Acne hacks skincare Sally Hughes pretty honest
Acne hacks pretty honest by Sally Hughes skincare


*Googling tips to on how to clear acne fast at half past midnight.*


There is a reason why all these acne posts you've read include the word 'journey'. That's because it is and it can be really long, lasting anything between a few months to a few years. For me, my acne journey has been a 10 month battle. 


I’ve finally reached the stage where I can comfortably look in the mirror and smile with confidence. My skin no longer looks like a battlefield and has been almost clear for a few months now. Yay! It’s not been an easy road and I’ve definitely made some errors along the way. By no means am I an expert but I thought I’d share all the things I wish I knew before treating acne. 


Here are some do’s and don’ts I wish somebody told me on how treat acne:


DO be patient. The first thing your doctor of dermatologist is likely to tell you is, “it’ll get worse before it gets better”. When you’ve been prescribed topical retinoids, you’re skin often purges which will make it look a lot worse. The good news is that it’s actually pushing all the acne that’s under the skin to the surface. So, it does get worse before it gets better. Hold on tight!


DON’T let anyone tell you what to do. Your acne journey is personal to you. Everyone always has something to say when it comes to treating acne. I had a lot of people with perfect skin telling me what to do and what not to do. But like I said, acne is a personal journey and there are multiple reasons as to why it’s flared up. There is plenty of information around -I recommend following estheticians and dermatologists on Twitter- for you to see what works for your skin and doesn’t. You don’t have to follow all their advice and you can pick and choose what works for you. It’s also where I get a lot of my advice from.


DO look after your moisture barrier. I’ve mentioned it plenty of times before and you’ve heard it a million times everywhere else but hydration is key. And the key to healthy skin, is a healthy moisture barrier. Some things that can harm your moisture barrier include over exfoliating, washing your face with hot water and using harsh products. A lot of acne treatments are drying and I've found they're a lot more effective when you're using products to help retain moisture and rebuild your barrier. I've been using Cerave's foaming face wash and I love it!


DO wash your face with cool water. I remember reading that you should wash your face with hot water because it will help open your pores and leave your face cleaner. WRONG! I’ve found that washing my face with cool/ lukewarm water has been really good at not irritating my inflamed skin and helping it to retain moisture. I got this tip from @makeupforwoc on Twitter who specialises in inflamed skin conditions.


DO use SPF. Wearing SPF is vital to anyone but when you’re been on retinoid creams and antibiotics as your skin becomes more vulnerable to the sun and it’s rays. Even more reason to top up on the SPF. The sun can always cause red/ dark marks to darken even more so SPF is a really good way to help improve the appearance of scarring. It’s also essential even if you’re not on any medication. SPF protects your skin from harmful UV rays, which are still around on rainy days.


DON’T pick your spots. I used to be an avid spot picker but it was my spot picking habits that helped me to realise I was starting to get acne. These spots were deeper under the skin and never formed a head. Acne spots aren’t pickable and trying will only leave you with scarring. Knowing that whatever I picked would leave a scar helped me kick that habit to the curb. Post acne and my skin has a lot of pigment scarring from the inflamed acne. Any spot that pops up 



Love, Aoife xo

Montage of a girl in a boat


When lockdown came, I think it was both a blessing and a curse. A lot of things went wrong at the beginning but being stuck at home allowed me to focus on myself and have some much needed TLC. Once I'd finished all my uni work, I started brainstorming what I could do with my time. On my list were things like learn Irish, bake something new every week and find a new income stream. As expected, I did none of those. I learnt a little bit of Irish but apart from saying "I am a girl", I can't hold up a conversation.


However, I did manage to achieve a few things in lockdown. I feel like I've mentioned myself and mental health quite a bit in my last few posts but as recent graduates and with a global pandemic; a lot has happened and we do need to make sure our mental health doesn't suffer.


I have my skincare routine down to a T. 

It’s only recently, what with being on acne medication, that I’ve taken the time out to focus on a routine. During lockdown, I deceided to focus on sticking to the same routine without being tempted to try new products and mess around with things. I’ve also found doing my skincare routine a little earlier in the evening means I can fully relax without having to stay up too late.


Having ME time in the evening

I’ve really embraced using the time in the evening between eating my dinner and going to bed to unwind and relax. This is the time I usually do my skincare routine in which at the start of lockdown took me about 30 mins start to finish. It now takes me about 10-15 mins. On some nights I choose to tidy my room or I might sit and watch TV with the family. But most of all, I’m using the time to listen to my body and my mind and follow what it wants to do. To be honest, this isn't just limited to the evening. After the events of the last few months, I'm prioritising myself and spending more time focusing on what I want rather than always catering to other people.


Focusing on my mental health.

I’ve spent more time focusing on my mental health than I ever have. Your brain doesn’t always have time to process all the information we throw at it and I know I’m guilty of not allowing my brain the time to process everything. I tend to move at 50 miles an hour and expect my brain to move with it. It very rarely works. Sometimes I don’t even realise that it needs to process things. Given that I’m not really going anywhere any time soon, I’ve taken the opportunity to slow down and focus on strengthening my mental health.


Slowing down

Like I mentioned earlier, I tend to zoom around and focus on one thing after another without really embracing and acknowledging what I’ve done. One thing I’m learning to do in lockdown is slow down. I have to be careful in not coming to a complete halt but I’ve slowed down a lot. After all, I’m not going anywhere soon.


Exercising in Lockdown

Is it me or am I suddenly exercising a lot more than usual? Before Lockdown, I was averaging around 6,000 steps a day and that seems to have jumped to 10,000 or 15,000! I’m really enjoying my evening walks with my dad and I’m exploring so much of East London. 


What have habits have you developed in Lockdown?


Love, Aoife xo

Girl sitting in a cafe

If everything went according to plan, on the 21st July, I would have walked across a stage collecting my degree. On my feet would have been a pair of Jimmy Choo’s I had been saving up for, for this exact moment. However, no part of 2020 has gone according to plan and instead I spent the day as any other day. 

It’s been three years since I moved to Portsmouth to start my Journalism degree and it feels absolutely surreal to say I made it to the end. I haven't shared my whole journey online but you can see highlights on Instagram and Twitter (@aoifecaitrionax). In my first year of university, I felt very lonely and I struggled to make friends. Like anyone, I signed up to almost every society I had a remote interest in. First year is all about trial and error so don't be afraid to make mistakes. 


Second year came along and I was stuck living in a house that lived on drama and animosity. It wasn't very fun or healthy but I learnt a lot about myself during that time. The main one being how to stand up for myself. Academically and career wise, I was starting to get ahead and had articles printed in local news websites. When final year came around, I promised myself that this would be a year I could be proud of. And I am. Despite the ups and downs, which as a uni student you will know, I have met some amazing people who are now my friends and made memories that will stick with me for life. 


Aside from the academic side to university, there are plenty of important lessons to learn outside of lectures and seminars. So here’s what university really taught me and what I wish I knew before starting:


Use your time wisely. And by that, nothing is waiting around for you. At university, you have a lot of time on your hands when you’re not in lectures, seminars or working. Use that spare time productively. I spent a lot of time in my first year blogging and making videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, I slowed down in second year and lost motivation in third year. I regret not believing in myself more and sticking to it. I really recommend using your spare time productively by taking up a new skill, hobby, or searching for internships and grad schemes. 


Do something you’re passionate about. University is a lot more fun when you’re passionate about the subject you’re studying. I wrote essays on feminism, did presentations on the fashion industry and put together video packages which I had a lot of fun doing. I really enjoyed the work and the skills I was learning with it. There were a few late and stressful nights but I wouldn’t change a thing because I was still doing something I loved. I've spoken to my friends and other people about it who all agreed that you should be studying something you're passionate about and interested in. It will be a greater experience and you'll enjoy it more.


Make the most out of the University services. There are so many services that universities offer these days and I'm pretty sure, you're not even aware of half of them. I struggled a lot when I moved back home for lockdown and my anxiety was at an all time high. My lecturer recommended that I reach out to the wellbeing team to get some additional support. To be honest, I don't know if I would have finished university without the support and weekly session from a councillor. Most universities also offer academic support with essays or career support. We pay a lot of money attending university so we may as well take advantage of what it offers.


Neon light against flower wall

(Money management) How to have fun on a low budget. Regardless of whether you have the maximum grant or the lowest grant, we all struggle with our money at some point. In your first year, you make bad money decisions and by final year, you’ve decided to go vegan because it’s cheaper and save all your money instead. Social life is a big part of university. Clubbing at uni has never been my scene but I still went out for lunches, dinners, day trips and everywhere else with my friends. This all adds up. However, by the end of the whole experience you've learnt how to have fun on a low budget.


It's not a race but it's not a marathon either. Your grades are not everything at univeristy. Sure, they're important because you need to pass to move up a year and you want a good degree classification. But, they're not the be all and end all. Lecturers are looking for how you engage with the content. My highest scoring essays were down to referencing different scholars and sharing ideas and theories. You're not in a race with anyone because you're not competing with them. Getting a degree is something you do for yourself and a personal journey. 


Good luck! And if you've already been, what did you learn at university?


Love, Aoife xo 

Eye mask and body spray flatlay


Everything about summer makes me happy. The long nights, the constant light and the warm weather. The list could go on. While the constant heat is nice during the day, it can be unwanted in the evening. And on most nights, I’m tossing and turning trying to find the “cool place” on my mattress. Or waiting for a cool breeze to flow through my open window. Either way, it can start to feel like a mission to have a good nights sleep during the summer.


Here are four must haves to add to your summer night survival kit:


Silk/ satin pjs: I practically LIVE in these come June. H&M do really cute satin sets with a lace detail or frilly shorts. I currently have them in black floral, pink and blue. If you’re really struggling with the heat, Hollister have some really cute cotton two-pieces which will help keep you a little cooler.


Rituals, The Ritual of Karma Body Spray: I love adding a little bit of luxury to my routines and on summer nights, it comes in the form of this gorgeous Rituals Karma body spray. Smelling of holy lotus and white tea, it's a beautiful calming scent. I spray three or four pumps and let the fragarance wash over me.


H&M Satin PJ's


Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic: There’s nothing better than those summer evening showers, washing away the suncream and dirt from the day. I recently decided to simplify my skincare routine while on acne medication to help improve my skin. You can read my latest acne post here. All Liz Earle products are vegan friendly and made from natural ingredients. This toner is soothing on the skin and the natural fragrance adds to the floral of summer. Tip- If you leave your toner in the fridge, it’s really nice and cool on your skin when you get around to applying it.


Eye mask: Did you know during the summer months of Iceland, they can get up to 21 hours of sunlight? If you’re someone who wakes up with the light and struggles to get back to sleep, it’s well worth investing in an eye mask. I bought mine from H&M last year as part of their Love Stories x H&M collection and I adore it. I really like the tie detail at the back which allows you to tie it as tightly as you like and you don’t have to worry about stretching it out.


There you have it. Four must haves I think are important for those hot summer nights. I thought about adding more but when it comes down to it, less is more. And when, it’s 30 degrees in my room, the last thing I’m reaching for is something to add more layers.


What is in your summer nights survival kit?


Love, Aoife xo



Flatlay of British Fashion Magazines

The Business of Fashion is currently running a #BOFLive series, a host of panel discussions offered virtually on Zoom during the global pandemic. In one of their latest streams, journalist Tim Blanks sat down with two members from LOVE magazine Co-Editor-in-Chief Ben Cobb and Senior Editor Pierre A. M’Pelé. The pair discussed and recounted how they put together LOVE’s two-volume book, #LOVEDiaries, chronicling the events during worldwide lockdown. 


It was a really interesting talk that covered issues on what a fashion magazines place is post-Covid-19. This is actually a similar topic to what I wrote about in my final year project on, What does it mean to be a fashion publication in 2020? The essay looked at the historical context of fashion magazines purpose was when it originally came out to the purpose of it now. It mainly touched upon the structural elements and revenue streams that magazines need to adapt to in order to continue to be successful. 


Whereas I had looked at the structural elements, the conversation was more diverted to the content of a fashion magazine. The role of a fashion magazine is a documentation of current life. It is often referred to as a "mirror or our time" filled with current trends in fashion and what’s happening in the world. If you think about it, a fashion magazine can be used as a piece of history.


In the latest volume of LOVE Diaries, there is 600 pages of photography and essays summarising "the four months of choas, emotional extremes and fleeting moments of hope". This also includes the Black Lives Matter movement and worldwide protests that ignited with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, United States. 


LOVE diaries vol 1
LOVE Diaries Vol 1 Cover shot by Sama Kai (@official_kaicapture) | Credit thelovemagazine.co.uk

Tim Blanks asked a great question of, “What is fashion going forward?”


Ben Cobb: Fashion has always been more about the clothes and accessories, that’s the store front…The culture, the time, politics, the conversations going on; that’s always driven and been wired into it. I think it’s almost like the behind-the-scenes part has moved to the front right now. It’s about humanity. Pierre and I were talking earlier about this book we’ve created is really about humanity. It’s about humans and how they connect together and all their stories. That’s always been there in the fashion conversation.


Pierre A. M’Pelé: I feel like we’re looking further than the clothing and we’re really trying to install meaning and purpose into what we wear and why we wear them and how those clothes can reflect the world we live in. Even looking at Sama Kai’s cover, it just says it all because obviously it’s clothing and fashion and that young man Marley looks fashionable but there is so much more behind it. It even makes me think of the black panther and the style. 


What do you think Fashion is going forward?

Love, Aoife xo


Kate Spade Margaux bag black floral in small

Say hello to Margaux by Kate Spade


Some people collect coins. Some people collect cars. I seem to collect bags. Well, as much as my student budget can afford. For my 21st birthday, my Mum decided to add to my collection of growing bags. This bag is part of the Margaux range from Kate Spade which is in the size mini with a black floral print. I absolutely adore it and you can see why.


Since it was for my 21st, I wanted to make this bag felt a little more special and less like something I’d wear everyday. Most of the bags I have are in monochromatic colours and are more versatile so I had a little more freedom with this one. And since it was for a special occasion, I wanted something a little more memorable.


I really like the painted flowers as it gives it a younger and fresher feel. It reminds me of Carrie’s bag in The Carrie Diaries, one of my favourite CW shows. She had a black briefcase style bag and decorated it with paint splashes and her name painted onto it. That was pretty much the main reason why I was attracted to it. The light pastel colours means its great for the summer season as well as the winter. 


Kate Spade embossed logo


I’m not really a fan of grain leather, I tend to prefer the polished look of smooth leather. However, I think the grain leather works well for this bag because the size is small and the print takes away from the texture. The bag is available in medium and large but I stuck to the smaller one. I already own a medium sized bag in a similar style but it can feel a little clunky when I wear it as a cross body. I’m a small framed person and so, I like that it isn’t too big on me. It does mean that I’m not able to fit as much in to it though so I do need to choose what I take out wisely.


It has three compartments to the bag: two open and one zipped where you can store your cards. It also has an adjustable strap which you can detach if you’d rather hold it.


What are you a collector of?


Love, Aoife xo

Girl reading The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The last few months have not been easy. Being in lockdown has been a challenge for us all but for some of us, it has been an even bigger battle. One thing that came out of my recent therapy sessions is that I need to be kinder to myself. I need to learn how to be confident in myself and not see my weaknesses as completely detrimental. 

    Since then, I've been on a little journey of self-confidence in learning how to identify unhealthy behaviours and make them healthier. I think we all need to not just be kinder to ourselves, but learn how to  instead. We can be kinder to ourselves by treating ourselves to a bar of chocolate or a new Dior bag. However, that's only short term. By 'learning', we can create long term healthy habits. Here are four tips that can help boost self-confidence:


Be proud of what you’ve achieved- How often do you stop and reflect on what you’ve achieved? I can’t remember the last time I did that and that’s an issue. We continue to achieve every single day and that should be recognised. I don’t think about what I have overcome or really acknowledge all the amazing things I’ve done in the past three months. And they’re a pretty big deal. I just graduated with first class honours, woah! As humans, we tend to have the habit of chasing one thing after another, never really feeling fulfilled at what we’ve already done. When you have a moment, think about everything you have done in the past week, month or even year. The most important thing is that you can smile about it and think, I did that.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself- Do you know what’s human? Making mistakes. No one is that perfect and if they are, they’re lying. In order to be kind to ourselves, we have to allow room for errors. We’re going to get things wrong from time to time and that’s how we learn and overcome it. By putting so much pressure on ourselves, we’re missing the opportunity to learn and grow from experiences. And Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things take time and they’ll take as long as they need to.


Rupi Kaur The Sun and Her Flowers


Accepting you don’t have complete control over everything that happens- Anxiety often stems from a lack of control. In situations where we’re not in control, we often feel anxious. I get waves of anxiety that tend to last a few weeks to a few months. I guess it never really goes away but I’ve learnt how best to manage it, if you will. One thing I always get told is to focus on what I can and am able to control. This can be quite difficult in some situations especially where we feel helpless. Take the coronavirus, we can’t control that or being in lockdown but we can control how we choose to act and use our time now that we’re at home more often than not. We can control some things and we can’t with others. Finding a balance is really helpful and focusing on what we can control.


Treat yourself- I’ll admit that use those two words a lot normally. I only realised the impact of not treating yourself when I starved myself of that. Pre-lockdown,  I’d treat myself by going shopping or buying artisan doughnuts (so so good). But since we went into lockdown and I was struggling with everything including really bad acne, I stopped. I stopped feeling worthy of myself and stopped being kind to myself. One way you can treat yourself Covid friendly is to buy flowers. Flowers can make all the difference by brightening up the space and making the room feel happier. My Nan said to buy flowers for someone when they’re sad and that’s a good lesson to remember. So, whether it’s your favourite doughnut, flowers or something pink (my happy colour), remember to treat yourself and do things that make you smile. 


Love, Aoife xo


If you had asked me who or what Cerave was this time last year I wouldn’t have had a clue. I first came across the cult US brand when it started appearing in Boots. It then started popping up on my feed and I could see it had a lot of (good) attention around it. People seemed to be flocking to the shelves in the shops.

Cerave is popular for a number of reasons. The most popular being that all of the products are enriched with ceramides. Ceramides help to repair and strengthen the skin’s barrier helping it to retain moisture. This means that Cerave’s products are all about hydrating the skin and maintaining the moisture throughout the day. They are fragrance-free and free of ingredients that irritate the skin.

The price range for Cerave is mid-level. It’s more affordable than La Roche-Posay but not as cheap as high street brands like Simple. The brand has a small range of roughly eight products that work for the body and face. 

I finally gave in to my product junkie urges after I decided to simplify my skincare to help improve my skin— which of course started with some new products as an incentive. I’m currently on acne medication and needed something gentle on my skin. I saw that Cerave is often recommended when you're on acne medication. If you like, you can read more about my acne journey here.

I picked up the Foaming Cleanser and Moisturising Cream to see if they were worth the hype. The Foaming Cleanser is suited to normal and oily skin which is exactly my skin type. Since I have been dealing with very dry skin, I wanted a strong moisturiser that could penetrate the flaky patches I got. 


I’ve almost finished both bottles and I really like them. The cleanser is really soft and light. It foams up well and is good at keeping my skin hydrated. Especially since when I use the prescription cream I can’t put anything on my face for 15 minutes. My skin feels a lot lighter, softer and plumper from all the bonus moisture.

The moisturiser is lovely, thick and enriching. It doesn't cover up my pores or trap dirt and allows my skin to breathe. Normally, I'm a little apprehensive on applying such a thick cream with oily skin. I'm not sure if it's these products specifically or a combination of everything I'm using in my routine, but my skin has been a lot less oily.

Cerave is a basic, no-frills brand. It is one of those brands that reinforce the main purpose of skincare- to clean and hydrate the skin. From what I’ve used, it’s very gentle on the skin and definitely hydrating. You can see a difference in your skin within a week of using them regularly. When it comes to the hype around skincare products I expect big things. Personally, I’m not sure Cerave fits my criteria of a hyped product. But I will say that it is incredibly soft, gentle and hydrating without making you look greasy. 



Love, Aoife xo

Over the last six months or so, my acne has gotten much worse. It went from a few pimples on my cheeks to having a full beard of red marks and occasionally painful spots. It's been so itchy and I couldn't even cover up the redness with makeup. It got so bad that I didn't like looking at my face in the mirror and seeing all the inflamed redness. They say not to pick your spots because that could make things worse but let's be honest, we've all picked a spot at some point in our lives. The good news is I've managed to curb that habit and I'm just hoping it'll clear in its own time.

I thought I could sort it without the help of a medical professional but even my Effacular Duo couldn’t save me.

What I’ve tried:

What haven’t I tried! I went through a list of things that could possibly be making the acne worse; I changed my diet and stopped using certain products that I thought were harsh on my skin.

I went through this list, cutting out dairy completely, eating anti-inflammatory foods only, cutting out sugary foods, and only noticed a slight difference in the redness of my skin but the acne didn’t go away. I tried cutting out meat entirely which didn't make much of a difference either.

I've also tried using different products that have worked for other people. I stopped using the Pixi Glow Tonic (read my review) in case it was too harsh. I applied Sudocrem which seemed to reduce some of the redness but didn't do anything to my acne. Additionally, I also tried an over the counter 5% Benzoyl Peroxide gel, Acnecide. It worked on a few spots but I ended up having an allergic reaction to the gel so I had to stop that treatment. My face swelled up so much to the point I couldn’t even suck in my cheeks. My face was extremely dry especially on my neck and around my eyes which hadn’t even come in contact with the cream. It took me about two months and plenty of Aveeno to improve my skin texture. 

Where I am now:

My doctor first thought I could be suffering from hormonal acne and prescribed me the combination pill Lucette to help regulate my hormones and Epiduo, an acne treatment cream. Epiduo contains 2.5% Benzoyl peroxide and 0.1% adapalene. Both those chemicals together target the spots on my skin and those forming underneath. The adapalene, according to my Doctor, also irritates the skin and makes it quite sensitive to the sun. I try to keep out of the sun where I can and wear plenty of SPF.

After speaking to another doctor two months later, he prescribed me with a course of antibiotics called Lymecycline. From what I know, these are only prescribed to those suffering from acne. I’m only on day 8 so I’ll share another update when I finish the course.

Love, Aoife xo

In times of crisis, I turn to baking. It is a well-known fact that baking is good for the soul and it’s even better when you get to eat something tasty after. I don’t enjoy baking the same things over and over, so I tend to seek out new recipes. I came across this one by the lovely Rachel Ama. For those of you who don’t know, she’s a vegan YouTuber who also has a book aptly named Vegan Eats. It’s my favourite ever cookbook and I’m constantly flicking through it finding new meals to make.

You can read the original recipe here. I had to adapt the recipe a little bit to what I had in the cupboard as I didn’t have apple puree on hand. I ended up making my own and it’s very easy. The pastries turned out absolutely beautiful and are perfect if you want them as a snack or for breakfast. Oh, and 100% vegan too.



For the puree, you'll need:
- 2/3 Royal Gala apples (or any other apple e.g Granny Smith etc)
- Cinnamon (optional)
Start by peeling your apples and cutting them up into little chunks. Then place in a small saucepan and add a little bit of water to the pan- enough to be able to create steam. Leave on medium heat for around 15 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done because the apple should be able to slide off the fork and there will only be a tiny amount of water left. Pour apples into a blender and add a teaspoon of cinnamon before blending. I kept my puree a little chunky rather than completely pureed. Leave to cool.

For the pastries, you'll need:
- Puff pastry (you can use pre-rolled, I used the block instead)
- 3 sliced apples (I stuck to the Royal Gala)
- Plant-based milk
- Maple Syrup (the original recipe asked for maple syrup to crisp up the edges, but I didn't have any)

Pre-heat the oven to 200C, or what the packet says. Cut the pastry into 6 even squares. Brush down the sides of the squares with your plant-based milk of choice. In the original recipe, I think Rachel added a little maple syrup to the milk. Drop a teaspoon of apple purée into the centre- you may want to spread it around a little. Then place the pieces of sliced apple on top. Grab two corners of the square and press together, do the same to the other side so the apples are "undercover". Place on a baking tray and brush some more milk over the top to stop the pastry from burning. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.



Love, Aoife xo