London-based Abigail James knows the secrets behind radiant skin. With over 10 years in the beauty industry, her book Love Your Skin has been hailed as the ultimate guide to a glowing complexion. We talk with her about her inspiration, her unique approach to skincare and the things you absolutely must do to achieve healthy and beautiful skin.
You’re very well-known in the industry. How and why did you choose a career in skincare?
I was originally in my family’s food business, then retrained as a therapist after I had my first child at age 23. I needed a life change, so I studied beauty therapy at night school for 2 years. I started off with beauty and studied many forms of body massage, holisitic technqiues, mother and baby massage and facial massage methods. I kept adding to my knowledge with holistic and more advanced methods. I became passionate about skincare products, which resulted in me becoming more specialised as a skincare expert.
You’re known for your healing hands and your “vibrant skin, vibrant life” approach. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
When I was studying beauty therapy, my training gave me a truly holistic approach to the skin and health, and respecting the power of positive touch. The methods I learnt from working on muscles, vessels and tissues of the body I take through into my work with the face.
The whole body is connected, the face is not separate! Our mental well-being, happiness and lifestyle are all key to health and the health of the skin. It’s all about balance!
I’ve learnt over the years from seeing many clients, that skin can visibly respond to stress and we can only go so far with products. Unless we address our stress levels and lifestyle, the results may be limited until we look at the whole.
Speaking of products, can you explain the major differences between predominantly natural skincare and skincare that uses a lot of chemicals?
Natural skincare uses ingredients from nature: be that plants, flowers, minerals, or essences. These might still be extracted and have to go through a scientific process to become the final product—but these are generally ingredients your body will more naturally recognise and are therefore less likely to cause a reaction. They are kinder to our health.
Skincare that contains a lot of synthetic chemicals does not use ingredients from nature. Most have been created in a lab with synethetic ingredients, colours, fragrance and preservatives. The body doesn’t have a natural synergy with these, making it more likely that the skin reacts negatively to them. Many are known as skin irritants.
Aside from products, what kinds of things should we add to our daily routine to achieve healthy, radiant skin?
Eat a balanced diet. Increase your fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts and cut down on stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar. Get outside in the fresh air and breathe. Move! It doesn’t need to be the gym; it could be walking, yoga, cycling or swimming. Stay hydrated—not just with water, but also herbal teas and natural plant waters like coconut or birch. You can do a face massage at home on a daily basis. Finally, make time for yourself. Supporting your mental health is essential.
Those are all excellent tips. Conversely, what should we absolutely avoid to ensure healthy skin?
Smoking. Amongst so many other negative things, it restricts blood flow to the skin, which reduces nutrients. This makes the skin age fast and look dull.
Not cleansing the skin in the morning and again at night is a big mistake. On its own, water is drying to the skin, as is soap. Use a cleanser in the morning to start with a clean surface for the rest of your skincare, and use it again at night so that your skin can go through its natural regenerative process while you sleep.
You should avoid excessive sun exposure. It dramatically and prematurely ages the skin.
Also avoid processed foods. We are what we eat—and that goes for our skin, too.
Some people say good skin is a matter of good genes. If you have troubled skin, can that always be remedied by specific skincare routines?
Genetics does play a part, however, our environment, lifestyle and product choices have a huge impact on our skin health. Troubled skin needs more support and it’s a matter of management rather than a quick fix or remedy.
You are a big proponent of facial massage—what are the major benefits?
Wow, there are so many! It reduces facial tension, which softens facial contours and makes the face look relaxed. It boosts circulation, bringing fresh nutrients to all of the facial tissue. It also boosts lymphatic circulation, which is responsible for removing toxins. This results in a brighter complexion, removing excess fluids and puffiness. When you use specific methods, facial massage has the ability to lift and contour, making your skin feel and appear more youthful.
It also has an impact on happiness. When you are working on the face and head, it can create a meditative state, which is wonderful. I believe muscle has more than just a physical memory. I think it also has an emotional connection. We express many emotions with our face; when we massage these muscles, it can help release and relieve our emotions.
You’ve definitely convinced us! Is there any other advice you’d give to people who are just now becoming more mindful of their skincare routine?
As I said before, cleansing is the first and essential part, morning and night. Serums are the powerhouse of your routine and should be applied after cleansing. Moisturising is the recovery blanket and the nourishment that is essential for keeping the skin well-hydrated and comfortable.
Very good, thank you. Finally, do you have any insider’s secrets you can share with our readers about maintaining beautiful skin?
Cold water: it gives an instant boost. Spash it onto your face and hold it on the skin with a damp cloth. Masks give an immediate glow and radiance, making the skin feel and look plump and hydrated. I always have 2 different types of cleanser. Facials aren’t exactly an insider’s secret, but I make these part of my personal beauty routine. I do these on myself and make a point of having a facial once every 6 weeks. Finally, try to have at least 1 makeup-free day a week. I love to use a facial oil on these days to allow the skin to rest.