Sensitive skin is not glamorous. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I would rather slather myself in something from my local chemist, naff, clinical packaging and all, than some of the premium beauty brands that arrive in all their beautiful splendour at GTG HQ. Beautiful, they are - but often the more beautiful on the outside, the more ugly on the inside.
So it is that my favourite problem-solving beauty product of the summer, if not of the past five years, is Care’s Aqueous and Calamine Cream. Yes, I’ve mentioned it before in this column as a go-to saviour for anyone prone to reactions , but it deserves more than a mention. It deserves a permanent space in every sensitive girl’s beauty cabinet, or even handbag.
Having recently had yet another reaction to an unknown trigger all over my face and neck (it could be paint fumes, viral or even my previously trusted shampoo. Answers on a postcard please) right before a holiday in the sun, I was of course dreading the potential mix of irritated rash and prickly heat . Thankfully, I kept the prickles at bay with my summer it-kit of choice, Ultrasun and prescribed antihistamines; but two hours before I was due to go and catch my flight, I was rooting around three different chemists in the hope of finding the holy grail of sensitive skincare. Not only did I find it, in an independent chemist on the very same road as my house no less, but I stocked up on it and took two chunky tubes on holiday. All for a reliably thrifty £2.15 a pop.
I used it daily. It went on my continuing reaction (along with hydrocortisone cream), on my very slight patch of heat rash that occurred on the last day (it all but disappeared within the hour), on my friend’s sunburn, on our insect bites which were growing slightly out of hand, and on my sore feet after dancing all night. It is soothing, non-greasy, and redness and rashes disappear faster than they would even with a steroid cream (which I really hate to use).
But what makes it so great? "The cream has its soothing effect due to action of the calamine," says Steve Riley, Care spokesperson and community pharmacist. "Calamine has a counter irritant effect; it evaporates and has a cooling effect on the skin. This distracts from the itch; it also contains zinc oxide, which has an antiseptic action and protects the skin."
Aqueous cream does have its limits, though; guidelines have been changed in recent years after it was found that continued use of it as a moisturiser could actually cause more irritation to the skin, especially if you have eczema (use it to wash with instead if you’re sensitive) - but what about when it’s combined with soothing calamine? "Caution should be taken in patients with eczematous conditions, particularly children," explains Steve. But the calamine cream does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which is thought to be the ingredient which causes problems in those with eczema in the original aqueous formulation; so while it's best to test with caution, it's unlikely to have the same effect.
Two words; stock up. One in your first aid kit, one in your handbag, one in your suitcase whenever you go away. It represents the two things that can be hard to come by in the beauty industry: cheap and effective. Who needs glamour when you’ve got good skin?