More than a decade ago, adult acne sent me off to the skin specialist. Acne can be traumatic at any age but when you're old enough to actually own a teenager, it's crushing. (You try telling yourself it's just a few pimples on the chin when fronting up to a high-stakes meeting.) From the doctor, I got a prescription and a tub of Cetaphil.

The drugs gave me clear skin; the Cetaphil a newfound respect for no-frills skin care. When it comes to anti-agers, inexpensive basics like QV, Cetaphil and even Waitrose's cult Baby Bottom Butter (sold at Nosh for about $10) aren't always top of mind. But just like those pretty, pay-a-premium brands, they create a barrier between the skin and the air, temporarily maintaining the skin's natural moisture by keeping water in. Teamed with a good sunscreen, they can protect and nourish the skin and soften your wrinkles, not to mention prevent new ones.

No-frills isn't for everyone (nor, I suspect, is nappy cream). But going back to basics can be a good idea, especially if your skin is showing any signs of early-onset winter irritation (bumps, dryness, patchiness, itchiness, redness). Take Weleda's Skin Food ($22.90) for example. A gooey white cream, it looks far too unctuous to use on your face but don't be deceived. Make sure it's fully absorbed before applying makeup (better still, use as night cream only), and this all-natural skin-balancer will reward you with calm, even-toned, glowing skin. Great if your complexion is on the dry side.

Another to get plus points is Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion Plus ($69). On beauty counters since 1968 (it was reformulated a few years ago with hyaluronic acid), it contains no superstar antioxidants and no high-tech hype but there is a very good reason why one primrose-coloured bottle sells every five seconds or so around the world.

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The biggest bargain though has to be QV Skin Lotion. Just $47 gets you a whole pH-balanced litre. The packaging might offend your interior decorator but it's cleared for use on eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis and is good for the body as well as the face. And for those wanting a bit more bang, the brand also has a specific face cream with added sunscreen.

Read the label: Coconut oil

Palmer's Coconut Oil Formula with Vitamin E Hydrating Facial Mask $14.
Palmer's Coconut Oil Formula with Vitamin E Hydrating Facial Mask $14.

WHAT IT IS:

Plant oil with a high fat content.

WHY LOOK FOR IT: There's absolutely nothing to stop you from applying coconut oil to your skin or hair straight from the jar. It's full of beneficial fatty acids and will improve dry skin as well as add a sexy sheen. The oil also contains lauric acid, believed to have antibacterial properties. The jury is still out, though, on whether using pure coconut oil on pimple-ridden skin (sometimes recommended by natural-beauty devotees) is a good thing and it pays to be sceptical when it comes to something as potentially disfiguring as acne.

FIND IT IN: The grocery section of the supermarket as well as in the beauty aisle - it's the main ingredient in the inexpensive Palmer's skin care range. An effective emollient, coconut oil also plays a starring role in many natural brands.

Celeb beauty tips

Lynette Forday, actress

Sunblock. I'm obsessed with it and only wish the younger Lynette had been as vigilant. I carry a powdered mineral sunblock like Colorescience or Brush On Block with me to put over my makeup when I'm out. Oh, and I never smile, so as not to create wrinkles!"