One of my favourite products turned out to be something I had initially turned my nose up at: Shiseido's Essential Energy Contouring Complex, pounds 28. It is one of those products that is meant to help you shape up, if slapped on thighs and other such loosely contoured bits of you. I don't like these products, the only things that will help you shape up are eating less and moving more. But that aside, this was a great product. The applicator was perfect (pump bottle that pumped out to the last drop) and the product - a gluey substance, sunk in and felt fresh but not greasy. However, nothing beats Revlon's Dry Skin Relief (Original), pounds 3.65 for giving you chewable, soft skin.
Shiseido also make other products in this range: Exfoliating Scrub, pounds 20.50 (too soft for me, I prefer Superdrug's Vitamin E Body Scrub for pounds 1.69, much more invigorating); Body Moisturising Emulsion, pounds 23 (milky and nice); Body Cleansing Lotion, pounds 20, which you could tell at an instant was expensive because of its creaminess. These are good products if you want to spoil yourself or if you have loads of money but Superdrug (my very favourite "cheap" skincare label) do some wonderful shower things. "Power Shower", pounds 1.49, which my tester went into fits about, buying it up in bulk she loved it so much: it comes in orange and mango, lemon and grapefruit (particularly recommended) and lime and mint. S/D also do some wonderful shower gels like their Aromatherapy reviviving ones in peppermint and eucalpytus that will give your senses a lift in the shower.
Jo Malone's Grapefruit Shower gel, pounds 9.95, was also a special treat. There are few things nicer than a zingy shower with fresh-melling soapy stuff to make you feel virtuous after you've done a run or exercise class (there have been times, just recently, that the thought of new products to test has been the only thing to get me into the gym). Origins's Mint Condition Skin Cooling Body Wash, pounds 14.50, was also good to use. If you want to really treat yourself then Clarins's Eau Dynamisante shower gel, pounds 12, is not only a bit more affordable but also superb, and ideal as a base layer for then applying their ED body lotion, pounds 19, and finally, ED spray, pounds 19.50. You will smell heavenly all day. Adding a light scent after you've showered and exercised is a glorious thing to do, apart from Eau Dynamisante, I also loved Malone's Lime Basil Mandarin cologne, pounds 29.50, and Chanel's Invigorating Body Mist, pounds 19.75, which (like ED) is meant to be a body treatment but also smells fresh and sharp.
After showering, especially if you go straight to work from the gym, a useful addition to your wash bag is Aveda's Toning Mist, pounds 20, which is toner in a very fine spray which is just lovely to use on a hot and dry face before applying moisturiser. Another excellent "fast" product is Lancome's Eau de Bienfait Visage et Yeux, pounds 15, which cleanses and tones at the same time, and is superb - the last thing you want at this stage is a greasy product that makes you feel dirty as some of those combined cleansers/toners do. Plus with E de B, etc. you don't need water, just a cotton-wool pad. If you can't be bothered to moisturise your body after showering, Lancome also do Re-Source, pounds 21, which is a drenching body spray. It's good to take the immediate dryness away that a shower can give you, but nowhere near as moisturising as the aforementioned Revlon Dry Skin Relief.
Aching muscles are a side-effect of going to the gym which the masochocists among us quite like. To ease these, my favourite product was by Neal's Yard who do a Sports Salve, pounds 5.25 (they also do a neat Sports Kit, pounds 17.50, which contains all sorts of good little products and would make a nice present), which contains lavender, ginger and rosemary and was pale green and a bit like Vicks. Elemis (who make a whole range of sporty products) have an Aching Muscle Massage Oil, pounds 21.50, which contains thyme, rosemary and pine (I find oils a bit difficult and prefer creams). Elemis also make a fab product called Muscle Warming Sports Rub, pounds 21.50, which you rub into vunerable muscles before exercising. Go easy on it, and you can have the delicious aroma of black pepper, pimento berries and gingseng ooze up your nose while you work out.
Aromatherapy Associates do a very good oil, the Fitness Body Oil, pounds 21.95, which of all the oils was my favourite but you do need a lot of oil to get it to rub in well and it is greasy. But after a bath, and before flannel pyjamas, oils play their part. Also try Clarins Relax Body Treatment Oil, pounds 25. Cosmetics to Go do a muscle rub, pounds 3.60, that contains orange peel if the usual smell of muscle salves doesn't appeal to you, and Mio's Ginger Muscle Rub, pounds 6, comes in a small tin which would be ideal for travelling athletes (they also make a nice Sports Kit, pounds 16.95, laden with goodies). Finally, even if you don't exercise, these muscle-rubs are excellent if you suffer from restless legs at night. I found the Fitness Body Oil and Neal's Yard Sports Salve (see above) and Marks & Spencer's Cooling Foot and Leg Reviver, pounds 6, paricularly helpful.
For stockists call: Aveda: 0171 410 1600; Aromatherapy Associates: 0171 371 9878; Clarins: 0171 629 2979; Chanel: 0171 493 5040; Cosmetics to Go, mail order: 01202 621966; Elemis: 0181 954 8033; Jo Malone mail order: 0171 720 0202; Marks & Spencer: 0171 935 4422; Neal's Yard: 0171 627 1949, mail order: 0161 831 7875; Origins: 0800 731 4039; Revlon: 0171 491 5450; Shiseido: 0171 630 1515; Superdrug: 0181 684 7000; Lancome available from dept stores; Mio from Selfridges: 0171 629 1234Reuse content