For the face
The Inkey List Squalane Oil, £8.99, 30ml, CF (cruelty-free)
Set aside any aversion to oil: squalane is a different ball game. Light, non-greasy, mega-moisturising but not sticky under makeup, this won’t cause breakouts or excessive shine. Use alone as a night oil or sprinkle into day and night creams to turn up the moisture.
Beauty Pie Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-Aging Face Serum, £10.56, 50ml, CF
Beauty Pie skincare is made at the same Swiss factory producing equivalents costing more than £100. It shows. This serum, like every other product in the brand’s retinol offering, feels luxurious and can deliver smoother skin, softer lines and better glow in just a couple of weeks. Start by using every other day, then swiftly ramp up to nightly.
Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+, £9.89, 50g
East Asian brands make the lightest, finest facial sunscreens. This imported moist, watery-textured (and, warning, fragranced) SPF is the best I’ve come across for combination, oily or spot-prone skin. That’s at any price, never mind under a tenner.
Garden of Wisdom Vitamin C 23% Serum Ferulic Acid, £10, 30ml, CF
GoW is a consistently good line of quality, cruelty-free skincare, and this serum is particularly impressive: the concentration of vitamin C is high enough to tackle age spots and other pigmentation problems, unusual in a product this cheap. Wear nightly, though: it’s too sticky for day.
Primark Plump Glow Moisturiser, £5, 50ml, CF, store only
My instant love of this took me by surprise. A straightforward but great quality moisturiser that gives a smooth, hydrated, plumped-up skin ready for easy makeup application. No bells, no whistles, and suitable for every type.
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, £5.50, 50ml, CF
A cracking little (and I mean little – a larger tube, please) makeup remover balm for anyone who finds regular oil-based cleansers too heavy. Wipes away every trace of product, leaving skin neither sticky nor squeaky. Massage into dry skin, add a little water to make milky, remove with a flannel.
Lanolips 101 Ointment, £10.99, 15g, CF
Lanolin is another of those brilliant but wrongly vilified ingredients that is finally making a comeback, in no small part thanks to this high-quality, medical-grade lanolin balm for lips, cuticles, elbows, grazes and more. Dab it wherever skin needs a hit of gentle, mollifying moisture.
Simple Water Boost Micellar, £4.99, 200ml
Micellar cleansers (gentle makeup removing waters) are now made by almost every brand, but whether your budget is £5 or £50, you’ll struggle to do better than this. It’s the best – removing all makeup instantly, leaving skin refreshed and comfortable. Indispensable for festivals, hospitals and flights (when running water is nearby, there’s no substitute for a proper cleanse).
The Body Shop Camomile Gentle Eye Make-up Remover, £3, 100ml, CF
Nivea’s version (the next best thing) may be as effective on heavy eye makeup, but nothing can touch the Body Shop for texture (non-oily), speed (instant, one-stroke removal) and exceptional versatility; this is the best stain remover for carpets, upholstery and delicates. I’ve used it for 30 years and counting.
Face Halo, £7, CF
Ingenious, eco-friendly textured cleansing pads to remove the worst of your makeup before thorough cleaning with a cleanser and flannel. Just wet under the tap, wipe all over face and eyes, then chuck into the washing machine for repeated use. Trust me, they work (on fabric stains, too).
Superdrug Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser, £4.99, 200ml, CF
Superdrug’s own skincare is now so ahead of its price bracket that I struggled to include it only thrice here. I opted for this terrific cleanser because it suits everyone, removes even heavy makeup in one go, and leaves skin ungreasy but unstripped. Use with a flannel, not the cloth provided.
The classic Skin Food moisturiser deserves every last plaudit, but for the sake of originality, I’ve included its new little sister, formulated so that oily types can get in on the action. A thinner, fresher, multipurpose moisturiser for face and body. Particularly good on flights.
Beauty Pie Jeju Overnight Moisture Superinfusion, £8.98, 50ml, CF
Frequently my night cream of choice, thanks partly to its unique texture, which is a sort of firm sorbet that melts to a rich, light, emollient but wholly ungreasy moisturiser. Skin looks better by morning.
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Glycolic Tonic, £5.99, 100ml, CF
There are hugely popular liquid exfoliants less effective than this that cost three times the price. After cleansing, saturate a cotton wool disk with this, then sweep over the entire face and neck to remove dead skin flakes and add healthy glow. Do two to three times weekly, dialling up to daily if all’s well. Tingling is normal. Stinging is not.
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, £4.20, 30ml, CF
Salicylic is a beta hydroxy acid with the power to penetrate through oil and blocked pores, making it one of the most effective treatments for congested and spotty skin. Soak a cotton bud and apply sparingly every few hours, directly to the spot, to shorten its lifespan considerably. Patch test first.
Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum, £2.99, 50ml, CF
It has been several years since I first recommended and (I’m told) popularised this hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramide serum for dehydrated skins – both oily and dry – and I still stand by it, proudly. An incredible bargain that seems to agree with everyone, even the very sensitive. Be patient as it’s frequently sold out.
La Roche-Posay Serozinc, £10, 150ml
Instantly calms and soothes inflamed skin while getting to work on breakouts. After cleansing, or at any point during the day, mist over the face. La Roche-Posay are particularly great at oily and problem skin remedies, but this unsung hero is the only product that comes in on budget.
Yes To Coconut Cleansing Balm, £9.99, 120g, CF
Yes To is a terrific high street brand with much to recommend it, but this is the product I use most. A thick cleansing balm that shifts all makeup, then emulsifies with a little water to loosen and rinse clean away (with the help of a flannel, of course). Best on normal, dry and parched skins.
Marks Spencer Formula Restore Day Cream SPF20, £12.50, 50ml, CF
I adore MS’s Formula line (the night cream is terrific), but this excellent daytime moisturiser was its only product to slide under the £15 threshold. The hyaluronic acid-rich cream hydrates, plumps and visibly perks up the complexion, while the SPF20 gives decent protection at this time of year. Great for dull or mature skins.
Your Good Skin Instant Dryness Rescue, £8, 15ml, CF
This slightly naff-looking brand has been one of my top finds of 2019. The majority of its offering is strong, but this wins for ingenuity. A tiny, mega-hydrating gel-balm for instantly reviving and plumping up dry, crepey skin around eyes, cheeks and mouth. Invaluable at around 4pm, it won’t disrupt any underlying makeup.
Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads, £6.79, 60 pads, CF
You’ll find no scrubs on this list because I strongly believe exfoliating should be done with face cloths and acid solutions, rather than hard grains. Here, the edge is taken off highly effective glycolic and lactic acids with the addition of humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. While excellent, these pads are not for the highly sensitive.
For the body
Dove Summer Revived, £7.79, 200ml, CF
Among the first gradual tanners to launch, this remains the most natural-looking. Gives a flattering brown (not orange) tint and plenty of moisture for smooth, glowy skin. Apply straight after showering with no other body cream. Available in two shades.
Palmer’s Anti-Aging Smoothing Lotion, £4.49, 250ml, CF
Still the smelliest, but still the best. This fast‑absorbing lotion, applied regularly, removes any flaky, dry skin and dramatically reduces the appearance of keratosis pilaris (the red, goose-bump condition common on upper arms and thighs). Smells foul, so apply before bed and sleep through it.
CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, £9, 236ml
This stands out from its pharmacy shelfmates because unlike most other specialist dry and sensitive skin moisturisers, which sit like a barrier on the surface, it isn’t greasy. A ceramide-rich lotion (for normal to dry; if you’re super dry, get the cream version) it feels light and sinks in fast for almost instant relief.
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Hand Cream, £8.49, 96g, CF
The best remedy for painfully dry or cracked hands caused by cold weather, manual labour or too frequent washing. For extreme cases, apply a thick layer before bed and wear clean cotton socks like mittens. O’Keeffe’s make an excellent foot cream for cracked heels, too.
Sanctuary Spa Wet Skin Moisture Miracle, £8, 200ml, CF
Love body moisturiser but hate the faff of rubbing it in, and the residual stickiness? This is the answer. An in-shower lotion that can be slapped on to wet skin in seconds for all-day, ungreasy moisture and comfort. I’m never without it.
Soaper Duper Body Wash, £6.50, 500ml, CF
Practically the only body wash my family now uses. Huge 100% recycled bottles (made from old milk cartons) of delicious-smelling, sulphate-free shower gel or cream. I am loyal to coconut or shea. My kids love the lemon, passion fruit or ginger. All leave skin clean, fresh and comfy.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream, £5.49, 75ml
Not to be confused with the renowned Norwegian Formula, this featherlight gel-cream is for people who hate hand cream. Instantly hydrates uncomfortable, dry-looking hands, improving their appearance, leaving no residue, allowing doorknobs to be turned and jars to be opened.
I believe that the best sunscreen is the one you will use: a great many of us don’t bother. This pocket-sized tube of high-quality, high-protection sun cream means neither you nor your family will ever be caught short. In my handbag since 2007.
Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap, £7.69, 237ml, CF
Dr Bronner’s is beauty’s Swiss army knife. This organic, Fairtrade wash gently and effectively cleans skin, hair, clothes, babies, worktops, dishes and delicates. Naturally scented (the almond is my favourite), and packaged in a 100% recycled bottle, it smells great and looks cool in any kitchen or bathroom.
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