From makeup and diet to SPFs and hair oils, our three experts advise on the best way to look after yourself
When something works, it becomes a given. It's the one thing that's reliable when life, technology and Tinder become an unpredictable roulette of insanity. Having a signature (or safe) look is one of those certain things. It's the surest hand of cards that we know will always come up trumps. The downside to having a failsafe "look" is that we'll never know what could be – what our skin would look like without a thick layer of foundation or that by ditching the straighteners we'll learn to fall in love with our hair's natural texture. That's why this column offers some words of wisdom from the experts, on what they would love you to try in 2014.
Kay Montano, thandiekay.com
A celebrity makeup artist who has some words on laying the right foundations
"Finally tackling any skin problems you've been suffering with is a good way to ensure you get beautiful skin this year. I have clients with a variety of skin tones, but the main concern I hear from my darker-skinned clients is about their skin's tendency to scar. That's why getting to the root of why you suffer from acne or blemishes is far more important than applying any topical skincare. Stress, lack of sleep and a poor diet (sugar is terrible for the skin and is also very ageing as it causes inflammation in the body) all trigger hormone imbalances that can cause spots. My key tip is to ditch juices: they contain no fibre – it's just sugar– and water is far better for you. Then comes finding your perfect foundation. There's plenty around now for darker skins, from value brands like Sleek to mid ranges such as Bobbi Brown, Becca and Illamasqua, and then the luxury ones such as Estée Lauder and Chanel. Try them all, don't be afraid to go for a more sheer base than you're used to, and don't buy anything until you've fallen in love with it."
Charlotte Mensah (charlottemensah.com)
The current British Hairdressing Awards' Afro Hairdresser of the Year has some advice for those with very curly and afro hair
"More and more women are embracing the wondrous textures of their natural hair and celebrating its versatility with bodacious 'fros, beautiful braids, twists and locks. But chemical-free hair still requires maintenance. Hollywood is paving the way as women are becoming more comfortable with their hair textures. For example, Lupita Nyong'o's high-top fade, which was popular in the 80s, is causing a storm. The challenge with afro and curly hair is knowing how to maintain its condition. And the solution is moisturising, so my biggest tip is to use a hair oil, such as Mizani Supreme Oil (£13.34), daily. And don't forget maintenance trims every six to eight weeks; a dead giveaway of needing a trim is curls that frizz rather than 'hold' at the ends of your hair."
Debbie Thomas (debbiethomas.co.uk)
A facialist and skincare expert that many beauty editors swear by, who would chase us all around with an SPF if she could
"One of the main concerns I hear from darker-skinned clients is that they suffer from uneven pigmentation – but they rarely wear an SPF. It's a myth that darker skins don't need one, and that's why I always recommend a good daily SPF. Try a BB or CC cream if they come in your shade, but nowadays there are plenty of completely translucent SPF's so you don't need to put up with any chalky-white residue. Another good way to boost your sun protection is by using an antioxidant daily to ward off sun-induced free radicals that speed up the ageing process. The most common are vitamin C based; I really rate SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel (£150), which is ideal for sensitive skins. If, and only if, you're concerned about uneven pigmentation, look for brightening products that contain kojic acid, phytic acid and liquorice extract – they're all natural brighteners that won't damage your skin, but will help to regulate pigmentation. Dermaceutic's Yellow Cream (£29.95*) is great teamed with a high SPF and a mild exfoliating face wash that contains glycolic acid, such as Dermaceutic's Cleanser 5 (£27*) for drier/sensitive skins, or Neostrata's Foaming Glycolic Wash (£24*) for oilier skins." (*Prices vary at different stockists – go for the cheapest.)
• What advice do you have when it comes to skincare for darker skin?
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