Creams, oils, unguents – our guest columnist has tried them all, but this is the one product she recommends to friends the most – by Nigella Lawson
When I was 24, I was told by the great Eve Lom that if I wanted to keep my skin good for ever, I absolutely had to wash my face nightly with her thick cleanser-in-a-tub, using a muslin cloth. This, she told me, would be all the exfoliation the skin needed, and the brisk nightly polish would get rid of old, dead skin cells and keep my complexion bright, even as I got older.
This has since been superseded for me by Temple Spa In The Beginning Deep Cleansing Melt or, when I’m travelling — as it’s lighter and fits better in a make-up bag or the liquids bag at the airport — Lixirskin Electrogel Cleanser, both used with Balm Balm’s organic muslin cloths, which have just the right amount of scritchiness.
I am a lazy person, and even though I can happily go to bed with washing-up left in the sink, I just cannot, cannot go to bed without first scrubbing my face. I’d sooner go to bed without brushing my teeth. Disgusting, I know.
I get all these products from Victoria Health, and this week’s column — sadly, my last — is in part a love letter to this website. I am not, for the greater part, a newslettery person — “unsubscribe” is one of my favourite words — but when I get the Victoria Health newsletter in my inbox, I save it up as a reward to read when I’ve got a quiet moment and can relish it properly. But it is a particular product of theirs I need to tell you about. Up till about a year ago, nothing had ever had the impact on my skin of that nightly, nourishing wash. And, believe me, I’ve tried numberless creams, oils and unguents over the years. I’m glad I didn’t give up, because I then tried GOW Pure Prickly Pear Seed Oil (£20), and it has become as essential to me as washing my face.
It’s an unprepossessing little bottle, but what it contains is face-saving magic. Put it on at night and you’ll wake up looking as if you’ve been to a spa by the sea, slept 10 hours a night and been off Twitter for a month.You don’t need much: I squirt a little on my face, neck and that delicate skin between the clavicles, rub it in very well, giving myself a fairly rigorous massage with my knuckles, and wake up with plumped-up, gleaming and supremely bouncy skin.
It’s not just that it moisturises: it seems to heal my skin and make it so much more elastic. I have recently extended the territory to which I apply it. I am bad at wearing washing-up gloves, and have the reptilian hands to prove it, and so I now rub it into the back of my hands nightly, too, and I have noticed a remarkable reduction in that wrinkled-chiffon look. If there is any excess left on my palms, I rub the ends of my hair with it. And the night before a hair wash, I pump a proper amount into my hands, rub them together and go to sleep with the oil rather more heavily on the ends of my hair, and hardly need conditioner the next day. I wouldn’t normally do this with oil: while I’ve got quite a lot of hair (alas, less than I used to), each strand is very fine, and I can’t use anything that weighs it down. The prickly pear doesn’t. It’s also great for rough elbows and cuticles.
I buy it in bulk, because I’m so evangelical about it, and press it on people as presents obsessively. In fact, if I know you and I haven’t yet given you a bottle, you might reasonably be feeling a little offended. It has helped friends with rosacea, men with shaving rash, old tired faces and younger troubled skin.
Luckily, it’s reasonably enough priced (I’ve seen the same amount of Prickly Pear Oil sold elsewhere for £200) that beneficiaries of my largesse can go on to buy their own very happily for themselves. And they always do.