Fashion: Is it worth it? A load of old flannel

Posh exfoliator or simple face-cloth? Let your pocket decide

Exclusive Bio Exfoliating Tonic

Kanebo pounds 39.95

THE Beauty Bible says thou shalt exfoliate thy face three times a week, using a cream full of scratchy bits. But even though exfoliators are the beauty anorak's favourite product - lots of tricky, technical terms and clever ingredients - are they really worth the palaver?

For example, an exfoliator's effectiveness can't always be guaranteed by its price-tag. Kanebo's (pounds 39.95) is a hi-tech liquid from Japan that smells really old-fashioned, like the whiff of Grandma's face cream. This pink potion is wiped over your face like a toner while its exfoliating fruit acids do all the hard work. For a wallet-exfoliating forty quid, the bottle looked cheap and leaked, but despite the strangeness of application - no scrubbing! - my skin did feel softer.

A better alternative that provides hands-on user satisfaction is "Sweep" (pounds 24), a "real" scrub from Remede, the beauty line from the Bliss Spa, New York. Not too gritty and not too soft, the teeny-tiny grains buffed my skin into submission, leaving my face feeling like my four-year-old goddaughter's and curiously matt.

However, when you're skint at the end of the month and need a bargain- basement scrub, you'd do well to grab a copy of "Make Your Own Cosmetics" (Aurum, pounds 9.99) from Neal's Yard Remedies. Following the scrub recipe on page 51, our apron-wrapped volunteer whizzed oats, fresh strawberries and single cream together in a food processor and rubbed it over her chops. It felt good, it tasted good and her boyfriend commented afterwards that her skin smelt delicious. A preservative-free product for pennies - Valerie Singleton would have been proud.

But is all this scrubbing doing our skin any good? "Sometimes over-exfoliating can expose the skin too much, leaving it vulnerable to attack from pollution and the outside world," says Vickie Martin, International Retail Manager for Jo Malone. "All that's necessary is a flannel and water to take off any product; that in itself will exfoliate your skin."

So, D-I-Y sessions aside, perhaps it's wiser to save your money and buy a flannel. When your face feels in need of a good scrub you can remove your cleanser with it then lie back and stuff strawberries and cream into your exfoliated mug. Now that's the sort of beauty routine we like.

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