My favourite five

Although I am not what I would call brand loyal in most respects, there are some products that I turn to again and again as they quite simply do what I need them to do, I’m happy with the price and no-one has introduced me to something that does it better. Perhaps not the heartiest recommendation every uttered, but actually, I think those reasons are as good as any. When I was younger and more naive (I can here your snorts of derision from here, Tom) I used to devour those celebrity ‘the products I can’t live without!’ pieces in women’s magazine thinking that I would finally find the perfect formula to make my skin glow, my face spot-free etc., etc., etc… Until I realised that they were mostly just lists of the products that said celebrity was paid to endorse. Hmph.

So, instead, I will be honest with you. I really like these five products right now. I can’t say that I will be using them forever, but for now they’re great. You will notice a theme: I have really sensitive skin and when I try a new product it’s hit and miss as to whether it will send me straight to the hydrocortisone cream or not; so I tend to go for quite boring non-scented products.

1. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Body Lotion with SPF 15

One of the only products I use that have a slight smell, but as it’s cocoa butter and, therefore, not synthetic, it doesn’t bring me out in a rash. Goes on really smoothly, rubs in easily, has some SPF so is good for everyday use on your arms. I’ve tried more expensive body butters, but I find them too strong smelling and not as easy to apply. I get mine in Boots, where it is often on offer.

I also often buy the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Lip Balm as it’s an affordable balm with SPF, which I like.

2. Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Shampoo

One of the best side effects of having sensitive skin is having an itchy scalp. I suffered with this for years, feeling really embarrassed that the day after washing my hair, my scalp was sometime so itchy that I couldn’t think about anything else. I used to use an itchy scalp shampoo made by Sunsilk, but then they stopped doing it. Over the years I’ve tried more expensive shampoos and conditioners that did stop my scalp itching but did absolutely nothing for my hair. The worst was the Naked brand, whose conditioner made my scalp so painful I only used it once. (So much for natural ingredients being better for your skin.) My search used to drive Tom mad, as I would come home with something that worked but I hated, or one that I knew would make me itch, but made my hair shiny. I just could not give into the idea that I had to pick one or the other! I simply could not believe that I was the only young woman who suffered with this problem and that none of the popular brands had woken-up to the idea. Finally Head and Shoulders launched an itchy scalp care range and my prayers were answered. I now use both the shampoo and conditioner, and whilst they don’t give me huge amounts of volume or shine, I’m really happy to continue to use them. Well done Head and Shoulders.


3. Trevor Sorbie Beautifully Straight Smoothing Balm

I picked this up on a whim a few years ago when I needed some new hair serum and have used it ever since. It’s a really, really good light-weight balm/serum that you can use after blow-drying to add a bit of shine and stop fly-away hairs, before blow-drying to help your hair keep its straight-style or even just rub a bit through towel-dried hair that you’re not going to blow-dry to make it a bit more manageable. Although it’s a straight hair product, I often run a few pumps through the length of my hair and twist it with my fingers to give it a bit of a wave, and it works really well. It’s light enough not to coat my scalp and make me itch (see above) and cheap enough to use liberally. Get it in Boots.

4. Body Shop Hemp Hand Protector

What do you mean you’ve never seen this? Well, go and buy some RIGHT NOW.

Hand cream that lasts all day? Check.

Hand cream that actually helps your dry skin and doesn’t irritate it? Check.

Hand cream that doesn’t wash off when you’ve washed your hands? Check.

Lasts a long time? Check.

Doesn’t taste weird when you lick doughnut crumbs off your hands? Erm… OK, the only not so amazing thing about this hand cream is the taste. It tastes like, well, soil. But once you realise that’s what that taste is (unlike me, who kept asking her husband whether there was something wrong with the tap in the kitchen…), it’s fine.

5. Flannel

Since I started having an actual ‘beauty regime’ I have been a cotton pad girl. I dread to think how much I’ve spent on those little pads… I used to try to buy Fairtrade cotton as often as I could, but they are often a lot more expensive than non-Fairtrade ones. Cotton pads plus a non-perfumed cleanser/toner/day moisturiser/night moisturiser routine worked for me, even though I wasn’t thrilled that my skin was more often than not less-than-perfect. And then early this year I finally started listening to Sali Hughes and her crusade to get more people using flannels. She’s been saying this for a while (and I’ve been reading her excellent Guardian column for a while, too), but I never really took it in until one day when my little sister and I were talking about our skin-care regimes. We decided to try out this any-cream-cleanser-plus-flannel-and-hot-water method for a bit and see how it went. That was in March (I think) and I have not used a cotton pad except for to take off my nail varnish since then. I’m also happy to report that I stopped using toner, which I found drying on my sensitive skin, it’s generally a much easier way to clean your skin, it gets rid of all of my make-up, it’s a lot more refreshing AND my skin has become clearer! Overall, I am a complete convert to Sali’s method and strongly suggest everyone tries it. The only downside is having to travel with flannels and then having damp ones in your overnight bag, but it’s not that much of an issue.

I have been using old M&S flannels that we already had, but I also ‘invested’ in these Ikea ones, which are great. As for cleansers, I like Boots’ own brand Sensitive Cleanser (which you can’t seem to buy on their website) and Simple Kind To Skin Purifying Cleanser, that Sali also recommends.

So, those are my favourite five (for now). I’d love to run this as a bit of a series with readers’ suggestions. If you’ve got five products that you think are pretty good, then please leave me a comment with your email address and I will get in touch.

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3 thoughts on “My favourite five

  1. Flannels is defo the way forward! I think I get a far better cleanse when using them over cotton wool pads. Carrying them around can be annoying but try the ones from The Sanctuary- a cheese cloth fabric which I got on sale from Boots… Packs of 3 for a few quid, and they wash really well. Great article Esme!

  2. LOVE this! Please make it a regular post! I really recommend Avėne Eau Thermal Soapless Gel Cleanser. It comes in at about £8 but a tiny amount goes really far so totally worth it. It doesn`t dry out your skin so it`s much like a Clinique alternative but half the price. Also recommend oil based eye make-up remover especially for waterproof mascara. No rubbing, it just slides off and leaves the eye area soft! Botanics and Biotherm have great ones. Finally since I live in Spain I can`t get all my home comforts but I love to know what people back home recommend and what to buy online or ask people to bring out when they visit so keep it coming!

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