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.
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?
The beginning of a new year always sees a raft of new grooming products come to market. Here are four that have grabbed my attention this year…
Lab Series MAX LS Power V Instant Eye Lift, £43 for 15ml.
A decent eye cream should be a staple of every man’s bathroom cabinet, especially since the skin around the eyes is so delicate and so susceptible to premature ageing. Any eye product will help keep fine lines at bay by keeping the skin moisturised but this one – the latest addition to Lab Series’ age-defying MAX LS range – not only hydrates skin and reduces under eye puffiness, it also tightens skin slightly too. It’s a perfect product for oldies like me but also younger guys looking for selfie-ready perfection or who simply want a long-term insurance policy against crow’s feet. I keep mine in the fridge since anything cold is great for tightening eye bags.
ClarinsMen Hydra-Sculpt, £45 for 50ml.
Sculpting products – ones that tighten contours and redefine the jaw line slightly – are a major growth area in male grooming at the moment as more and more brands seek to appeal to older guys whose main concerns are wrinkles and sagging skin. This one, which has a super-lightweight texture more akin to a serum, acts as a regular moisturiser, hydrating skin, but also helps firm it up a little. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to suddenly go from bloodhound to greyhound using it but every little helps right? The fact that it also contains lemon extract and salicylic acid to help dislodge dead skin cells, making skin look brighter and helping prevent ingrown hairs, is a useful bonus too. Those who find the fragrance of ClarinsMen products a bit overpowering – and I must confess I’m one of them – will also be glad to know that this particular one is more-or-less fragrance free.
Clarinsmen UV Plus Men, £42 for 50ml.
I know it’s hard to think about sun protection at this time of year (well, except for those of you in the southern hemisphere) but skin needs broad spectrum protection all year round, especially since it’s the sun’s constant UVB rays that age skin. This light-as-a-feather, oil-free sunscreen leaves absolutely no residue, or shine, and also features a raft of ingredients designed to protect skin from pollution, making it one of the best urban defenders on the market. I have a feeling I won’t be leaving the house without this skin saviour on me.
Shiseido Men Total Revitalizer Cream, £70 for 50ml.
For me, Shiseido Men is the unsung hero of men’s premium skincare. Unsung only because it’s not isn’t nearly as known as it should be. Some of its products rank as my own all-time favourites (their Cleansing Foam is amazing, as is their Moisturizing Emulsion) and this new Total Revitalizer Cream shows promise too. Taking the brand’s existing Total Revitalizer as a starting point it ups the ante by adding a couple of new anti-ageing complexes designed to boost the skin’s power to defend itself and to keep it toned. Like an increasing number of skincare products today it’s multifunctional, helping calm the inflammation caused by shaving too. It’s super-hydrating without leaving shine and, as is the case with all Shisedio products, the packing is superb – an important point if you’re one of those guys who likes to display his statement-piece skincare.
Few brands offer the kind of bathroom eye candy that Molton Brown does. Their superb shower gels are the Quality Street of skincare: brightly coloured jewels of deliciousness. Nowhere is this more apparent when they’re brought together, as they are in this 10-piece, limited edition Christmas Gift Collection. The dinky 50ml bottles are perfect for gym and travel bags, as stocking fillers or for crackers, if you’re brave enough to make your own, and come in a gift box that makes wrapping a cinch – or obsolete, given that it comes with a gift ribbon. They’ll last longer than Quality Street too.
Molton Brown’s Limited Edition 10-Piece Shower Gel Stocking Fillers Gift Set is available now priced £30.
Few skincare concerns are more unglamorous than skin tags – or ‘acrochordons’ as they’re known to their dermatologist chums. They’re those harmless but annoying little flaps of skin that often protrude on little ‘stalks’ known as peduncles which are often found around the neck, groin and armpits. They form when the outer layer of skin overgrows (a process called hyperplasia) and encloses a layer of skin with abnormally swollen collagen fibres and are thought to affect half the population. Genetics, being overweight and age all play a part (the older you get the more likely you are to have them) and they’re especially common when skin rubs, or is irritated by, clothes or jewellery.
Since they’re harmless doctors are often reluctant to remove skin tags routinely – and sometimes they simply fall off by themselves anyway – but if they’re unsightly or are causing irritation they can be removed by freezing or with the aid of a scalpel or surgical scissors, though chances are you’ll need to have this done privately.
I’ve had numerous tags in the last ten years (one popped up on my neck within months of me wearing a new silver neck chain) and a few years ago I had a couple removed by a dermatologist who anesthetised the skin around the tags and whipped the blighters off with an ultra fine scalpel. It was a procedure that worked like a dream but it’s definitely not one I’d recommend you try at home.
For years though, people have attempted to remove their own tags – with varying degrees of success (strangling them with knots of cotton is one often-attempted method) but it’s always been a risky business – until the advent of a new product called Cryotag.
Using the same cryotherapy technology used by doctors and dermatologists Cryotag freezes the tags to their core so that they eventually just shrivel up and drop off. Having been annoyed by a couple of new tags (one under my arm and another in my groin) for several months I decided to give it a go and have to say am pretty impressed by the results.
The product itself is a cinch to use: you insert an applicator into the canister; press down for three seconds to charge the tip with the freezing agent; use the plastic tweezers included in the pack to pull the tag away from the skin slightly and then place the tip of the applicator onto the tag itself for 40 seconds. The tag turns white almost instantly, which means the freezing process is working, and then you simply wait for it to fall off.
The instructions say this shedding process can take up to a fortnight but mine disappeared in under five days. The one in my groin – situated exactly where my pants rub my inner thigh – simply vanished of its own accord while the underarm one began to sting a little after a few days so, ignoring the instructions to leave it, I gave it a little tug with the tweezers and it came away, which immediately stopped the stinging sensation. Both are healing nicely (I applied a little Savlon for a few days to help things along) and nearly a fortnight on you can only see the faintest of red marks which are fading with each day, in the way the scar from a spot might.
It’s really no more complicated than that, making Cryotag a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to remove skin tags in the privacy of your own home. Admittedly, it’s not the most glamorous skincare product I’ve ever road-tested but, trust me, it’s certainly one of the most useful. Curiously fun too.
The Cryotag skin tag remover is available from Boots and Amazon.co.uk priced £21.95 for 12 applicators, which will deliver up to 12 skin tag treatments.
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.
Penhaligon’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.
Ermenegildo 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.
Floris 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.
L’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.