Separating the OK from the OH WOW.


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There are a lot of beauty products in the world. More than you care to know about. You used to eye up the woman in the gym whose make-up bag had yes, suffered a foundation explosion, but housed some things you’d never seen before. Natty crayons that scribbled flattering colours on her eyelids, cheeks and lips. A bronzer the size of a CD (it’s Charlotte Tilbury and it’s amazing). Or when you got ready with friends you’d chat about what’s good and what’s new. What’s made one friend’s pores evaporate quicker than cash on pay day. And what is it exactly that has your other friend, glowing like a naked flame. 

As life gets back to normal, we’ll be required (if we are that way inclined, of course - it’s not an actual requirement, not like wearing a mask, anyway…) to approximate fresh faces. Ones with actual mascara and lipstick. And even if make-up isn't your thing, you'd probably like to look awake or simply alive. Like you haven’t spent lockdown in a windowless attic, gathering dust, deprived of sunlight. This list, as its name suggests, will steer you towards actually brilliant beauty products. Stuff we’ve tried, tested, used up and adored, because it's hard to know what's worth it when you can't peer into strangers make-up bags or poke around in those of your friends. And especially when the WhatsApp conversations that used to revolve around CC creams and SPF now trade exclusively in the future of the monarchy, restaurant reservations and the delicious possibility of going out out. 

Cera Ve Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £17

Cera Ve – ask any beauty editor – is one of those brands that everyone trusts. It’s the nice person at the party that no-one has a bad word to say about. In fact, before it landed in the UK, editors, while in New York for Fashion Week, would go to Sephora especially to stock up. It’s cheap as chips and backed by science, and this, its latest launch, just arrived. A gel cream hybrid, it sinks in quick without a hint of tackiness, and is full of skin-scaffolding ceramides, and super hydrators, glycerin and hyaluronic acid. After two weeks of religious use, my skin looks fresher and feels healthier for sure.


Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream Upgrade, £205

THE cream, the one that everyone talks about, the one that even the shallow pocketed fork out for, has had an upgrade. Professor Bader, the enigmatic scientist who took the beauty world by storm, has fine tuned an already pitch perfect product. Formulated with TFC-8, a complex of over 40 ingredients, including vitamins, synthesized molecules, and amino acids, the clinical trails for this, The Rich Cream 2.0, will knock your socks off. The brand reports a 145 per cent reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and a 92 per cent improvement in skin firmness. Usually, I'd just waffle on about its smell and its ability to make my skin sing, but when you're dropping north of £200, I know I know, you need the stats. 

Hershesons The Everyday Essentials Brush, £26

An excellent hairbrush in the cobalt shade that Hershesons is now synonymous, this smooths, softens and staves off static. Knots don't stand a chance, neither does bacteria, and with some of the most scalp pleasing bristles around, ahh, just AH. 

ghd Max Styler, £179

These took me right back to my teenage years - remember the original chunky irons with gold plates? Understanding little about hair health, I used to clamp them straight onto damp hair. Can you believe I found the sizzle and steam satisfying? Yikes how things have changed. These plates are bigger and more techy than ever. They make styling thick, coarse and textured hair a doddle, and they have Charlotte Mensah, ghd’s global ambassador and the queen of Afro hair’s approval. If you need convincing still, know that the brand promises up to two times less frizz and 80 per cent more shine. 

Nars Air Matte Blush, £26

I don't mean to alarm you, but this is limited edition, so get your skates on. It's like Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse, that never beaten, inexplicably exciting foundation that was a soft and spongy and slid on like a dream. I apply it without a mirror, with my finger, as clumsily as I like. Two pats for a suggestion of colour and four to mimic a generous jog. It makes me look perky and pleasant. There are eight different shades, but Orgasm is of course the best.

Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion, £33

As I write this – in March – it's snowing outside and my central heating is audibly clanking. Ordinarily the skin on my body would be gross. Dry and a funny grey-ish colour, but not since this, the reworked version of a classic arrived at my door last week. Exquisitely rich but not sticky or cloying, it is the smell of Clarins (if you know, you know). Best of all, it's nice to apply, which means you'll do it absent-mindedly – dare I say I often find body moisturising an imposition?

Guerlain L’Essentiel High Perfection 24-Hour Wear foundation, £44

You may not have the opportunity or the inclination to wear a foundation for 24 hours right now (or ever, to be honest) but its OTT staying power is peace of mind, regardless. A lightweight, matte formula that sinks in instead of sitting on top of skin, this covers everything you need it to, from blemishes to bags.

GUCCI Silk Priming Serum, £41

I often give samples to friends on the condition that they relay detailed reviews. On this occasion, it was a primer, which for better or for worse, is not something I ever have – or will – wear. Her reply: "Ok, first, it's almost too good to use? Formula wise, I wore it alone first to see just how much it blurred and perfected etc, and it didn't mess around. Then I put foundation on, and it clung to it for dear life, so yes, in a word: SOLD!"

Earl of East Onsen Bath Salts, £24

Baths are an exemplary form of self-care, especially when they transport you to an onsen in a mountainous village in Kyoto. Breathe deep in eucalyptus, peppermint and mandarin. 

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment, £15

Finally, a body version of the exfoliating face wipes that beauty editors go nuts for. These make light work of spotty chests, bacne and unsightly chicken skin on the backs of arms.

Superdose™ C C- Suite Rapid Action Power Brightener, £12.48 for members, £80 for non

I got over the fact that this high potency vitamin C serum has a slightly funny smell when after two weeks of use, my skin was noticeably brighter, and my maskne scars were visibly reduced. 

Pat McGrath MTHRSHP MEGA Eyeshadow Palette in Celestial Divinity, £60

If you're a make-up maximalist, you can't do better that this mega palette. From Mother Pat McGrath, if features a veritable feast of grown-up glitter and matte textures in shouty, peacocking shades. 

Paula's Choice Niacinimide Treatment, £45

If like me, you struggle with pores on your nose that can be seen from space, make niacinimide, an ingredient that's known to reduce blemishes and congestion, a mainstay in your regime. After just two uses of this serum, I noticed a difference. 

Bella Freud Ceramic 1970 Diffuser, £155

This will transport you to a different decade – hurrah! Anything but the now. With patchouli, musk and moss, and in a garish and golden pot, it's both a visual and olfactive reminder of the 70s. 

Byredo Eyeshadow in Corporate Colours, £56

With connoisseur of cool Ben Gorham and make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench as parents, Byredo make-up was never not going to be standout. Pebble shaped, with a dimpled gold shell, this palette is weighty and art-like, housing five earthy and blendable eye shadows. 

Ren ClearCalm Clarifying Clay Cleanser, £24

Contrary to popular perception, clay doesn't have to be drying. This has got the consistency of a regular cleanser, but does a more thorough job, leaving skin feeling clean and looking fresh. 

LeapFrog IMMUNE, £34.99

I am on the fence about supplements. See, I don't know what I'm supposed to take and why, but in 2021, I can get on board with something that promises to bolster my immune system. With lactoferrin, a protein that's part of our innate immune defence system, the stuffy nose I'm usually harbouring at this time of year is nowhere to be seen. 

Teoxane AHA Cleansing Gel, £35

A gentle, foaming cleanser that uses alpha hydroxy acids to improve skin clarity and texture, this has been a mainstay by my sink ever since trying it. 

Náu Powdery Cream Deodorant £15

Impressive be the brand that makes deodorant sexy. This cream is thick, and sinks in quick, leaving a nostalgic talcum powdery smell in its wake. And although it's yet to be tested outside my flat, it's held up well against central heating on full blast. 

Caudalie Reservatrol Lift Firming Cashmere Cream, £42

With a patented collagen booster and skin-brightening botanicals, this everyday moisturiser seems to be offsetting the effects of lockdown number whatever. Plus, bonus points for Caudalie, because both the plastic lid and glass pot are recyclable.

Jo by Jo Loves Candle, £55

If you listen very carefully, among the deluge of dreadful news, you can hear a cold wind and a crackling fire, both signs that candle season is upon us. Light this one for a waft of bitter orange, lime, cedarwood and vetiver. 

Kérastase Chronologiste Pre-Cleanse Régénérant, £34

Asking someone who rarely double cleanses to pre-shampoo before they proper shampoo is a tall order. And so this bottle sat on the side of my shower for an age. Then my boyfriend said he'd used this black stuff that made his hair feel "really soft and clean." After further investigation I read that it gets up to 96% of pollution particles, and I've been a convert ever since.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle L’eau Privee, £67

Oriental with orange and bergamot, ah, it’s good - and sexy, but not overtly so. An update on the update of the original, it’s less woodsy and more fresh, because it’s designed to be worn in bed, which feels as decadent as it sounds. 

Isle of Paradise Hyglo Body Self Tan Serum, £19.95

I have got to admit, I don't find applying any tan without a guide colour a doddle, but this is the easiest it gets. There are no incriminating marks on PJs or pillows, and I wake looking infinitely better than I would have done otherwise. Sun-kissed not sallow, fresh not fatigued, and because of hyaluronic, coconut and avocado oil, my skin feels hydrated, too. 

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder in Honey, £30

Joining two other cult powders in the range, this one, Honey, is finely milled, sinks in like a liquid, and with a golden undertone, leaves no chalkiness. I’ve been wearing it under and around my eyes to keep my concealer in place and am suitably impressed. 

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