Insider Interview: Amanda Watson, Category Manager for Neal’s Yard Remedies

I’m a huge fan of Neal’s Yard Products so I was honoured to be interviewed for their Organic Life site recently (you can read the interview here). Talking about some of my favourite NYR products got me thinking about men’s attitudes to organic products, though, so I thought I’d turn the tables on NYR and ask them a few questions.

So here NYR Organic Category Manager Amanda Watson, who is responsible for new product development, answers my questions about organic skincare.

GG: Men are often sceptical about organic skincare. What can you say to convince them it’s worth giving a go?

AW: By using organic ingredients on your body, you are reducing the amount of chemical residues that are absorbed by your skin.  We firmly believe that it’s just not necessary to use such synthetic materials.

The body benefits hugely from simple, natural ingredients as they are similar in content to the skins own sebum. Rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids, they are easily and safely absorbed, assisting the skin’s natural functions and helping improve its condition, leaving it soft, supple and nourished.  Some synthetic ingredients cannot be synthesised by the skin so they block pores and diminish the skin’s ability to function, and they may also irritate the skin.

Our NYR Men range has been specifically developed for men using natural ingredients and plant extracts to create effective products that care for male skin which may have been stressed by shaving and exposure to the environment.  The products are designed to nourish and soothe the skin and contain regenerative ingredients to promote a healthy complexion.

GG: There’s often a perception that natural or organic skincare products somehow aren’t as good, or long-lasting as other ones? What would you say to this accusation?

AW: This may have been the perception many years ago but now organic beauty products have become much more efficacy based and with a lot more scientific research and claims behind them.

GG: What ingredients in the NYR men’s range are the most beneficial to men?

AW: Lavender, witch hazel and calendula are very useful herbs for inflamed skin conditions as they have soothing properties which calm and refresh tired skin.  This is why we have used these herbs in the Calming After Shave Balm.

GG: Are there any essential oils you’d say were specifically good or useful for men? If so, which ones and why?

AW: We have included a unique blend of 13 essential oils and resins in the NYR Men range, which not only smell amazing, but they are also great for men’s skin and mood.  For example energising grapefruit is cooling on the skin, aromatic eucalyptus is balancing while uplifting clary sage is toning.  Together with our active plan extracts, they’re just what men’s skin needs to stay in perfect shape.

GG: What three NYR men’s products would you say are bathroom-cabinet must-haves and why?

AW: For a basic skincare routine, men should cleanse, shave and protect so I would recommend the following:

Gently foaming, Purifying Face Wash thoroughly cleanses, energises and refreshes the skin, lifting away impurities to prepare it for shaving.  It contains anti-oxidant rooibos herbal infusion to strengthen the skin, combined with restorative calendula, renowned for its regenerative properties.

Close Shave Cream creates a thick, creamy lather to deep cleanse and soften the skin and bristles, for a closer, smoother shave, with purifying red clay, astringent apple and softening olive oil.

Calming Aftershave Balm is fantastic for calming down that just-shaved skin with soothing lavender, calendula and witch hazel, leaving skin soft and comfortable.

GG: Finally, what’s your personal favourite essential oil and why?

AW: Grapefruit is one of my favourite essential oils as its zesty, zingy fragrance really uplifts me particularly in the morning when I need an energy boost to face the day!

Neal’s Yard Remedies products are available from Niven & Joshua

John Barrowman’s new skincare range HIM is so good it might even turn Davros into ‘Fabros’!

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.

With Mr B. He taught me a few tricks about how to pose for the camera - sadly, after this pic was taken!

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.

Exclusive! Tomasz Schafernaker interview

BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker is to meterology what Becks is to ball games. When he appeared on the cover of Attitude’s fitness supplement clad only  in a pair of Aussiebums earlier this month the internet exploded in a frenzy of Tweets, blogs and appreciative Facebook exchanges. Suddenly weather reporting was…sexy.

Not since the revelation that Angela Rippon had a fantastic pair of pins back in the 70s has a TV presenter caused such a stir with the exposure of a little flesh. In fact, such was the interest in ‘The Schaf’ that my own initial blog post about the Attitude cover instantly eclipsed a similar (and you’d have thought bigger) news story I wrote about Ronaldo becoming the new face of Armani.

All of a sudden I  people were specifically tuning in to his weather updates just to catch a glimpse of him! He was in people’s consciousness before, of course, but only in relation to squally showers. Now, he’s a bona fide sex symbol. So, with this in mind, I thought I’d find out how he maintains the looks that have created such a…storm.

GG: So Tomasz, how important is proper grooming to you and how much care and attention do you pay to your appearance?

TS: Clearly it’s important for me to look presentable due to the nature of my job. I need to make sure I put in about as much effort at 4am as I would at any time of the day if I’m due on shift. More men these days are paying attention to grooming so regardless of whether it’s a work day or not I still make at least some effort.

GG: What are your  favourite male fragrances and why?

TS: Boss by Hugo Boss – my dad has always bought me Hugo, probably ever since I was a teenager. I also wear 212 MEN by Carolina Herrera – another gift but now I buy it myself. I’m also a fan of Hollister Deodorants – I think they’re just fresh, funky and different.

GG: As someone who works in TV you’ll be used to wearing make-up when on screen. There are a huge number of male cosmetic products available now and it’s a growing industry. How do you feel about men using things like concealer?

TS: Yes, I’m required to wear make-up for TV. It’s amazing how much you shine and how awful you can look without it on screen. Remember that the lightning is at ‘unnatural levels’ in the studio compared to the real world.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing a little ‘invisible male make-up’. It’s all down to what you’re comfortable with. I personally don’t actually wear make-up outside of work as I’ve always had pretty good skin.

GG: So you’re obviously doing something right! What’s your basic daily routine and what are your favourite skincare products?

I don’t have a regular routine as my day and night shifts are all over the place. I try to wash my face after work as soon as I can. There’s always some blot powder and studio fix left over. It’s a pain sometimes because I often have thick stubble.

I very rarely wet shave, almost never. I tend to have sensitive skin on the neck and using a clipper just happens to be better for me. Any basic moisturiser will do plus an anti-shine product which I can also use at work. A moisturiser with a light-tanning agent is good, I then don’t have put on as much make at work.

GG: A touch of stubble has almost become your trademark. How do you maintain it?

TS: I use clippers on the lowest grade setting, 2 or 3mm. I get the feeling that thick and uniform stubble is easier to maintain than thinner stubble. I have to use the clipper every other day as the stubble grows very quickly. Fortunately I’m quite fair so sometimes I can get away with it if I forget to trim. TV make-up can ‘soften’ the look of stubble as well.

GG: I’m assuming for the Attitude pics you removed any body hair – a procedure more men than ever are having done. Would you recommend it to other guys?

TS: Actually, because I’m fair, and maybe it’s something to do with my east european genes (Tomasz was born in Gdańsk, Poland), I’m not especially hairy. I didn’t remove any hair for the shoot. It was probably just unnoticeable and I’m guessing a little light airbrushing. Whatever takes your fancy on that one!

GG: Best grooming tip?

TS: It’s so much easier to style short hair after you’ve used narrow straightening irons for men. If you’ve tried it once there’s no going back! The style can keep even after a night’s sleep which means I don’t have to worry about bed hair when I’m on TV. It’s great.

GG: And finally…what’s your desert island grooming product?

TS: Hmm, difficult one. I guess I’d have to take UV protection so I don’t toast my nose..or the rest!

Tomasz recently launched his own website. To check it out click here.

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