Welcome To My Washbag

Toiletries on white background

I still insist we’re going to Ibiza at some point.  So I’m beginning to think of what to pack, a ritual I needlessly go through every year. I say needless, because I’ve realised I’ve packed the exact same things these last ten years we’ve been going to the same destination. Hendrik the hotel owner, it occurred to me, only knows me in my two increasingly faded silk yoga pants (khaki-turning-beige and mulberry-turning-pink), see-through cotton sun dress from H&M, and a selection of ragged t-shirts with paint stains. Along with some beaten-up flip flops and espadrilles, it’s all I’ve ever needed on the island – I’m hardly going to rock up in sequinned hot pants at er, what’s it called, ‘Amnesia’ to hang out with the ‘party-animals’. Never have done, never will.

But it goes further than my wardrobe. The contents of my holiday washbag, it transpires, never change either, despite me having been a beauty director on a big magazine all these years, with that fabled access to every-product-in-the-world. I know colleagues who use their holidays as a testing zone, packing an extra suitcase with newness to try by the pool. I can’t think of anything worse; unvetted cosmetics make me break out in hives and rashes at the best of times, let alone under overheated, UV-nuked circumstances. Plus, I’m hell-bent on packing light.

So it’s a collection of mostly 100 ml-or-less testers, sachets and decanted standbys for me (plus three jumbo bottles of sunscreen). Despite them always being the same, I still carefully re-consider each one each year before deciding they’re my favourites and packing them once again. If it ain’t broke…

  • Ultrasun Family SPF30, £19 and Face SPF30, £20
    It’s been a bumper year for new (particularly facial) sunscreens and I’ve tried at least 25 of them, with quite a few impressing me quite a lot in terms of both texture and formula. But I still won’t rely on anything but Ultrasun on the beach (under my umbrella), because it’s never let me down. Where other sunscreens have turned against me after several days under holiday duress, suddenly causing breakouts or irritation or not preventing prickly heat, this stuff keeps my skin calm and its usual shade of ghostly white. I won’t not re-apply it (officially it’s a once-a-day formula) as that just goes against my slip-slop-slap grain, but when I’ve on occasion not been able to, I’ve never burned, which is not a mean feat.
  • GOW C-Deep Vitamin C Serum, £18
    I must have antioxidants in my sunscreen (it’s the third line of defence against UV, and you need every ‘line’ you can get), but I must also beef up their level by layering an antioxidant serum under my facial sunscreen. Vitamin C is known to be among most effective against UV-induced damage in particular, so C-Deep, in its delightfully pocketable bottle (that goes a very long way) is a no-brainer. Capable of getting well into the dermis, its THD ascorbate (a lipidic vitamin C molecule) will shield against the most pernicious damage. I whack it on as a night oil (it’s suspended in squalene) as well, as its collagen-boosting ability will make up for any damage sustained despite my best efforts.
  • Aqua d’Alfresco Anti-Bug Bite Spray, £25
    I marvel that this stuff is not better known. I pack tiny vials of my usual perfumes, but I never use them because this is my holiday scent. A deet-free insect repellent (that works), its fragrance couldn’t smell less like one if it tried. A blend of 22 essential oils, it has oakmoss, cinnamon and patchouli, among other things, so it’s right up my oriental street. In fact, it could be a classic Guerlain fragrance – and its powdery spiced sweetness also reminds me (very much) of my mum’s Fenjal bath oil from the 70s. It floats beautifully on warm Mediterranean evening air, and has a way of making my paint-stained t-shirts look chic for dinner.
  • Thyme Out, £18
    The big fat 200 ml bottle of this tincture comes with an additional slinky 25 ml spritz, which went straight into my washbag years ago and never left it. Purported to fight acne, eczema and even rosacea, it also soothes rashes and calms mosquito bites, which is its main function for me. I’m no fan, I will be honest, of skin products that are high in alcohol, but I love the anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties of thyme and this simple, organic liquid is teeming with the herb.
  • iS Clinical Youth Lip Elixir, £52
    I’ve written before about my obsession with applying a lip cream last thing before I hit the pillow – so obviously one of them is stationed in my washbag. This one is all humectants, plant and algae extracts, peptides and THD ascorbate (there it is again), designed to keep lips from withering. Any day spent outside in a hot country requires off-setting with replenishing products overnight, and this is how I choose to look after my lips.
  • Lehcaresor Papier Poudré, £2.30
    Dusting on setting powder when it’s 35 degrees in the shade is an anathema to me, but sometimes you want to look slightly less than ‘glossy’. These ever so lightly powdered blotting sheets do the job beautifully, are weightless and won’t clatter on the floor and break, dispensing chunks and dustings of powder all over your wash- or handbag. Why use anything else?
  • It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In for Blondes, £18
    Okay, this is a new washbag addition; it’s not been around very long in the UK (despite the bottle design, which suggests it’s from 1975). I don’t get on with leave-in conditioners and hair oils, as they inevitably leave my hair lank and sticky. But this stuff is weight and traceless, putting the bounce back in my hair while protecting against heat and UV. I should wear a hat on the beach but I never do (too hot), so this is the next best thing to keep my poor hair from frying.
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