I feel for Posh. Sometimes I need only look at my potions and lotions and I start to break out. Sunscreen is a killer for me and I have yet to find one - even Devita - that I can wear for more than two or three days in succession. Then there's the time of the month and stress. This week it seems to be all of the above and my skin and I are at war. I have a particularly nasty and vengeful outcrop of itchy, red bumps on my chin. So I have been trying everything I can to calm things down and reach a truce. Fortunately, I am winning and here are a few of the weapons in my arsenal. (NB: none of these are for acne, which I'll deal with in a future post).

One of the things that I turn to first on a bad skin day is Astara's Blue Flame Purification Mask ($41). If you have oily skin, enlarged pores or problem areas, Flame Purification Mask is for you. I find that it's brilliant for dealing with the kind of spots or rashes that just sit under the skin, lurking with intent (like the ones on Posh's forehead). You can also dab it onto an erupted zit and leave it overnight (so much better than toothpaste). It has a creamy texture, is alarmingly blue and dries hard. The latter is largely due to bentonite, a kind of clay and, amongst other things, used to absorb proteins in white wine, which would otherwise be unappetisingly cloudy. This ability to absorb impurities makes it very effective for facial masks. Echinacea is a notable treatment for acne. As is red clover, which also, according to research from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), contains four anti-tumor compounds.

Red Clover is also in Platinum Skincare's Oil & Blemish Control Gel ($29), which is great for isolated eruptions. I have found the sample I tried of this so indispensable that I have just bought a whole new bottle. The base is one of my all-time favorites, argan oil, which is full of fatty acids. Serenoa serrulata more commonly known as saw palmetto it is mostly made up of fatty acids. Other components include small quantities of polyphenols (long-chain alcohols) and polysaccharides and sesquiterpenes, which may be responsible for the plants’ antiseptic action. Platinum Skin Care says that all of this creates a perfectly balanced polyphenol formula, consisting mostly of lignans and phytosterols. These help inhibit the formation of 5-alpha-reductase, which is responsible for the overproduction of sebum. I have found that a dab of this on a zit before bed can work wonders.

In Japan, charcoal cleansers are huge. It makes sense if you think about it. Charcoal is used in all sorts of ways to extract impurities - such as my Brita water filter for drinking water, or the Acquasana shower filter. For controlling breakouts on back, shoulders and chest, Deitanseki makes a charcoal and bentonite body wash ($16.99). They also make a facial bar. For the face, this stuff only works if you have skin that's on the oily side, otherwise you will find it too drying. For a recommendation for a cleanser for sensitive skin, we have to thank Niall for posting a call out for REN's Calendula and Arctic Berry Ultracalm Cleansing Milk.

For eczema flare-ups or contact dermatitis (usually a result of testing some new product), I reach for a tube of Exederm. The main active is hydrocortisone, so its not to be slapped on with impunity. However, it is the only line that has been awarded the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association, and the reasons are pretty clear: each formula uses the mildest ingredients possible with no fragrance, color or dyes, parabens, lanolin, sodium laureth sulfate, propylene glycol, or phthalates.

On bad skin days, I usually stop using most potions and lotions altogether and allow a recovery time for a few days. The only moisturizer that I have discovered I can get away with is Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Bio-peptide Creme. The dominant ingredient is aloe (organic, of course), followed by olive and apricot (responsible for the nice smell). The main anti-oxidant is hydroxydrecyl ubiquinone more commonly known as Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 (there are plenty of studies to back up the radical scavenger claims of this ingredient). There is shea butter, lots of other plant extracts, grape seed (another anti-oxidant with a proper pedigree), and vitamin C. And that is it. However, you might want to check out the Dermaxime brand, which as a range devoted to problem skin. I haven't used any these products, but Dermaxime's anti-aging line is really good.

Ingredients in Astara Flame Purification Mask

Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Kaolin, Bentonite, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Steareth-21, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange/Petitgrain) Oil, Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot)Fruit Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Echinacea Angustifolia (Cone Flower) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Trifolium Pratense (Red Clover) Flower Extract, Xanthan Gum, Ultramarines, Iron Oxides, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Sodium Stearate, Disodium EDTA.

Ingredients in Platinum Skin Care Oil & Blemish Control Gel

DI Water, Cyclomethicone, Argania Spinosa Kernel Extract, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Extract, Salicylic Acid, SD Alcohol, Red Clover extract, Actiphytes of Hops, Horsetail, Goldenseal, Lemongrass, Witch Hazel extract, Tea Tree Oil, Sepiplus 400, Methylisothiazolinone.