If you’re a new mum or about to become one, I urge you to learn from my mistakes.
In this post I offer you the simple but sage beauty advice I wish someone had given me before I had children, in order that you might avoid repeating some of my screw-ups.
Merely a week after having my daughter I was astonished at how dry my hands had become, even though I’d done the dealing-with-an-infant thing before. I developed red, angry, peeling patches, the skin on the back of my hands looked like it had aged about 10 years and my nails were weak, brittle and breaking.
So what can you do to avoid the same fate? First – unlike me – avoid harsh, alcohol-based hand sanitisers if at all possible. If you are really in a rush and need a quick spritz of something to freshen your fingers, try Neal’s Yard Organic Defence Hand Spray (£6.50) – it’s gentler than most gels, though more expensive.
If you’re washing your hands with water, use a gentle product that doesn’t dry skin. I like this cheap and cheerful lavender and aloe wash (£2.50) by Ecover.
Next, stash hand cream in as many locations as possible: by sinks, in drawers, in your handbag, in your car, by your bed… You get the idea. I use Clinique’s Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream (£18.50) and Make A Difference Rejuvenating Hand Cream (£19.50) by Origins, but really the most important thing is to moisturise frequently. This morning I saw a fellow mummy rubbing cream into her hands while stuck in traffic on the A45. Well done, that woman – an excellent use of otherwise wasted time.
Finally, if you can find the time to oil your cuticles and push them back a couple of times a week, you’ll be glad you did. I (sometimes) use this Nails Inc. Vitamin E Cuticle Oil Pen (£14.50).
Immediately after having both of my children I felt the need to start faffing with my barnet, and ended up making monumental cut and colour mistakes not once but twice. Don’t do this to yourself.
While you are in the hormonal haze of the first few months with a newborn, STAY AWAY from your hairdresser’s chair unless you are merely there to have your split ends snipped.
Do not seek to reinvent or reinvigorate yourself by bleaching, darkening, chopping off or – god forbid – perming your hair. You are not thinking clearly.
If you have long hair and it’s driving you mad, invest in some hairbands and kirby grips. The answer is not to go for a pixie crop. Honestly, you probably won’t look like Michelle Williams… More likely, you’ll look like you always have, but knackered from lack of sleep and practically bald.
Mums are tired. Fact. But few of us want to look exhausted as well as feel it all the time.
Perfect skincare habits are hard to maintain when you’re running around after children, especially a new baby – but don’t neglect moisturising your face and neck even if you manage little else.
After a period of looking leather-skinned through dehydration, my postpartum lifesavers were Chanel’s Hydra Beauty Nutrition cream (£55) and Sunday Riley’s Luna treatment oil (£85), which is chock-full of powerful anti-ageing ingredients. It’s pricey, but I always notice a difference the morning after I’ve smoothed some on.
Your eyes are the windows to your increasingly knackered soul. Puffiness and dark circles are basically part of the new mum uniform (along with comfy leggings and that cotton muslin permanently draped over your shoulder) – but a good eye cream will help to hydrate the delicate skin around your eyes, plump out fine lines and fight signs of tiredness.
My top picks: Origins Gin-Zing Refreshing Eye Cream (£20) and Goldfaden’s Bright Eyes lotion (£48). The Origins cream has light reflective properties and will brighten the shadows of the sleep-deprived in seconds.
Meanwhile, Bright Eyes offers a delightful cooling sensation that I love and makes a rapid difference to crinkles and crêpiness.
Motherhood is essentially one long guilt trip. Now you have a baby you are going to feel bad about all sorts of things you previously could never have envisaged – having the audacity to go for a quick wee while your little one is insistent upon being fetched from his or her cot, for example, even though the alternative could well be wetting your pants.
Do not, under any circumstances, feel bad about applying a little slap to your face instead of putting the washing on / batch cooking a load of purées / loading the dishwasher. If a bit of lippy and mascara will help you feel ready to face the day, crack on.
Over the past few baby-filled years I’ve learnt that five minutes of ‘face time’ makes a huge difference to my mood in the mornings, rendering me more positive, less snappy and – yes – less redolent of a cave troll.
Mac Mineralize Blush (£22.50)
Lancome Grandiose mascara (£25).