Some people scoff at skincare, but these people generally tend to have wrinkles. Skincare should be started at a young age and a topping idea is for your mother to show you what to do and pay for it. Much as I believe that your blood provides all the nutrients your skin needs (if you can build up to standing on your head for half an hour, this would be a fine thing to do), most of us have to contend with pollution and hard water and our skin needs help.
But the concept of applying products to your skin seems highly alien to some people. "When do things start happening?" was a common question among new-to-this testers. This is a slightly silly question because skincare products do not work miracles. It's true that, like a car that hasn't been washed for months and then is, your skin will glow more the first time you look after it, but the point of skincare is maintenance. Having said this, I think most of it is genetic.
Nevertheless, certain things are very important. A basic skincare routine should be started in your teens. Nothing complicated but it should incorporate an eye-cream, one of the great essentials of life as the skin around the eyes is the first to go. As you get older, moisturisers need to get more "high performance" and protein serums (more about this in later columns, it doesn't come from horses) should start making an appearance on your bathroom shelf. Over the age of 18, champagne also plays a very important part in any routine, because the more of it you drink the better your skin (and everyone else's) looks. A very great and fantastic name in skincare is Erno Laszlo (sadly no longer sold in this country). Dr Laszlo's was a very complicated and splishy splashy sort of regime and the only one I've come across that incorporated putting oil on before you started cleansing. This is not as stupid as it sounds and especially useful for those who suffer from really dry skin. Cue my 29-year-old girl- tester Zoe, whose skin is so dry it almost hurts after a bath or shower. Here, the brilliant and yummy smelling Aveda Miraculous Beauty Replenisher oil, pounds 20 (0171 410 1600) can be applied before bathing/washing your hair. Like all fab products, it has many uses: as a night treatment, massaged into your breasts, or somebody else's to keep them supple, or into a pregnant tummy to try to avoid stretch marks. Although skincare is important, anybody who religiously CTMs morning and night quite frankly needs to look at their lifestyle and wonder. Falling home drunk and straight into bed without having even brushed your teeth, never mind applied your multi-vitamin gel with a pipette, is mandatory every once in a while. And every six or eight weeks it's a good idea to just let your skin get dirty for few days. I have this theory that germs can be good for your skin (notice tramps aren't that spotty).
Jo Malone (0171 720 0202) does an expensive but very super range which is as simple as a GMTV presenter (one type of day moisturiser, only two types of cleanser, a joy if some of the more complicated ranges leave you sad and confused) and therefore ideal for lazy people (the girls in her shop have unbelievable skin). Her moisturiser (pounds 14.50 for 100ml) is, so far, the best I've ever used. It is deeply hydrating but "dries" to a matt finish that is almost like wearing make-up.
A total indulgence but a fantastic treat for your eyes, these Estee Lauder Stress Relief Eye Masks, 19.50 for ten (from dept stores), are little, gauze half moons that are impregnated with cooling lotion. You place them under your eyes for ten minutes (see the advantage over cucumber slices, you don't have to keep your eyes closed) and they leave them refreshed and perky. Especially good if you keep them in the fridge (don't mistake them for ice-cream wafers), but more useful kept in your top drawer to slap on after staring at the computer for too long or crying.
The legendary Maybelline Great Lash Mascara comes over here on 20 October (from the Beauty Quest catalogue, 0541 505000). It's not the best mascara you will ever try - Zoe (tester-girl) says it can be "gloopy" - but it's only pounds 5.95, has cheap and cheerful packaging in a US high-school way (green and pink) and is really very famous.
L'Occitane Shaving Kit, pounds 64.95, is a classy bit of shaving kit. The shaving cream and after-shave cream come in base metal-coloured tubes which look gloriously old fashioned. Then there's an after-shave lotion, froth up brush and a white stick that stops you bleeding. So posh you'll have to book a trip on the Orient Express to use it (0171 629 6209 for stockists).
This product so deserves to be slagged off I can't believe it hasn't been designed for just that purpose. Donna Karan's cashmere body lotion, pounds 38, comes in a big, fancy, cream box. It looks nice, but open it up and the "bottle" inside is a pearlised, plastic thing that looks like a headless, puffy-chested duckie (the cologne is pictured here, but same shape). It smells awful: top notes of "sweets on a necklace" that fade to bottom notes of cheap, cocoa-butter crap. The bumpf on the box ("Your skin makes no decisions, tells no lies, breaks no promises...") sounds like propaganda for a Love-In religious movement. Leave it!