Help For Heroes XTREME The Fragrance: a good scent for a good cause

help for heroesWith fragrance one of the top gift ideas at this time of year it’s often all to easy to reach for a big brand name or the latest concoction from a huge fashion house. Which is all very well if you’re ok with lining the pockets of Chanel, Dior or Hugo Boss but if you want to do some good with your gift giving then maybe you should think about XTREME The Fragrance by Help For Heroes – the charity which offers support to servicemen and women injured in the line of duty.

A creamy, spicy and gourmandy fragrance, with lemon, black pepper, basil, amber and vanilla, it easily holds its own against this year’s biggest designer launches and a minimum of £3 from every sale goes direct to the charity. Five ex-servicemen worked alongside perfumer and lecturer Marianne Martin to come up with the fragrance and their stories are truly inspirational (you can read about the guys  involved here). So if you’re looking for a fragrance that helps people, as well as your chances, you might want to put XTREME on your wish list.

Help For Heroes XTREME The Fragrance is available from Debenhams and www.helpforheroesfragrance.com priced £30.

Hairy knuckles? Don’t worry Debenhams will sort you out!

So much is made of men’s ongoing battle with hairy backs and shoulders that it’s easy to forget that many of men are just as worried about having hairy knuckles.

Luckily, a solution is (literally) at hand thanks to Debenhams. They’re now offering a threading service for anyone with hairy hands. For those of you not familiar with threading it’s the ancient Indian art of hair removal involving a cotton thread to whip the hairs out from the root. Treatments start from a fiver, don’t hurt (much) and are available from Benito Brow Bars at Beauty Hall, Debenhams. You don’t have to book and don’t worry, you’re de-furred behind frosted glass.

Will men be flocking for the treatment? Perhaps, but at least one of my Twitter pals won’t. Alerting him to the service on the social media site he instantly replied: “I like my hairy knuckles – its the only place I’m not either grey or bald!”

 

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Original Penguin’s first men’s fragrance is decidedly…un-Original

On paper the first fragrance from iconic fashion brand Penguin sounds promising: the press release describes Original Penguin For Men as being “an oriental fragrance with a distinguished combination of juicy gold apples, purple sage, Mediterranean neroli and a punch of black pepper, along with fresh acords of fir needle, lavender provence and a seductive mix of vanilla noir, tonka bean and dark musk.”

The reality, though, is decidedly un-Original. Like so many fragrances today is has a slightly bitter, acrid smell  and a predictability that makes my heart sink. With fragrances like this I often bring up my Plasticine analogy. You start off with lots of wonderfully vibrant individual colours but the more you mix them the more they’re destined to become an unappealing, nondescript, sludgy brown.

The fact is, this is a fragrance that could have originated from any number of houses where the prime objective in creating a fragrance is not to offend rather than to impress. What results, then, is a scent that could equally be a Beckham or a Boss. Or both. Either way it’s decidedly meh. Nice bottle though.

Original Penguin For Men is available from Debenhams, priced £33 for 50 ml eau de toilette

So what does make a good perfume critic?

The other day I read a great interview with Francis Kurkdjian on the excellent Persoliase blog. It’s a fascinating insight into the mind of a true artist but it’s proved somewhat controversial too because of some of the comments Mr K made about how fragrance is reviewed.

One paragraph in particular has attracted some attention – and understandably so. Asked what he thinks about perfume critics, the master perfumier says: “They’re so boring. And the reason why they’re so boring is that, to prove their legitimacy, they try to drop ingredient names, chemical names, just to prove to their readers that they have the know-how…people are trying to critique perfumes without knowing what it is to critique a perfume. They don’t have the knowledge.”

Understandably, these comments have stimulated quite a debate on Persolaise’s blog about what exactly ithe right way to critique a perfume and who amongst us has ‘legitimacy’.  I commented there briefly myself but wanted to expand here with my take on the matter.

To be honest, I hate the idea that you have to be knowledgeable before you can critique something. When artists in any field believe this it’s a sure sign they’ve not only caught sight of the ivory tower but have booked the removal van so they can take up residence on the top floor.

Yes, expertise brings depth and an added dimension and it most certanly has its place but it’s not the be-all and end-all. This is especially true, I think, when reviewing products. Sure, I known what parabens are and what nano-technology is and I’m more acquainted with a tonka bean than any man should be. But hey, so what? The questions on most reader’s lips when it comes to a new product are: is it any good? Does it work? Will I like it? Is it worth the money?

The whole issue of expertise has come up before. I remember one Beauty Editor having a pop at beauty bloggers several years ago because she didn’t consider them expert enough to comment properly (the very same person now has their own blog of course but is an industry expert so that’s okay). This attitude riles me beyond belief, partly because many experts (especially those on magazines) conveniently conceal the fact their recommendations are influenced by advertising. I’m a journalist. I’ve been there so I know the score.

To me, the opinion of a beauty blogger who smells a fragrance in a department store is just as valid as that of someone who’s been writing about fragrance all their lives and gets sent one for free by a PR. In fact, I sometimes think more so because the blogger takes time, effort and often spends their own money to explore what’s out there.

Personally, though, I don’t care whether someone wants to write a 2,000 word forensic ‘expert’ review, simply list the notes (and on that matter ingredient names are also dropped on the official FK site to give customers a steer I notice) or just wants to say ‘to me this smells like creosote mixed with roses and custard powder.’ What’s important, surely, is that people remain passionate enough to write about fragrance in the first place?

The fact is, reviewing a fragrance is as much a nebulous, imperfect and subjective art as creating one is. To me, having critics approach the subject from all different angles, with different spins, expertise and opinions is the only true way to build up a rounded picture of something. If a new fragrance hits the shelves I want to hear what the beauty editor of Vogue thinks about it but I also want to know what my favourite bloggers think about it, what the readers of basenotes.com think about it, what my mum thinks about it and what the woman who sells it in Debenhams thinks too. Fragrance is deliciously multi-faceted – that’s why it’s so enthralling right? So why should fragrance criticism be any different?

To read the interview that sparked this post on Persoliase click here.

This week I am mostly loving…..

1. Natio For Men Muscle Soothing Heat Rub (£8 for 110g from www.debenhams.com). Unlike many rubs this Australian number, infused with peppermint, menthol and ginger,  won’t leave you honking like a sports locker and doesn’t feel like you’ve rubbed your skin with a couple of raw chillies either. I know it’s meant for muscles but I’ve discovered it makes a brilliantly refreshing foot rub too.

2. Tisserand Concentrate Essential Oil Roll-On Remedy, £4.95 from www.tisserand.com). Although it’s practically February I still haven’t quite got back into the swing of things work-wise so this roll-on, packed with essential oils to help concentration, has been a Godsend. I take it to product launches too, where keeping your eyes open is often a major challenge.

4. Nivea For Men Q10 Revitalizing Eye Roll-On, £10.49 for 10ml from www.boots.com) Brilliant new cooling roller-ball eye gel that works wonders on eye bags, especially if you chill it overnight on the windowsill. Half the price of many eye creams too.

3. Equmen Precision Briefs, £30.65 from www.mankind.co.uk. These low-rise pants are new arrivals at Mankind and in my role as Grooming Ed there it’s my job to road test them (there are worse jobs I know). They’re ergonomically  designed to keep your bits cool and snugly in place and are actually some of the comfiest pants I’ve ever worn. They’re surprisingly  flattering too.  Ok, too much information….


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wakey, wakey!

Pep-Up_Body_Cleanser_72dpiFinding a decent shower gel might not seem like the most pressing priority in the world but when it’s 7.30am and you need to start the day in the right mood it can make all the difference.

My current favourite is this new wake-up call from Australian skincare brand Natio. Just launched over here, their Pep-Up Body Cleanser is a superb way to start the morning.

Packed with natural ingredients like organic ginko biloba, lemongrass, peppermint and eucalyptus it’s one of the best shower gels I’ve smelt in ages and doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry or  tight either. News is a dedicated men’s range is on its way too so watch this space.

Natio Pep-Up Body Cleanser is available from Debenhams priced £8 for 210 ml.

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