How soap keeps my ageing skin soft and smooth

Credit: J J Jordan – this is not a photo of me!

I may be lucky with my genes but I’ve always had good skin.

When I was young I could play without a shirt in the sun all day long without burning, my body gradually tanning to a lovely golden brown, and its not because I’ve got any Latin, mediterranean blood in me. My wife has always referred to my skin as “dingy”, which is a bit unflattering, but I know what she means.

As I’ve grown more mature (I prefer not to use the term “older”) my skin has definitely become dryer and less elastic, particularly in the winter when I spend more time indoors and in central heating. It can become noticeably dry, almost flakey and at times itchy but not to the extent of being any kind of skin condition.

But what was I to do to stop this getting worse?

Several years ago I made the decision to switch from high street body washes and shower gels, which I knew contained all kinds of unpleasant chemicals, to natural soap. This was partly because I wanted to move away from synthetic additives and partly because I wanted to moisturise my skin effectively. Being male and not being one for elongated morning routines – my regime involved a quick shower, some deodorant and a splash of cologne – I wanted the easiest and quickest option available. Despite the warnings that soap could dry your skin, I followed my gut feeling that a product that contained natural plant oils, water and nothing else can’t be that bad for you and bought my first pure olive oil soap.

Yes, the pH of soap is high on the alkaline scale but this is far outweighed in my belief by the nourishment and moisturising effects of the plant oil. It wasn’t long before I noticed the effect on my skin, the dryness disappearing and everything feeling smoother, silkier and more supple.

The added bonus was that I could use the one bar of soap to wash my body, my hair (what little I have being a baldy) AND my face! “Soap on face?” I hear you say out loud in dismay….yes, soap on face!

The simple fact is that the natural oils in the soap cleanse, moisturise and condition and then wash away without depositing any nasty chemicals on me. My facial skin feels soft and radiant and wrinkles and fine lines are less defined and smoothed out. I have used soap (not to be confused with high street brands) for many years now and my face is smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I am particular in the soap I use though. After a lot of testing and research I have gradually whittled it down to only one or two specific types of soap, all Olive Oil based and all produced by artisan soap makers. You can feel the quality and the care that has gone into producing these soaps.

My current No1 favourite is made just outside Paris by Alepia. Although made in France they are skilfully formulated by a master Syrian soap maker, who fled Aleppo during the recent war, using ancient methods and simple ingredients. His “Aleppo” soaps which contain varying levels of Laurel Oil combined with organic first pressed Olive Oil are wonderful and have a distinctive aroma, produce a rich, exotic lather and are a delight to use.

Aleppo Soap from Alepia

They are the same soaps that have been traditionally used in Hamams over the centuries and feel like a piece of history in your hands, with their irregular hand cut form. They are economical to use too, each bar being 190g in weight (about twice the size of a normal bar of soap).

I’d recommend making the change to natural plant oil based soaps. It has proven the right thing for me and the added joy is that you can experiment by trying soaps from artisan soap makers throughout the UK and across the world to fine something that really does it for you.

Some of the brands I think are worth a try:

For your information, natural soap has been made across the world for thousands of years and its longevity suggests that it must have something going for it that we may have lost sight of in recent decades. Just a thought!

Growing old gracefully….or not?

You can feel defenceless against the onset of age. (Photo by Pixabay)

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Beautiful young people are an accident of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art”.

Maturity is a double-edged sword. Yes, you gain experience, knowledge and insight, but with it you lose youthful exuberance, the sense of adventure and that“superman” feeling where nothing’s beyond you, nothing’s unachievable.

Achy heads, after a long night out, are replaced by achy bones after a long night’s sleep. The amazing becomes ordinary, as you’ve seen it all before….got the T shirt and the box set.

Growing old gracefully is an art if it isn’t to drift into a mire of frustration, regret and disappointment. Many appear (and this is a totally subjective view) to give up as they enter middle age. Losing interest in their appearance, withdrawing from the world, reminiscing about the “good old days”, whilst others embrace their lives, emphasising the positives and making the most of what they have.

I have to admit that I have struggled in recent years and in many ways I too have fallen into a negative mind-set but, with the help of an experienced therapist, changes in my lifestyle and a realisation of what actually makes me tick, I’m moving positively into a new phase of my life.

Looking and feeling good is an important part of my persona, (I’ve even been guilty of hiding behind it in my younger years), but it is an intrinsic part of what is ME, giving me confidence, a feeling of well-being and a sense of purpose.

Hence this blog!

I fell upon the name Manshands after I qualified as a Massage Therapist early in 2019…a neat way of describing my offering in a world dominated by female practitioners. Doing this was a sea change in my professional life, having always been a business owner, dare I say entrepreneur, in advertising, marketing and specialist printing for most of my adult life. I would like to say that I had experienced an epiphany, but I think it can more sensibly be described as a parting of the ways between my old and my new life. I was tired, stressed and drained from 30 years of being on-call, responding to others’ desires and needs, working to deadlines that, in the overall context of life, didn’t really matter. I’d been successful (relatively) but success came at a cost to my mental health and my relationships with those closest to me.

So now, another year on, I’ve decided that massage is not for me (although I’ll still maintain my skills with friends and relatives), but through the contacts I made during my training, I am moving into the natural skincare and cosmetics arena. I’ve travelled extensively to Thailand, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, France, Mexico, Turkey and Spain, to name but a few, in the last year and I’ve undertaken professional training in Natural Cosmetic Formulation, Soap making, Cosmetic Manufacturing Practice and the legalities of producing and selling natural cosmetics in the UK and Europe.

I have had an interest in natural body care for many years, long before this adventure, and have imported artisan olive oil soaps and argan oil for personal use for some time.

I have also developed (since my mid-twenties) a penchant for “gentlemen’s” clothing and accessories. Jermyn Street shirts, bespoke tailoring, cashmere, silk ties, English shoes, subtle fragrances have become a big part of my life and I never feel more comfortable than when I am fully “suited and booted”.

So there it is….I intend to grow old gracefully and along the way share the experiences, tastes and products that interest and inspire me through this blog. There’ll be  few things that have you probably  never considered before, maybe some that will enhance the way you live, and definitely information and knowledge that will enable you to make considered decisions about your body and appearance.

After all, your skin, however old and wrinkled, is only a wrapper that contains the you inside….but it needs to be appreciated and cared for in the best way you can.

#matureskin #grumpyoldman #jermynstreet #bespoketailoring #manshands #maturity #middleage #style #