Over the two decades or so that I’ve been writing about male grooming I’ve probably been asked thousands of questions. Many of them are answered in this blog, others across the various publications I’ve written for over the years. Some questions come up time and again, though, and I recently answered 20 of the most common of them for The Telegraph. So if you’re wondering how much fragrance is too much, whether five blades really are better than one or what products you should never put near your nether regions you can find out here.
When it comes to combatting oil and shine – one of men’s biggest skincare concerns – high performance skincare specialists Lab Series have always led the way. They were one of the first major male grooming brands to launch a dedicated oil control range and now they’ve launched a new three-step, 8-hour oil control system, consisting of three core products.
You start your grease-busting regime with the new Oil Control Clay Cleanser + Mask, which eliminates grease and grime without leaving skin feeling dry and tight, then use the Oil Control Clearing Solution to remove any remaining oil and dead skin cells (you’ll need some cotton pads for this) and finish off with the Oil Control Daily Moisturiser – an oil-free hydrator that keep skin shine-free for up to eight hours.
Of the three products, the Clay Cleanser + Mask is probably the most interesting (the other two existed in slightly different forms in Lab Series’ existing Oil Control range). A money-and-space-saving 2-in-1 product, it can be used as a straight-forward cleanser but also as an oil-absorbing face mask to give skin a deep clean and unclog pores. To use, you simply apply a thin layer once or twice a week and leave on for five minutes before washing off – the detoxifying Amazonian white clay and dead cell-dislodging salicylic acid in the mask do the rest.
With men’s skin naturally oiler than women’s and everything from heat and friction to sun and stress known triggers for oil production, a range like this is one of the best insurance policies a man has against oil slick skin and a shiny schnoz. You don’t even have to have excessively oily skin to benefit from the range. Now that I’m a bit older my skin isn’t nearly as greasy as it used to be (oil production slows down as you age) but the Oil Control Moisturiser is a godsend for when little patches of shine do appear (I just apply a little to problem areas around the nose and forehead before I go out) and I find the Clay Cleanser + Mask a little less aggressive than some other oil-absorbing masks on the market, so it might be worth a try if other masks have left you, quite literally, a little red-faced.
Lab Series’ new 8-Hour Oil Control System is available now.
Anyone who follows my writing will know that I’m a huge fan of grooming brand Bulldog Skincare For Men. Not only do I love their excellent Original Moisturiser (there’s always a tube of it in my bathroom cabinet) I love their affordability, animal-friendly credentials and the chutzpah they’ve shown in taking on the big boys of skincare – and how they’re winning. Plus, of course, they’re a British brand (and we all understand the importance of buying British now that Brexit is less than a year away.) So I’m thrilled to see that they’re about to enter the highly competitive razor market this summer with their Original Bamboo Razor.
With five tempered steel blades, a lubricating strip and a flexible head, it offers everything you want from a razor (i.e. a decent, smooth shave) but what sets it apart from other brands is its eco-credentials. No razor is perfect when to comes to sustainability but Bulldog are the first major grooming brand to at least try to lower shaving’s environmental impact in a meaningful way. As well as having a natural, non-plastic bamboo handle, for example, the packaging is kept to a minimum and is made from fully recycled stock, using environmentally friendly inks. Couple that with Bulldog’s shave products, which are certified by Cruelty Free International, suitable for vegans and are free of synthetic fragrances or artificial colours and you’re just about as near to a guilt-free shave as you can get at the moment.
Needless to say, we still have a long way to go to reduce the environmental impact of the daily shave (in the US alone two billion razors are tossed into landfill ever year while the amount of plastic used in both product and packaging is still ridiculously excessive) but it’s a start. I wrote about how we might all want to move towards a zero-waste bathroom in my column for Balance magazine recently, and I care passionately about the need to consider the environmental impact of our beauty and grooming regimes, so I applaud anyone who’s at least trying to make a difference, however incremental.
Shaving brands tend to be great at pumping money into snazzy social campaigns and high-profile sports sponsorships but woefully behind-the-curve when it comes to addressing the elephant in the room: the environmental impact of their products. With customers increasingly conscious of the need to reduce waste that’s a real mistake and one that I suspect will cost them dearly in the future. On this issue, as they were in offering more natural grooming products to the masses, Bulldog are once again leading from the front.
Bulldog’s Original Bamboo Razor is available from Boots stores nationwide from August, priced £12.
It’s all too easy to be cynical about the launch of Pride-themed products these days – after all, so many companies cash in on the annual celebrations now – but the new Shave With Pride Set from award-winning grooming brand Harry’s is a bit different. I was lucky enough to be privy to the creation and design of this set and know first hand the level of care, thought and meticulous attention to detail that went into the razor, packaging and the overall campaign of which it’s a part.
Housed in a special presentation box designed by acclaimed graphic design duo Craig & Karl (one you’ll want to keep to house all your bits and bobs in once you’ve removed the contents), the iridescent ‘rainbow’ razor is that rarest of things: a Pride-themed product that’s useful, helpful to the community (100% of the profits from it go to LGBTQ+ charities like the Peter Tatchell Foundation) and genuinely cool to boot. What makes this razor so special is that the design process ensures that no two handles are exactly the same: like the customer it’s aimed at, each one is a one-off and unique. Which is rather appropriate for a company that genuinely celebrates individuality and diversity.
If the set were the extent of Harry’s involvement with this year’s Pride festivities that would probably be enough. The company’s engagement, however, runs a little deeper than that. As well as the limited edition shaving set, they’re also offering support for the community in the shape of their ‘& Proud’ campaign, featuring the likes of TV presenter Dr. Ranj Singh and Queer Eye’s break-out star Jonathan Van Ness, which encourages members of the LGBTQ+ community to reject harmful labels in favour of ones they choose themselves. (Van Ness describes himself as a “Hair Flipping Free Spirit & Proud” while Singh is a “Super-Nerdy Gaysian”.)
Finally, following on from the company’s detailed Masculinity Report last year, Harry’s have commissioned Ipsos/Mori to conduct a ‘Proud Allies’ survey which examines the relationship between the straight and LGBTQ+ communities in 2018 – the results of which are to be published shortly. Having clocked them already I can tell you they make for very interesting reading.
Taken as a whole, this considered, multifaceted approach shows a level of committment rare in Pride-themed campaigns. As for the Shave With Pride set itself, it’s great if you happen to be from the LGBTQ+ community and are looking for something to zhuzh up your shaving routine or, indeed, happen to be a proud straight ally who’s looking for the perfect gift for an LGBTQ+ pal. Basic message? Give with pride, shave with pride, support with pride.
Harry’s Shave With Pride Set is available for a limited time from harrys.com priced £24.
As a grooming writer I’m used to providing answers to men’s questions about haircare, skincare and fragrance but the subject they’re most curious about is manscaping. Since it became ‘a thing’ roughly ten years ago I’ve written countless pieces on the subject but nothing quite as comprehensive as the guide that is my first major piece for leading men’s fashion and lifestyle blog Ape To Gentleman. A top-to-toe guide to removing hair, wherever it may sprout, it’s an ideal resource for any man wanting to pluck, prune or depilate. So grab your wax strips/razor/hair removal cream and have a read of it here.
It’s the hottest delivery system for male grooming products at the moment, with everything from self tanners to post-shave balms appearing in spray form, so here’s my pick of the very best mists for men.
1. Harry’s Post-Shave Mist, £11 for 100ml, harrys.com
Harry’s entry into the UK shaving market last year didn’t just offer punters a cost-effective shave – there are some great skincare ancillaries on offer too. Their Post-Shave Balm is one of the best on the market and at £7 is as good as ones four times the price, but it’s their brand new Post-Shave Mist that’s my go-to product at the moment. Since I have a beard I only have to use this on the few areas that I do shave but since it calms, refreshes and hydrates, I also keep it on my desk and use it as a face mist whenever I’m feeling tired or my skin feels dry and tight. A trio of refreshing essential oils (mint, eucalyptus and tea tree) make it the perfect pick-me-up. A cool product. Literally.
2. James Read For Men Hydra Tan Mist, £20 for 100ml, jamesreadtan.com
Nobody in the world self-tanning of is as innovative as James Read. Repeat, nobody. His approach to tanning products is to always go beyond basics to deliver products that do so much more than simply leave you with a natural looking glow. This great-smelling mist is designed to build up your tan gradually with each application, ensuring you don’t rock up to work on a Monday morning looking all mahogany, but also features cooling agents and skin-soothing aloe vera so can be used immediately after shaving, soothing skin while tanning it. With a colourless formula that won’t ruin your shirts or pillowcases, it’s quite possibly the best tanning product for men I’ve come across.
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fresh Mist SPF 50, £14 for 75ml, feelunique.com
One of the main reasons people fail to protect their skin from the sun is because so many of the products on offer fail the basic likeability test: they’re messy, greasy and smell horrible (one spray I used last year actually smelt of curry). This SPF50 mist addresses those problems by providing sun protection in the shape of a light-as-anything mist that’s a cinch to use, has a dry, invisible finish and smells great too. It’s also good for protecting the scalp if your thatch isn’t quite as thick as it used to be. And it’s not just me who rates it – last October it was voted ‘Best New Suncream’ at GQ magazine’s annual Grooming Awards.
4. L’Occitane Aqua Réotier Fresh Moisturising Mist, £14 for 50ml, uk.loccitane.com
New for 2018 this light but intensely moisturising mist for the face fuses fresh spring water from Réotier in southeastern France with hyaluronic acid and glycerin – naturally occurring ingredients that help draw moisture to towards the skin – to instantly hydrate and energise. It’s a brilliant product to have in your office drawer – especially if that office is air-conditioned – but it’s good for travel too and I can imagine it’d be perfect for freshening up on long summer drives.
5. Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator Refreshing Shine Control Toner For Men, £16.50 for 125ml, kiehls.com
With men’s skin oiler than women’s and fiddling with skin a known trigger for oil production this needs-no-fingers-to-apply oil eliminating facial mist is perfect if you’re prone to spots or a shiny schnoz. Designed to cool skin (that’ll be the menthol in contains) and neutralise oil so skin is left with a matt finish, you can literally just spray and go without having to massage it in. Like all the mists mentioned here it’s incredibly simple to use and allows you to tackle your skincare concerns in seconds – and single-handedly at that. What’s not to love?
Of all the mainstream premium grooming brands, Lab Series is possibly my favourite. Innovative, trend-setting and cutting-edge, its products are as interesting as they are effective – as is the case with their brand new offering: The Grooming Oil. The latest salvo in the battle to make grooming routines less complicated and bathroom shelves less cluttered, it’s a multi-functional little wonder that serves, not only as a shave oil, but as a beard and stubble oil too. It can even be used as a pre-shave cushion beneath your regular shave cream or gel to give you enhanced razor glide.
Lightweight and non-greasy, with a barely-there fragrance, it features a trio of nourishing oils (Sea Buckthorn, Jojoba and Sweet Almond) blended with skin-protecting vitamins and moisturising hydrators to ensure skin as well as facial hair always feels its best. I’ve tried hundreds of beard and shaves oils in the past and this is certainly one of the best. What’s more, since you have to shake it to mix everything before use it’s great fun to use.
Is that last feature a gimmick? Possibly, but then in an increasingly competitive market, this kind of interactivity is everything if you want that all important edge. I must admit I hate the way some companies insist on putting the word ‘The’ in front of product names (fellow Estée Lauder brand La Mer are the other main culprit) because it ensures the name never quite slips off the tongue and it never looks right written down in the middle of a sentence but otherwise it’s great. And, hey, just look how purdy it looks.