Insider Interview: Andy Rouillard, the UK’s leading expert in male waxing

Britain’s top male waxing specialist Andy Rouillard knows just about everything there is to know about hair removal for men. Not only does he spend his days ensuring men’s backs, shoulders and other bits are free of unwanted hair he also teaches others how to deliver perfect treatments too.  So who better to provide a glimpse into the world of the super-smooth male?

GG: More and more men seem to be waxing these days. Why do you think that is? And what are the benefits of waxing?

AR: Guys have been shaving, creaming, plucking and trimming unwanted hair for years, we just haven’t talked about it quite as openly until now.  We do it because it feels cleaner, cooler and more comfortable to be hair free; because we prefer the way it looks; or because our partners have told us to get it done (I stopped counting a long time ago the number of chaps that are booked in for their first ever salon wax by a wife or girlfriend).

GG: Why the sudden boom though?

AR: As much as I hate to use the ‘media influence’ argument, there’s no denying the impact that our media’s fascination with fuzz-free celebrities has had on bringing waxing out of the closet.

Need I even mention the Golden Balls Armani ad from a few years back that whipped the media up into such a frenzy of speculation over Mr Beckham’s personal hair removal habits?

The reality is, many guys saw the fuss generated by this one story and thought to themselves: “well if it’s good enough for Becks, it’s good enough for me.”

GG: What’s the most common part of the body that men want waxing?

AR: Backs and shoulders are still the most popular areas chosen for deforestation, but an increasing number of guys are now opting for more extreme manscaping in the form of Brazilian waxing.  Perhaps better known as the infamous ‘back, sac and crack’ or ‘Boyzilian’, this involves the removal of unwanted hair from the crown jewels and bum.

GG: Ouch! I always wince when I think of Boyzilains!

AR: Surprisingly, it hurts a lot less than the image it conjures would suggest, and is quickly becoming one of the most requested male waxing services at salons up and down the country (although whoever came up with the name ‘Boyzilian’ needs to be shot at dawn).

Nostril and ear waxing is also very popular, which I consider less of a job and more of a public service.  Seriously, there’s no excuse for nose tendrils. There are times when I have to be physically restrained from yanking hair out of the snouts of strangers in the street.  I could probably get arrested for that, right?

GG: I saw a great annotated pic on your twitter feed (@Wax_Daddy) showing the direction of hair growth that you were showing students. Why is it important to know about the direction?

AR: Generally speaking, wax needs to be applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite direction.  Failing to follow the patterns that Mother Nature blessed you with means that the hair simply won’t come out; wax gets stuck, the skin tugs, and you end up with all manner of heartache from bruising, broken hairs and toffee-like clumps of cold wax that won’t shift for love nor money.

GG: Are there any new developments in waxing techniques or any new treatments for men?

AR: Fortunately, waxing has come a long way since the old ‘strip’em and rip’em’ style of hair removal made (in)famous by The 40 Year Old Virgin.  A new generation of low temperature peelable waxes has made hair removal a much more pleasant experience in the salon.  It works by ‘shrinkwrapping’ around the hair as it dries on the skin, and is then whipped off by hand instead of being removed with a cloth strip.  Also, many salons are now using oil under their wax instead of powder, which stops the product from sticking to the skin and makes things a lot more comfortable.

Check what your salon uses before making a booking.  For intimate waxing in particular, if a therapist comes at your boys with anything other than a bottle of oil and peelable wax, run screaming for the hills.

GG: What advice would you give to a man that is trying waxing at home?

AR: I’m undoubtedly a little biased but I am firmly of the opinion that some things are best left to the professionals – if nothing else, it’s quicker and it hurts less.  However, if you really must try this at home, the secret to success lies in your prep and aftercare.

For a few days beforehand, gently exfoliate the area you plan on pruning with a body brush or scrub.  This helps to slough off any excess dead skin cells and lifts the hair for better results.

Your skin needs to be clean and dry for the wax to stick.  If it’s a hot day or the thought of merrily ripping your own hair out by the root brings on a nervous sweat, dust yourself lightly with talc to absorb any excess moisture.

Trim the hair down with clippers or scissors before you start: you’ll be able to see the patterns of growth a lot easier, which prevents longer tufts from becoming tangled in the wax and will altogether hurt a lot less.  About 1cm (grade 3 on electric clippers) is about right; any shorter and the hair won’t be long enough for the wax to grip.

Work in small sections, applying wax thinly in the direction of hair growth and stretching the skin as you go.  Lay a fabric strip down and give it a few firm rubs with the whole of your hand to get a good bond between wax and hair.  Stretch the skin as taut as you can, then pull the strip off in the opposite direction to your wax application.  Keep your hand parallel to the body during removal and pull quickly and in one smooth motion (don’t hesitate or pull the strip up into the air, as this will hurt like a bitch and can cause bruising).  Apply pressure with a cold flannel immediately afterwards, which will cool and calm those jangled nerve endings.

Once you’ve finished, rub a generous squirt of baby oil into the area to shift any lingering sticky bits, then take a cool shower (not hot, unless you happen to like the smell of burning flesh).  Smother your freshly denuded body in tea tree body lotion or aloe vera gel to soothe and protect the skin.

You’ll look like a freshly plucked chicken and will feel a little sunburnt for a few days afterwards, so you need to treat things with a little extra TLC: avoid heat and friction (no hot showers, tanning, vigorous exercise, tight clothing, etc.), keep applying the tea tree body lotion, and the job’s a good’un.

GG: Why do you prefer waxing over other hair removal methods? 

AR: Shaving and hair removal creams are great for short term results or a last minute top-up at home before a big event, but they can be time consuming and only provide smoothness for a few days before the dreaded itch of re-growth sets in.  Sure, waxing has an initial ‘ouch factor’ (anyone who tells you otherwise is quite clearly a liar), but it’s relatively quick, affordable, and the results last a lot longer because hair is removed at the root, rather than being simply shorn off at skin level – this also means there’s no prickly stubble as your pelt grows back.  And it gets easier with every visit, I promise!

GG: And finally, what’s your best waxing tip?

AR: Ingrown hairs are the bane of waxers worldwide and can be a blot on the smoothest of landscapes.  A daily slick of moisturizer and a quick buff in the shower with an exfoliating mitt or body scrub twice a week will help keep the little blighters at bay.

Zap really stubborn spots with a product such as PFB Vanish or Anthony Logistics Ingrown Hair Treatment.  The key ingredient in these is salicylic acid, which acts as a chemical exfoliant to free trapped hairs and also reduces any associated inflammation.  As an added bonus, these products can be used to treat razor bumps in the beard area too.

Finally, get waxed every 4-6 weeks.  It may seem like a chore to start with, but this timescale encourages the hair into similar cycles of re-growth for longer lasting smoothness.  Don’t shave or tweeze between appointments, and after a few sessions you’ll soon start to see what all the fuss is about!

For more information about Axiom Bodyworks go to www.axiombodyworks.co.uk and for details of Andy’s training service go to www.learnmalewaxing.co.uk

Tom Ford’s Lavender Palm – hitting the right note?

I love lavender. I grow my own (English of course) and at the end of the summer harvest it and hang bunches of it on the back of my doors or make lavender bags for my wardrobe (brilliant for deterring clothes moths).

Strangely, however, I’ve yet to find a lavender fragrance I can actually wear. This one, though stunning, is no different. It features two types of lavender to give it a real floral ‘hit’  and throws in a little lime blossom, vetiver, cedar and green moss for good measure but is spoilt, for me, by the addition of tonka bean which gives it a cloying sweetness that gives the lavender a slight sickliness.

Mr Ford himself, I believe, is a big fan of Caron’s Pour un Homme De Caron, a fragrance that launched back in 1934 and one characterised by its punchy lavender note. Again, it’s a fragrance I just can’t wear but this time because I find it sharp and abrasive.

It’s possible, of course, that as much as I love the smell of lavender, I’m simply not destined to wear it. But if you do know of a fragrance I might like let me know! In the meantime, my search for lavender lushness continues….

Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection Lavender Palm is available now, priced £125 for 50 ml eau de parfum.

Clinique have travel fatigue licked with their new Daily Revitalizers duo

Along with stress and a lack of sleep travel has to be one of the most draining things for skin. Thankfully, Clinique have come up with this handy ‘Daily Revitalizers’ duo to keep you looking half decent.

Available exclusively at airports and duty free locations, with an RRP of £31.37, it features a Skin Supplies For Men M Lotion (a classic moisturiser) and the latest addition to the Skin Supplies range – the Anti-Fatigue Cooling Eye Gel, which features a cooling rollerball delivery system. To buy the pair normally would set you back over £40 so if you spot the set on your travels (literally) then snap one up!

Ask The Guru: How do I prevent ingrown toenails?

Ingrowing nails occur when a piece of the nail curves downward and grows into the skin piercing the flesh of the toe. Usually affecting the big toe, they can feel like a splinter, can be extremely painful and in more severe cases, can cause pus and bleeding.

Active, sporty people are particularly prone as are people who cut their nails too low.  Preventing them is simple enough though – for starters, make sure your shoes aren’t too snug and learn how to trim your nails properly. Always cut them straight across and don’t cut too low at the edge or down the side. The corner of the nail should be visible above the skin. Also, cut them after a bath or shower when they’re soft.

I prefer  to use a pair of spring toenail clippers and you get more leverage and they cut quickly and neatly and don’t tear at the nails as some inferior clippers can. The ones above are available from simplyfeet.co.uk. If you do get an annoying ingrown, though, visit your local podiatrist. One visit may be all that’s needed to get it sorted.

Avant Garde – Lanvin’s new fragrance for men

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Givaudan’s Shyamala Maisondieu, the nose behind the brand new Lanvin men’s fragrance. What struck me whilst talking to her was her obvious passion for her creation and how clear an image of the ‘Lanvin Man’ she had in her mind (she painted such an evocative picture of a busy, sophisticated, well-travelled man kicking back in front of a roaring fire I nearly asked if I should pop out and get some more logs!).

In an age of fragrance-by-focus-group it was great to see something created with genuine art and passion (she very kindly helped me unravel the secrets of my own fragrance collection, too, but more about that another time).

Avant Garde itself is an oriental woody fragrance, bursting with exotic spices (as a child Shyamala loved the smell of cardamon so it’s included here), along with woody and tobacco notes and a hint of beeswax, which gives it a sweet, edible honey inflection.

So is it any good? Well, it’s much gentler and warmer than I expected and sweet in an Mugler A*Men kinda way (but not nearly as pungent obviously). With evidence to suggest women are especially attracted to sensual woody oriental fragrances and to sweet notes it’s very much a fragrance they’ll love to smell on men. Which is no bad thing right?

P.S. The bottle is amazing and feels like a smooth and sensual black pebble!

Lanvin Avant Garde is available from Harvey Nichols, priced £49 for 100ml eau de toilette.

New Lab Series survey reveals 41% of men would rather lose their job than their hair!

As someone who severely fell out with my hair after it filed for divorce from my scalp several years ago I’m always fascinated by men’s attitudes to baldness. Though I’ve come to terms with my ever-decreasing shaft count (and I’m referring to hair here), I do mourn not having a style other than the No.1 crop I’m permanently lumbered with.

Having said that, I’ve learnt to live with it. Clealry, though, hairloss is a subject that still prays on a lot of men’s minds. In fact, a brand new survey of 2,000 men conducted by Lab Series Skincare For Men discovered that 41% of men would rather lose their job than their hair and 30% of men aged 18-24 worry about losing their hair. The reason men are so worried? Well, it seems that looking old is the key, with 34% of men surveyed saying they worry that a thinning thatch will make them look old.

Helpfully, Lab Series now have three haircare products to minimise hair loss by making hair stronger, reducing breakage and maintaining optimum scalp health. Designed as a three-step system, each product contains a raft of ingredients to target hair weakness and dullness.

The lightly-fragranced Root Power Restorative Shampoo helps keep the scalp free of pore-clogging debris and thickens hair shafts, the Root Power Restorative Hair Tonic minimises daily breakage and energises the scalp while the Style Wax (for me the most impressive product) is formulated to give thickness to the hair reduce breakage. They’re not going to prevent you going bald if you’re predisposed to male pattern baldness but are a good addition to your regime if you just want to hang onto what hair you do have.

Available nationwide now. For sockists call 0870 034 2566 or go to www.labseries.co.uk

Wilkinson Sword back this year’s Movember

I rarely get angry about the industry I work in (let’s face it, if you’re going to get angry, get angry about the state of the NHS or fat cat bankers not the cupcakes at a fragrance launch or a moisturiser) but there is one thing that really annoys me about it – and that’s its woeful response to male charities.

In October you simply cannot move for beauty and cosmetic company breast cancer initiatives. Big brands fall over themselves to get involved. Bizarrely, even some of the leading men’s brands have got in on the act in the past by donating money from their own sales to…breast cancer charities.

I’m not knocking this. I think the industry’s response to breast cancer is amazing. But its enthisiasm for the cause only makes its apathy towards prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men, affecting 250,000 men in the UK) or testicular cancer (where there are 2,000 new diagnoses a year) all the more evident. And shameful. And let’s not forget that many of the companies that so admirably support female cancer charities also own male grooming brands that could support men’s charities just as vociferously. But they don’t.

Why? Well, clearly, economics plays a part. The beauty industry is still much bigger than the men’s in terms of sales. And there’s a perception that women are much more touchy-feely than men and so a brand can gain much kudos (and additional sales) in supporting the right charities and campaigning in the right way. Again, I’m not knocking this – charity is a business thesedays –  I’m just stating an obvious, if uncomfortable, truth.

The other sad fact, of course, is that men’s cancers rarely make headlines in quite the same way diseases like breast cancer do. Breast cancer has high profile ambassadors like Kylie: prostate cancer has Rudi Giuliani. Breast cancer can affect women who are young, vibrant and have their whole lives ahead of them: prostate cancer tends to affect men who are much older. Yet, both are killers and both destroy lives.

The cruel irony is that women are far better educated (perhaps in part to companies’ charitable campaigning) in terms of looking out for symptoms, getting checked and knowing what resources are available for them than men. The fact is, it’s men who could do with the help. In my opinion, a little concerted effort by the male grooming industry into raising funds for all the men out there who buy their products really wouldn’t go amiss and I’m sure it would get the full support of the men’s press.  After all, men do put money into the pockets of the major skin and haircare companies too.

But enough of my ranting. The actual reason for this post was to mention that Wilkinson Sword are supporting Movember this year as official grooming partner. Movember, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is one of the few initiatives across the year that focusses on raising funds for a male cancer charity – in this case The Prostate Cancer Charity. An increasingly popular event, all you have to do is register as a ‘Mo Bros’ at the start of November and get growing a moustache (be as outlandish as you like, in fact I positively demand it). As you do this, of course, you need to get as many sponsors as possible and raise as much money as you can.

Wilkinson Sword will be on had to provide support, advice, inspiration and the tools for the job (their Quattro Titanium Precision razor is the ultimate piece of kit for shaving and trimming your ‘tache) so why not get involved? After all, you won’t just be helping other blokes you may well be helping yourself somewhere down the line too.

For more information go to www.facebook.com/WilkinsonSwordMenUK

Thanks to Chris James for the illustration. For more information click here.

Grooming Guru essentials: Mark Birley For Men Charles Street – this Autumn’s sexiest new fragrance for men

Though I lead a charmed life (come on, I sniff fragrances and test moisturisers for a living) it’s remarkably rare that I come across products I’d actually use myself and those that I do are documented in the Grooming Guru Essentials part of this blog. It’s rare too that I’m instantly captivated by a product. Yet, this is exactly what happened the other day with Mark Birley’s Charles Street fragrance, which was only recently released.

Birley, founder of clubs like Annabel’s, Harry’s Bar and Mark’s Club (on Charles Street , Mayfair, hence the name) has come up with just the kind of fragrance I love – leathery, smoky, musky and uncompromisingly masculine – and one which includes some of my favourite notes, including patchouli and tuberose. It’s also as sexy as hell (a quick straw poll of my friends revealed that both men and women loved it).

Call me old-fashioned but to my mind, Charles Street is how men should smell. Sure, it’s not the kind of fragrance you’re going to wear if you’re a 23-year-old clubber but if you’re a man of the world and a bit of a fragrance connisseur you should definitely give it a whirl.  In fact, if you’re only buying one fragrance for yourself this Autumn, I’d suggest you make it this one.

Mark Birley for Men: Charles Street is available from Harrods, priced £48.50 for 75ml eau de parfum

Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.

Back to the future: the Grooming Guru’s first male grooming piece. Circa 1987

The Grooming Guru c.1987! Nice hair, no?

You know how they say ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’? Well, I realised the other day that, although my journalistic career spans over 20 years and takes in working for and editing both women’s and men’s magazines, I’m strangely back where I started when it comes to writing.

Back in 1987, when I was just a student with journalistic ambitions and a fantastic head of hair, I contributed features to my college newspaper, The Sheffield City Press, on a diverse range of subjects  – from Phobias, Gypsy Rights and why I hated Margaret Thatcher to the burgeoning men’s magazine industry and…yes, male grooming (though I’m not sure it even had a name back then).

If memory serves, leading the way product-wise was The Body Shop where I bought most of my skincare products – not that there really were many to buy back then. They certainly allowed the average man on the street to explore skincare at an affordable price. I see from the piece (pictured below) that they had a face wash for all of £1.55.

Clearly, even back then I was an advocate of men taking care of their appearance as the final rally cry of ‘isn’t it about time that men caught up with women and entered the Skintrade?’ shows. Even I could never have dreamt where it would all end up though!

Grooming Guru Guides – get your feet ready for sandal weather

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (if you don’t look me up @grooming_guru) will know that my real bete noire is men in flip flops. Not men in flip flops on beaches – that’s fine. Not men wearing flip flops at home either. I can even excuse men who pop to the local shop for a pint of milk in them. But men wearing flip flops around town instead of shoes is a mortal fashion crime as far as I’m concerned.

Australians doing this I can forgive, because the flip-flop (or ‘thong’ as they say down under) is practically national costume but English men, with their flithy, sooty soles and gnarly trotters? No.  

So my fashion advice is to buy some decent summer footwear (Birkenstocks will do) and attend to those terrible trotters! And just in case you need a little help, here’s how to get yourself a pair of ‘plates’ you can be proud of…

Step 1: Exfoliate

Most men neglect their feet something rotten (and I chose my words carefully) during the winter and that plays havoc with their appearance come the strip-off season. Ill-fitting shoes, poor maintenance and general wear-and-tear cause calluses to build up on the heels and skin becomes dry, rough and unsightly.

To remedy this start by removing dead skin and calluses with a pumice stone or a foot file like the Margaret Dabbs Abrasive Foot File . Not only will removing this dead skin make your feet look better it’ll make them healthier too since, if left, dead skin can become soggy, making it the perfect home for bacteria and fungal spores. If you’re on a beach, by the way, try gently exfoliating feet with some wet sand – it’s a great way to remove any dead skin.

Step 2: Moisturise

Just as your mush needs moisturising, so do your feet. In fact, our extremities often have some of the driest skin on our bodies. But since the skin on your feet can be up to four times thicker than the stuff on your face you need a specially formulated foot moisturiser. I like Australian Bodycare Hand & Foot Cream  which is particularly good because it also contains anti-bacterial Tea Tree Oil to keep feet fresh and healthy.

Step 3: Trim

Toenails, like fingernails, tend to act as advertisments for your grooming routine. Neglect them and it says you don’t care about the finer details – or (worse still) the bits of you that aren’t on display. So keep your tonenails looking tip-top by investing in good quality pair of toenail clippers like Mekur’s Toe Nail Clippers. Start by soaking your feet in warm water for a while to soften the nails – this will make them much easier to cut.

Then cut each nail straight across the top, from edge to edge and avoid cutting down the side of the nails as this will only encourage the nail to grow inwards. If you’re a perfectionist, it’s worth spending a couple of minutes gently softening the edges with Boots’ 4 Way Buffer Block.

STEP 4: Protect.

Unlike hands our feet barely see the light of day for most of the year making them especially vulnerable to sunburn. What’s more, studies have shown that the survival rate of patients with malignant melanoma of the foot is significantly lower than if the melanoma is elsewhere on the body – partly because we simply don’t spot them in time. So check your feet regularly for any unusual moles and if you’re heading for the beach, or are just heading out in the sun wearing sandals don’t forget to protect feet with a sun cream.

STEP 4:  Finishing touches.

If feet are particularly palid on their first unveiling you can try giving them some temporary colour with a tinted moisturiser like Botanics Instant Glow Tinted Moisturiser. Because it’s not a fake tan you won’t get streaks but it will give you some subtle colour – and you can easily wash it off at the end of each day. And finally (and I know this is a subject that scares a lot of women) there’s the question of hair toes. In reality hairy toes are actually healthy toes, indicating there’s good circulation down there, but if you do want to remove the fur whatever you do don’t shave – it’ll leave stubble. Instead use small amount of Veet Hair Removal Cream or a Wax Strip.

And with that you’re done. Fantastic feet ready for anything. Except flip flops, obviously.

Note: If you suffer from diabetes, haemophilia or circulatory problems consult your doctor before using pedicure tools.