A few years ago, when I was at home almost 24/7 caring for my husband, I started a blog on make-up and skincare. I’ve always loved make-up – in fact I trained and worked as a make-up artist for a bit – and my addiction to buying and trying new skincare products has been rife for a long time.
I really enjoyed having that blog. It was very much a hobby and it was nice to be part of a fairly small community of people writing about their make-up and skincare loves. It was a way for me to let off steam from a very stressful situation and feel like I had an outside life when I was at home all the time. I stopped after my husband died; I stopped doing most things for a while.
Fast forward to 2017 and the internet is awash with beauty bloggers and vloggers. It’s become very big and polished business but I don’t really follow many of them anymore. I got bored of all the sponsored reviews, regurgitation of press releases with no personality and having 24-year-olds recommend £100 plus anti aging products. I missed the personal touch and variety of a lot of the bloggers I used to follow, many of whom have now stopped. I miss discovering products based on honest reviews, rather than marketing budgets. I hate seeing the same two or three products being recommended by all the same people at the same time, or vloggers shoehorning, as an essential, a brand they’ve previous claimed no allegiance to into their ‘Morning Routine #AD’ or ‘Evening Routine #AD’. I feel the same suspicion towards these bloggers and vloggers that I once felt towards the women’s magazines I soon stopped buying altogether.
That’s progress though and who can blame people for getting paid for something they enjoy doing. I might stop reading/watching, but a lot of people obviously don’t and I firmly believe in each to their own. I tend to follow a lot more beauty instagrammers these days, I like the brevity of the format (she said, waffling on and on …)
In the spirit of the bloggers of yore, however, I humbly present a few of my favourite beauty products and recommendations. I think I will do these sorts of posts from time to time, mainly to have an outlet for my addiction.
Favourite overall skincare brand
As much as I love a shuffle around the Selfridges beauty hall or perusing the shelves of Space NK, my favourite brand can be bought at Boots and occupies a much lower price range than the products I tend to pick up in the first two emporia. Avene is a French skincare brand targeted specifically at sensitive skin and it is fantastic.
I have pretty good skin, mainly thanks to genetics as my mum and nan were similarly blessed. My areas for concern are dehydration and occasional redness with itchiness and I have found the Avene range really works well to combat that.
This morning I used the Soothing Hydrating Serum followed by the Hydrance Optimale UV Light and this combination leaves my skin feeling hydrated, soothed and protected without feeling overloaded. In the winter I often get dry patches on my forehead, cheeks and eyelids. I will then use Tolerance Extreme during the day and then baste myself in Rich Compensating Cream at night to amp up the treatment. There is also a very good Soothing Moisture Mask which I highly recommend and the cleansing lotions are beautifully gentle yet effective.
Some of the products also have the most gorgeous fragrance (though many are fragrance free). I’d describe it as slightly powdery and floral and very much what I expect French skincare to smell like. My absolute favourite is the Body Lotion with Cold Cream. It comes in a giant bottle with pump, does and excellent job of moisturising my shins in winter yet absorbs pretty quickly. I love it.
I really recommend the Avene brand, particularly as you can often take advantage of a money-saving deal at Boots.
Favourite new discovery
At £54 a bottle, it’s a bit pricier than Avene but the Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Nourishing Milk has quickly become one of my skincare must-haves.
Although it’s called a milk, the product also includes lots of nourishing oils – olive, sesame, sweet almond and jojoba – and packs quite a punch for a product with such a runny consistency. I bought my first bottle at the end of 2016 and my face drank this stuff up over winter. It really helped to battle the parched feeling left behind by central heating and cold weather and felt wonderfully soothing on just-cleansed skin if I’d been out all day at work/Christmas shopping/battling the British climate.
It comes in a glass bottle with a pipette dropper and I used it in place of a serum most days, though you can sandwich it between your usual serum and moisturiser for some extra oomph. Now the weather is getting milder I sometimes use it by itself as a moisturising serum. Unlike most oil-based products I find it works very well under my make-up.
Although I’ve tried several other products from the Bobbi Brown Extra range, this is the only one I’ve used up and repurchased, which is almost unheard of for me (I get bored and abandon products half-way through for something new and shiny. I am not proud of this).
The bargain that leaves high-end products in the dust
I have spent £34 on one bottle of shower gel before now. This is clearly ridiculous but I was wowed by the scent and wooed by Liberty’s Beauty Hall (it was a Byredo shower gel). Ultimately, I found the scent very pleasing but was underwhelmed by all other properties of the product. The thing is, you’re always going to be underwhelmed by a £34 shower gel, aren’t you? Unless it foams up gold-plated bubbles or takes 10-years off your skin’s age.
So, I decided to create a new rule for my shower gel; it will cost me no more than a fiver. I decided to give the Sanex brand a go as its blurb about caring for your skin piqued my interest, the bottles are huge and are often on offer (yes, Boots again). I bought these three to try and was so impressed that I went on to buy a bubble bath, a hand cream, a body lotion, and a bath/shower oil. I think they were all part of various offers and each individual item worked out at around £2 each.
The shower gels are incredibly moisturising, smell pleasant and foam brilliantly. The body lotion is quite thin but my skin feels mosturised for at least 10 hours after application. The bubble bath produces lots of small, soft bubbles and really helps to combat the drying effects of immersing your whole body in water. The hand cream is the only item that has not wowed me. It’s ok but my hands need something a bit richer; I might try the other one they do.
I really love the shower gels and take great pleasure in using giant squirts to create millions of bubbles, knowing that this luxurious-feeling experience is costing me pennnies. With the £34 shower gel, every tiny blob felt like I was literally sending money down the drain, which made the whole experience feel bizarrely puritanical as I allowed myself to use the bare minimum for body cleansing.
That’s all for now, but I will be back with more of my favourites soon. I have a 25-year obsession with beauty products to work my way through …