The Intelligent Consumer: The smooth operators

There's a time to be sensible and there's a time to splurge out on the most luxurious and spoiling products you can lay your mitts on. Now, says Annalisa Barbieri, is that time
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Indy Lifestyle Online
This month is all about treats and indulgences. No room for "value for money" or other sensible advice in December's CTM (which is a two- parter, part two next week), this is all about nice treaty things that you'd perhaps never buy for yourself, but would love to receive.

When I was a teenager, bath products were something that were given as a last-minute thought, but things have moved on since festive Mateys, and bath products - nice ones - are not at all naff to give as Christmas presents. It's nice to have a little something special to wallow in, or the chance to spread scented body lotion over yourself and smell of your favourite perfume for hours. All the products talked about this month (bath oils, body lotion etc) will be covered again in months to come, with a more practical eye cast upon them, but for now, relax and enjoy.

Philosophy do some lovely little kits that make perfect presents, they come in "themed" tin boxes, such as "Miracle Worker", pounds 30, or "Objects of Desire", pounds 60, which generally contain a lotion for body/face/nails or hands. The "Rainbow Connection", pounds 100, contains oracle cards with affirmations, and various oils which you use to create moods. They are enormous fun (all the products come in shredded paper, adding to that pick and mix feel), and when you've finished the lotions and potions, you have a rather smart tin to put things in (rather like the sort they used to bring their lunch to school in in Little House on the Prairie).

Aveda scored highly for their fantastic compact, pounds 20, which has eight eyeshadows, two lipsticks and two blushers in a smart rectangular holder with integral mirror. It is especially good for travelling.

While touching on the subject of make-up, MAC have done a lipkit, pounds 70, consisting of nine lip colours in a very smart black wash-bag (which featured in the "Get the Look" pages a few weeks back, as it doubles as an excellent clutch bag). Because the lip colours come in tubes, this kit has a playful feel to it, so it's a good present to give someone that is into their make-up (amateurs might find it a bit daunting).

My favourite scented body lotion was by Dolce e Gabbana. But at one Christmas party, I was violently sick while (coincidentally) wearing it, and to this day, if I smell it, it reminds me of that fateful night. That said, scented bath and body bits are a fabulously luxurious way of wearing your favourite perfume (the scent lasts much longer, it's called layering I do believe, but not in the way a mille feuille is layered with all that lovely puff pastry). Anyway, more about perfumed body lotions next week. But I'd like to mention here that if you're a man and you plan to be unfaithful over the jollies, don't do it with a woman who wears scented body cream: you will reek of her and be found out.

An early top tip: if you have a proper festive season, this will involve lots of going out and overdoing it and your skin will take a pounding. So, when you get in, even if you're too drunk to take your clothes off, slap on some Guerlain's Issima Midnight Secret, pounds 66, which is a face cream you put on before you go to bed and it takes away all signs of dehydration and greyness and you wake up with fantastic looking skin.

To wish you a Merry All That, we have got together with Aveda to offer one lucky reader a voucher for the Aveda Essential Facial, worth pounds 70. The facial will take place at the Aveda salon in Harvey Nichols in London. The question is easy if you read CTM regularly and know my philosophy on skincare: what is the most important component of a good cleansing routine? Send your answer on a postcard to me at the usual IoS address (see Dear Annie - and no e-mails or phone calls.) The first correct entry out of a suitable receptacle will win the voucher, closing date for entries is Friday 12 December, 1997. The editor's decision is final.

For stockist information, call the following numbers: Philosophy, 0171 636 2523; Aveda, 0171 410 1600; MAC, 0171 349 0601; Dolce e Gabbana, Harvey Nichols; and Guerlain, from major department stores.

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