Review: Nivea Men’s new Body Shaving Range

Like many trends in male grooming, manscaping (the removal of body hair) was a bit of a slow burner to begin with, but also like many trends in male grooming – think facial hair for example – once it took hold it rapidly became the norm. So much so, in fact, that according to one survey 64% of men are now removing hair from somewhere on their bodies. And it’s clearly a trend that will be sticking around for a while yet. For proof of this you only have to look at Nivea Men’s brand new Body Shaving range. Featuring a trio of products (a Body Shaving Gel, a Body Shaving Stick and an After Shave Lotion) it’s as much a recognition that manscaping is now part and parcel of the modern man’s grooming routine as it is an opportunity to exploit a niche few mass market skincare brands have, as yet, fully explored.

Of the three new products the most interesting is the Shaving Stick. Shaped like a solid deodorant and around the same size, you apply it to wet skin before shaving. As well as having and anti-irritation formula, it’s transparent (so you can see where you’re shaving) and, cleverest of all, it’s been designed so it won’t wash off mid-shave if you’re using it in the shower. Nivea are pioneers when it comes to ‘in-shower’ technology, owning the space with products like their In-Shower Body Moisturiser, so I guess it’s no surprise that they should extend this concept to these manscaping products. The Shaving Gel performs the same neat trick but it’s the Stick that wins my vote, partly because it’s more fun to use and you don’t get gunk all over your hands when applying, but also because its ideal for travel and for gym bags. Recommended.

Nivea Men’s Body Shaving range is available now priced £4.50 – £6.

Beauty Banks – for the boys too.

Like me, you’ve probably popped the odd bag of pasta, box of cornflakes or tin of soup into one of the food bank collection boxes located in your local supermarket. Items like these help put food on the table for the estimated half a million people who now use food banks on a regular basis in the UK. But it’s all too easy to forget that toiletries are essentials too and that looking good and feeling clean are inexorably linked to feelings of confidence and self-worth – two things that can be in short supply when you’re strapped for cash and dinner, for the third night running, is beans on toast.

Understanding this, a couple of weeks ago journalist Sali Hughes and PR exec Jo Jones launched Beauty Banks – a not-for-profit charitable initiative aimed at providing those in need with basic bathroom and hygiene essentials like shampoo, shower gel and tampons, in much the same way that food banks aim to provide kitchen cupboard essentials.

With the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimating that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty and with an estimated 37% of people going without basic toiletries as a result, it’s a much-needed initiative and one that’s already received huge support from the beauty industry. It’s been great to see so many women’s mags and beauty bloggers throw their weight behind it but, hey, let’s not forget that men have needs too – and that things like razor blades aren’t exactly inexpensive (there’s a reason they’re often security protected in supermarkets along with booze and some cuts of meat).

Big name grooming brands are already getting involved (shaving experts Harry’s were one of the first to volunteer product) but everyone can boost the men’s side of things by donating some much-needed grooming gear. Once Beauty Banks have received your donation their volunteers will distribute it food banks, homeless shelters and refuges across the country.

So what are they after? Well, when it comes to men’s stuff, basics like razors, shave gels, face washes, shower gels, antiperspirants, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes are all useful. But not-so-basic stuff like moisturiser and face scrub is welcome too. You can even send those complimentary products you get in hotels – the ones you can’t resist pocketing at the end of your stay (relax, I pocket them too). Just make sure all the products you donate are sealed or unused (well, would you like to receive a third of a bottle of shower gel?). The only thing you can’t donate are products containing solvents so don’t send aftershaves, eau de toilettes or electric pre-shave fluids. Post-shave balms are fine though.

Once you’ve decided what items to send parcel up your contribution and send to: Beauty Banks, c/o Jo Jones, The Communications Store, 2 Kensington Square, London, W8 5EP.

Alternatively, you can purchase toiletries direct from Beauty Banks’ Amazon wishlist and have them sent directly to their HQ. To see the wishlist just click here. I guess you could do the same if you buy toiletries from other online stores too – simply have them sent direct to Beauty Banks.

There is, as we all know, a huge debate about poverty in the UK –  about its causes and how best to tackle it – but regardless of your politics or your thoughts on the matter the fact is that right now there are people in desperate need of help. And what better way to help than to make someone feel a little better about themselves?

 

 

A note to fellow industry bods

As much as I’m writing this for my readers, I’m also aiming this post at fellow grooming editors, journalists, influencers and bloggers too. We’re exceptionally privileged in our industry in that we often get sent products to test as part of our jobs. Please consider donating any you don’t get to try (I’m currently in the process of getting a parcel together myself) and please use the platform you have to spread the word and promote this great cause. And if you’re a PR who works with male grooming brands please think about getting your clients involved. Likewise, if you’re the actual client consider donating some product or, better still, think about an ongoing arrangement with Beauty Banks.

Having worked in the beauty industry for more that 17 years now I’m acutely aware of how shallow and vacuous it can sometimes appear (and believe me, at times it’s exactly how it appears) but even though it’s fundamentally an industry which deals with superficial appearance, it does have a big heart. With your support, Beauty Banks will hopefully be able to show just how big that heart actually is.

 

You can find Beauty Banks on Instagram @The_Beauty_Banks 

To contact Beauty Banks directly email beautybanks@tcs-uk.net

 

Foreo launch His & His toothbrush set

After making a cameo appearance in Star Trek: Discovery, where they’re used by spacefaring same-sex couple Lt. Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Colber, it seems only right that beauty-tech brand Foreo’s Issa 2 silicone sonic toothbrushes should find their way to planet Earth as a deluxe His and His gift set.

If other brands had done this shameless gay market grab I’d have arched an eyebrow, Spock-like with cynicism, but given their appearance in the show it somehow seems perfectly natural. What’s more, it’s good value too since by buying the set you save 25% off the price of buying the brushes individually. Watch out, though, because the pairing, rather like that of Staments and Colber, is strictly limited, so use your Spore Drive, transporter or just your old-fashioned cash ensure that a set finds its way into your bathroom before they vanish forever.

Available globally from 22nd February. For more info go to foreo.com

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