Hannah Betts’s Better…not younger: Why Grandma knew best — an ode to the joy of bathtime treats
- Hannah Betts shares advice for making every day life more joyous with toiletries
- UK-based columnist reveals a selection of the best products for healthy hair
- Sisley Ecological Compound is this week’s cosmetic craving
Awhile ago, I was called in to advise an international brand. Executives from all over the globe were there to discuss the company they revered.
‘First, how do you categorise what we do?’ they preened. ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘we’re talking toiletries.’
A chill ran round the room. For a moment it looked as if one of them would ask me to step outside for a fight. The T-word had been mentioned.
When did toiletries become an insulting concept? Time was we were grateful for them, not least come Christmas.
My grandmothers might give us Yardley talcum powder (£4.99, boots.com), Fenjal bath oil (£8.33, boots.com) and Badedas gelee (£9.79 for 750ml, boots.com), the latter of which I still buy for my retro-inclined boyfriend.
Hannah Betts shared advice for making every day life more joyous with toiletries (file image)
In return, they’d receive (bliss!) Bronnley lemon-shaped soaps (£16, fortnumandmason.com), along with their bottles of Chanel No 5. I still hunt in vain for bars of Roger & Gallet carnation soap.
These days, shoppers turn their noses up at mere toiletries in favour of perfume (something artfully constructed by ‘a nose’) or product (something with super-scientific skincare ingredients). Yet toiletries have a long and august history.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as ‘articles used in washing, dressing, etc.’, and the term originated in the 19th century, when the smartest citizens would make great ceremony of their ablutions.
Besides, the things we use to make our daily lives more joyous have tremendous value.
When my appendix exploded nine years ago, my friend Kate gave me a bottle of Diptyque’s Velvet Hand Lotion (£48, diptyqueparis.com), which was so utterly necessary for my recovery that I still have it to this day.
Anyone who doubts the elegance of toiletries should take themselves to the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy (uk.smnovella.com) — either the Florentine original or Blighty’s London Piccadilly outpost — and revel in its heady delights.
If you are of a similar mind to me, then you need to lose yourself in the mother-and-daughter brand Bertioli (bertioli.co.uk). It is a spin-off of Thyme (thyme.co.uk), the heavenly restaurant/hotel/restored village-within-a-village near Gloucestershire’s Lechlade, at the southern edge of the Cotswolds.
I was lucky enough to stay at Thyme and, my goodness, it is a paradise: all lush greenery, woodsmoke and an air of calm. Its beauty wares are designed to reflect this connection with the environment, and nourish both people and the planet.
Even a city-loving cynic such as myself could feel this link. I arrived so rigid with tension that when Thyme’s creator Caryn Hibbert started talking about willow warblers and unwinding, I felt like screaming.
Hannah (pictured) confessed that she began to cry after clambering into a tub rich in Bertioli’s Bath Salts
A former gynaecologist, who is also a gifted botanical illustrator, Caryn had met my type before and gently persevered.
When launching Bertioli, she and her daughter Milly wanted products that focused on bathing and breathing — timely after a pandemic that has sabotaged both our respiratory and mental health.
Their first collection is a tribute to Britain’s water meadows. A fusion of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial water mint, apple blossom and thyme, its aroma inspires the deepest of deep breaths. It reminds me of the old Laura Ashley No 1, or possibly No 2, fragrance, and frock shopping with my mother.
As in the golden age of toiletries, scent is very much medicinal here.
As Milly notes: ‘In a study in 2019, it was shown that the overriding sense that delivers the health benefits from time outdoors is smell, with its direct effect on the limbic area of the brain. Our river mint is not only beautiful, it’s uniquely healing.’
I can attest to this. When I clambered into a tub rich in Bertioli’s Bath Salts (£45), I confess I began to cry, and I am not a great weeper.
Emerging, I covered myself in the brand’s Hand And Body Lotion (£32.50), a shea butter, almond, argan, olive and avocado oil fusion that produces a slight menthol tingle, proving utterly relaxing to the limbs.
Then I pulled my (genius) Thyme hooded dressing gown over my head to inhale its Breathing Balm (£20), and slept as I hadn’t slept for months.
RACE YOU TO IT
Guerlain Mad Eyes Contrast Shadow Duo — fab name, fab product. This limited-edition festive version of the idiot-proof, double-ended eyeshadow crayon comes in two iridescent colourways: plum and gold for warm complexions, or grey and silver (right) for cool tones. Swipe the paler colour across the lid, then go dark over the socket.
MY ICON OF THE WEEK
BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD
Barbara Taylor Bradford (pictured) uses Deborah Mitchell Black Bee Venom Mask to target small wrinkles
The author, 88, has just published her 35th novel. Of her glowing complexion, she says: ‘I have English rose skin — that’s from a good diet, no booze and I don’t smoke.’ She uses Deborah Mitchell Black Bee Venom Mask (£114.10, heavenskincare.com) to target small wrinkles, and also approves of Eucerin’s Hyaluron-Filler (£28.50, boots.com). BTB visits the hairdresser twice a week and considers Guerlain’s red lipstick her ‘armour against the world’.
Expensive it may be, but a little goes an extremely long way when it comes to Sisley Ecological Compound .
The result? Sisley’s wonder lotion has been a bestseller since 1980, with a bottle sold every 45 seconds.
Make-up artists are devoted to it because it just sorts things: oily skin in humid weather; dry skin in cold climes; and hungover skin after one too many pre-Christmas pink gins.
It also works wonders on eczema, rashes, blotchiness and inflammation. Once tried, never forsaken.
NOVEMBER HAIR HITS
The cult mask rescues parched hair. Now available in a 50ml size for just £3.
This is the longest-lasting and best root cover-up — small wonder the dark brown shade is a bestseller.
The non-sticky formula easily brushes out. This super spray is the scent of a good time.
This is the perfect dry shampoo for creating an effortless French girl look.
A lavender and geranium treat that suits even fine hair.
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