/ Health

Does your moisturiser actually make a difference?


Last week, actress Helen Mirren was quoted saying moisturisers probably do nothing. Do you agree?

The L’Oréal ambassador actually used some slightly more colourful language to express her views on moisturisers, but I don’t think Dame Helen is the only one to think this way.

Moisturisers (in fact, beauty products of all kinds) seem to bandy round a lot of claims. I’m not a dermatologist and so I can’t really determine the validity of these, but I’m certainly suspicious of some…

Moisturising misnomer

Last week, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) challenged the skincare brand, Olay, about its claim that its Regenerist products ‘Re-energise skin’s appearance cell by cell’. The challenge came via a cosmetic doctor who noted that the claim was misleading and Olay was asked to substantiate it.

The brand’s owners, Procter & Gamble, said the ‘cell by cell’ claim referred to the skin’s appearance, rather than any physiological effect. The ASA ruled the claim misleading and called for sufficient evidence to support the ‘cell by cell’ claim.

Our findings

And this wouldn’t be the first time a beauty product has been challenged on its advertised claims. Albeit many moons ago now (2009), Which? carried out its own investigation into anti-wrinkle eye-creams – and the results were really quite rubbish. We found that cheap moisturisers performed no better than pricier ones – leaving you wondering if it’s just a waste of money.

As someone who has suffered with eczema over the years, I need a good moisturiser. I’ve tried all kinds of lotions and potions to help my skin – some seemed to work, others were a total waste of money. I’ve tried cheap ones, NHS-prescribed lotions and higher-end creams, too – all with mixed results.

In fact, I have a collection of barely used creams of all kinds at home – ones that brighten your skin, balance the tone, and even plump your face.

Some have been so terrible that they should’ve really been thrown away by now. Yet, what makes me keep them is knowing that each stupid tiny jar/bottle/tube has cost me at least the best part of a tenner, so I feel reluctant to.

Really, looking at how large that collection has become in my quest for a moisturiser that actually works has left me wondering if I should’ve returned them for being just a bit rubbish…

So yes, Dame Helen Mirren, I think I side with you – moisturiser ’probably does f**k –all’…

Have you found a moisturiser that actually works?


I have a great deal of respect for the Advertising Standards Authority and how effective it is in curbing misrepresentation in marketing, considering that it is not an official regulator. This description is from Wikipedia: “The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the self-regulatory organisation (SRO) of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice[1] broadly reflects legislation in many instances. The ASA is not funded by the British government, but by a levy on the advertising industry.”

ASA sometimes responds to a single complaint and in this case we are told that: “The complainant, a cosmetic doctor, challenged whether the claim “Re-energises skin’s appearance cell by cell” was misleading and could be substantiated.”

Although ASA upholds many complaints about advertising, these complaints are made after the advertising has been used and the company may have generated substantial profits from a dishonest campaign.

I would like to see all scientific claims independently verified before companies are allowed to use the claims. The best approach is to approve specific wording for claims, allowing the company to change its advertising but reuse the same wording for claims. That is necessary because slight changes to wording can substantially change the message.

If only a single complaint could result in action on nuisance calls.

“Experts” have said you must use things many things that have been shown to be a waste of money . Are these “experts” paid to tell you to buy unnecessary or useless products ?? I always wonder and make my own mind up about everything I buy .I don’t need constant reminders either in the form of adverts

‘Moisturisers’ are examples of emollients, which are widely used for treatment of dry skin and eczema. Visit an elderly person and it’s likely that you will see a tub of E45. There is little doubt that they help to relieve itching, irritation and discomfort. I was going to suggest that Dame Helen Mirren might have a look at Which? product tests for moisturisers but I cannot find anything relevant.

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A major reason for decline in pubs is cheap alcohol bought by up-and-outs from supermarkets. 🙁 Micropubs are booming in some parts of the country. 🙂

Vintage engines provide a popular male-dominated hobby, so look out for societies and shows where men obsess about old tractors, stationary engines and traction engines. That can be rough on the hands, so a bit of moisturising cream can help avoid more serious problems.

That may be part of the decline in pubs but another, I believe, is more stringent views on drink driving, and perhaps the smoking ban, on rural pubs. Our “local” is now a restaurant. Those in towns, whether traditional pubs or more trendy bars, are accessible by taxi for the majority of patrons.

I thought pubs were moisturisers. Sorry. 🙂

See above 🙁

Moisturisers are clearly essential for you, Lauren, but the cosmetic industry is known for expensive products, with the odd highly questionable claim thrown in. I don’t suppose there is a cartel but companies know what they can get away with charging.

It’s not difficult to analyse the contents of products and rival companies probably do this as a matter of course. I suspect the markup on some cosmetics is huge.

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Duncan – Re men’s hands being tough – That is true, and those who wear bare feet (e.g. African tribes) have very tough soles of their feet. I’m not suggesting that men should attempt to have silky-soft hands. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and still have a large tub of Swarfega, but nitrile gloves are useful for DIY mechanics. They used to be a specialist product but are now widely used in the trade and readily available to the public.

Regularly working with water can be a problem, especially if it contains detergents, which quickly remove the natural oils from the skin. Both men and women can suffer from dry skin to industrial dermatitis and become hypersensitive to detergent. A friend’s mother worked on a production line and had to give up packing washing-up liquid and change jobs. The worst case I have seen was a male research student who developed severe dermatitis washing his lab glassware in powerful lab detergent. I’m not sure why he did not use the glassware washer provided.

Moisturisers can be very helpful in preventing skin problems from getting worse. I wear sandals frequently, with socks for comfort. Walking in sandals has caused my heels to crack, which is quite painful. Skin cream can help though the real solution is wear shoes to help keep the skin moist when walking long distances. I don’t know how some women manage to wear open-backed shoes for long periods. Maybe they use moisturisers regularly and ensure that there is no hard skin on their heels because lack of flexibility makes cracking more likely.

I don’t know how Procter & Gamble got away with advertising Fairy Liquid as being ‘kind to your hands’ for so long. Here are some innocent children being given some information by someone who might not have been a dermatologist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-taEaSfPtbY Nowadays, Fairy Liquid comes with advice about avoiding extended contact and washing and drying hands after use.

For anyone with dermatitis or eczema, moisturising creams are important. Bathing and showering must be done with care because of the risk of removal of natural oils.

Re cartels – I try to avoid making accusations unless I have evidence.

It seems you are right, Duncan: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/18/france-fines-unilever-reckitt-benckiser-procter-and-gamble-gillette-price-fixing

They are very naughty and it rips off customers, or distorts the market if we must avoid emotive terms.

I would love to see a breakdown of the price of moisturising cream, including cost of ingredients, manufacturing cost, marketing and profit. I have an idea of which would be the smallest figure. Maybe we should leave this for others to discuss moisturisers and how effective they are, which is what Lauren has asked about.

The Guardian article is useful and I have always wondered why Which? does not report on such activities for the better education of its readers into the ways of big business.

The Guardian is perhaps misleading about Hankel and Persil when addressing the UK readership
. ” Unilever markets Persil in Ireland and the United Kingdom, Europe, Latin America (except Mexico), China, Australia and New Zealand since acquiring rights to the brand (one of its first such acquisitions) in 1931. (The “Small and Mighty” product line—a highly concentrated liquid detergent formulation—is found only in these markets.) Unilever also sells Persil in France. In this market, the brand focuses on “natural” ingredients and “skin-friendly” formulations.[8] It is competitively sold alongside Unilever’s biggest selling detergent brand in France, “Skip”.

I don’t see a male/female divide over moisturisers and the cost of the products. Unlike the diesel maniacs who pore over a puttering Petter at vintage engine shows, and who probably lubricate their hands with Multi Purpose Grease, I lead a gentle life having spent most of it behind a desk. Nevertheless I use moisturising cream on my hands, mainly in the winter when they can get dry and raw. I have never suffered from eczema but they were quite bad earlier this year and uncomfortable most of the time, but applications of moisturising cream mollified them and took away the roughness. I didn’t count the cost and thought that a tub or a tube lasted a good while. It is possible that there are some natural balms that I am unaware of but with knuckles like sandpaper I doubt there is anything so good as a proper hand-cream formulation well rubbed-in. I tend to take care of my hands and nearly always wear gloves when working in the garden or doing DIY. I don’t do car maintenance or washing-up or hand-washing of clothes apart from an occasional item so my hands are protected from most irritants and yet they still get dry with broken skin so moisturising hand-cream is essential.

I started getting dry skin and cracks that were quite sore, that tended to come and go, about a year ago. No other skin problems. I had really greasy products from the doc which did not help, I tried antiseptic creams that helped the cracks heal (or so it seemed) but the problem returned. I have recently used a little Betamethasone Valerate which contains a topical steroid and that has improved things, so far, quite significantly. However it is not for long term use so I’ll see if it stays at bay. I do not know what caused, or causes it; I generally garden without gloves, nor wear them when handling wood or doing diy.

If it’s betamethasone, then it is old stock because the British Approved Name has been betametasone for years. Pointless – though some of the name changes of drugs have helped avoid confusion. I found some antiquated stuff in my bathroom cabinet when moving home.

Dated 2017 wavechange.

That is a good vintage. Sorry, I was confusing it with beclomethasone, for which the approved name is beclometasone. 🙁

A possible side effect of your drug, betamethasone, is euphoria. 🙂

This is what my ointment looks like wavechange, if it helps.

The Wikipedia version shows a much more professional chemical drawing of the same compound. The structures of the betamethasone and beclometasone (which is used in nasal sprays and in the asthma inhaler I use) differ in the halogen – F and Cl, respectively.

They are topical steroids of use in severe eczema and psoriasis but we are very much off the topic of moisturisers. 🙁

Years ago when in the US, a pharmacy recommended Cortizone 10 for a skin problem. It is an excellent healing cream for rashes, itches, bites and also works quite well as a moisturiser for dry skin patches. Every time we go we stock up on it but I see it is now available in the UK.

Cortizone 10 (note capital) is a commercial brand of ointment containing hydrocortisone and easily mixed up with cortisone, a natural hormone. Hydrocortisone is often used in treatment of skin conditions.

It’s well worth reading the leaflet supplied with these ointments, especially if considering prolonged use or for anything other than a small area.

I recently had a mild infection of a big toe that was starting to cause eczema according to the GP. Treatment with fusidic acid (antifungal) and hydrocortisone ointment worked like magic and I have most of a tube that expires within three months of opening. 🙁

I have just looked at the price of the Olay Regenerist products and can see why there is concern about price.

@johnward – It might be worth having a word with your GP in case you have some nutritional deficiency, which can happen even with a decent diet. Like Malcolm, I rarely wear gloves for gardening and until recently have always washed-up by hand, yet no problems so far.

Thanks, Wavechange. The last time I saw my GP he said there’s no need to come back . . . so I haven’t. That was in 1959.

I did consider the possibility of a nutritional deficiency and did adjust my diet in April, after which the problem seems to have gone away, but I cannot be certain if that was due to the change or to other reasons.

Anyway, my hands that judicious are now soft as my face . . . .

I would use that one in a pun competition.

It took me 36 years to get round to having my eyes tested after I left school. I’m glad that your hands are better. The keyboard exercise seems to be working.

“Moisturiser ’probably does f**k –all’” is one of those beautiful, inaccurate but very useful sweeping statements that can start serious debates, especially when they are uttered by celebrities.

Hey, some moisturisers are a total waste of money and some offer much less bang for your buck than they claim, but others are reasonable or good value for money and do exactly what they say on the tin. Those are a godsend to those of us who suffer for example from eczema.

Duncan, I would say that the bra burning phase was something our society had to go through so that a point could be made, so that a debate was started, so that voices were heard. Extreme action or utterance such as bra-burning can be useful in order to move things forward when (it is felt that) all else has failed or is failing again. Another example of useful extreme action is Greenpeace putting themselves between harpoons and whales. (For the avoidance of doubt, however, the extreme action I am talking about does not include physical or mental harm to anyone or anything in any shape or form).

It is a known fact that bras are useful, and even essential in some cases. Perhaps a more useful action would now be to burn shoes with ridiculously high heels? (Slightly elevated heels can be good.)

Lipstick – the subject of cosmetics is a more difficult one. We’ve all adorned our faces and bodies for thousands of years, male or female, although none of us need to. Cosmetics can be fun and lift the spirits, but talk about an exploitative business!

Pubs, sensible cars, the rest, how long have we got? And now off topic. :0)

As I don’t know what f**k means ( 🙂 ) I looked up possibilities and found it could be “faik” – meaning fold or pleat. It seems appropriate in this context that anti-wrinkle creams might in fact be described as the opposite – creating folds and pleats.

I personally don’t like the use of f**k by anyone – least of all celebrities – at any available opportunity. It has devalued its use as a word of last resort. Is there now a replacement available?

It’s a very old word and the difficulty in tracing its etymology comes about because it as rarely written down.

Superb first sentence, Sophie.

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Cheers, Duncan, and I would miss you too.

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I don’t think we’re in a “post-feminism” era just yet, Duncan, not for a long time to come, not as long as there is still so much work to do.


QueChoisir has done some extensive research into moisturisers and other cosmetics. Of particular concern should be the endocrine disruptors.

QueChoisir is not business friendly by default and one wonders at Which? not having published anything on this type of product since 2011. [The author suggests the research was 2009] The useful charity Sense about Science has been scathing about these products also.

Que Choisir do have a Best Buy which scores best is a quarter of the price of the other top recommended ones. It scores for ” no endocrine disrupter, or allergens. .. hypoallergenic, formulated under medical supervision, paraben-free, non-comedogenic “. Also of note, the presentation tube that can store the cream in a pot.”

Crèmes hydratantes
publié le : 22/09/2016
Crèmes hydratantes …
Substances toxiques dans les soins du visage
Substances toxiques dans les soins du visage
publié le : 07/06/2017
Crèmes antirides, crèmes hydratantes, nettoyants visage et soins pour messieurs (mousse à raser, après-rasage, soin antirides et hydratants), on est…

I agree that we should be concerned about endocrine disruptors, Patrick. Most people are simply not aware that household products can contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment or even themselves.

BABYCOOK (VIDÉO) is slightly concerning too, but maybe I should worry about my limited knowledge of French.


Astonishingly it seems on the Continent that you can COOK food for babies. Who knew – my children had to eat from tins and jars. These devices really are quite impressive and the best one is 4 times better than the worst. The astonishing gap [80 vs20] due to Philips using BPA in the plastic of there version.

I’m relieved, Patrick. Polycarbonate is the usual suspect when BPA is mentioned. Polycarbonate is OK for some applications (e.g. for ‘glasses’ in pub bear gardens) but high temperature and prolonged contact could contaminate food with significant amounts of BPA. It’s not quite that simple.

Like Lauren, I’ve tried all sorts of moisturisers – including one which had snail mucus in it (yes, really). I now stick to Nivea for my face and Palmer’s for everywhere else. Oh, and a pot of Vaseline for my lips. I’m actually convinced that they work.

Lipsalve is worth its weight in gold. I just hope Wave doesn’t now tell me it corrodes my liver and kidneys…

So…snails don’t use tissues, then?

I don’t know, Ian. There might be some reliable information about Lipsalve online. If there is a problem, call the balm disposal squad.


Lipsalve being so close to ingestion does make it one of those where allergens and endocrine disruptors should be avoided strongly.

QC is very much a members organisation and the original list of products 400 in March 2016 is now over 1000 with there members scanning widely.

This Yandex translation gives a gist of the comments.
Allergen of the year ! It is the unenviable distinction received in 2013 by the methylisothiazolinone (MIT). A learned society of dermatologists, American contact dermatitis society) designates, and each year the ingredient that has done the most damage to the patients.

And for those of scientific persuasion:

MIT is used in some products as a preservative and yes, there is cause for concern. I am not familiar with Lipsalve but have seen no reference to it containing MIT. Maybe you have different information, Patrick.

The link you have provided is available to the general public, as are an increasing number of scientific articles. Imagine if we were denied access to most scientific articles, as was the case a couple of decades ago. The publishers have found an alternative funding model and remained in business.

I bemoaned loss of public access to the British National Formulary recently, but it is available here: https://bnf.nice.org.uk

I want free public access to British Standards.

Patrick, your erudite comment on “compliment” and “complement” being incorrectly used leads me to point out that you have used “there” for “their” twice in this Convo. I am certain you know the difference as do I, but the number of times I have meant one but typed the other escapes me.

If you can see a standard that might be relevant, let me know and I’ll look it up.

It is not British Standards you want access to, but international standards that BS implement in the UK. So you’ll need international agreement to make standards free for all to access.

Thanks Malcolm. I might take you up on that.

There are still journals that are not open source and I have access to some of them, so I might be able to help there.

It was the academic world that pushed for open access journals and publishers continue to move in that direction and set up new open source journals. Until those working in standards see the benefit or are pushed in this direction by international agreements to improve transparency, I am not too optimistic about progress but freedom of information is vital.

One of my concerns is many of us have stopped buying newspapers, making it difficult to run a business without charging for access to websites. What we read in the press is often lacking in accuracy but the information is prompt and can be extremely useful. We have been spoiled by having free access to so many press websites in the past.

Thank you Malcolm for pointing it out. I am time pressed as many our and though I could press my wife into chequing all my output for errors I am shore she would point out that I am not a professional writer and there four different standards apply.


An account of how the body can be affected by the chemicals in cosmetics, and male infertility.

If anyone has more body lotion in the cupboard that they know what to do with, I would use it to shower with every other time or so, to help avoid drying the skin too much.

Dry skin is a common issue, I suspect. I wonder if it’s related to the simple fact that we’re far cleaner these days than we used to be? In days of yore one bath per week was the norm, but now we pop in and out of the shower on a daily basis.

There is no doubt that the detergents in shampoo and shower gels remove natural oils that protect the skin. I have no idea whether bathing or showering is better for those with dry skin.

I have read that it’s not a good idea to wash your hair daily but I would look like Oor Wullie if I didn’t, so it’s a quick wash rather than massaging the scalp, followed by thorough rinsing to get rid of traces of shampoo.

The best people to advise are those with eczema and dermatitis.

https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/bathing/ give advice, bathing once a day in lukewarm water to hydrate the skin. “When your skin is dry, it’s not because it doesn’t contain enough oil. It’s because your skin isn’t doing a very good job of retaining its moisture (water). “

Yes, and our grandfolk often got wet a lot more in the rain than we do and the soft rainwater was also used for washing. I think some of the old soaps and soapflakes were pretty caustic, though.

Are the alcohol gels used at hospital entrances and some catering establishments harmful to the hands?

Certainly made my hands itch.

According to the page that Malcolm has provided a link for: “Try to avoid waterless, antibacterial cleansers, which often contain ingredients like alcohol and solvents that are very hard on your skin (especially during flare-ups). Remember not to scrub your skin while cleansing and to gently pat your skin dry when you’re done. As always, moisturize your skin immediately afterward.” That is advice for people with eczema and may not be relevant to the general public.

This was to link to advice for those with eczema – but it may well be good advice for anyone with dry skin? I don’t know; perhaps an expert can help. For those with skin problems it may be good to try the advice given on the National Eczema Association site that I linked to above; I don’t see it can do any harm and it may prove helpful.

According to the WHO, no. http://www.who.int/gpsc/tools/faqs/abhr2/en/. But they warn against drinking it. 🙁

I had looked at the same document, Malcolm, but it does not mention the additional components that can be included to protect the skin after use. Propan-2-ol (isopropanol) is generally the main ingredient. It’s not as toxic as methanol but definitely to be avoided.

We may see further encouragement to use alcohol-based hand-rubs in hospitals and GP surgeries. From today’s news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40934190

“How is it spread?
That is still being investigated, but experts think it is spread by contact from person to person, on people’s hands, clothing or on bits of medical equipment.
Contamination is quick – several hospitals have reported it takes as little as four hours from initial exposure.”

Gosh – on clothing!! What a surprise … looks like in some circumstances hot washes could be back in fashion – provided of course they are genuinely hot washes and not some misleadingly titled 60C wash running at 27C.

” Hygiene effectiveness of laundering was enhanced by inclusion of AOB even at lowest temperatures, except for C. albicans, which was virtually unaffected by AOB. The use of AOB-containing detergents as well as high washing temperatures reduced cross-contamination to sterile swatches included in the load. ”

Thanks for that, Patrick. Let’s go to the Convo about washing machine temperatures: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/washing-machines-60-degrees-kill-bugs-detergent/

Many companies make a lot of money by persuading the ignorant to spend money on unnecessary things Make a list of things you have bought that you did not need or did not use after just using them once or twice and think of the money you could still have in your pocket or purse

C B S says:
20 January 2018

Some of my family have use cucumber cream from Boots – my mother in particular has used it nearly her whole life and her skin is soft as anything.