As early as I can remember, my mum used to buy Oil of Ulay (as it was called in the UK in the 1970s) and apply it to her face diligently. It was expensive then (and now she can afford it, she buys Boots' own brand moisturiser) but this ritual must have instilled in me at a very early age the ethos of moisturising, and I do it every day without fail.
I recently read a book called "Don't Go the Cosmetics Counter Without Me" (7th ed.) by Paula Begoun. In it she painstakingly reviews cosmetics manufactured by most major companies, based on ingredients and efficacy, and chooses her "Paula's Picks". The book to some extent exposes the cosmetics industry as, surprise surprise, thriving on deceit (she dismisses most claims as to miraculous effects from ingredients only grown behind Guatemalan waterfalls - it's never Newcastle, is it? - as nonsense), the triumph of hope over experience, and female psychology (the belief, for instance, that if a moisturiser is jaw-droppingly expensive, it must be good), although the impact is lessened somewhat by the fact that the author has her own make-up range which, again surprise surprise, features heavily in "Paula's Picks".
Of course, I checked what I use against the list, only to discover that in most instances I've gone completely wrong: for instance, I've used Origins products for a few years, especially A Perfect World, but Paula doesn't rate Origins at all, mainly based on the fact that some of the ingredients, there chiefly to make the product smell nice and/or sound good, are potentially irritants for the skin and add no other value.
I think my mum's use of Oil of Ulay was based to some extent on the feel and the smell and I can't help thinking that if there are no nasty side-effects, and you like the smell, and it encourages you to put it on, this is a legitimate part of the ritual. I love putting on my current moisturiser (Estee Lauder Daywear Plus with SP15, which smells faintly of cucumber and incidentally gets the nod from Paula). It makes me feel, shallow and strange as this may sound, happy and contented and ready for anything.