ask the strategist

Ask the Strategist: Bulk-Buy Shampoo and SPF Moisturiser Edition

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In our new advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please email: with one of your own — we’re here to help.

Question: “My husband refuses to buy expensive skin-care products, but wants a daily facial moisturiser with SPF 30 that doesn’t sting and doesn’t stink. Can you help?”

If you definitely want a moisturiser with SPF, then this Cetaphil one would be a good place to start. It comes via our Strategist US colleagues, and, according to reviewers on Amazon, this is one of the best-rated SPF 30 options. One reviewer, who was specifically looking for a nonirritating moisturiser, said, “I highly recommend it if you are looking for sun protection that moisturises without stinging.”

But when I rang up Strategist contributor Daniela Morosini, who often knows budget dupes for high-end products (her favourite body cream is just £12), she suggested a dedicated SPF, rather than a two-in-one. “Other ingredients in moisturiser might dilute or interfere with sun protection,” she says. “The good news is that there are lots of nice, hydrating SPFs – I just wear SPF in the morning by itself.”

“This is a really nice, hydrating sunscreen with zero scent and zero residue,” says Daniela. “It’s a little thicker in texture, so it’s great for dehydrated skin, and the lack of artificial fragrance and alcohol should stop it from stinging.” We previously featured this Supergoop formula in our roundup of expert-recommended sun creams, where it was mentioned by aesthetic doctor Ewoma Ukeleghe, a.k.a. SKNDOCTOR. “Unlike most SPFs, I actually enjoy putting this on,” Ukeleghe told us. “It’s got a great moisturising primer feel to it, and there’s no white cast to it whatsoever.”

I also spoke to a number of skin-care experts, including celebrity makeup artist Amanda Clarke, skin expert Abi Oleck, Harley Street doctor Paris Acharya, and Alexander Johnston, the general manager at luxury pharmacist John Bell & Croyden, all of whom suggested higher SPFs than 30. In fact, most of them suggested an SPF 50 product for sun protection.

“This is a budget-friendly option loved by our clients,” says Oleck.

Dr. Acharya said this one is best applied after you moisturise. “Follow your serum with a broad-spectrum SPF, even when the sun isn’t out. It helps protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays but also from the damaging rays emitted from your computer and phone screens.”

And finally: moisturiser. We’ve already included some really moisturising SPF products, but if your husband is also looking for a daily moisturiser, I have two personal recommendations.

The first is Neutrogena’s gel moisturiser, which happens to be one of our most popular items on the Strategist (it’s been in our best-selling list for five months, and spent three months at No. 1). I have quite sensitive skin, and anything too gloopy just clogs up my pores, but I love this moisturiser and wear it every day. It’s really lightweight, and feels cool and refreshing as soon as it touches your skin. It also goes a long way (a tub lasts me about a month, unless my boyfriend nicks any), and it’s often on sale.

I also love The Ordinary’s skin-care products, particularly their affordable, scent-free moisturiser, although it’s in and out of stock due to its popularity. Still, this is worth putting on your radar (their Spitalfields store is open for business again, if you happen to be in London).

Question: “As we try to be more eco-friendly, my wife and I have been looking to bulk buy shampoo and conditioner, so we can then decant them into some lovely apothecary bottles. Unfortunately, we can’t find many suppliers who do decent shampoo/conditioner in bulk. Your help would be great!”

As soon as I read your email, my mind immediately went to Hairstory, a hair-care start-up whose New Wash product is essentially an alternative to shampoo and conditioner. The product was developed by a founder of Bumble and Bumble, and over on the Strategist US, contributor Molly Young is a big fan. “The results are wild. My long hair air-dries perfectly, with no ‘squeaky’ texture,” she said convincingly at the time. “It is shiny and falls in loose waves, like it did when I was a kid. I don’t need to blow-dry it. My chronic flaky scalp (sorry!) is gone forever.”

From £44
Photo: retailer

New Wash is available on a subscription basis, which includes a complimentary pump-action canister for storing it in (although you could just as easily decant it into your own bottles). London-based hairdresser Mathew Alexander told me he uses New Wash with his clients. “It’s one of my favourite brands, both in and out of the salon,” he said. “The ‘Refill Club’ gives my clients the option to replenish their stock at home. Products are delivered at a frequency of their choosing, with clever packaging that considers the environment.”

Another good-looking option is the Conscious Beauty Co., which was founded in late 2019 and aims to tackle waste in the beauty industry by focusing on a “reuse and refill” model. They do several products, including hair wash, body wash, and hand wash, and they come in these bold pouches with a Supreme-ish typeface. When you’ve decanted your product, you simply post the pouch back to CBC, and they’ll recycle it for you (they say it will never end up in landfill). The scents include pomelo, lemongrass, and coconut, and you can either get a starter kit (which includes metal canisters to store them), or just buy a refill pack yourself.

I also wanted to see what people who are already refilling and reusing products recommended, so I spoke to Wendy Graham, who runs Moral Fibres, an eco-friendly blog. She told me about Suma, a shampoo that comes in bulk. “When I can, I buy a 5 litre carton of Suma that I use to fill smaller bottles for use in the shower,” she says. “Suma is vegan and cruelty-free, it’s made in the UK, and has a good ethical rating on sites like Ethical Consumer.”

Suma’s own website has stopped selling products due to COVID-19 and the overwhelming demand for bulk products. But you can still find it sold online in a few places. Just be mindful of how large a 5L container is – this might not be for you if you have a small flat with relatively little cupboard space.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Ask the Strategist: Bulk-Buy Shampoo and SPF Moisturisers