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.

Get out what you put in with new skincare brand PROVERB

The other week in my column for The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine I wrote about the amazing rise of British male grooming brands in the last twelve months. Sadly, just missing the deadline for the piece was Proverb – a new skincare brand that launched in October. The brainchild of husband and wife team Luke and Kirstie Sherriff – he a former rugby pro and she someone with over 20 years experience in the beauty industry – along with Ben Burch, a former rower for Great Britain, it takes its primary inspiration from the world of sport (and sports nutrition) as well as the proverb ‘you only get out what you put in’. Hence the name.

“A good skincare regime starts with the truthful recognition that results come from ‘inside out’ – your skincare products combined with supplements, diet and water intake – not one without the other,” says Kirstie, summing up the ethos behind the brand and offering, in the process, a refreshingly 360 view of men’s skincare in 2017.

The range features six products: a Skin Defining Facial Scrub; an Oil Balance Pro Moisturiser; a Strengthening Skin Serum, a Hydration Pro Moisturiser;  a Cleanse & Shave Nutrient Mud and a Skin Resistance Training Supplement.

Out of all of these it’s the last two of that stand out most for me. Given Proverb’s inside out approach and their sport influences it was inevitable some form of supplement would be in the line up, and with few other brands including one it certainly gives the range a point difference. The Skin Resistance Training Supplement is much more than just a collection of skin-friendly vitamins though; it also includes hyaluronic acid, which is crucial for skin health, and resveratrol – a powerful anti-oxidant, included here for its anti-ageing benefits.

The putty-coloured Cleanse & Shave Nutrient Mud, meanwhile, has become a favourite product of mine, partly because of its smooth, creamy texture and smell (it reminds me a bit of unbaked cake mix – which I love) but also because of its multi-functionality. As well as being a great cleanser it also doubles up as a shave cream which, because it contains ingredients to calm and nourish skin, reduces the stress put on skin by shaving. Although it’s not flagged up as a face mask I also treat it as one – applying liberally and letting it sit on my skin for five minutes to give the kaolin and hectorite clays it contains time to suck up any grease and grime, before washing it off.

With prices ranging from £30 – £65 Proverb is very much at the premium end of men’s skincare but then you’re paying for the well-thought out formulas, which include the brand’s Lycoprotene complex, created from fermented tomatoes, and the protein-rich egg white albumen, and the use of natural and organic ingredients. Plus, of course, in buying British you’re supporting our economy, which can’t be bad in this time of pre-Brexit uncertainty. So if you’re a grooming-junkie looking for a new brand to try give it a go. After all, as another very famous proverb says, if you never try you’ll never know.

Proverb is available from proverbskin.com with products starting from £30.

Dunhill ICON: a fragrance of diminishing returns

I love Dunhill ICON. When it was launched back in 2015 I named it as one of my favourite fragrances of the year, even going so far as to call it a future classic. And if you look at the reviews of it around the time of its release I was not alone – it was almost universally praised, which is no mean feat for a new men’s fragrance these days. Wasting no time in capitalising on this success, a reworked version, Dunhill ICON Absolute, complete with differentiating gold-coloured flacon, was launched that same year. It too, was a pretty good fragrance, though as is often the case with hastily thrown out flankers, it wasn’t quite as good as the original. Then, in 2016, came ICON Elite (are you keeping up?). The original award-winning bottle, jet black this time, was as wonderful as ever – it truly is a work of art  – but the fragrance itself was a little less impressive than both of its predecessors.

Thankfully, we were spared an ICON Elite Absolute but the brand is back this September with yet another ICON variant in the shape of Dunhill ICON Racing (it was originally called Racing Green from what I can gather but the Green bit seems to have been dropped). And, following the downward trajectory of the ICON concept it’s, in my opinion at least, the weakest of the bunch so far. A woody oriental with notes of Volcanic Red Orange (your guess is as good as mine), bergamot, saffron, clary sage, leather, vetiver and patchouli it moves things ever more mainstream and predictable. Whereas the original ICON was one of Dunhill’s most complex and intriguing fragrances ever, Racing revels in blunt, unsophisticated mass-market simplicity. It’s sweet and soapy and although the dry down is pleasantly woody it’s simply not a patch on the fragrance whose DNA it (now only vaguely) shares.

The problem here I think is once facing many fragrance companies at the moment –  Tom Ford and Jo Malone amongst them unfortunately – and that’s that there are simply too many launches in too quick succession. Obsessed by newness (it’s what the customer wants these days I’m told) houses like Dunhill are signed up to a release schedule that feels like it’s on speed and there’s little time to pause for thought or grow loyalty to one particular fragrance or another.

Maybe, pressurised by such a release schedule, the perfumers themselves don’t have the time or creative breathing space to come up with something truly amazing, (though it’s more likely they have soul-destroying mass-market briefs to contend with) but what I do know is that with each successive version, ICON gets weaker and weaker. When you truly love a fragrance – as I do with the original ICON – this is terribly sad to witness and, although I’m sure the company won’t pay a blind bit of notice to what one reviewer like me has to say, my message to them anyway would be to take a deep breath and slow down a little. More haste, less speed – that’s how to create an icon.

Dunhill ICON Racing launches in Harrods next month and nationwide from October 2nd, priced £63 for 50ml EDP

Create your own meteor shower tonight

It’s one of my favourite annual events this weekend – the spectatular Perseid Meteor Shower. On a good year you can see up to 200 shooting stars an hour, which is a lot of wishes you can make if you believe seeing one happens to be lucky. If it’s too cloudy to see them where you are, though, I suppose you could always create you own little display at home with BLAQ’s new Meteor Shower shower scrub.

The final frontier in exfoliation (it actually contains meteorite dust) it also features sea salt and activated charcoal to help remove impurities. It’s also designed to leave a slight iridescent glow on the skin though don’t fret is leaving the house with glittery shoulders isn’t your thing – I found that the sparkle is minimal if you rinse thoroughly. The good news is that it’s 100% biodegradable, devoid of additives and preservatives and is cruelty-free too. What more could you wish (upon a star) for this weekend?

Blaq Meteor Shower is available from blaq.co, priced £19.95 for a resealable pack 

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. 

La Mer launch new Moisturizing Matte Lotion

I’ve always been a big fan of La Mer (née Créme De La Mer) but like a lot of men I’ve always been slightly weary of its weightiness so, for the most part, have used it as a night cream. Also like a lot of men, the idea of using any kind of moisturiser that adds shine to my skin is anathema. The launch of The Moisturizing Matte Lotion, then, is a godsend to male Le Mer fans like me because it’s both light as a feather and as matte as anything.

It achieves this with the help of special ‘Matte Lotion Capsules’ which help deliver moisture to the skin but which are also coated in a layer of naturally mattifying  clay, sea minerals and kelp powder. This ensures skin is hydrated but remains shine free – and don’t worry, there’s no powdery residue either. As an added bonus, the matte finish the lotion leaves also scatters light away from the skin’s surface, improving the overall look of skin and evening out skin tone in the process.

A must have for any man who’s mad for La Mer.

La Mer’s The Moisturizing Matte Lotion is available now priced £180