25 Products I Would Never Be Without

Sunday 17 February 2013

There are some products that suit a particular time or situation. There are some products that you have an intense love affair with over a few months which eventually fizzles out. And then there are some ‘forever’ products. These hero buys are the ones that you just would not be able to function without. The ones you consistently repurchase, and panic if you run out of unexpectedly. Products that have your unquestionable loyalty, because they’re just that damn good!

The 25 skincare, makeup and hair items below are tried-and-tested products that I genuinely believe make my life better. I should have stock options in some of them, the amount I buy and recommend them to people. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I would fight my way through the undead terrors to get to the shop and stock up if I was running low on any of these. And I can’t think of a higher accolade than that!

1. NSpa Hot Cloth Polish Cleanser

This cleanser is the difference to me between dull, sluggish, congested skin, and skin that is plump and glowing. It manages to leave skin squeaky clean and gently exfoliated, while not stripping it of moisture, due to the combination of pampering ingredients. You plaster the thick, creamy cleanser onto dry skin, and then soak the muslin cloth they include in hot water and use it to gently wash off the cleanser. Packed with skin-loving Vitamin E, Jojoba and Oil of Neroli, the ingredients are really premium but the price is small!It is a bit of a rip-off of Liz Earle's Cleanse and Polish, admittedly, but at £6.00 for this quality you can't really go wrong. NSpa products are formulated by Nirvana Spa and are sold exclusively through Asda supermarkets.

2. L’Oreal False Lash Telescopic Mascara

My current holy grail mascara, and although new launches always tempt me to stray- this one holds the top spot in my heart. I’m onto my fifth tube, and my infatuation is showing no signs of waning. I love the thickened, extended look it gives, and its also really buildable, meaning its wearable for day but can also ramp up the va-va-voom easily enough at night. The flexible plastic comb is great at ensuring volume without any ugly clumps. A real does-it-all lash essential. I love that this is also one of the only mascaras currently advertised without using lash extensions or computer graphics!

3. Garnier Intensive 7 Days Soothing Body Lotion-Calming Honey

I have talked before about my love of this body lotion in my ‘Desert Island Products’ post. It’s a good job a lot of places stock this, because I seriously freak out if I run out. As mentioned, I even spent the afternoon of my hen weekend tracking down a Boots in Edinburgh because I’d forgotten to bring some with me, and I couldn’t imagine feeling at my groomed best without it. It makes my skin far silkier than any other body cream I’ve tried by far and it smells sweet and lovely without being overly-scented and competing with my perfume. The effect is really long-lasting as well. Perfection!Again, this product is usually around £1.99 so its great value- I'm one happy customer.

4. NYX The Runway Collection Eyeshadow Palette in ‘Caviar and Bubbles’ 

Otherwise referred to in my house as the ‘Everything palette’. Since acquiring this collection of eye shadows, I’ve used it pretty much every single day, because the shade range is so wearable and versatile and the shadows are long-lasting with a lovely, soft, buttery consistency when you apply them. The palette contains a range of beige shades, a matt white, a shell pink, and a dark brown and a black, which is pretty much everything I need for most eye looks. In fact, the shades are fairly similar to the Naked 2 palette from Urban Decay which I also love- however, for me, the NYX palette just has the edge as its a lot more portable, smaller and slim line, with the bonus of a lovely big clear mirror that, in a pinch, you can use to do your whole make-up.

5. HD Brows

Recently, I had a HD Brows treatment done at a salon and since that moment, its become an essential part of my beauty routine. You can read my in depth review of the treatment here, but essentially, its a seven-step process to reshape the eyebrows. I think it totally transforms the look of your face, frames your eyes beautifully, and just makes you look so pulled-together and groomed. Make-up looks also seem to work better with lovely defined arches.

6. Real Techniques Stippling Brush

This brush was hard to pick out, because really, I worship all the Real Techniques brushes and its hard to pick a favourite when they’re all so good. Over time, I’ve bought more and more of them until I’ve gotten the whole set, because their performance is just so superior. Ultra light-weight, ultra-soft bristles, easy to clean and look after, innovative brush design...the whole range is brilliant, and you can really tell they’ve been designed by someone who loves make-up and knows it inside out (Samantha Chapman, of YouTube fame). But out of all of them, the Stippling Brush is my absolute essential for its magical ability to make even cheap foundations go on flawlessly. I never thought a brush would make more difference to the finish than an actual product, but in this case its true, somehow. The brush can be used with liquid, cream and powder foundations, and also to apply blusher, bronzer or highlighter- there’s literally no limit to its skin-perfecting powers. If you don’t have one, I cannot urge you enough to get hold of one. It won’t change your life, but it will certainly change your skin!

7. Nature Essence Collagen Paper Masks

These paper masks are my secret weapon to rested, radiant ‘movie star’ skin. I buy them by the boxload from Korea (via eBay) and I would never be without them now. They plump up the skin and work to fill in any fine lines. I think they can knock a few years off, easily! You cut open the sachet to reveal a paper oval coated in a cool, slimy gel with slits cut in for your nose, eyes and mouth. Place over your face and gently press into position, then relax for half an hour or so (preferably in a steamy scented bath). You will look like a burns victim wearing it- so whatever you do, don’t answer the door wearing one- but the effects are so worth it! I generally use one a week as a skin treat on a Sunday night, or religiously before going out to ensure my skin is in tip top condition.

8. Rodial BB Venom Eyes

A magic bullet for tired, saggy, baggy eyes that have had enough. This concealer is pricey, but the effects are unarguably good. Rammed full of anti-aging peptides and tightening complexes that work long-term to tighten, lighten and brighten the under eye area as well as provide a short-term cover up. You can read my full, rapturous review here but suffice to say, if you have serious under eye issues and regular concealers just aren’t doing enough for you, this is what you’re waiting for.

9. Mac Fluidline

I am addicted to my ‘cats eye’ winged eyeliner, its a product that I wear with pretty much every make-up look, whether natural or extreme. It counteracts my downward-tilting eye shape and just gives me a little boost that I wouldn’t be without. I don’t feel pretty without it, and I’ve often said in response to the ‘natural vs make-up debate’ that “the real me wears eyeliner!’ And my eyeliner of choice is always Fluidline. It glides on like a dream- I had thought the Maybelline one was pretty good, but this is a next level! That means that you can achieve some lovely shapes and nice precise lines, really getting whatever look you want. Once set, it stays put for a full day.

10. Vaseline Lip Therapy with Rose and Almond Oil

A budget essential that is never far to be found from my handbag, desk drawer, bedside table or car glove box. A little miracle-working multi-tasker (the best kind of product in my book), this is my ultimate indispensible. I use it for; softening my lips, curing my cracked heels, treating my cuticles, highlighting my cheekbones, making my eyelashes grow faster, removing stubborn eye make-up, and as a quick-fix lipgloss, so it really is a hero product for me. That might explain why I spent £11.40 on tins of the stuff the other day! I prefer the rosy pink tinted version as it also adds a bit of soft colour.

11. John Frieda Frizz Ease Thermal Protect Serum

They’re not to everyone’s liking, but I’ve always really rated the John Frieda range. I’ve been using their stuff ever since I first started using proper hair care products. At about the age of 13, I had wild, unruly, very frizzy hair (weirdly, its not at all like that these days) and this was before GHDs were invented (how my shy, ugly schooldays self would have benefitted beyond measure from ceramic straighteners!). Literally the only thing that sorted my hair out then was Frizz-Ease. I remember when it was first introduced, my mum bought me some and I thought it was a miracle in a bottle. I was just so grateful that there was something out there that would help control my awful hair! Since then, I’ve pretty much always purchased it, even though my hair has changed and calmed down a lot from those days. And now I love the Thermal Protect version (in the orange tube) that also safeguards my hair from heat damage.

12. Rimmel Fix & Perfect Pro 5-in-1 Primer

This might be a budget product, but its actually the best primer I’ve tried and I also think it beats hands down a lot of more expensive ones. It’s become a staple that I rely on to ensure my make-up goes the distance, and although I don’t wear it every day, I wouldn’t dream of going on a night out without priming my skin first with this little wonder. Its a clear balm that promises to: smoothe, resurface, brighten, mattify and protect skin, and all in all it just leaves a great base for makeup to stick to. Considering the really accessible price point, I certainly wouldn’t be without this one.

13. Nanoblur

With this and with my Tangle Teezer, I’m not just a fan. I’m positively evangelical about them. I might as well have shares in the company because I’m constantly preaching about the wonders of them and encouraging everyone I know to try them for themselves, since I honestly don’t think you could be disappointed with the results. Nanoblur is not a long-term fix for wrinkles, pores and fine lines, it just temporarily erases the look of them. I’m not even sure quite how it works, but work it certainly does and no big meeting or night out is complete without a smearing of it for me now!

14. Tangle Teezer

No other hairbrush will ever be in my hands as long as Tangle Teezers exist. The brush first appeared on the investment pitch programme ‘Dragon’s Den’ here in the UK, but it wasn’t until a close friend of mine got one and let me try it out that I realised just how good they are. Despite looking rather like something you’d groom your dog with, the Tangle Teezer is a brush that will change your hair for the better. Its special, multi-level teeth are designed not to pull at the hair, and so cause less hair loss than a standard brush. It also does something that makes your hair incredibly shiny and smooth- you can feel the difference after brushing. It’s gentle enough to use on wet hair as well, and works very well to backcomb the hair without the usual amounts of damage that entails. When I lost my first one, I charged straight out and got another. I have tried other hair brushes in between, but they just aren’t as good. The smaller, handbag model also comes with a detachable bristle guard so they don’t get damaged. If you haven’t tried one, they’re well worth the small investment.

15. Active Glamour False Lashes

I’m addicted to falsies. I have to wear them whenever I go out at night. They make a little extra impact to your look that’s become something I don’t feel fully ‘done’ without. However, I really hate the Katie Price ‘Spider lash’ look, where they’re obviously false. I want my lashes to look improbable, not impossible. Like the best mascara ad ever (even though they all use Photoshop, of course). My favourite compliment is when friends have leaned into me and asked ‘Have you got false lashes on?’. Its that element of doubt that I enjoy, and that tells me I haven’t overdone it. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the right lashes that give enough impact but don’t look obviously fake. My clear winners are Active Glamour, specifically the ‘Attraction’ lashes, although the whole range is pretty good. The best part is they can be found very cheaply (something along the lines of £6.00 for 10 pairs, as opposed to £6.00 for one pair of Eyelure or Ardell etc). Even the glue isn’t terrible, and a lot of their lashes have an ‘outer edge’ heavy look that helps to get that cat’s eye look I crave so much. A brilliant and bargainous buy my dresser drawers are fully stocked with.

16. Benefit High Brow

Like so many of my ‘can’t live without’ products, this pencil is a little multi-tasking wonder. I do love products that work hard for my money! At first glance, it’s a creamy, pinky peach jumbo pencil.  But it’s what it does in terms of face illusion that I really appreciate. If you’re looking to seriously contour and shape your face, this and a matte bronzer are your best friends. You can: pop a line under your brows to highlight the brow bone, visually ‘lift’ the brows and create a defined looking arch, you can use in the inner corners of your eyes to make them look bigger, or in the waterline to hide redness and look more wide awake, you can line the top cupid’s bow of your lips for a fuller-looking pout, or you can blend a stripe of the pencil under your foundation onto cheekbones to make them look razor-sharp. It’s a little secret weapon!

17. L’Occitane Fleur Cherie Hand Cream

Hand cream is a winter essential to keep hands hydrated in the battle against freezing temperatures, air conditioning and harsh soaps in the work toilets. If I don’t regularly put hand cream on, I find my hands can get really sore. This one is not only long-lasting in its effects, but I adore the fragrance. In fact, in a fix I have been known to apply a dab to my neck, elbows and wrists to scent them. It comes in the prettiest little metal tube with art-deco lettering and it cheers up the contents of my handbag.

18. Almay Bare-It-All Legs

This is an amazing product that acts like tights in a can. Other brands also produce a version of this, such as ModelCo (but that’s expensive) and Rimmel Sunshimmer (but that’s shimmery, which I don’t always like). The Almay version just gives a lovely, airbrushed effect when sprayed on that’s also very natural. It’s one of those very subtle little things you can do that lifts your look and gives you that unreal, perfect ‘Hollywood star’ look, without anyone being able to pinpoint what you’ve done. And I love little tricks like that! Once set, it’s non-transferable, so you don’t have to worry about getting tidemarks on your clothes. But a little soap easily removes it in the shower.

19. Mac Matte Bronzer

A real make-up bag staple, this bronzer is the perfect shade for me to do some subtle contouring, or I can layer it up for a deeper, tanned effect. I love the fact it’s matte as this makes it great for adding shape. If I want some shimmer, I just use a shimmery highlighter on top. This long-lasting product is a real must-buy for me. It’s simplicity makes it  perfect.

20. Shu Uemura Eyelash Curlers

My eyelashes are absolutely poker-straight, so good eyelash curlers are a massive part of my flutter-centric beauty routine. Usually, the curl drops out fairly quickly, but with Shu Uemura, widely acknowledged as the best eyelash curler around by beauty pros, this doesn’t happen. For that reason alone I love them! They aren’t a glamourous or especially exciting product, but they are a real essential for wide-awake eyes.

21. L’Oreal Professional Mythic Oil

I have raved about this stuff before, but it’s so great it has to earn a place on this list. Of all the deep conditioners and moisture-boosting hair products I’ve tried (and there have been many...), this is the greatest. My hair is colour treated with peroxide and subjected to the usual rounds of straightening, curling and blow-drying, which means it can sometimes more closely resemble straw than the flowing, silken locks of my dreams. This miracle oil not only makes it softer, but also shiny (unheard of since bleaching it). Plus, it has a wonderful, gentle fragrance that perfumes your tresses without being overpowering. It’s also totally non-greasy and absorbs weightlessly in. I see a real transformation in my hair when using a few pumps of this product, and would highly recommend it to anyone battling with their hair.

22. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

No matter how many other perfumes I try, this is my constant favourite and the one I keep coming back to. I have worn it for every holiday, party and happy occasion in my life, so it has indelible links in my memory. I even wore it on my wedding day. But I won’t wear it every day, because I don’t want to associate it with work! I love the fact the fragrance is light but still impactful, and the unique ‘chypre’ top notes remind me of champagne and all good things. I think because I don’t wear it all the time, I won’t get sick of it. I first wore this as a teenager, when my Dad gave me a bottle at Christmas (he said he had described my personality to the sales assistant, and she’d recommended it!). I instantly loved it and have worn it ever since.

23. Collagen Crystal Eye Patches

Another little secret from Korea that you can order via the wonder of the world wide web. Similar to the face mask, these are little silicone patches infused with collagen that you can stick under your eyes for a youth boost. They blitz puffiness, bags, dark circles and fine lines a treat. If I’m looking old and haggard, these and the Rodial concealer I mentioned above are my saviours.

24. Glo Home Teeth Whitening System

There’s nothing quite as appealing as a bright, fresh smile. This home whitening kit is really effective and easy to  use, and it’s much less expensive than other kits I’ve seen. You get plastic moulds, which you insert into boiling water to soften them and then bite into to create a mould that fits your own teeth. There are little syringes of hydrogen peroxide- I have found the easiest thing is to use a cotton bud to apply the solution directly to your teeth, and then swipe some inside the moulds as well. Finally, there’s a small battery-powered blue light that you stick into your mouth once you have the moulds on. Again, this looks quite alarming, so I’d advise against doing it when you’re expecting to see other people! The blue light enhances the effect of the whitening gel. The results are absolutely brilliant and give your smile a real lift!

25. Bourjois 2-in-1 Lash Tweezers

This is a recent addition to the list, but sometimes you come across something so great that you know it will be a favourite instantly, you have to include it. These just make applying falsies ridiculously easy (and I speak as a very clumsy person here!). Use the fanned out end to grab lashes and position them securely onto the lashline, and the other end to press the corners down and fix them in place. Like most brilliant things, they are ridiculously simple, but they make life so easy. No more wonky, badly applied and half-peeling off lashes!

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