As someone who writes about male grooming for a living I attend scores of launches every year. I’m used to the flannel, the endless hyperbole and the daft presentations. I’m also used to the celebrity meet ‘n’ greet, especially since so many brands now feel obliged to slap a famous face to their products to grab attention (witness L’Oreal’s endless conveyor belt of stars).
To be honest, I decline quiet a few invites simply because I’ve no interest in seeing an ill-informed celebrity trotted out like a prize bull at a country fair. They can be fun though. I remember once asking a famous but badly briefed sportsman, who was fronting a premium skincare range, what his favourite product was. Looking, not so much like a rabbit caught in the headlights but one that had already collided with the car, he admitted he didn’t actually use them! Then there was the actor flown over to the UK from the States to talk about a self-tanner when he clearly didn’t have the faintest idea what it was for, how it worked or (and I charitably put this down to jetlag) what day of the week it was.
Receiving an invite for the launch of John Barrowman’s first foray into skincare with HIM – a range of grooming products for men exclusive to QVC – was a bit different though. For starters – and I’ll hold up my hands here – I’m a huge Doctor Who and Torchwood fan. But I was also fascinated to meet someone about whom I’d heard so much and, if I’m honest, dying to test his integrity a little in terms of the brand he’s putting his name too.
First off, if you’re wondering what he’s like in real life, the stories are true. He’s effortlessly charming, gracious and attractive but, yes, ridiculously extrovert, raucous and saucy too. He’s also positively naughty – a quality rare and rather captivating in an adult. He spontaneously mounts the table we’re seated at, ending up on all fours in the process, just to shake the hand of a female journalist seated in the corner, for example.
As it turns out I needn’t have worried about the ‘integrity question’ (during the course of the Q&A session it emerges he clearly knows his stuff, has an obvious passion for skincare and understands exactly what makes men tick) but what’s revealing (and reassuring) is a comment he makes in reference to his cheeky, nudge-nudge-wink-wink personality. “I don’t change for anyone,” he says forcefully. It’s a statement that always gets bonus points from me, regardless of who says it.
So, given this is a range by John Barrowman, why isn’t his face and name not in the ad campaign (shot, incidentally, by supermodel-turned-superphotographer Helena Christensen) or on the range itself? “I didn’t want HIM to be about me but about the products,” he says without hesitation. He also wanted it to be driven by simplicity and functionality. “I’ve always been an advocate of simple skincare because I need to get out quickly in the morning. So it’s into the shower, cleanse, shave (while my skin still wet), moisturise, eye cream and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ – I’m outta the door!’
Certainly, his experience as an actor has influenced both the ingredients and the range as a whole. “I have really sensitive skin which is difficult given all the make-up and prosthetics I’ve had to wear for things like Torchwood and Doctor Who,” he says. “I’m even sensitive to people touching it so it was important to me that the products were hypo-allergenic, suitable for sensitive skin and were free of alcohol.”
Nor did he want the range to be highly fragranced. “I don’t actually wear fragrance myself, partly because of the alcohol, which can irritate my skin, but I didn’t want the products to smell flowery either,” he says. ”Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind fragrance on other people but just don’t like it on myself.”
And the products themselves? Well, I’ve reviewed them in more detail individually below, but the range will initially launch as a specially created five-piece taster collection, retailing on QVC for £19.99, with full-sized products available later. Housed in a handy washbag (I’d suggest keeping a set a home and one in your gym bag or office drawer so you’re never without) it shrewdly features five skincare essentials that create a complete grooming regime. The quality is excellent, but then the range was created by the people who gave us premium haircare brand Ojon – a beauty editor favourite and a brand known for its carefully considered products and top-notch ingredients.
The potential of HIM is obvious, so much so that more products are already in the pipeline and you can bet that they’ll also have John’s singular aim as their focus. “HIM is there to make you look and feel better,” he says. “I want all the men out there to be walking around looking fantastic!’ So confident is he that the range will deliver on this objective that he reckons the range could even do wonders for Doctor Who’s fugliest-looking nemesis. “Davros would be Fabros if he used these products!” he says with a huge laugh. Let’s hope the Dalek creator is listening.
The lowdown the HIM skincare collection:
Daily Face Wash: The bedrock of any grooming routine, a good cleanser is essential for healthy-looking skin. “Make-up artists always ask me whether I’ve cleansed my skin before applying anything so I’m really conscious about the importance of cleansing,” says John. Designed to be low-foaming (froth does always equal efficacy) and packed full of natural plant oils to prevent dryness it’s perfect for removing grease and grime without leaving skin tight as a drum.
Shaving Cream: Like John, I’m a big fan of shaving creams over foams and gels (which can be drying and irritating) so it’s great to see a nourishing cream at the heart of the collection. Alcohol-free to prevent the skin drying out or becoming irritated and enriched with Shea Butter and Jojoba oil, this one provides the perfect cushion for the daily shave. 97.5% of its ingredients are derived from plants too.
Anti-Bacterial Aftershave balm: Another alcohol-free product, this quickly-absorbed cream is much more than your average aftershave balm. As well as calming razor burn and protecting post-shave skin, it also contains Gymnema Sylvestre – a plant extract that slows hair growth and, over time, makes hairs finer making shaving less arduous. Cleverly, there are also ingredients in there to minimise oil production, reduce more size and prevent spots. “It’s also a great product to help prevent those annoying ingrown hairs,” says John.
Daily Face Moisturiser: A triple action daily moisturiser (it’s designed to hydrate, refresh and protect) this lightweight skin-saver is everything you want from a good moisturiser – easily absorbed, non-greasy and instantly hydrating.
Revive and Refresh Eye Roll On: John’s favourite product from the range (and mine too), this lightweight gel is packed full of beneficial botanicals like Calendula, Aloe and Edelweiss extract to minimise dark circles, fine line and reduce puffiness. Its cooling roller-ball delivery system makes it a cinch to use and brilliant for tackling those eye bags, especially if you chill it in the fridge or on a windowsill before use. “Along with a bacon sandwich it’s the best cure for a hangover!” says John.
To see John introducing the new range tune into QVC at 9am on Monday 12th September.
QVC is available on Freeview channel 16. Sky digital channel 640, Virgin TV channel 740 and Freesat channel 800.