The Velvet Beauty Awards 2020: Skincare superheroes

Bravo! It’s time for Velvet to name its skincare heroes of the year, share our must-have lotions and celebrate the brands we love. One more drum roll please. Compiled by Lisa Millard and Alice Ryan


Seed to Skin The Black Magic Detoxifying Oxygen Therapy, £119,

If it was socially acceptable to stop people on the street to extol the virtues of this mask, I would. The first time I used it, my husband, historically sceptical about lotions and potions, said: ‘My GOD. It’s taken a decade off you.’ Made in Tuscany, it pledges to smooth skin’s surface, deep clean and minimise pores and promote natural collagen production, courtesy of a roll-call of natural actives, notably charcoal, volcanic clay, salicylic and mandelic acids and a dermis-diving oxygen complex. Paint it on and, after 20 slightly tingly minutes, you look and feel like you’ve just had a five-star facial. AR

Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Facial, £57,

Best known for producing the first 100 per cent plant-based squalane, the mega-moisturising molecule at the core of this mask, Californian clean beauty brand Biossance has just arrived in Britain. Cue whoops from skincare aficionados. Formulated with glycolic, fruit acids and mineral spheres, this mask is a peel, exfoliator and moisture-boost in one. Leave it on for a minimum of three minutes, maximum of 10, and, after a rinse, your skin is squeaky clean and glowy. AR

Sisley Hydra-Flash Intensive Hydrating Mask, £141.50, Space NK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

A bona fide superhero, this mask promises to restore even the most parched and tetchy skin to hydrated, happy glory. Chock-full of natural plant extracts and essential oils, including rice, sesame and marjoram, it gives skin a big hit of hydration, leaving it comforted, silky soft and visibly smoother. Apply a generous layer for 10 minutes thrice-weekly, wiping away excess rather than rinsing, and dry skin will be dry no more. AR

Eye Creams

Boots Ingredients Caffeine Eye Cream, £5.50, Boots stores

Part of the new Boots Ingredients range, each putting a different active centre stage (hyaluronic acid, hemp seed oil, vitamin C. . .), this eye cream is charged with antioxidant caffeine so, like your morning cup of Colombian, it’s designed to provide an instant pick-me-up. Impressively hydrating, especially for a product that retails at little more than a fiver, it leaves the under-eye visibly and physically refreshed. AR

Sisley Black Rose Eye Contour Fluid, £108, Space NK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

No, it’s not cheap. But this is the mother of all eye creams. The latest addition to Sisley’s iconic Black Rose range, featuring aqueous black rose extract famed for its skin-smoothing powers, it’s a three-in-one, targeting wrinkles (padina pavonica and vitamin E), puffiness (red vine) and shadows (chlorella). Applied via deliciously cool ceramic pen-nib, which oh-so-gently massages as you go, it instantly soothes, smoothes and brightens skin, and the effects last through the day, too. AR

Bamford Triple Action Eye Cream, £80,

Bamford is a trailblazer in the world of sustainable beauty. Founded on a Cotswolds farm by Carole Bamford, also the brains behind the Daylesford Organic food brand, its products are known for combining high performance with impeccable eco credentials. Formulated with rosehip and cacay nut to target fine lines and atlas cedar to target puffiness, this eye treatment is a real hero, leaving lighter, plumper skin in its wake. Plus it sits beautifully beneath make-up. AR


Beauty Pie Wonderscrub Bio-dermabrasion Face Polish, £6.38 to members (typical price £35),

Abrasive exfoliators - scrubs, polishes - are normally a no-no for me, as my dry, sensitive skin is liable to both scuff and blotch. This Wonderscrub is something of a breakthrough, courtesy of buyers’ club Beauty Pie: not only are the volcanic lava spheres supremely gentle, they share the workload with non-abrading pineapple enzymes, and are accompanied by a generous dose of soothing shea butter, too. A pea-sized blob used dry on the T-zone and watered down for the remainder of the face does the business. AR

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, £6.30,

The Ordinary has acquired a cult following for its high-tech, low-tariff skincare (which also happens to be paraben, sulphate, formaldehyde and cruelty-free). This peeling solution is a marvel, combining alpha and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate skin’s topmost surface, removing dead skin cells, evening texture and boosting brightness. It’s as active as products come, so initial patch-testing and building gradually to the full 10-minute treatment are essential - but, once you’re into the swing, results are just-walked-out-of-a-salon impressive. AR

Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel, £35, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge

I’ve been using this product for a decade and the novelty has yet to wear off. Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and mature, the rinse-off cream formula is incredibly gentle yet also incredibly effective: the exfoliating’s done by non-abrasive natural fruit enzymes alone, and they’re accompanied by both antioxidant-rich vitamin E and moisture-rich marine algae. A must for me when insomnia’s done its worst, it makes even the most jaded skin look brighter and bushier-of-tail. AR


Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser, £27, Space NK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

Free from what the brand dubs the ‘suspicious six’ - essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical screens, fragrances/dyes and SLS - Drunk Elephant is a big noise in the clean beauty sector. Unlike most foaming cleansers, which can leave the face feeling stripped and tight, Beste No 9’s jelly formula treads lightly, thanks to mild actives and the fact it matches skin’s optimum pH (5.5). AR

Elemis Pro-collagen Cleansing Balm, £44, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge

With a rich (and gloriously fragrant) base of rose and mimosa waxes, this balm is charged with nourishing elderberry and starflower oils, plus padina pavonica, the famously anti-ageing algae. Warm it between palms, massage it over face and neck, then remove with a warm, damp cloth and not only has every trace of grime gone, your skin feels thoroughly cosseted. It’s like a cuddle for your face. AR

Erborian Korean Skin Therapy Milk & Peel Balm, £26, SpaceNK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

An ingenious formula, which melts from balm to oil when it’s massaged into skin, this K-beauty product removes more than your makeup: containing hero ingredient sesame milk, packed with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, as well as complexes of vegetal oils and herb extracts, it also sloughs away dead skin cells and clears pore blockages. Brilliant. AR


Clarins Double Serum, £58, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge

Now in its eighth generation, Double Serum deploys 21 powerful plant extracts to target all signs of ageing, boosting levels of hydration (quinoa, marsh samphire), nutrition (kiwi), oxygenation (teasel, goji berry), protection (mango, ginger lily) and regeneration (green banana, avocado). Thanks to the nifty double bottle, it can deliver optimal concentrations of all actives, whether soluble in oil or water. Velvety skin awaits. AR

Tata Harper Creme Riche Velvet Moisturising Cream, £170, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge

Hailed the ‘queen of the green beauty movement’ by Forbes, American skincare pioneer Tata Harper is famed for her farm-to-face formulas, which contain 100 per cent natural ingredients and produce belief-defying results. Blasting the visible signs of aging with an arsenal of natural antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin F, Creme Riche blends 43 high-performance botanicals, variously selected for their ability to smooth, soften, plump and minimise the appearance of wrinkles. The most expensive product in our awards, we wouldn’t include it unless it was exceptional: it is. AR

Marc Jacobs Youthquake Hydra-Full Retexturizing Gel Crème, £50,

Inspiring evangelical levels of devotion among its fans - and there are legions of them - this is so much more than a moisturiser. Formulated with 54 per cent enzymatic pineapple water, it first gives dead skin cells the boot, then - thanks to sodium hyaluronate, which attracts and binds water, and starfruit and dragonfruit extracts, loaded with antioxidants - gets to work on plumping and nourishing. The result? Visibly more youthful skin. AR

Body Oils

Burt’s Bees Mamma Bee Body Oil, £9.99, Holland and Barrett, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge

An all-natural oil so kind to skin it can be used for littles. Almondy and lemony, the deliciously-fragranced oil soaks into the body leaving skin supple, soft and with a slight sheen. LM

Neom Scent to Make You Happy Great Day Body Oil, £35,

A wellbeing and natural brand creating mood-lifting fragrances by artfully combining essential oils. Massage on to skin any time – rub on shoulders before you snuggle down to bed or get dressed and take a deep breath. There, much better. LM

L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil, £19.50, L’Occitane, Rose Crescent, Cambridge and arc, Bury St Edmunds

A wondrous almond-filled oil which when mixed with water transforms into a luxurious milky foam to leave skin soft and hydrated. An award-winner and firm favourite with the beauty editors and for good reason. Bliss. LM

SOS products

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask, £32, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge

At the forefront of creating effective clean beauty for 20 years now REN is a brand worth getting to know. This mask works beautifully on sensitive and stressed skin calming the situation in a matter of minutes. It’s a real skin saviour. LM

Weleda Original Skin Food, £7.95, Holland and Barrett stores and

A well-worn brand, Weleda is much loved for its natural approach to skincare. Skin Food was launched in 1926 and reportedly sells a tube every 23 seconds. The multi-tasker for face and body will soothe dry or irritated skin in moments. Get some. LM

Beauty Pie Hyaluronic Acid Microneedle Patch (two patches), £24.56 to members (typical price £150),

Need to look like you have slept a solid eight hours every night for a week? Technologically advanced, these patches target under eye or smile lines delivering hyaluronic acid (big boost to hydrating skin) in tiny darts that dissolve on the skin to smooth skin. LM


Dermalogica Phyto Facial Oil, £68, Dermalogica salons and

A fabulous prep to face the day, the ultra-light oil dissolves leaving skin supple and dewy. Brilliant under make-up but just as good worn with a light tinted moisturiser for a fresh finish. Can even be applied post-foundation with a sponge to add a luminous glow. LM

Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum, £87,

Rave reviews confirm the loveliness of this oil-free serum that calms sensitive skin and hydrates to create radiance while controlling shine. I’m a huge fan of this Hungarian brand and one drop of the silky serum adds instant brightness to my skin. LM

Elemis Pro-Collagen Insta Smooth Primer, £58, Debenhams, The Grafton, Cambridge and arc, Bury St Edmunds

A firming formula with a refreshingly cooling texture, this primer really does create a smoothing effect and is deeply hydrating. One of the best bases for foundation money can buy. LM

Night Care

Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream, £22, select M&S stores

This cream flies off the shelves. The Absolute label is M&S’ premium brand and customers keep coming back for more. The high-end cream – rich, moisturising and packed with anti-ageing ingredients – comes with a middle of the road price which adds to the attraction. LM

Oskia Bedtime Beauty Booster, £88,

Bursting with vitamins, peptides and hyaluronic acid, this bedtime buddy really does deliver results. It’s light in texture but rich in content and skin feels much better for it. The formula works while you sleep sweetly regenerating skin to look refreshed come morning. LM

Sunday Riley Luna Sleepy Night Oil, from £45, Space NK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

Retinol rich to reduce tell-tale signs of ageing, this oil is potent and results-driven. Warm droplets between hands and press gently on your face before bedtime. Skin will thank you for it come morning. LM

Day Care

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Moisturiser, £16, The Body Shop, Petty Cury, Cambridge and Buttermarket, Bury St Edmunds

This is one of my all-time favourite moisturisers – it punches way above its price and really is a steal. Great for dull and tired complexions, the vitamin C gives skin a wake-up call and invites a healthy glow. Love it. LM

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, £67, Space NK, Trinity Street, Cambridge

A potent anti-ageing serum works to visibly reduce the appearance of pores (hurrah) and, take note, seems particularly suited to oily skins – rave reviews highlight excellent results. Pomegranate extract and pumpkin ferment to gently remove dead skin cells and reveal a super-smooth texture. Skin looks brighter every day. LM

Shiseido Benefience Wrinkle Smoothing Cream, £75,

Ah, lovely. This cream melts into skin to leave a rather alluring hydrated glow. Gives dull skin an instant lift – wear this every day for a week or so and you will attract comments. And it contains an SPF25. Happy days. LM

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