Cleanse Tone Moisturise: Pleasure in a jar

These days, the classiest products come from the most surprising places. Annalisa Barbieri on skincare from Muji and others

HELLO. THERE'S no theme this month. Themes are all very well, but sometimes there are particular products I want to talk about that don't fit in with that month's subject matter and I have to wait ages to be able to slot them in again. So this month's beauty spot is a bit of a round-up.

First off, Muji skincare products. I love them. They are ridiculously cheap - prices start at pounds 2.50 - and not madly sophisticated, but they are brilliantly styled in that simple Muji way. The Face Soap, pounds 2.50, is white stuff in a clear tube. When I first used it, it left my skin so clean it squeaked. I am not mad keen on this level of cleanliness as it means it has stripped skin of essential moisture, but strangely, after that first time, it never did that squeaky thing again. This cleanser, which you foam up with water, would be perfect for a teenage or greasy skin. I'd advise against its use for anyone over 35, unless they had really oily skin, but before that, fab!

Muji also do a cleansing gel, pounds 2.95, which is for a drier skin, but I didn't find it any more moisturising than the Face Soap. Also in the range is Toning Water, pounds 2.95, which is totally clear. I took some convincing that this wasn't just plain old tap water. It's OK, but didn't madly impress me. The moisturiser in this range, Face Milk (in moist or light formulations for dry or oily skins), is very basic but, again, would be fine for a young skin. An older one would need something a bit more nourishing and sophisticated.

For the body there is Body Soap, pounds 3.95, which comes in citrus and mandarin smells and in a lovely big pump jar that you can keep by the bath to replace soggy old bars of soap. Right, that's enough about Muji.

A great shower gel that I didn't test in time for last month's sporty product round-up is by Neal's Yard, the Rosemary and Elderflower Shower Gel, pounds 3.25. It's now become one of my very favourite shower gels and I slather it on with abandon. Neal's Yard products are fairly new to the CTM testing circuit, but so far I am impressed. One of the nicest things about them is that they smell so good but never overpowering or artificial like some can.

Night creams. I'm generally too lazy to CTM at night so never see the point of buying a night-specific cream. Whenever I have they've sat on the shelf congealing in between bi-weekly finger dips when I come home drunk and try to make up for my over-indulgence by cleaning my face. Night creams tend to be really rich and old-ladyish and I don't like going to bed with a sheeny shiny face - why do manufacturers think our skins need such heavy stuff at night? It only slides off on the pillow. But Origins do something called Night-A-Mins, pounds 25, which I really like. It comes in a faux vitamin bottle and is rather nice. It's light and smells of oranges (but not too much) and is a real treat to use. It also says something on the label about building strong skin while you sleep - I like the thought of the cream doing all the hard work. Yes please.

Now then, onto some letters I've had of late. One lady asked me what I thought of Sisley products. She had heard a lot about them and wanted unbiased advice. I too have heard a great deal about Sisley but had never tried them, but this has now changed and I shall report back fully in the near future. But so far, so good, they seem excellent. Mr Barbieri has also taken to suddenly needing to use them, even though he has his very own products. He starts off by making noises, saying something like "This seems good. How much is it?" or "Mmmm, this smells nice", and I know before long he will decide he just has to have that particular product. At the moment he is trying to get his hands on my Origins Never a Dull Moment exfoliator, pounds 20. He says that it's the best exfoliator he's ever tried because, apparently, unlike other exfoliators, it doesn't dry your skin out.

There have also been lots of enquiries about acne, acne scarring, rosacea and fairly serious stuff like that. All these I refer to the Sher System which was started up by Helen Sher. She used to work for Erno Laszlo, whom regular readers of this column will know I regard highly. He used to work with people who had severe skin problems and would help them with his range of products, rather than by horrid antibiotics or sticking them on the pill or telling them to use cortisone creams. You can't get Laszlo products any more in this country (they could only be sold by highly trained staff and for some reason, this was difficult to achieve here!) which is a real shame, because they were completely brilliant.

Helen Sher and her System work in similar ways to Laszlo and the key ingredient is water and splashing your face lots with it. You go in for a consultation (which costs pounds 50 but is redeemable against purchase) and then she prescribes various products from her range for you. Hundreds of people swear by the Sher System, so if you suffer from acne, rosacea or any skin condition you're not happy about, give them a ring on 0171 499 4022.

For stockists ring Muji: 0171 323 2208; Neal's Yard: 0171 627 1949; Origins: 0800 731 4039

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