Even in a market as competitive as skincare, some ranges just stand out from the crowd. It's especially exciting when a smaller independent brand delivers brilliant results - even without the vast budgets of the big companies, with their whopping resources for sourcing ingredients, R&D, advertising and so on. Some of the small guys deserve a great deal of attention. Emma Hardie, for example. A top facialist who's worked with Sophie Dahl (and did you see her skin on tv the other night?), Emma's skincare range, Amazing Face, is really up there in terms of efficacy as well as being an utter pleasure to use. Her Natural Lift and Sculpt Moringa Cleansing Balm (100ml, £34) is silky and rich in essential oils yet not greasy, and smells divine (that'll be the orange, neroli, rose and jasmine). While I'm not going to say it has either lifted or sculpted my face – think that would take rather more than a cleansing balm, however luscious – it's certainly one of the few cleansers I've tried that rival the brilliant Eve Lom. Remove with a microfibre cloths (£10 for pack of three) for best results. It can also double up as a lip balm or face mask. The night cream (£56) is brilliant, too. I'm not madly keen on the packaging, personally – but then, I'd rather have something that works like this on my shelf than a swanky pot of something useless.
Another small and singular range that's going places is Pai. A Soil Association-accredited organic range (used by Natalie Portman, if you care about such details), it was created for sensitive and reactive skin. It's incredibly gentle and free from synthetics/parabens, chemicals etc. I especially rate the Chamomile & Rosehip Organic Moisturiser (£24) and the Rosehip BioRegenerate (£20), a really concentrated form of rosehip oil which is not only a great moisturiser but can be very effective on soothing and healing skin, even on scarring. In simple, unpretentious bottles, this range is set to become as popular as 'clean' skincare range REN, I reckon. Visit www.paiskincare to learn more about the brand - you can even get free samples sent to you to give it a road-test.