Sophia's Choice

Charlie Hughes is a multi-disciplined holistic therapist and lover of all things natural. She is also the inspiration behind the Sophia's Choice website. Here, she answers questions about her story, her skincare tips and the beauty of simplicity......

Photograph courtesy of Charlie HughesHow did you first become interested in natural skincare?

My interest in natural skincare was probably ignited when I had my eldest daughter - almost 9 years ago. I was living in Brittany, France at the time and only wanted to use products on her which were free from harsh synthetic ingredients and preservatives. It was quite hard to find those products locally, so I set about searching for alternatives on the internet.

Once I'd found the skincare products I wanted to use on her delicate skin, I decided that it was probably just as important to look at my own skincare regime - and, slowly but surely, I've transitioned myself across to natural alternatives.

How did your interest develop into the website that you now run?

My interest in natural skincare at that time was just one aspect of a more natural, organic and green lifestyle I was exploring further - for both myself and my new family. I am a holistic therapist by trade, so I have always had a keen interest in all aspects of health and wellbeing.

I began writing a Green Lifestyle Blog, Sophia's Choice, in October 2012, covering topics for the whole family. I'd wanted to share information I'd collated through my time as a holistic therapist and also the more natural choices I'd made by being a more green mum - initially to Sophia, and then with my youngest daughter too.

As I began to look at my own skincare options, I was introduced to a fabulous selection of natural and organic skincare brands, many of which I'd not come across before. This cemented my interest further. I really believe that you do not have to make sacrifices and take second best when it comes to natural skincare. If anything, my skin has greatly improved from that change.

After much thought, I decided to launch a small online health and beauty boutique off the back of my blog, showcasing many of the brands I had tried, tested and written about. I decided to continue with the family feel and love the fact that I can work the business around my own family's needs.

What are some of the main benefits your family has experienced from using natural skincare products?

Photograph courtesy of Charlie Hughes

For me, it has been a significant improvement to my skin in general. I suffered quite badly with acne when I was a teenager and I was left with some scarring on my jaw-line, which will probably never completely disappear. I used to use quite harsh products to keep things in check - however, changing to natural and organic alternatives has helped my skin heal. It is now much clearer, my pores appear reduced and my skin is much smoother.

I have oily, combination skin and although now in my forties, I still get skin breakouts, much to my frustration. I have found many skincare options available which help balance out these frustrations naturally, and I now understand just how important it is to nourish the skin from the outside as well as the inside.

For the rest of my family, I feel using natural skincare products has meant less irritations to ingredients used, healthier looking skin, and empowering us all to make sensible choices with what we use on a daily basis - whether that be shower gels, body lotions or lip balms.

With such a wide array of skincare products on the market, how can people choose what is right for them?

I think, to begin with, simplicity is key. Start slowly and replace one product at a time - or it can become overwhelming. I know the advice is to replace those products that you use most regularly on the majority of your body - particularly "leave-on" products such as a deodorant or body lotion. However, for me it was my shower gel and facial wash that I changed first.

Photograph courtesy of Charlie Hughes

If you have friends who already use natural skincare, then ask their advice on any brands they have tried and that they trust. Beyond that, it's about knowing your skin type, setting a budget and trying out a selection of brands until you find one which suits your skin. Look out for brands which offer trial or travel sizes, so you do not have to invest huge amounts of money on a product which may not suit your skin's needs.

Read green beauty blogs. There is a wealth of information out there on the internet and you will get a good idea of what others feel is a good buy and an effective product. Try to follow bloggers who reflect you and your skincare needs. There are many age groups blogging now, so there's something for everyone.

And above all have fun with all these gorgeous products. You won't be disappointed you changed to more natural, nourishing options.

What are some of your top tips for looking after your skin in the summer months?

Drink water. And lots of it. Hydration is key to skin health, and our skin requires even more in the warmer months. Most of us are dehydrated and since stress also dehydrates the body, it is really important to be mindful of drinking enough on a regular basis, before you are thirsty. Your skin will thank you for it.

Brush your skin. Skin brushing is an effective way to remove the build-up of dead skin cells and also encourages good circulation to the skin. Skin brushing towards the heart works with the body's lymphatic system to aid the skin's natural ability to remove toxins from the body. It may feel slightly scratchy when you begin skin brushing - however, if you start with a softer brush you can build up to a firmer one in time. Try it for a month and notice the difference in your skin.

Photograph courtesy of Charlie Hughes

Use a body scrub. I love a good body scrub and they have a dual purpose; they exfoliate the skin and then put moisture back at the same time. For me they are the lazy man's moisturiser and I love them! Smoother, healthier skin, from using just one product.

Embrace Oils and Balms. A great way to hydrate your skin in the summer months - giving it a beautiful sheen too. Since balms and oils are waterless, you will find far less ingredients in them - and the ones which are there will be nourishing to your skin.

Use a sunscreen. I'm a great believer in letting your skin enjoy 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day to top up your vitamin D reserves. However, when we are staying out in the sun for prolonged periods of time, we need to be wearing a protective sunscreen. There are lots of natural alternatives available, both for the body and the face. There's no excuse for not keeping your skin sun- safe.

What would be your tips for caring for your skin on a day-to-day basis?

Keep it simple. Cleanse and moisturise every day and you are on the right path to happy skin.

If you do just one thing, then cleanse properly at the end of each day. Don't skip this one vital part of your skincare routine. Even if you are on your knees with exhaustion (I can hear all those sleep deprived mamas and partied out ladies groaning at me!) take that make up off and cleanse at least once. Your skin will thank you for it.

Beyond this, I believe less is more. Use a spritz toner to add hydration to the skin, preparing it for your chosen facial oil, serum and/or moisturiser.

Don't overload your skin with too many products. It's really not necessary. I have several cleansers (wash, cream or oil/balm), a toner, a good moisturiser and then a facial oil for night time. That's it.

When I have the time, a facial mask is always a lovely treat and to exfoliate the skin gently I wouldn't be without my Konjac sponge. A fabulous addition to any skincare routine.

Photograph courtesy of Charlie Hughes

What are some of your own favourite natural products?

I only ever used to think of skincare in terms of lotions and creams. However, transitioning to natural alternatives has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of balms, butters and oils.

Beyond using oils and balms for my massage treatments, I really didn't utilise them much in my daily skincare routine. I now have several balms and oils in my collection - both for my body and for my face. They are exceptionally versatile - as many are dual purpose. A balm can be used to cleanse as well as to moisturise. No need to buy two separate products.

As well as using them in skincare, I love to use essential oils for general health and wellbeing. In our house, you'll see essential oils being used for the relief of colds, first aid, and relaxing baths. I love their versatility and the different moods they can evoke.

I also embrace homeopathy and find it invaluable when my family, particularly my two girls, are poorly.

How do you think using natural products benefits our overall health?

I believe natural products work with our bodies, rather than against them. For me, it makes sense to utilise what Mother Nature provided when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing.

I feel we are sadly no longer so in touch with the innate wisdom we once worked with and still find all around us. We rely on what the modern world has created, often artificially, which is not always best for the body or our health.

By using more natural products we help to lessen the inevitable impact that living in a more polluted, chemical laden environment puts on our bodies. Every change we make (however small) whether that be what we eat, or what we choose to put on our skin, will have an accumulative effect on our health.

It's all about those ripples; which will in time, become waves.



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Photograph courtesy of Charlie Hughes

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