The new black

If there is one beauty product I consider a necessity, it has to be Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula. Look in the bathroom of any self-respecting black woman and you'll see the distinctive brown and orange logo.

I have suffered from dry skin as long as I can remember. If I don't moisturise the instant I get out the shower, my legs and arms go a highly attractive dull grey and I look sickly. All my black friends (women and men) have the same problem, and, as a result, I have always assumed black skin was more prone to dryness than white; but this is not the case, apparently.

"Scaling occurs on the outer layer of [black or white] skin when it becomes dry, making it look flaky and rough. There is no increased risk of dryness on dark skin, but when it is dry, it is more obvious - the optical properties of the skin are different," explains Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic, London.

Cut down on detergent and soaps, advises Dr Lowe, and swap bath salts, which are very drying, for a moisturising wash. Then find yourself a good moisturiser. I've tried all kinds - from the industrial strength creams such as E45 and Vaseline Intensive Care (relatively effective but a bit boring), to the more expensive lotions such as Clarins and Lancme (luxurious but not particularly effective) - but I always go back to Palmer's, annoyed with myself for having strayed.

One friend is convinced the reason she has no stretch marks is because she used Palmer's religiously during her pregnancy. The original product, the grandaddy of the brand, is the jar, which contains the formula in a solid form. It's like putting butter on your skin (much nicer than it sounds) and works brilliantly on drier, rougher areas, such as elbows, knees and feet.

So what's the attraction? Well, other than the delicious smell of melting chocolate, Palmer's seems to be the only cream that works. It gives enough moisture without being too thick or taking an age to sink in (Nivea and Astral) - you can almost hear my skin sucking it up. With all the other brands, I have to moisturise at least twice a day, more if my legs and arms are on show. And, frankly, I've got better things to do with my time.

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