheeks and mouth area, and a detoxing clay mask on my nose.
One of the best brands for working with very specific skin types is Paula’s Choice: have a look at the website and see for yourself!
Always Pack Your Own Make Up Remover
It’s so tempting to use the handy make up wipes that are often provided, but these are often full of harsh chemicals and alcohol that will dry out your skin. I’m a huge fan of La Roche Posay milky cleansers with organic cotton pads that have been wetted with Avéne Thermale Spray. It’s very kind and gentle, and leaves no residue. If my skin is inflamed, I like to follow it with Pixi’s pHenomenal Gel, which supports the aforementioned acid mantle.
It goes without saying that no matter how tired you are, remove your make up before you sleep. And remove the make up the second the job finishes, no matter how tempting it is to leave it on.
Buy Your Own Make Up Tools
It shouldn’t be your responsibility, as good kit hygiene is imperative for make up artists. But backstage at shows, where you have so many models and so many make up students, mascara wands, brushes, foundation sponges and beyond are often used on multiple models. It just takes one model with conjunctivitis or cold sores to infect every other model on that show and disrupt future work opportunities. So I would always buy your own disposable mascara wands etc and label them, and maybe shame the make up artists in the process.
Try Not to Pick at Spots,
We all do it, but it really is best not to pick spots as it leads to scarring and spreading the infection. Have a look at face washes that contain salicylic acid, as this is an exfoliant and anti-inflammatory, plus it’s oil-soluble, so it can penetrate into pores and help combat acne. However, it can also be quite harsh, so introduce it once a week at first and use a lovely gentle range like La Roche Posay or Avéne for the rest of the week.
Another tip for all skin types but especially spotty or oily is to use light serums at night rather than thick creams. This means your skin can BREATHE. I’m a fan of Dr Sebagh’s Hyaluronic acid for hydration (hyaluronic can hold 1000x its weight in water), and Paula’s Choice Niacinamide booster for radiance.
We’re told that coconut oil is a miracle ingredient and it’s a fave among models, but actually it can be comedogenic, i.e. it can clog up our pores and cause spots. Jojoba oil for moisture, ground up papaya seeds as an exfoliator with a ‘peel effect’, yogurt for soothing, aloe vera for calming and Manuka honey as an antibacterial and calming face mask are some examples of DIY natural skincare tips, if you are wanting to keep things earth-mother-y.
Look at Your Pillow Case
If you want to be really anal about skincare, take a look at your pillowcase. You’re dribbling on it and smushing your face in it when you sleep, so make sure you clean it regularly and maybe even look at silk pillowcases. These help prevent getting hugely lined from sleeping on our sides/faces (I honestly wake up looking like a Beetlejuice extra), and think about packing them whenever you travel.
Use Gentle Products, Sparingly
We are in an age where there are miracle products launched daily, to much fanfare, promising us the moon on a stick. I’m a terror for falling for these, and enjoy many samples being sent to my flat to trial. However, where I used to have calm, combination skin, I now have sensitised skin because I tried too much, all at once. Many products have perfumes, alcohol and essential oils, no matter how ‘natural’ or scientific they seem from the packaging and the advertising spiel.
I have learnt to use a very calm, simple routine, which is far more effective than constantly adding the latest miracle ingredient. Introduce new products slowly and one at a time.
Look at Diet
Eating a diet including in your Omegas, good fats, vitamin and mineral-rich foods and plenty of protein helps support your entire body, including skin. And extreme dieting, not to mention smoking and living on coffee/the odd sugar hit, doesn’t just take it’s toll on your health, but as I said before, you want a nice, plump layer of fat to pad everything out! I really recommend seeing a nutritionist if you seek balance both for your health and to maintain the correct measurements. Agencies don't always provide healthy advice.
Dairy can be a real enemy of the skin, but not for everyone! Don’t cut it out unless you are intolerant or react to it (or you’re ethically opposed to it, obviously), but the hormones given to cows have been linked to hormone disruption leading to acne in adults, so it is something to look at.
I hate to say it as a chocolate-lover, but sugar isn’t great, either. There’s a process called ‘glycation’ whereby sugar molecules attach themselves to poor innocent collagen and make it kinda…Sluggish. And age us. Boo!
Drink Loads of Water
It must be the most BORING and common tip but water helps our skin! But I sometimes get to the end of a show or a shoot and realise that all I’ve had is one coffee and maybe a peppermint tea, and I feel so dehydrated. It’s easily done. But all the good stuff like collagen is pretty much swimming around in gooey liquid (the precise scientific term) in our dermis, and we want to support that. It also helps our lymphatic system, which is responsible for many things including carrying waste products away. So when toxins build up in our skin and make our eyes and chins puffy, a combination of massage and lots of water will help carry them away.
I personally love to drink hot water, as it keeps me warm. Add a Pukka tea bag (I’m a fan of Turmeric Gold, Three Cinnamon and Three Ginger to maintain the warming quality). And if you like your caffeine, just be aware that it dehydrates us so you need to drink extra water on top!
I know I’ve gone on a bit but this will be my final tip, don’t worry. Remember when I talked about our dermis having a blood supply? Massage is fantastic for stimulating that circulation, which then helps the dermis feed our base layer of the epidermis, getting skin cell turnover going. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, so when you’re massaging yourself, go with the direction of the lymphatic system: ‘when in doubt, up and out’. From nose to ears, chin to ears etc, give yourself firm-yet-gentle massage strokes with a lovely oil like By Sarah, which is fantastic for calming your skin. Perhaps add a Gua Sha tool to stimulate your skin, although do make sure you rinse it with warm, soapy water after use. And don’t forget the neck and décolletage!
The best part of this is that you’re giving yourself a bit of loving care, which is sorely lacking during intense periods of modelling where we’re everywhere and everyone’s; feeling pulled in all directions. Even if you only do this for 5 minutes (while other models knock on your door at the model apartment), turn your phone off, breathe deep and massage away, as a brief and calming way of checking in with yourself.”