How To Look, Smell And Feel Great This Autumn
Our grooming handbook will get you in tip-top condition for the season ahead
It is a basic precept of traditional Chinese medicine that our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the seasons. The transition from expansive summer to contractive autumn, therefore, can be fraught with discomfort as various bodily systems supposedly recalibrate in response to shorter days and plummeting temperatures.
And so sleep patterns often fall out of whack, energy levels become erratic and a monumental emotional comedown kicks in around October (and invariably lasts until March). To add insult to injury, these internal changes are often rather cruelly expressed in our appearance: skin becomes raw and irritated, hair parched and waistlines inexplicably well-padded.
“At the end of the summer, after we’ve been exposed to the sun, the sudden drop in temperature can make our skin feel dry and tight,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh. There’s also the not-so-small matter of autumn’s bitter winds ripping into the skin’s protective barrier and leaving your face blotchy and irritated. Moreover, our habitual coping mechanisms – central heating on full blast, long hot showers – only exacerbate dryness, making rehydration even more of a top priority throughout the season.
With that in mind, the imperceptibly light face gel that saw you through the summer isn’t going to cut it anymore. Opt for a heavy-duty cream or oil that will nourish skin while repairing any micro-damage incurred by the elements.
Dr Sebagh goes one step further and recommends layering humectants, just as you would your autumnal threads. “Start by using Serum Repair, which contains a high concentration of hyaluronic acid,” he says of the hydrating molecule that can hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water. “Then follow with the High Maintenance Cream mixed with a small amount of Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream,” he says.
Kid gloves should be used when cleansing, too: ditch the foaming face wash and find a cleansing balm or oil that won’t work like paint stripper on the skin.
Warm, moist skin diffuses scent with ease, a quirk of physics that explains why the stench of body odour is so much worse on the Tube come July. It also justifies our natural inclination towards lighter eau de colognes in the summertime – a little spritz goes a long way when it’s hot. Conversely, cooler air and drier skin make it harder for fragrance molecules to travel with quite the same gusto (another good reason to make sure skin is fully moisturised before spraying).
To overcome this problem, overbearing alpha types will usually shower themselves in the heaviest and punchiest eau de parfum that money can buy and asphyxiate friends and family in the process. And while autumn is an invitation to opt for something warmer and deeper – think traditional masculine notes such as leather, oud, spices and woods – one must be wary of relying on brute force alone.
As perfumer Mr Tom Daxon notes: “Whether you choose something heavy or not, don’t feel the need to spray more on than you would in the summer.” In other words, let the quality of the autumnal ingredients cut through the chill, not the quantity.
Mr Daxon, ever wary of hard-and-fast rules, condones the use of “summer” accords in autumnal compositions. “There’s no real reason you can’t wear something fresh in autumn,” he argues. “I really like adding a citrus note because I think you still want some balance.” For example, his very own Sicilian Wood exudes warmth by way of amber, cedar and sandalwood, but also has an invigoratingly green top note made from citrus.
Moving back and forth between the cold, dry outdoors and toasty, dry interiors will eventually rob your hair of its natural lustre and turn it into something closely resembling a bale of straw. It becomes unruly and parched, not to mention near impossible to style.
“I recommend shampooing your hair only when needed as regular washing strips the hair of its natural oils,” says Mr Andrew Garden, stylist at London’s men-only Manifesto salon. We’re assuming you’re already dutifully slathering your scalp in a high-performance conditioner (such as Age Rescue+ Densifying Conditioner by Lab Series) but Mr Garden suggests “leaving it in for five minutes as an intensive treatment”. He also recommends, “mixing a small amount of coconut oil into your regular styling product to add additional moisture.”
Follicular foibles may include seasonal shedding. Much like a leaf that’s swept from its branch by the wind, the occasional hair will sometimes jump ship as the temperature cools. Explanations for this phenomenon are a dime a dozen. Some have suggested that we shed hair like our canine companions so we can grow a fresh coat for winter while others maintain that the sun inflames follicles during summer and that they then contract and shed when it gets cold.
None of these theories hold much water, but one thing is reassuring: it’s probably not male pattern baldness. “Seasonal hair loss is a perfectly natural part of the hair-growth cycle,” says Mr Garden. “Hair is either growing, shedding or resting and the highest number of hairs are shed in autumn, so don’t panic and mistake it for balding,” he says reassuringly. If you want to ease your neurosis and anchor those blighters deeper into your scalp, then you could do a lot worse than Renessence’s Follicle Forever Serum – which stimulates stem cells in dormant follicles – or Phytologist 15 by cult French brand Phyto – a natural “rehabilitative” treatment that restores hair health, density and volume.
The waning light of autumn is arguably your biggest nemesis. When your eyes pick up UV light, the brain responds by pumping out hormones that regulate digestion, energy levels, body temperature, mood and a host of other physiological processes. Most importantly, these hormones also reset your body clock, ensuring your sleep-wake cycles are balanced.
With less light – or irregular exposure to artificial light – the body’s natural rhythms start to fall out of sync, leaving you listless, lethargic and feeling like you want to hibernate with a box set of Game Of Thrones and some empty carbs. “At night, darker lighting cues trigger the brain into producing a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for helping a person feel sleepy,” says hormone specialist Dr Daniel Sister. According to Harvard Medical School, people tend to sleep an average of 2.7 hours a day more during October than any other month. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that quality and depth of sleep often suffer during this period, too, making it harder to wake up and stay focused during the day.
While many men rely on artificial stimulants to jump-start the body back into action, there are supplements on the market that will boost energy levels naturally such as Perricone MD’s Superberry Powder With Acai, which is packed with vital nutrients and minerals. “Energy is a cellular function dependent on the vitamins and minerals you consume each day,” says Dr Sister. “When cells receive the energy they need, you feel energised. When cells struggle to produce energy, they suffer damage or die, leaving you drained.”
And since superfoods are lacking in essential minerals due to modern fertilisers and farming methods, it’s wise to feed cells with a bioactive supplement containing all the essential ingredients for energy production. The cunningly-named ENERGY by Beauty Works West “includes powerful ingredients such as Asian ginseng root and B vitamins, which give the body a natural boost without setting off a case of the jitters,” says Dr Sister.