Beauty: Time to face facts

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So many beauty products claim to take years off you. But is the hype justified? Here, one writer who has tried our selection of bestsellers gives her surprising verdict. Charlotte Ross reports

THEY say your skin is all in the genes. A lucky thing for me, as my mother, now in her sixties, has skin most 35-year-olds would envy. Despite her claims to have been brought up on white bread and sugar in post-war Glasgow, the face she shows the world has a smooth, dewy radiance. And considering the years of worry my brothers and I caused her, she hardly has a wrinkle to show for it.

Her beauty secret is simple: throughout my childhood there was always a pale pink bottle of Oil of Ulay (or Olay, as it’s now known) on her bedside table. Now there is one on mine.

But I didn’t get there straight away. I’ve tried every potion on the market, lapping up each “It” cream that appeared. The more expensive the better. When Crme de la Mer was the cream du jour, it was on my fingertips morning and night, even though its heavy texture didn’t suit my skin.

Before long I’d replaced it with the next beauty buzz-cream, SK II, an upmarket Japanese brand based on a byproduct of the drink sake. Like so many of the “miracle” creams that catch the attention, it’s said to have come about by accident – someone supposedly noticed the youthful hands of old men in a sake factory. While I used it, I had clear, glowing skin.

No 7 Protect & Perfect serum, the bargain-basement Boots brand that outperformed every similar super-pricey anti-ageing product, was originally used to treat burns. I’ve no idea if it works – how can you ever know with something that claims to slow ageing? – but I use it daily, just in case.

And the latest word-of-mouth hit, Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter, was, well, bottom cream before bored mums started slapping it on their faces. It only costs 2.49 but was sold out until a couple of weeks ago. Now I’ve stocked up and smear the vanilla-scented paste all over in the morning and on my face at night.

When all the fashions die down, there is something reassuring about tried-and-tested formulas: the potions your most beautiful, smooth-skinned friends rely on. That’s how I came to love Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour cream, which I slap on my dry elbows and heels and always use on my face during long flights. And Dr Hauschka Rose Day cream, which is perfect for when my skin feels sensitive. When I use Eve Lom’s amazing muslin-cloth-and-hot-water cleansing cream regularly, I don’t need anything else.

Price is no indicator of efficacy when it comes to face creams, so make your choices depending on how much you’re prepared to spend. I still try the more expensive serums, capsules and lotions, but what I have learned from my extensive research is that it is the enduring classics by Dr Hauschka, Eve Lom and Elizabeth Arden, not the newer, high-tech and higher priced products, that I reach for now when I want to be sure of visible results. And my mother was right – at least about one thing. In my 20 years of “It” cream addiction, Olay’s as good as I’ve found.


Claim? Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “as smooth as a baby’s bottom”. It is made from olive oil and lavender (traditionally used to soothe nappy rash) and fans claim their skin returns to prepubescent-like smoothness after a few weeks of using it twice a day.

Buzz? After a contributor on parenting website said the cream had transformed her face, sales doubled to 30,000 tubs. It has sold eight years’ worth of stock since appearing on the website four months ago. New deliveries sell out fast.

Value for money: at 2.49 for 125ml, it’s a mere snip of the price of many “hi-tech” anti-wrinkle creams.


Claim? Markets itself as one of the most technologically advanced skincare products with “bioengineered human growth hormone (HGH)”, which claims to renew the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Extracts of green tea and gingko biloba (antioxidants) and sodium hyaluronate allegedly add to the anti-ageing effect and help keep the skin moisturised.

Buzz? When launched exclusively in Selfridges in April this year, four were sold every hour as customers raced to get their hands on the new skin technology.

Value for money: at 275 for 60ml, you pay for the price of science.


Claim? More pentapeptides (said to maintain collagen levels) than any other product. Contains hyaluronic acid, which is supposed to draws moisture into the skin cells, making lines less visible. Promises to smooth skin after just 24 hours and make it firmer after five days.

Buzz? After women in the US stormed shops for it, the UK launch in April caused the same kind of stir and a sizeable waiting list built up before it hit the shelves. Fans say it really does help the skin rebuild itself.

Value for money: 29.99 for 50ml –a reasonable price for “Olay’s first super-cream”.


Claim? Repairs sun damage, giving a more even skin-tone, and reduces the depth of wrinkles.

Buzz? Endorsed on BBC2’s Horizon programme last year; physical fights broke out in some Boots stores as women sought to get their hands on a tube. Sales soared by 2,000 per cent the day after the programme (tubes were auctioned on eBay for four times their retail value as stocks ran out in stores).

Value for money: 16.75 for 30ml. A bargain considering Horizon deemed it as effective as creams with the same function that are only available on prescription.


Claim? Secret weapon is hydronoctine – a complex containing ingredients said to reoxygenate skin, helping it regenerate overnight. Also contains blue gold – pure gold blended with marine algae extract – which prevents that tired, creased look after a night out.

Buzz? “Like sleep in a bottle” say fans. Top-selling night treatment for skin in the UK, a bottle is sold every 15 minutes.

Value for money: 54.50 for 30ml – the price for faking sleep. 01932 233 887


Claim? Contains extract of 1,075 rose petals per tube which creates a protective “film” over the skin, preventing moisture loss. Soothes sensitive skin prone to redness.

Buzz? Dr Hauschka is free from synthetic colours, fragrances and preservatives, uses biodynamically grown plant extracts and is against animal testing. Some 347 Rose Day Creams are sold a day in the UK – Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and Kate Moss are all fans.

Value for money: 20 for 30ml – good for those who value ecofriendly products. From John Lewis, Whole Foods and Culpeper.


Claim? Launched in 1938 (at 7s/6d), this cream is legendary for soothing irritated, chapped skin and providing a barrier against moisture loss.

Buzz? A beauty industry must-have, one tube is bought every two minutes in the UK. Cate Blanchett, Agyness Deyn and Thandie Newton are all ardent fans.

Value for money: 20 for 50ml – a bargain: one tube goes a long way.


Claim? To deliver “miraculous” results for smoother-looking skin. Developed by aerospace physicist Dr Max Huber who experienced severe chemical burns after a routine experiment blew up. The cream contains sea kelp, calcium, magnesium, citrus oils, eucalyptus and sunflower, but makers say it’s the way these are distilled that give the cream its ability to soften skin and make lines and pores less visible.

Buzz? People were shocked by the price. at its launch in 2000. Now a cult product: Sharon Stone and P Diddy swear by it.

Value for money: at 90 for 30ml, costly – but a small amount is said to gets results.

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