I was recently asked to help with an international brand. A group of executives from around the world met up to discuss their company.

‘First, how do you categorise what we do?’ they preened. ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘we’re talking toiletries.’

There was a chill in the air. One of the men looked at me as though he was going to ask me to leave for a fight. It was mentioned that the T-word had also been used.

How did toiletries turn into an offensive concept? It was a time when we felt grateful, especially at Christmas.

My grandmothers might give us Yardley talcum powder (£4.99, boots.com), Fenjal bath oil (£8.33, boots.com) and Badedas gelee (£9.79 for 750ml, boots.com), the latter of which I still buy for my retro-inclined boyfriend.

Hannah Betts shared advice for making every day life more joyous with toiletries (file image)

Hannah Betts gave advice on making your daily life easier with toiletries. File image

In return, they’d receive (bliss!) Bronnley lemon-shaped soaps (£16, fortnumandmason.com), along with their bottles of Chanel No 5. I still hunt in vain for bars of Roger & Gallet carnation soap.

These days, shoppers turn their noses up at mere toiletries in favour of perfume (something artfully constructed by ‘a nose’) or product (something with super-scientific skincare ingredients). But toiletries are not new.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as ‘articles used in washing, dressing, etc.’, and the term originated in the 19th century, when the smartest citizens would make great ceremony of their ablutions.

The things that make life more enjoyable are also of great value.

When my appendix exploded nine years ago, my friend Kate gave me a bottle of Diptyque’s Velvet Hand Lotion (£48, diptyqueparis.com), which was so utterly necessary for my recovery that I still have it to this day.

Anyone who doubts the elegance of toiletries should take themselves to the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy (uk.smnovella.com) — either the Florentine original or Blighty’s London Piccadilly outpost — and revel in its heady delights.

You should be of a like mind as me and you can find yourself lost in Bertioli’s mother-and-daughter line Bertioli (bertioli.co.uk). It is a spin-off of Thyme (thyme.co.uk), the heavenly restaurant/hotel/restored village-within-a-village near Gloucestershire’s Lechlade, at the southern edge of the Cotswolds.

Thyme was a place I had the opportunity to visit. It is lush with greenery and woodsmoke, and it has a sense of tranquility. This connection to the natural environment is reflected in Thyme’s beauty wares, which nourish the Earth and people.

I could sense this connection even if I was a city-loving cynic. I arrived so rigid with tension that when Thyme’s creator Caryn Hibbert started talking about willow warblers and unwinding, I felt like screaming.

Hannah (pictured) confessed that she began to cry after clambering into a tub rich in Bertioli’s Bath Salts

Hannah (pictured) confessed that she began to cry after clambering into a tub rich in Bertioli’s Bath Salts

Caryn is a retired gynaecologist and a talented botanical illustrator. She had already met my type previously, but she gently persevered.

When launching Bertioli, she and her daughter Milly wanted products that focused on bathing and breathing — timely after a pandemic that has sabotaged both our respiratory and mental health.

Their first collection is a tribute to Britain’s water meadows. This blend of anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial water mints, apple blossoms, and thyme creates deep deep breaths. It makes me think of Laura Ashley No 1 (or maybe No 2), as well as frock shopping with mom.

Like in the golden age, toiletries smelled medicinal.

As Milly notes: ‘In a study in 2019, it was shown that the overriding sense that delivers the health benefits from time outdoors is smell, with its direct effect on the limbic area of the brain. Our river mint is not only beautiful, it’s uniquely healing.’

It is true. When I clambered into a tub rich in Bertioli’s Bath Salts (£45), I confess I began to cry, and I am not a great weeper.

Emerging, I covered myself in the brand’s Hand And Body Lotion (£32.50), a shea butter, almond, argan, olive and avocado oil fusion that produces a slight menthol tingle, proving utterly relaxing to the limbs.

Then I pulled my (genius) Thyme hooded dressing gown over my head to inhale its Breathing Balm (£20), and slept as I hadn’t slept for months.


Guerlain Mad Eyes Contrast Shadow Duo — fab name, fab product. The limited edition festive version of this double-ended, idiot-proof eyeshadow crayon is available in two colours: plum (left) and gold (right). Start by swiping the lighter shade across your lid. Next, go darker over the socket.





Barbara Taylor Bradford (pictured) uses Deborah Mitchell Black Bee Venom Mask to target small wrinkles

Barbara Taylor Bradford (pictured) uses Deborah Mitchell Black Bee Venom Mask to target small wrinkles

She is 88 years old and has published her 35th book. Of her glowing complexion, she says: ‘I have English rose skin — that’s from a good diet, no booze and I don’t smoke.’ She uses Deborah Mitchell Black Bee Venom Mask (£114.10, heavenskincare.com) to target small wrinkles, and also approves of Eucerin’s Hyaluron-Filler (£28.50, boots.com). BTB visits the hairdresser twice a week and considers Guerlain’s red lipstick her ‘armour against the world’.


It may seem expensive but Sisley Ecological Compom is very cost-effective.

It worked! Sisley’s wonder lotion has been a bestseller since 1980, with a bottle sold every 45 seconds.

It is a passion for make-up artists because it can help with all kinds of skin conditions: dry skin in cold climates; oily skin during humid seasons; or hungover skin from too many pre-Christmas pink Gins.

You can also use it to treat eczema. It is a must-try.




This cult mask is a great way to revive dry hair. Now available in a 50ml size for just £3.



This is the longest-lasting and best root cover-up — small wonder the dark brown shade is a bestseller.



This non-sticky spray is very easy to apply. The scent of good times, this super spray.



For a French-girl look, this is the ideal dry shampoo.



It’s a lavender and geranium-based treatment that is great for even very fine hair.