It helps to know what you're doing.

It helps to know what you're doing.

I'm starting to think that the messages on products should be accorded some respect. Not the unlikely bits which promise younger-looking skin or an unforgettable sensuous experience, but the instruction manual part. The useful stuff. The fine print.

A defining point for a younger me was a line in one of the Indiana Jones movies when our hero, beset by enemies on all sides, lets his shrill companion in on a secret. "I don't know," he cries, "I'm making this up as I go along." It's a philosophy I've tried to follow ever since.

Power tools, complicated electrical equipment, flat-pack furniture, extremely heavy machinery. Knowing how to get this sort of stuff to work right comes with the chromosomes. Like many men, I tend to discover how to do things through trial and error. Instructions are for sissies. But maybe, especially outside the comfort zone, we need to change our tune.

The other day I almost missed out on having the best hair ever because of course I didn't read the directions. Who, after all, reads the back of a shampoo bottle?

I'd been using Hard Muk's new Styling & Texturising Shampoo and thought it was pretty good.

Then one time, during an interlude in a particularly long, hot shower, I idly read the back of the tube.

On a whim, I followed the instructions and shampooed and DIDN'T CONDITION. I also massaged the shampoo in with flat hands, as it said, rinsed and repeated the process and then "for the ultimate texture" left it at that. The result was the best-looking hair I've had for ages, that required no product to fall into place. Best of all, it lasted two days.

I was about to give up on Invisible Zinc's Face and Body Sunscreen because, even though it's one of the only sunscreens that seems to stop me going red, it made me look white, no matter how much I rubbed it in. Then I read the small print and it said "product may leave a white caste on certain skin types". So that's alright then.

Another sunscreen product – an upmarket dermatologist one called Actinica Liposomal Sunscreen – carries a whopping SPF50+, just suited for days out in the surf, but never seemed to sit on my skin properly. Then I read the back and it says to apply before using moisturisers. It also admonished: "To obtain the full use of Actinica please follow the directions in the enclosed information leaflet carefully." Hmm. It did say please. I may just do that.

So it is worth it - reading the instructions can pay dividends. I might just start doing it more often.

Do you follow the instructions? Or do you just make it up as you go along?