CLEANSE, TONE AND MOISTURISE: What to do with dull, pimply, wintry- grey skin? Annalisa Barbieri gets her gloves on and starts scrubbing
THE first signs of Spring are shyly peeping out. Chilly, sunny days; green bits on trees; daytime that doesn't end at teatime. And skin, that perhaps has been a little neglected and is a little dry, flaky and dull. So a little skin spring-cleaning wouldn't go amiss. I got a letter last week from a reader whose legs, she said, were all those things. She had tried this cream and that cream and nothing worked. I suggested she try a pair of exfoliating gloves from Body Shop (pounds 2.95), and use them every day (they're funny-looking gloves, which come in pastel colours, and are miles better than loofahs or body brushes), and then apply something like the excellent Revlon Dry Skin Relief in Original scent (pounds 3.65) which I recently voted the best body cream ever. The point was, I said, to do this every day. This was the way to get glowing, soft skin. There's no point just slapping on a bit of body moisturiser every now and then; skin needs to be regularly pampered. Anyway, she tried it and was overjoyed. How easy, she said. Well yes.

You can use body scrubs if you want to (and if you do, Superdrug's Vitamin E body scrub (pounds 1.69), is highly recommended, it is quite rough - I can't bare cissy scrubs - and hence very invigorating), but those Body Shop gloves can't be beat for effectiveness and cheapness, and you just use them with normal soap/shower gel. If you suffer from pimply upper arms - caused by sluggish circulation - then this routine is ideal for getting rid of them.

Another excellent product to get you in the mood for all things springlike, is Aveda's Energizing Body Cleanser, pounds 9.50. It's not cheap but if you can afford it, it really is nicer than plain old soap. Containing loads of zingy ingredients such as witchhazel, lemon and geranium, it fair fizzes on your skin. I use it after a work-out at the gym (talking of which I shall be covering "sports-related" products in the coming months) and it's really fabulous. Tesco has a bodycare range in conjunction with Ragdale Hall Health Hydro which is very, very good, cheap - not one product costs over pounds 5 - and ideal for getting your body ready for summer. At bathtime their Detoxifying Bath Essence (pounds 3.49) keeps getting chosen over more expensive brands. It smells nice, kind of herbally and uplifting, so it's great in the morning, but it's not too overpowering as some cheap brands tend to be. Ditto their excellent Quenching Body Milk (pounds 3.99) which contains starflower oil, aloe and lavendar, and leaves skin soft and, yes, quenched.

That's enough about bodies. Now on to faces. This is the time to get those deep-cleansing masks out. I have never been a mad fan of masks, probably because I can't bring myself to spend money on them, thinking of them as peripheral, luxury products, and my image of them was formed in early adolescence by cheapo sachet masks you could buy at the local chemists and that smelled so overpoweringly of strawberries as to instil a lifelong intolerance to them. Also, skin guru Jo Malone, whom regular readers will know I worship, doesn't sell a face mask but rather recommends mixing a few drops of fresh lemon juice with some yoghurt and whacking it on your face for about ten minutes. So this is what I did for ages.

But if you don't fancy doing that, there are some top-notch masks on the market. My two favourite deep-cleansing masks are by Origins and Aveda. The Origins one, Clear Improvement (pounds 15), contains activated charcoal and white china clay and is a very dark, inky green, the sort of colour you expect deeply cleansing masks to be. It went on satisfyingly smoothly, I thought I looked much more fetching with this mask on than in my natural state (if you're going to get caught wearing a face mask, make sure it's this one) and my skin felt great afterwards. Aveda's Deep Cleansing Herbal Clay Masque (pounds 19.50) comes in a base metal tube so looks very old-fashioned, and contains things like sea clay, corn, coconut, aloe and lavendar. The mask is a buff colour and it did the job very nicely. Two more that are definitely worth a mention are Eve Lom's Rescue Mask (pounds 17.50), which, like all Eve Lom products looks and smells totally unique and left my skin perky and posh, and Chanel's very refined-looking Cleansing Mask (pounds 21) which is a haughty ice-blue cream that smells reassuringly pharmaceutical.

If colds, flus, central heating and eating too many doughnuts have all been playing havoc with your face then a must-, must-buy is Origins' Out of Trouble (pounds 15). This thick, white mask has stuff like "absorbent zinc oxide, calming camphor and skin sloughing salicylic acid". Well, it all felt great and it would also be excellent for "period skin", or any time when your skin is below par.

Naturally, as well as using these products you should be cleansing, toning and moisturising with some - but not too much - regularity, and eating lots of chocolate and drinking lots of naughty alcoholic cocktails. I'll leave you with a tip for the coming month from my colleague, Mark, who, having two spots of Vesuvius-like proportions, applied copious amounts of the excellent spot remedy, Dynamite, by Eve Lom (pounds 14.50) prior to his birthday party. The great day loomed and still the mini-Mounts were on his face. So the party came and, after copious amounts of dancing and drinking ... his spots disappeared, and his face is as clear as a very clean window. That's the way to do it.

For stockists call: Aveda: 0171 410 1600; Chanel: 0171 493 3836; Eve Lom: from Space NK (0171 299 4999), Dickins & Jones (0171 734 7070) and Frasers in Glasgow (0141 221 3880); Jo Malone: 0171 720 0202; Origins: 0800 731 4039; Revlon: 0171 491 5450; Body Shop and Superdrug from stockists nationwide.