The Detox Diary

We’re all contemplating a detox. But, asks beauty editor Sarah Halliwell, how does self-denial fit into daily life – and is it worth it?

Detox is a January cliché. Everyone we know seems to be locked into some kind of torturous self-denial, penance for an exuberant December. Apart from the 5:2 which works, we’re not convinced by food fads: moderation in all things seems to be the way forward, and in the dark days of January it seems enough that we are no longer eating Terry’s Chocolate Orange for breakfast. Detoxes always seem to be bookended by panicked “toxing”, which cancels out any potential benefits. And how can anyone continue to work, face a commute or be in any way human without proper fuel and a morning coffee?

Even if we generally eat healthily, sugar stealthily saturates our diets. We’re always on the go, eating too fast and fuelling ourselves with quick fixes. So the idea is that a detox, done sensibly, can help us break bad food habits and give our beleaguered systems a rest from anything processed as well as caffeine and alcohol. “The concept with detox diets is to avoid the toxins which build up and cause weight gain, lethargy, bloating and so on,” says consultant dietician Aveen Bannon. Skincare guru Liz Earle, a juicing fanatic who literally glows with health (and not just because of her moisturisers), is a keen advocate: “When the body does not have to use its energy for digesting and processing food, it is better able to self-heal, eliminate poisons more easily and rebalance its internal chemistry. The excess wastes and impurities of today’s world build up in our bodies, resulting in slow metabolism, fatigue, tired or blemished skin, dull hair and eyes and general malaise. All these signs tell us that we need to inner-cleanse.”

Get with the programme
I decide to commit to the 12 Day Mind & Body Cleanse created by Chris James, a yoga and wellbeing guru who works with celebs and runs elite workshops in the swankiest of health centres. For d148, you get a box of supplements plus a booklet of instructions, advice and recipes. The idea is to build up gradually to the “Power Phase” – three days where you exist on just juice. “More nutrients are released from fresh fruit and vegetables once they are juiced,” says Liz Earle. “And we obtain greater levels of nutrition from fresh juices than eating raw fruits and vegetables. We rarely eat a kilo of kale in one sitting, but we might well drink the juice that one kilo of kale creates in a single glass.” Aveen Bannon is cautiously positive about the programme: “The idea of incorporating the juicing phase with eating phases makes it sound more attractive than long-term juicing diets,” she says. “There do seem to be a lot of supplements though; while the probiotics and high doses of vitamins and minerals make up for what you’re missing, would it not be easier to get the nutrition from food?”

I meet James for coffee and am slightly starstruck: he is a vision of clear skin, filmstar blue eyes and luxuriant Hugh Grant-esque hair, with an enviably laidback aura. I am relieved when he orders an espresso. James explains how his food prescription and high-grade supplements are all designed to “reset your mind and body, and deliver the most authentic and far-reaching detox that works at the level of your gut, giving you a healthy template that’s ongoing.” He recommends doing the cleanse two or three times a year for optimum results. I push away my flat white and practically jog to the healthfood shop in a burst of caffeinated adrenalin, eager to “detoxify from stress”.

The bottom line is this: no gluten, dairy, meat or fish, caffeine or sugar for twelve days. Yikes. Pick the days carefully: it needs to be a quiet time when you’re not socialising much – frankly you will be no fun, and the less temptation the better. “Preparation is key,” chirps the booklet: this is off-putting, but true. If you’re not organised, you eat whatever’s to hand, and in my house that’s generally Tayto. I spend the next week stockpiling fruit and veg and making vats of Nigel Slater’s tomato curry. Invest in a juicer if you can: my Argos one does the job, or get a juicing attachment for your Magimix. Bottled juices might be highly fashionable, but all the experts emphasise that they’re not necessarily the answer: “Fresh juices need to be consumed within a couple of hours, otherwise they may lose many of their nutrients,” warns Liz Earle. “If a juice is left to stand, enzyme activity is reduced. Enzymes help chemical reactions take place in the body, making them vital to proper digestion.” Aim to have more vegetable juices than fruit, which are naturally higher in sugars; dentists everywhere are grinding their teeth in despair over the juice trend.

A few days in and I’m fully in touch with my inner Gwyneth, striding around the local organic shop with a new sense of belonging as I pile buckwheat, amaranth and other dusty things into my basket. I have no idea what to do with them. Top of the list are sweet potatoes, apparently richer in vitamin C than oranges, along with quinoa, chickpeas and all manner of beans. It’s an investment, but focus on what you save on a daily coffee (or bottle of wine ...).

This story appears in the January issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday February 5

Beauty Buffet

The Edit

1 The Shade

A flash of pink looks fresh with winter clothes, and hints at spring. We love Essie’s juicy melon and pomegranate nail shades (€9.99), and YSL Beauté’s Couture Palette Collector, €57; blush brush €40.

This story appears in the January issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday February 5

It Works

The Irish serum making a name for itself

Some new launches stand out in a crowd. This neat little bottle of skin-hydrating serum is appealingly simple, unpretentious and effective, and presented in chic black and white packaging. Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum is the product of an Irish family business: Sonia Deasy works with her husband Padraig, a portrait photographer based in Kildare. Travelling the world teaching photography, Deasy became increasingly aware of hair and make-up for fashion shoots: “Shooting portraits, we both noticed that a lot of people’s complexions are really dull.” At 39, Deasy was also becoming aware of wanting something simple but effective for her own skin, and was surprised to find that none of her friends used serums. Spotting a gap in the market, she worked with her sister, a biochemist, to formulate this concentrate of hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. Friends are converted, finding this lighter than other serums but with instant, noticeable effects; two drops give skin an instant radiance in a pure and natural way (it contains no alcohol nor parabens). Deasy’s phone is constantly buzzing with people anxious to stock up. She doesn’t look old enough to have five children, aged between five and ten, and credits a healthy diet based on Indian food and tons of water. It’s exciting to see a brand at its very beginning, and Deasy is clear about its potential. “I know I have a hero product here,” she says. “It’s something you can use all the time, and I’ve found I use less foundation after it.” Balancing two businesses with five children is demanding, says Deasy, who strives to keep home and work separate, working in the studio until three then zooming home to monitor piano practice. Further products, including a mask and candle, will follow. The challenge now is to decide how to take the brand forward. As retailers vie to stock it, we anticipate big things for this small beauty. €42.99 (including shipping) from Another homegrown name to watch, One therapy is a one-stop therapy for skin and hair, crafted in small batches in Co Mayo, with ingredients sourced through NHR Organics, including frankincense, ylang ylang and sandalwood. Light and silky, the oil has a divine scent that will also help you sleep. €48 from

This story appears in the January issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday February 5