Lab Series aim sky high with new ‘MAXELLENCE’ collection

maxellenceWith the economy finally picking up (sort of) it’s not surprising that a lot of skincare brands are eyeing-up consumers’ fatter-looking wallets and launching high-end products to empty them come payday. That Lab Series – one of my favourite skincare brands – should be one of them is a bit of a surprise, though, because I’ve always thought of them as a fairly democratic brand and they already have a premium MAX LS range for those willing to pay a little more for their skincare.

In January, however, they’re set to launch the MAXELLENCE collection – a pair of products that best even the MAX LS range’s premium price point. The new products – The Dual Concentrate (a serum which hydrates, firms an supports collagen production) and The Singular Cream (which moisturises skin and is infused with ‘galactic meteorite extract from the heart of an asteroid’) – cost a cool £130 and £105 respectively. Or, since they’re designed to be used together, a whopping £235.

The justification for this high price is twofold. Firstly, they’re using ingredients from outer space (the meteorite extract is rich in two – very earthly –  ingredients, calcium and magnesium, which assist skin function) and secondly the products themselves are made in small batches (a key plank of modern hipsterism). As you might expect, there’s only one logical stockist for MAXELLENCE outside of the Lab Series website and that’s Harrods – a store where price is always paramount.

max-lab-1The question is: are they any good? Having used them for a week I can tell you they certainly do the job though the concentrate doesn’t seem all that different to Lab Series’ excellent Future Rescue Repair Serum whilst The Singular Cream, isn’t dissimilar in feel to their Age Rescue+ Water-Charged Gel Cream. What really marks these new additions out, apart from some of the ingredients, is their fancy packaging and the colour of the products themselves: the lid of The Singular Cream, for example, is designed to look a bit like a meteorite while the cream itself is grey and the concentrate is both grey and white and is mixed at the point of delivery. As someone who associates Lab Series with no-fuss, almost clinical, functionality I personally find these new products oddly (and unnecessarily) gimmicky as well as expensive. They may be boldly going where few skincare brands have gone before but, for once, I’m not entirely sure whether I’m prepared to join them on the journey.

Lab Series MAXELLENCE The Dual Concentrate and The Singular Cream will be available from Harrods and online at labseries.co.uk from January. 

This Christmas’ blockbuster gift for Aramis lovers

aramis-1-open-med-resI have always loved Aramis. In fact, I’ve loved it since I was teenager (a mighty long time ago). Its warm, woody, leatheriness is irresistible. Elegant but muscular, it has a bit of a reputation as being a fragrance for dads but whilst it’s certainly a fragrance for grown ups (it’s often described as ‘authoritative’) its timeless appeal means every man should try it once – regardless of his age.

And whether you’re a hardcore fan like me or an Aramis virgin this new (and aptly named) ‘Blockbuster Set’ is a real treat. Featuring five products from the range housed in a swanky gift box, it makes a fantastic pressie for fragrance lovers. At £85 it’s great value, too, because buying all the products individually would set you back over £170. The only downer is that it doesn’t include one of my favourite bath products ever – the classic Aramis soap on a rope  – so the set isn’t quiet as ‘authoritative’ as the fragrance but don’t let that put you off: this is still one of the best Christmas gift sets out there.

You can read more about the fragrance itself here

 

Golden Greats: four new fragrances worth gifting this Christmas

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Every year, right about now, I’m asked by numerous pals what fragrances I’d recommend as gifts for Christmas. Over the past year I’ve sampled scores of new launches (some excellent, others mediocre and a few truly dire) but a handful have stood out. And here are four that I really rate. Like everyone, I have my own particular taste in fragrance, so make sure you try before you buy but do check them out because, in my book, every one of them is a winner.

alizarinPenhaligon’s Alizarin.  When I wrote about what to wear for a party in my Stella magazine column recently this new number from Penhaligon’s was my automatic fragrance of choice. Oudy and leathery, with touches of powdery orris, it’s an exceptionally grown up, sexy, slighty sherbety fragrance and has excellent longevity on the skin – which is exactly what you want from a party fragrance.

view_image-5kcx-01-fErmenegildo Zegna Essenze Musk Gold. Though I’m not a huge fan of Zegna’s mass-market fragrances their more luxe Essenze fragrances are, almost without exception, absolutely superb. This one is practically pornographic in nature: opulent and rich and with a kinky, leather-meets-musk base, it’s a ballsy, truly muscular statement scent and one of my favourite launches this year.

1962-edp-100ml-1200px_rgb-1Floris 1962. Part of Floris’ new Fragrance Journals Collection, 1962 takes bohemian Soho of the sixties as its inspiration and is intentionally retro in feel and character. I absolutely fell in love with it the minute I got a whiff of it at its press launch back in the summer and still can’t get enough of it. Citrusy and woody, with delightful touches of clove, spearmint and lily of the valley, it’s ludicrously old-skool in character and is the smell of men before the fragrance industry turned them into cake shops. A fragrance I’ve worn incessantly this year.

3432240501141_t1_1200x1200L’envol de Cartier Read the reviews of this brand new fragrance from Cartier and you’ll notice straight away that they’re almost universally positive. And it’s not just the juice – a not-too-overpowering blend of warm woods, honey and musk – that’s received plaudits – the bottle has too. If you can afford the extra moolah, go for the 100ml refillable version (pictured above) which is suspended in a kind of bell jar and looks ridiculously stylish.

 

The Perfume Society launches second ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box

the-perfume-societyWhen I was an impoverished student, back before the dawn of time, one of the few ways to get hold of fragrance without blowing a fortnight’s food budget was to coax free samples from (sometimes) generous department store sales assistants. It was a harder task than one might think and my storytelling skills probably originated from the yarns I used to conjure up to get them to part with their goods. I was always ‘looking for gift ideas for my (non-existent) brother’ whose birthday was only ever a week away and I always required a few different samples to compare against each other because he was ‘really fussy when it came to fragrance’. Once I even made out I had a house-bound relative who was looking for a new fragrance and couldn’t get to the shops (I know. God forgive me).  Then, when I got home, I’d study my haul of fragrance phials as if they were diamonds I’d found in the street.

I’ve no idea how difficult it is to get samples today (still tricky I suspect) but thankfully The Perfume Society has made things a whole lot easier with their men’s fragrance boxes – the second of which has just been released. Their ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box is the perfect way for the fragrance lover to sample some of the best new releases without having to resort to desperate ruses like mine.

Featuring a mix of big-name commercial fragrances like Davidoff Horizon and Azzaro Wanted and more boutique offerings from the likes of Miller Harris and Shay & Blue, it’s a great way to road-test what’s out there in your own time and without enduring the hard sell. The big plus of this particular discovery box, though, is that you also get a few other enticing little extras, such as a sample of Molton Brown’s Bushukan Body Wash and a Refinery Hydrating Refreshing Eye Gel, which by itself would set you back £31. Result? A better-smelling you and, potentially, a better-looking one too – and no begging required.

The Perfume Society’s ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box is available while stocks last from perfumesociety.org priced £19 + P&P (£15 + P&P to Perfume Society VIP subscribers).

Bulldog win coveted Sainsbury’s Beauty Award

sba20161027_176The other week I was lucky enough to present the Best Male Product Award at  Sainsbury’s annual Beauty Awards – an event hosted by the very lovely (and very pregnant) Kimberely Walsh. As one of this year’s judges I was extremely impressed at the level of competition in this particular category and was honoured to present 2016’s award to British brand Bulldog, for their best-selling Original Moisturiser.

original-moisturiser_1_1A product I’ve long championed as one of the best mass-market moisturisers out there it was great to see so many of the other judges rate it so highly too.  At just £6, it’s also one of the best-value skincare products for men so if you haven’t tried it yet do pop one in your basket next time you’re out shopping for your dinner.

A complete list of this year’s winners can be found here.

GT Shopping: a one-stop destination for all your style and grooming gear

gt-shoppingWhen it comes to looking good and dressing well we all know that it’s all about the edit: about choosing just the right products for your skin, a fragrance that reflects your personality and clothes that suit your very personal sense of style. But with so much out there to choose from it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin when picking out the perfect moisturiser, fragrance or new winter jacket. Which is where GT Shopping comes in handy. A new site in partnership with Gay Times Magazine, it helpfully points you in the direction of the very best fragrances, skincare products and grooming gadgets on the market (along with some of the most stylish menswear picks and a whole lot more)  so you don’t have to go trawling  the internet to find just the product you’re after.

gt-page-1A lot of the products I mention in my monthly male grooming column in GT can be found there but that’s just the tip of the iceberg and you don’t have to be a reader to use the site, though there is an option on there to subscribe to the mag and get regular (very useful) style updates if you wish.

So whether you’re looking the perfect new fragrance for yourself  (bottle of Tom Ford  For Men anyone?), something to wear for an upcoming party or are looking for the perfect gift for a loved one GT Shopping is the place to head. To see what’s on offer go to shopping.gaytimes.co.uk.

 

A Grooming Guru/Octer Sponsored Post

Clarins launch 12 Days of Christmas survival kit for men

clarins-mens-advent-calendar-selfridges-exclusive-65We all know how draining the festive season can be and so it seems do Clarins, who have just released a special skincare survival kit to help men get through the post-Christmas period looking half-decent. Available exclusively from Selfridges and selfridges.com the £65 kit features 12 skincare heroes hidden behind advent calendar doors that start on Christmas Day. If you’re a Clarins fan that represents a saving of £27 compared to the price of buying the products individually, so even if you can’t be bothered with the gimmicky advent calendar aspect (and  I can’t say I would be) it’s still a great buy.  Since it’s boxed and good-to-go it makes a fantastic gift too.