After struggling with eczema and oily skin her whole life, writer Moya Lothian-McLean discovered the Holy Grail of moisturisers – and it costs £4.
My skin and I have always been uneasy bedfellows. Like me, my skin is temperamental. I wear my heart on my sleeve, or rather, my moods on my epidermis. I’d had eczema as a baby but it lay dormant for most of my childhood, only choosing to rear its scaly head again when I started my A Levels.
“It’s triggered by stress,” said the dermatologist my mother dragged me to. Which was useful knowledge in theory but, judging by the permanent presence of angry, red eczema spread across the entirety of my hands, I was always stressed and that wasn’t going to change any time soon.
I resigned myself early on to the fact that this was just my skin now. Funny how quickly we adapt to new normals. My only attempt to really challenge the itchy lie of the land was to bargain secretly in my head with whatever universal power was in charge of skin karma.
“You can take the hands,” I thought. “But go easy on the face.”
They seemed to listen for the most part but I had to be extremely careful with whatever I put on there. Which ignited a severe case of FOMO as the world around me set about making skincare the next great beauty obsession. I tried in vain to dip my toe into the world of acids, essences and serums. But every time I’d dab on a product with a high price point and rave reviews, my skin would make its displeasure known. Even specialised creams just angered the beast. Aquaphor, Eucerin, Dermalex, Mixa, Vaseline, Cetaphil, CeraVe… the list was endless and, for my skin at least, useless. I spent a fortune everywhere from high street chemists to specialist herbal shops, to no avail.
Eventually I stuck to managing my hands – which still incited questions about how I’d ‘burned’ them – with Aveeno and topically applying Diprobase on problem facial areas like my philtrum (the space between the cupid’s bow and nose) and around my eyes. I found a moisturiser that didn’t seem to irritate the rest of my face, even though it didn’t do much else either. The parts of my face that weren’t dry were prone to oiliness and I had a sneaking suspicion my cream was exacerbating under skin spots. But for the first time in forever, I felt like I could be, if not happy, at least marginally unbothered by the skin I was in.
Sure, there were still moments that reminded me the rest of the world hadn’t managed to ignore my eczema quite as proficiently as I had. Like the Customs official in Jordan who told me I’d ‘smeared red lipstick’ under my nose and then laughed loudly; or the ‘helpful’ advice handed out by drunk girls who had a cousin, who’d got a friend, whose mother had ‘totally cured’ her skin condition with [remedy I’d already tried at least three times].
The catalyst for change came via a celebrity. I interviewed singer Jorja Smith, whose impeccable skincare has got almost as much of a fanbase as the contemplative soul-pop she releases. With skin that good and the thirst for skincare content at an all-time high, it was practically a journalistic requirement I asked her what she used.
Smith gave an answer I’d seen her say before in interviews (but not quite believed), telling me it was a simple Vitamin E moisturiser – she prefers The Body Shop’s version – that was responsible for her otherworldly glow.
Perhaps because I was hearing it from the horse’s mouth, the information finally filtered through to my brain. Later that day, idling in Superdrug – my favourite place in the world to soothe frayed nerves; what’s more calming than being surrounded by the affordable potential of a new me? – I spotted their own brand SPF 15 Vitamin E Moisturising Day Cream as part of a BOGO-half-price offer. I scooped up a pot, along with a tub of the Vitamin E Body Butter. Priced at £3.99 each, I was only going to be £5.98 out of pocket if they ended up as big of a bust as the extortionate moisturisers I’d trialled in the past. Plus, Jorja Smith had (sort of) personally recommended them. And that made a good story.
I patted the lightweight face cream into my face that evening, after my cleansing routine, waiting for the inevitable sting as my skin rejected it. Yet… nothing. In fact, my face already seemed to have taken on a glow that wasn’t there before. I dismissed it as a placebo effect, slapped the body butter on the rest of myself and decided to reassess in the morning.
Turns out it wasn’t a placebo. My hands – from only one application of the body butter – looked the best they had since the very first time the scales started creeping across my wrists, seven years ago. The inflammation had receded, leaving the affected skin the same colour as the non-afflicted parts, bar the discolouration that had been incurred from years of worrying at them. The formerly ever-present flakiness was gone altogether.
It was a similar story on my face; I looked fresher and more radiant than I had done in weeks, even after a trip to the Middle East where I’d been exposed to maximum sunshine (the best skincare boost a mixed-race person can get). A dry patch on my forehead that I’d been unable to shake had completely subsided. My philtrum was calm. My eyes weren’t red. This was brand new territory.
Two months on from first discovering the Vitamin E range (of which there are 21 products to choose from) and I’m more infatuated with it than ever. I’ve become an off-the-rails Avon lady, prattling on about the creams to anyone who’ll listen. I’ve steamed through two tubs of the body butter and moisturiser respectively and have recently started using the All Over Body Cream too. I’ve pledged my devotion to the products with the devoutness of a religious crusader. I am a Vitamin E disciple and I want you to join me.
My skin has never been this healthy, this clear, this perfect. I never wore foundation before (it only ever exposed and irritated any dry spots further) – just a bit of concealer under the eyes and on rogue spots – but now I’ve given away my emergency bottles altogether. I feel like a buttery-soft skinned Glossier girl and it’s been achieved without a 10-step bedtime routine or blowing £40 on a 70ml bottle of BHA.
And it’s not just my word you should take. After posting about my new (and only) bae on Instagram, I received several messages from people excitedly informing me that the Superdrug Vitamin E had revolutionised their skin stories too. In a further boost for my #influencer ego, one girl even headed to Superdrug to purchase the range (specifically the Hot Cloth Cleanse and Day and Night moisturisers) on my recommendation. Yesterday she shot me a message after posting a selfie in which her skin looked crystal clear and luminous.
“Dude,” it read. “Vitamin E has changed my life.”
I rest my case.
Moya Lothian-McLean is a freelance writer with an excessive amount of opinions. She tweets @moya_lm.