Disclaimer: Ooph, this “If I Could Only Buy One” series is a risk, isn’t it? Firstly, it’s almost impossible to choose a singular favourite from a given category, even if it’s a category with very little competition. My decision-making process feels marred by the thought of all of my other favourites being left out in the cold – if I don’t mention them then do they even exist? And what if I like three things equally? How does one ever choose?
The second big problem with this series is time: favourites change. Do I keep on coming back to update? Or do I leave the original post and then make a new one with the successor? It’s all very complicated and I feel as though I could be updating and adding to it until I’m seventy, when nobody is even still reading blogs and instead experiencing life through their VR headsets. Who’ll need beauty then? Nobody will leave the house! Food will be in a supplement shake that you drink through a tube connected to the VR headset and sex will be with robots.
But it’s supposed to be fun, so let’s keep it light. There are thousands of products I love and that I’d buy over and over again so if something’s not mentioned it doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about it, it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of the game if I then included a load of caveats. (I have actually added a “cheater’s list” to the bottom of the page with a few alternative options. I mean it is, quite literally, cheating at my own game, but I found it impossible to pick without knowing I could leave it there!)
We kick off this series with the one luxury cleanser I’d buy if I could only buy one luxury cleanser for the rest of my life. Many of you will have guessed at the brand for this one, but perhaps not the specific product, so prepare to be mildly surprised.
A winning luxury cleanser, in my opinion, needs to be silky and wonderful to massage in, but easy to remove with no waxy or greasy residue. I want it to have the most glorious smell – a smell that transports me to far-flung and exotic places, and this smell should be heady and “of nature” rather than something that smells a bit like posh aftershave. The texture should be a joy – a rich balm would be the obvious choice here – but I’d also like it to be a cleanser that’s not too faffy to use.
The obvious choice would be Emma Hardie’s Moringa Balm*, written about extensively here and here over the years, but I’m going to turn the tables and blow your minds and actually go for the Moringa Light Cleansing Gel*, fully reviewed here.
And I’ll tell you why. (This was a tough call.) Firstly, the pump-action packing is more convenient than a pot. Secondly I feel as though this is the sort of cleanser you’d use for a quick cleanse as well as a more lengthy, sit-in-a-warm-bath sort of cleanse and thirdly, I actually think that the gel texture is utterly beautiful and – weirdly – slightly more hydrating than the balm. It’s also suitable for all skin types – whereas I think oilier people might balk at the idea of the richer balm – and slightly more cost effective, because I find I pump out less product from the bottle than I’d scoop from the pot.
So same unbelievably lovely scent, same cleansing prowess, but a little more convenient to use.
If you want more of a detailed run-down then read my review post – you can find the supremely luxurious Moringa Light Cleansing Gel here* or in all of the places detailed below, it’s £34, which isn’t horrendously expensive as far as luxury cleansers go! I feel I’ve been distinctly restrained…
Tune in next time for If I Could Only Buy One…Tinted Moisturiser.
The Cheater’s List
Because I couldn’t do this “one thing” decision without namedropping some others:
For a silky balm cleanse with utterly gorgeous Rose scent, the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £44 for 100ml here*.
The best-smelling balm cleanser in the world, don’t @ me, but it’s incredibly pricey and so more of a treat, Darphin’s Aromatic Cleansing Balm, £35 for 40ml at SpaceNK here*.
The second best-smelling cleanser in the world and absolutely magical before bedtime – also great for oily/combination skin if you fret about using rich balms – Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Cleanser, £21 here*.
As I write this, I am officially in PMT Skin Week, which is the one week in each and every month that my skin is in danger of going completely haywire. If anything is going to go wrong with my skin then it goes wrong now. Angry, bumpy jawline, weird forehead dryness, little sore patches around my eyes, an oil slick down the centre of my face – you name it, it’s on the list of potential problems.
There are a few different things that I tweak in my skincare routine during PMT week, including upping my cleansing game (a thorough balm cleanse night and morning, if I can bear it) and choosing slightly lighter day creams, but the key change (and arguably the most important one) is the addition of a BHA exfoliant.
A beta hydroxy acid exfoliant (salicylic acid) has the power to unclog, clarify and pore-refine but at the same time it’s calming and soothing and helps to reduce that horrible angry redness that often appears along with your hormonal spots.
So if your skin is angsty, bumpy and sore but also feels highly sensitive (quite literally a representation of your entire physical state when you have PMT, come to think of it!) then a BHA liquid is what you need. Swipe it on and leave, it’s a quick and simple step that’ll make a huge difference, especially if you usually just try and “ride it out” when it comes to your PMT skin.
My most frequent BHA-of-choice is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I’ve written a full review post on this brilliant skin-clearing liquid here, but to recap, it’s a wipe-on-and-leave BHA exfoliant that will soothe as it effectively cleans out your pores. Blackheads, pustules, acne bumps, all will benefit from a swipe-over with this salicylic acid toner.
You apply the Skin Perfecting Liquid after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser – just pat on with fingertips or wipe with cotton wool and then leave. Here are four great little product combos that I use when I have PMT and my skin is on the spot-prone-but-sensitive side. The product list isn’t exhaustive – I could go on all day with good suggestions! – but they give you a good idea of what I’m looking for in a PMT skincare routine. A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave skin stripped or tight, a BHA exfoliant and then a light-but-powerful moisturiser.
Sensitive Oily Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide, £14 here* – to moisturise and soothe without leaving a greasy residue.
Dry, Angsty PMT Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – as before, to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £70 here* – to effectively brighten and intensely moisturise overnight.
Oily Dehydrated Skin Routine
Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 here* – a lightweight gel but a thorough cleansing option.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Intense Moisture Lotion (full review here) – to hydrate without any heaviness or grease.
Spot-Prone SPF Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, you know the drill!
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here*.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, £28 here* – ultra-lightweight hydration to slip on before…
Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50, £21 here* – barely detectable and feels beautiful on the skin.
As I said before, I could swap in hundreds of different products here – maybe every time I do a skincare product review I should show how it fits into a routine, like the above? Let me know if that would be helpful!
You can find Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid online at Amazon* (£12 for 30ml here), Lookfantastic (from £10 for 30ml here*) and Cult Beauty here*. It’s unbelievably great on teen skin as well as PMT skin and an easy daily add-on to your routine if you suffer with adult acne.
Whilst we’re on the subject of PMT: since having babies I now get pre-menstrual symptoms of absolutely epic proportions. I mean I’m almost dangerous in terms of mood and I feel drastically, genuinely quite ill. No cramps at all, ever, which used to be crippling pre-kids, so it’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation but boy the moods. Do we need a separate post on this?