In a world where Insta-friendly things hog the limelight, we feel honour bound to share our love for the ugly ducklings of the beauty and wellness world. Especially when they are this good

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

Minimalist packaging has been all the rage for years now in the beauty world; from Glossier to Lixirskin, there's no denying our love for a pared-back aesthetic. But there's definitely something to be said about ugly products. You know the ones - the cleansers housed in purely functional packaging that you'd never put pride of place in your bathroom, but you hold a special place for in your heart? Or the jazzy perfume bottles you squirrel away in your sock drawer, only spraying furtively when no one is around?

We're here to celebrate our favourite ugly beauty bits, in all their un-Instagrammable glory.

Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen SPF 50, £7.89 for two tubes

Loved by: Victoria Woodhall, Editorial Director

"This broad-spectrum SPF is ugly for a reason; that's not me saying it, that's what the consultant dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon behind this social enterprise SPF Dr Andrew Bernie told me. He set up Altruist to help eradicate skin cancer by making an SPF that was so cheap and utilitarian-looking that you'd never save it for best and would have no hesitation about using often and liberally. Not only is it not sticky, there's no pina colada fragrance (in fact no fragrance at all) and no parasols on the packaging that might make you think 'for beach use only'. So no excuses, people.

"It comes in SPF 30 and 50. Plus it supports charities in Africa caring for children with Albinism, who live under the most punishing sun without natural melanin protection. Sadly many of them die in their 20s of skin cancer, according to Dr Birnie. Last year, thanks to sales in Europe, Altruist shipped £65k worth of sunscreen to Tanzania. It's a no-beauty no-brainer.

"Check out too their new tinted Altruist Anti Redness and Pigmentation  face cream, SPF 50, £12.50. Men especially love it because it's not 'makeup' but has an adaptive tint that looks really natural."

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Britney Spears Glitter Fantasy EDT, £35 for 100ml

Loved by: Melanie Macleod, digital writer

"I was torn over whether to include this as an ugly product; 13-year-old me would have fought anyone who dared say a bad word about Britney and a sparkly pink perfume bottle was what my dreams were made of. And to be fair, I still love the look of this quite a lot now, but there's no denying it doesn't quite fit in among my Jo Malone and Tom Ford bottles. Pink glitter a la Elle Woods is considered a bit ugly in 2020, but having said that, I'm unashamedly obsessed with the scent inside the bottle; it still smells like the Fantasy we know and love but with a little something extra. The notes are exactly what you'd expect from Brit Brit - heart notes include sparkling pink puff violet and twinkling lotus blossom, while the base notes are alluring musk and mysterious agarwood. While the bottle might not be the most stylish, the perfume is everything I could want."

The Oodie, £79

Loved by: Jemma Thompson, digital designer

"After months of obsessing over these, my bestie gave my boyfriend a tip that I was dying for an Oodie, which I ended up getting for Vday (I know, super sexy right?). But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that comfort is definitely key to my happiness and this hybrid of a hoodie and blanket doesn’t disappoint. It’s made of super soft flannel and flannel fleece (you’ll feel like a build a bear that’s come to life!) that has a snuggly fit no matter your size. There's a slightly cheaper version  The Comfy on Amazon from £39.99  too."

The Light Salon Boost At-Home LED mask,  £395

Loved by: Victoria Woodhall, editorial director

"I don't feel ugly in this red LED mask, because when I'm wearing it I'm usually doing my daily 20-minute meditation (two birds, one stone etc) and am, in theory, floating above such base emotions. Regardless of how my zenning out is going, I never fail to be uplifted as LED light is supremely mood-boosting. By the end of it, my soul has had a dose of good vibes and my skin a dose of healing, calming and rejuvenating red and near-infrared light. My children, on the other hand never fail to be freaked out to find their mother replaced by a cyborg - it works every time, especially if I'm walking around with it on. 'Mum, you scared me!' It's hand's free, made of silicone and of all the LED masks I've tried it's the most comfortable to wear. Once you've invested in it, you'll go back to it again and again."

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Mycelium packaging

Loved by: Melanie Macleod, digital writer

"I’d never turn down beauty packed in pretty sparkly boxes, but my head has been turned by mycelium packaging - despite how unpleasing it is aesthetically. Brands including  HaeckelsWildsmith  and  Origins  are shunning shiny gift boxes and plastic inserts in favour of mycelium, a 100 per cent recyclable material that looks like a breeze block (despite being lightweight) and is made from the root system of mushrooms.

“Haeckels’ mycelium is wrapped in seed paper which contains wildflower seeds,” says Laura Wythe of Haeckels. “When it biodegrades it brings new life in the form of wildflowers. We have coined the term ‘biocontributing’ for this new packaging concept as it really does go beyond being sustainable and positively contributes to the biosphere.”

Yes, it's ugly but mycelium can be grown in the shape you want it. "It's an organic material which is grown around a mould to form a custom-sized, secure structure which replaces less environmentally friendly packaging options,” adds Wildsmith.

And it Hoovers up waste. “To make the product stronger, locally-sourced agricultural waste such as corn husks and barley husks are cleaned, ground up and added to the mycelium which acts as ‘nature’s glue’, binding the mixture together. The final packaging quite literally grows around its mould in a matter of days and when it reaches the desired shape, it is removed from the mould and heated to prevent any further growth.”

This Works Travel Diffuser £30 

Loved by: Victoria Woodhall, Editorial Director

"This reminds me of one of my favourite, but least sexy, household items: the Cable Turtle  which keeps all the spaghetti wiring behind your TV and your computer neatly wound inside a silicone doughnut. I think that's why I gravitated towards this lookalike diffuser. Unlike This Works' more stylish (and more expensive) Scent Well Portable Diffuser , £55 which resembles an original iPod, its functional sibling is more robust and can be bunged in your suitcase.

"You charge it with a USB cable, then unscrew the top and put a few drops of oil onto a cloth pad which is then heated and wafted with a little fan through air holes in the top. It does make a teeny bit of noise, but not so it bothers you. We can't have scented candles in the office due to fire regs, but this keeps our working environment pleasantly perfumed."

Crocs, £29.99

Loved by: Jemma Thompson, digital designer

"In the infamous words of the song by Daphne and Celeste, these are 100 per cent U.G.L.Y but they definitely have my alibi. I never thought I’d see the day when I would become an advocate for Crocs, but here I am. They're one of those products you have to try to believe, it’s like memory foam but for your feet. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the guts to wear them outside (yet) however, when I pop on my Crocs when I get home, I feel like I’m walking on two fluffy clouds. If you want to add some extra cute points, you can even add on some custom  Jibbitz Charms  for that five-year-old meets 25-year-old look, but you have to admit they are pretty cute…"

Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser, £12 for 236ml

Loved by: Melanie Macleod, digital writer

"I've never heard a bad word said about Cerave - everyone I know who's tried it loves it and beauty editors are always singing the praises of the no-nonsense formulas. The effectiveness of the products is in no way negated by the functional appearance, but I have to admit, if I hadn't heard so much about this before trying it and I was going on appearance, I probably would have walked on past. I know we shouldn't judge a book by the cover, but what about the face wash by its bottle?"

What's your favourite functional staple? Let us know in the comments below.