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

 

Atelier Cologne’s candle collection is addictive

Like drugs, scented candles can be quite addictive if you happen to be a fan. And as is the case with drugs, once you’re hooked you often need a bigger, better hit to get a high. So after a while your bog standard scented candle in a transparent glass simply won’t do – you need something altogether bigger and better. Which is where Atelier Cologne‘s new Collection Maison candles come in. Housed in beautiful Venetian blue, apothecary-style glass bottles they take home fragrance to a whole new level.

Admittedly, the fact that the bottles are 5″ deep does make the candles in this ten piece collection a little trickier to light than regular numbers, which is why they come with a special box of matches (I must confess I used one of those long gas kitchen lighters instead). Trimming the wicks is a bit more complicated, too, if you don’t have a specialist trimmer but don’t let that put you off because the candles diffuse their scent beautifully. In fact, a short burn of 15 minutes or so is all it takes to fragrance a large room. What’s more, they burn cleanly and the glass stoppers mean they’re a cinch to snuff.

Tobacco Texas, the one I’ve been trying, is a delightfully warm and creamy blend of tobacco flower, labdanum and davana –  an aromatic herb which adds a sweet, fruity, slightly boozy, quality. The overall effect is a scent that’s warm and comforting – especially good for this time of year – and the candle really comes into its own when the lights are low and all you can see is the hypnotic glow of the bottle. Like I said, candles are like narcotics to scent lovers. You can tell I’m hooked on this one right?

Atelier Cologne’s Collection Maison Candles are available now priced £55. For more info go to atteliercologne.com.

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.

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? Here are five new fragrances worth a sniff.

As someone who writes about male grooming for a living I’m often asked for gift suggestions around this time of year. Fragrance, of course, is one of the best gifts there is, partly because the average bottle will last for months – or years if it’s only worn for special occasions – making it the gift that really does keep on giving. Question is: which fragrance do you buy? 2017 saw some great new launches, some distinctly average ones and a few that I’d happily spray onto a radiator to get rid of the smell of cooking fish but not onto my actual skin. But since nobody’s interested in buying something ‘meh’ and conventional room sprays are available for hiding the honk of your haddock, here are a few fragrance launches I really rated this year. If you’re stuck for a festive gift idea you could certainly do worse than one of these…

Good for grown ups: Gucci Guilty Absolute

Gucci Guilty Absolute shocked me a little when I got a sneak preview of it earlier this year, mainly because it eschews the overt, hyper-commerciality of the other Gucci Guilty fragrances in favour of something altogether more grown up and gentlemanly. The work of perfumer Alberto Morillas (whose track record includes Ck One) and Gucci Creative Director Allessandro Michele, it’s woody, earthy and ludicrously leathery, has been designed to smell the same after a few hours as it does the moment it’s applied, and also has excellent staying power on the skin. The real beauty of Absolute, though, is that you get something akin to a niche creation for a mainstream fragrance price. If that doesn’t convince you to give it a go I can report that, out of all the fragrances I’ve worn this year, it’s the one that has elicited the most ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.

The everyday workhorse: Joop! Wow!

The arrival of Joop’s latest fragrance for men earlier this year took industry bods like myself by surprise, mainly because it was so damn good. That isn’t to say that Joop! doesn’t have form in producing great fragrances (1989’s groundbreaking Joop! Homme became one of the most popular men’s fragrances of the 90s) but that the brand had become a little tired, had lost its way and become – let’s be honest here – a little ‘bargain basement’. Wow! however is a genuine return to form, blending woods, spices and creamy vanilla notes with a touch of bourbon to create a boozy, woody and comforting fragrance that’s both commercial and sensual without being pedestrian. Cool bottle too.

The premium perfume: Tom Ford Private Blend Fucking Fabulous

Few fragrances divided beauty world opinion this year quite like Tom Ford’s unisex Fucking Fabulous. Half of the industry thought it was, well, fabulous while the other half thought it was the olfactory equivalent of one of those headline-grabbing pop videos which feature buttocks quivering like jellies and debased and cheapened one of the world’s most famous luxury brands. I must say, I was firmly in the pro camp and can only assume that those who thought it somehow ‘off brand’ had forgotten about all those controversial nude fragrance ads Ford is famous for.  The fragrance, too, has sharply divided opinion: people seem to either love its woody, almondy powderiness and underlying leatheriness or hate it. (One reviewer described it as ‘one of the skankiest perfumes I’ve ever smelled’). Personally, I think it’s well worth a sniff, though do check it out first: at £205 for 50ml it’s a pricey mistake if you don’t think it’s, you know, f-ing fabulous.

The fresh alternative: John Varvatos Artisan Pure

Discovering John Varvatos’ fragrances through his latest one is like stumbling on a rock star via their latest album and realising they have a whole back catalogue of wonderfulness. Unusually for a fragrance released at the back-end of the year (it popped up as a Selfridges exclusive last month and won’t go nationwide until January) it’s a deliciously light and sparkling citrus floral affair (lemon, orange, bergamot, petigrain, coffee tree flower and jasmine are some of the notes) with a piquant spiciness and a solid cedarwood base. Perfect for those who don’t like sickly sweet, cloying gourmand fragrances or heavy oriental ones it’s a breath of fresh air and the bottle –  a reworking of the hand-woven bottles for which the Arisan range is now known – is fab. Try it, and then explore Varvatos’ other fragrances – you won’t be disappointed.

For the connoisseur: Etro ManRose

After mandles and manbags it was inevitable that perfume would eventually be subject to a masculine portmanteau in order to butch it up a little, which is the case with Etro’s ManRose – a masculine floral launched in the spring. All fragrances are essentially genderless, of course –  and more men than ever are thinking out of the box and beyond the usual woody affairs – but for those who are just dipping their toe into florals this one if perfect. Delicate, commercial and suedey, with the almost edible Turkish rose note dirtied up a little by patchouli, pepper and leather, it’s a delight. A man still needs a certain amount of confidence to carry off a distinctly floral fragrance like this but for the bold and daring it’d make the perfect Christmas present.

 

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.