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Fake fur coats and body oil – the secrets of winter style

I am so cold! Is there any way to get through this weather bomb with any kind of style?

Frosty the Snowman, Outside

My deepest sympathies, Frosty. Speaking as a southern softie who currently, as a rule, refuses to go outside after 5pm in the winter, I can only cluck in sympathy for having to endure the bitter outdoors all day and night.

I hate the cold and the cold hates me. Some people get apple-cheeked and bright-eyed in the cold weather; I get head colds, dry skin and runny-eyed. So, having lived – for some unknown reason – in northern countries my entire life, I have come up with a fair few strategies for dealing with this hell that is euphemistically called “winter” without recourse to resembling the Michelin Man by piling on the padded jackets. Although, to be perfectly honest, I’m not averse to pulling a bit of a Michelin Man now and then. As well as being extremely warm, it’s like walking around in your duvet, which is the only acceptable alternative to being under your duvet.

Try to avoid looking like the Michelin Man by piling on padded jackets.
Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex

As it happens, one of this winter’s biggest fashion trends, if you care about such things (and it’s pretty much the opposite of a requisite), happens to be one of the best ways of dealing with the cold in a vaguely stylish manner: fake fur coats. I’ve spoken before about Shrimps coats, which are completely brilliant and amazingly warm but jawdroppingly expensive. But worry ye not! There are plenty of other fake fur alternatives out there. Whistles’ Kumiko faux fur coat is now in the sale and utterly lovely, with proper plushness. Trusty ol’ Asos has an excellent range, from rock’n’roll leopard print to plain “yah, I stole this from my aristo granny, dahling” full-length ones. Fake fur is so much better than the itchy quasi-plastic it used to be, and the only thing that can make you feel more like Catherine Deneuve than the collar of your fake fur coat brushing against your jawline is actually being Catherine Deneuve.

Sticking with fashion for a moment, my favourite thing to wear in the winter is a good jumper and, honestly, no one makes better jumpers than Bella Freud. They are proper pricey (although she does do excellent samples sales – follow her on Instagram for details of upcoming dates) but, as long as you protect your closet from moths, they will last you for ever. I bought my first Bella jumper at least a decade ago, and I am wearing it as I type this column. Her jumpers fit so beautifully, and, most importantly, are so warm that I happily break my rule about never wearing clothes with words on them (and, anyway, you can buy ones with just images on – I have a special fondness for the jumpers with the doodle of a dog, which was originally drawn by Freud’s father, Lucian.) On the high street, I reckon Uniqlo and Zara do the best knitwear, with Uniqlo good for bright and colourful cashmere blends and Zara for the patterned pieces.

Now we come to possibly my main concern in the winter: skincare. I am one of those super sexy types who has dehydrated skin on my face and dry skin all over my body. Ever seen a snake shed its skin? In the winter, I am like that desiccated bit of skin left behind. Line up, boys! The only moisturiser I’ve ever found that actually keeps my face feeling soft all day, even in the winter when I’ve been riding on my motorbike in the teeth of the wind, is Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream, which is one of the few moisturisers whose name is deserved: this stuff really is a magic project. You don’t need to use much at all, and even on long-haul flights this stuff lasts – and I really cannot stress enough how chronically dehydrated (ie lacking water) my skin normally feels. The only thing worse is how dry (ie lacking oil) the skin on the rest of my body is, sometimes to the point of actual pain and (ooh, sexy!) itchiness.

But I reckon that even if your skin is not as flaky as mine, most people could do with some body oil in the winter. If nothing else, there is something genuinely warming about rubbing rich oil into your skin, as though you’re sealing up the cracks where the cold sinks in and gets into your bones. As all those boring magazines tell you, it is best to exfoliate before you get in the shower, which is totally boring, but gets rid of the dead skin so the oil can sink in better. After towel-drying, slather in your oil – the purer the better. I have friends who swear by straight olive oil, but I find oils made for the human body (like ones made by the company This Works) sink in quicker.

An even more enjoyable way to get oiled up is to put oil into your bath. There are only three places I think are acceptable places to be in the winter: in bed, in the bath and in front of an open fire and, of those, you are only advised to add oil to the bath. Bath oil really is delicious – don’t worry about going for expensive stuff, just go for the one with the most pleasing scent.

But even more important in the winter than bath oil is bubble bath. This has absolutely no benefit for your skin whatsoever, but who the hell cares? It’s just fun to sit in a hot tub of bubbles and, for some of us, that’s winter’s one redeeming factor, so seize it.

Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask.hadley@theguardian.com

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