The Panel: Back to basics
It is with regret, often, that we look back at old photographs of ourselves and realise that we looked much better back then than we ever realised. If only, we lament, we had appreciated that fact at the time.
For that reason, looking back can be dangerous, unless you use it as an encouragement to make the best of now, because now is all we have.
Take the lessons from the past and put them into practice now -- and get some inspiration in that exercise from our top five products of 2013.
This will be our only look back -- after this, it's all about looking forward, albeit armed with some of the best that the year just past had to offer.
This top five is all about getting the basics right. Then, you can top-up to whatever extent you favour, either with your stalwart products or with whatever new releases give you a lift in 2014.
At this time of year, though, we're less about embellishment than we are about looking undefeated by the dark evenings and the elements, so keep it simple, pare things back and finesse the fundamentals with this top five.
Lancome DreamTone, €87, available at Lancome counters nationwide
It's not often that you can say a product does what it promises, particularly when it comes to anti-ageing. This one does. Two panellists with different skin concerns, who used the 1 and 2 formulations, saw improvements in redness and dark spots, respectively. Both said their skin was more even in tone. There was no gravity-defiance, or no disappearance of wrinkles, but there was clearer skin. "Post-summer ruddiness and dark areas were less noticeable after a few weeks," said one panellist. "I'll be sticking with this."
Revlon Nearly Naked Makeup SPF 20, €13.99, available nationwide
There were plenty of expensive foundation launches last year, but this rather cheaper product was as good as any. The lid is fiddly -- a pump dispenser would be better -- but the foundation, available in 10 shades, is very good. "It applies like a far more expensive foundation," said a panellist, "and it lasts like one."
Nimue Glyco Mask, €22.50, available nationwide. For your nearest stockist, tel: (01) 219-0292
Glycolic acid is your exhausted skin's best friend at this time of the year. It's the gentlest of acid peels, it's suitable for sensitive skin, and it is effective at removing greying dead cells and leaving the skin more receptive to moisturiser. The only note of caution is that you must wear an SPF after using glycolic acid -- even in January. There are several applications in this deceptively tiny tube, which contains salyclic and glycolic acids. "Fab stuff," a panellist said. "Ten minutes to banish tiredness."
Clarins Instant Concealer, €24, from Clarins counters nationwide
If ever there's a time for concealer, January is it. Under-eye dark circles seem to take up residence at this time of year, and there's not much to be done but cover them up. Coverage of that sort is what this concealer does best. It is available in three shades. It is also nicely smoothing. "A few strategically placed dabs of this meant I could skip wearing a full face of foundation and still look polished," said one panellist. "It gave great coverage without any weighty look."
Color Wow speed dry, €22, SpaceNK, Harvey Nichols, Dundrum Town Centre, D16, or see www.colorwowhair.com
Designed by, among others, hairdresser John Frieda, this brand specialises in products for maintaining salon-fresh colour. It has some excellent products for everyone. This is a watery spray that does what the name suggests -- it boosts your at-home blow-dry to near-salon standards, and reduces the drying time. "Miraculous in how it smooths and defeats frizz," said a panellist. "People said 'swingy', 'bouncy' and 'shiny' like never before."