My First… Cleanser

Debra Brock reminisces on her skincare debut

Twenty five years ago I was lucky enough to be living in Paris. When work wrapped up for the day, I’d do the obligatory tour of the office shaking hands with everyone then get the RER train to Porte Maillot and take Franco’s step class at the Gymnase-Club. Franco’s class went like this: Franco arrived, air kissed the front row, cranked up Haddaway on the stereo to warp factor 20 and launched immediately into a complex step routine including a “32 knees up” at one end. Thirty minutes later, after zero cool down, he’d switch off the stereo, wish us all a lovely evening and we’d stagger out into the night with beetroot-red faces. I’d then amble home along some of Paris’ loveliest streets, looking at all the beautiful window displays and dreaming of buying a butter soft leather handbag or spendy bottle of perfume.

3380810012217One night, without really thinking, I wandered into one of the pharmacies with my wet hair and tomato face and asked them to recommend me some skin care. The sales assistant’s hand flew to her mouth. “MAIS MADAME”, she said at a volume guaranteed to get the attention of everyone in the store and very possibly the entire neighbourhood, “YOUR SKIN! It’s so red! And stressed! What have you been doing?” A customer suggested knowingly and to great amusement that perhaps I’d been having a “cinq à sept” with someone between work and home. I tried to put him straight by explaining that I’d been having a 32 knees up with Franco, but for some reason that seemed to cause further hilarity. I was about to give up and maybe have a tiny beetroot-faced flounce, when another assistant took pity on me and shepherded me over to the Clarins stand. And, after a lengthy discussion, I owned my first ever set of grown up skin care (and had also developed a life long love of the Gift With Purchase).

Lord knows what I was using before I went through the one-way door into the world of proper skin care (I genuinely can’t remember. Soap? Shudder) but now I had reached posh packaging nirvana there was no turning back. And in my new regime was the one product that I’ve repurchased continually for 25 years: Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian, otherwise known as the-white-one-not-the-green-one. I think in those days it came in a glass bottle, not a plastic one, but essentially it feels unchanged. There’s probably been some behind the scenes tweaks, but it still smells divine, feels velvety and does a really solid cleansing job. It’s not my go-to cleanser when I’ve had a big night out with every product in the world on my face, as clearly that’s a full on code red balm cleanser situation. But the Cleansing Milk has been my trusty companion all these years and I use it every morning with a flannel without fail. It took off my wedding make-up, and came with me when I went to the hospital to give birth (I thought I was going to put make-up on post-birth. Yes, I know). There have been many amazing advances in product technology in the last 25 years and I’m unfailingly keen to give them a whirl, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Clarins Cleansing Milk. There will forever be a place on my bathroom shelf for the big white bottle.

Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian, 200ml, £19.95

Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian, 400ml, £24.50

Debra Brock

Debra Brock is co-founder of and a contributing writer.

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