As someone who sported his own quiff many years ago (yes, there was a time when I had hair) I’m insanely jealous of the height David Beckham’s achieved with his in these pics taken by Doug Inglish for the new issue of Men’s Health. In my book, the quiff (the ultimate salon-produced penis substitute) is still the greatest male hairstyle ever and this one, styled beautifully by Ken Paves, is sublime. There’s much to envy about Beckham – the wealth, the body, the cultural influence – but it’s his hair (that ever-so-versatile hair) that impresses me the most. Beautiful game? Beautiful mane more like.
Hello and welcome to the first of my posts for 2012. It’s been a while since I posted last (I was taking a few weeks off to consume Maltesers and Licorice Allsorts) but the year certainly ended on a high with news that Grooming_Guru (my Twitter alias) made PinkNews.co.uk‘s most influential LGBT Twitter users of 2011 list.
Nestling at No. 31 I’m extremely flattered and honoured to be included. Mind you, not everyone is as impressed. One critic of the list publically describes those of us on it as as nothing more than a bunch of ‘mouthy twats’. This clearly cannot be true. I know this for a fact because if it was I would most definitely have cracked the Top 10.
If you’ve cultivated a facial forest, as I have, you’ll know that whilst it might be fantastically on-trend and a cost-effective solution to the exorbitant price of razor blades it isn’t entirely without its drawbacks. Not least, it can be prickly, flakey and occasionally (usually after a tuna sandwich or messy spag bol) faintly odouriferous.
The remedy for these beardy bugbears comes in the shape of this handy little beard and ‘tache conditioner. A concentrated elixir, it contains a blend of natural oils to lubricate and condition the beard and moisturise the skin beneath. What I really love about it, though,is the way it smells. With refreshing bergamot and pine and earthy vetiver and patchouli it manages to be both fresh and very sexy. Grrrrrr, as beardy types are inclined to say.
Mr Natty Frank’s Beard Elixir cost just £7 for 10ml and is available from nivenandjoshua.com. Perfect for Movember too!
Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.
Nobody knows more about beards than me. I’ve had one (if you can call my patchy approximation of one a beard) for over ten years now – co-incidentally ever since the hair on my head parted company with my scalp. And what I don’t know about beard trimmers ain’t worth knowing. I’ve tried them all, and the one I use myself is a trusty old Remington MB320C (snappy name huh?). It’s robust, easy to use and, crucially, manages to get into those difficult-to-trim places like under our nose. I’ve had other trimmers that break, snag or simply can’t manage to do the job properly but this one is great.
But now there’s a new kid on the block – the Remington Touch Control trimmer – the world’s first beard trimmer to feature a touch screen control technology. Given how everything is touch control these days I suppose it was inevitable that trimmers would be too.
So how does it rate? Well, it’s a sexy old thing, certainly much slicker than my old model and the big advantage is that the touch control allows for precision length control (unlike the 1 – 7 settings of old). In fact, you can move it in tiny 0.1mm increments, allowing you a whopping 175 length options and making it pretty much the ultimate in bespoke beardage.
What’s more (and this is a massive plus as anyone who’s ever used a beard trimmer will know) there’s a locking function which means the settings won’t accidentally alter mid-shave. You can even vary the speed of the shave and it can also be powered via your computer’s USB. More importantly, it delivers a great trim so I think the Grooming Guru can confidently declare Remington ‘Best for Beards’!
The Remington Touch Control is available from all leading retailers priced £59.99
Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.
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.
Much has been said about the constant need for male grooming brands to ‘butch up’ their products to make them acceptable to the average bloke in the street and though we’ve come a long way, most brands still use hyper-masculine brand ambassadors to give everyone else permission to use ‘beauty’ products. If you want proof this trend is still going strong just check out the campaign for Montagne Jeunesse’s new face packs for men.
Featuring five separate masks to give skin a deep clean, tackle blackheads, perk up morning-after skin, rescue tired eyes and deal with blemishes, the masks have been ‘put through their paces’ by the Cardiff Blues Rugby Team. So clearly, if they past the locker room test they must be ok.
Ironically, of all sports, rugby always comes across as the most metrosexual one to me, with the majority of players comfortable enough in their own masculinity not to give a damn about appearing ‘girlie’. Ex-Lion Gareth Thomas’ coming out was greeted with a chorus of ‘so whats’ and Ben Cohen, though straight, is a champion of LGBT equality. So the use of rugby players in campaigns like this strikes me as being both perfectly natural but surprisingly tame. Imagine the impact if the line up above had been Millwall players. And how everyone would have reacted then. Just saying.