New Year, new skincare heroes

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.

Molton Brown’s festive box of jewels

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.

Reviewed: Cryotag Skin Tag Remover

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. 

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.

 

Elizabeth Arden’s City Smart – the ultimate urban defender

city smart (1)Living, as I do, in one of the busiest – not to mention most congested – capitals in the world I’m acutely aware of the potential damage that city living can inflict on skin. With new research suggesting that it’s not just sun damage that causes uneven pigmentation but pollution too, using products that shield skin against environmental aggressors has never been more important – especially if you’re a townie. Air pollutants called ambient particulate matter are a particular problem because they can trigger the production of harmful free radicals which cause all kinds of skin problems – from inflammation to premature ageing.

Thankfully, coming to the rescue is Elizabeth Arden‘s new PREVAGE City Smart – a product I’ve been using daily for a couple of weeks now. Designed with an invisible barrier that shields skin from pollution it also packs a broad spectrum SPF50 sunscreen and a raft of powerful antioxidants to give skin maximum protection against daily damage. On top of all that it also contains optical diffusers which enhance the appearance of skin too. At £55 for a 40ml tube, though, it’s possibly one city survival product you’ll need a job in the City to afford.

 

NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads: like time travel in a jar.

FullSizeRenderI’ve used scores of skincare products in the 16 years I’ve been writing about male grooming but in truth there are few that bring about quick, noticeable changes in skin texture and feel. So I’m always delighted when something – like these NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads  – does. As well as featuring 10% glycolic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells and speeds up cell renewal, they also contain the patented ‘wrinkle-filling’ Aminofil which is essentially a combo of amino acids meant to support the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid – two other things which can help improve the overall look of skin. The pot itself comes with 36 dry pads which you drench with the glycolic solution they come with and then you simply wipe over your face (avoiding the delicate lip and eye area) each night after cleansing. For guys, unfamiliar with using cleansing pads to remove make-up as we are, this might initially seem an alien way to apply a product but you soon get used to it and it’s surprisingly satisfying.

In the past I’ve found that physical face scrubs – even the finest, most gentle ones – can irritate my skin so I’ve become a fan of chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid but it’s fair to say that not all have agreed with my skin. No such problems with this product though. Although the instructions point out that you may experience a brief tingling sensation on application (something that’s common when using Alpha Hydroxy Acid products, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin) I’ve yet to have any problems with these pads. Unlike some glycolic resurfacing products you don’t need to wash the face 20 minutes after using the neutralise it either which is a big plus. And although formulated for daily use I’ve found that two-three times a week is enough for me.

With cell turnover slowing down as we age anything that helps speed up the renewal process is a boon in my book and I’m happy to report that my skin hasn’t looked or felt this smooth since I was, oh, about 8 months old! Recommended.

 

 

Add some discipline to your grooming routine with Ron Dorff

RON DORFFWhy it’s taken me so long to discover premium Swedish/French sportswear and lifestyle brand Ron Dorff  – the creation of Claus Lindorff and Jérôme Touron  – I don’t know, but I’m glad I have. As well as producing sportswear that fuses style, functionality and a quirky sense of humour the brand also features an excellent range of skincare products created for both men and women (with, perhaps, the exception of the Beard Conditioner).

Dorff’s clothing is characterised by its clean simplicity and the Skin Discipline range is no exception. As you might expect from a range hailing for Scandinavia the pachaging design and attention to detail are impeccable whilst the products themselves are superb quality, though this is hardly surprising given that they’ve been specially made for the brand by cult cosmetics house FACE Stockholm.

493X375DDWhat gives the products added interest  is its use of ingredients focused on Northern Hemisphere botanicals, like Arctic Juniper and Arctic Roseroot, but for me the best thing about them is the smell. An exercise in restraint the fragrance is never intrusive: the Body Scrub smells like a towel you’ve used to wipe yourself down after a dip in the sea whilst the scent of the Beard Conditioner is, like a pair of Dorff’s skimpy swimming trunks, barely there. This kind of minimalism is truly refreshing – and a real antidote to some of the overpoweringly scented body products out there at the moment.

Discipline is certainly not a dirty word when it comes to personal grooming so do  check out the range. And if you’re in London make sure you pay a visit to Dorff’s first stand-alone UK boutique which opens in Earlham Street in London’s Covent Garden in March.

For more info go to rondorff.com