Australian brand Aesop ran a campaign a few years ago in its flagship Melbourne stores; it was extraordinarily simple, employing the slogan "Real men moisturize," plastered across the stores’ windows. According to the company’s London branch, the results were amazing, with men fighting to get their hands on Aesop’s products.
One of Aesop’s philosophies is that men’s and women’s skin are pretty much the same, and the idea that they are markedly different is a fabrication of the beauty industry. Biologically, this may be the case, but men usually don’t wear makeup, which means that the nightly ritual of cleansing isn’t as much of an issue — most men aren’t going to awake to eye makeup on their pillows if they don’t cleanse before sleep. Hence, men’s skin can often take harsher products than women’s because they don’t necessarily cleanse, tone, and moisturize as religiously.
A determinedly unisex brand, Aesop is appealing to men because of its simple, functional packaging and non-floral scents. Herein lies the real key to men’s grooming products: as much as the products themselves need to work on our skin, packaging is something men take very seriously. For years, it has been incredibly butch and peppered with scientific-sounding terms, lest anyone cotton on to the fact that grooming has something to do with vanity.
It seems, though, that men’s products are becoming less about the box and more about what’s inside. As the market grows, so too does the pressure for companies to use different and innovative ingredients.
Ole Henriksen‘s skincare products have been available since 2006, and this season sees the company adding specific men’s kits to its range. They are the Essential Gym Kit and Essential Men’s Kit, both of which are reasonably priced and contain three products, including Henrickson’s Loofah Body Scrub.
The scrub contains one of the most crucial ingredients in any men’s grooming products: menthol. Apparently, men aren’t just content with seeing that something works — they have to feel it, as well. As a result, some men’s products are laced with so much of the mint-based extract that you feel like you’ve walked through a sea of toothpaste before you’ve left the house. But Henrickson’s scrub contains just the right amount of menthol, leaving skin feeling pleasantly tingly.
Facially, let’s begin at the beginning: shaving. Billy Jealousy is a men’s cosmeceutical company aimed squarely at the repressed King Kong in us all; it’s definitely the straightest of all men’s grooming brands. In terms of its product range, this means that there’s a concentration on specifically male beauty problems (like ingrown facial hairs) alongside unisex ones, such as dry skin. The company’s Hot Towel pre-shave treatment takes the traditional practice of heating the face before shaving and gives it an innovative twist: the treatment liquid heats when massaged into the skin, resulting in the pores opening and hairs softening, thereby making shaving easier and less painful — all of which should make even the most rugged of males look slick enough to woo Fay Wray.
Aesop’s range includes a new shave serum, which acts as an ultra-smooth shaving cream. Because it stays so close to the skin, as opposed to traditional shaving foam, it allows for a really close shave, and leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized.
Toner has the same effect as aftershave; using it after cleansing and shaving will tighten the pores, reducing the chance of ingrown hairs or spots. Toner, though, is much gentler than aftershave because it’s water, not alcohol, based. Baxter of California has been producing men’s beauty products since the ’60s and continually updates its line with interesting new products. Its herbal mint toner (there’s that mint again) is alcohol-free, but super refreshing after a shave.
Stella McCartney’s new skincare line, CARE, is entirely organic, and despite its slightly feminine packaging, her moisturizer is great for men’s skin. McCartney removed all ingredients she deemed unnecessary from her products, so the moisturizer has no silicone, is absorbed incredibly fast, and leaves no residue. In addition, CARE has only one moisturizer, 5 Benefits Moisturiser (available as a fluid or cream), which covers all bases. The brand launches at London’s Selfridges in June and is available at Barneys New York.
Anthony Logistics is the brand leader for men’s grooming products, and it continues to innovate with new ingredients. Its latest product is Ingrown Hair Treatment, containing glycolic, salicylic, and phytic acids. It removes dead skin cells and "frees" hair follicles before they can become ingrown, helping to reduce skin irritation from shaving.
Branded in a simple, but bold package, (MALIN+GOETZ) is a unisex brand that definitely won’t alienate men with its bottles. Launching this month is its detox face mask, a non-clay-based mask containing amino acids and almond extract, designed to draw impurities out of the skin in a lighter, less harsh way than traditional clay masks. This is prefect for men, since shaving can leave the skin raw, and many traditional masks can aggravate this.
Should men wear concealer? Well, who cares — just as long as you can’t see it. The key, if you’re going to attempt concealing, is to be sure it’s well applied. YSL‘s Touche Eclat is a firmly established market leader for women, but it’s primarily an under-eye concealer, and not for pimples. In fact, when applied to a red blemish, it acts more like a highlighter pen than anything else. For men, the best concealer is probably Clinique‘s Acne Solutions Concealing Stick, which has a liquid, oil-free texture, and a very slight green hue, making it perfect for covering spots, as it reduces redness as well as helping to clear the blemish.
One thing that still permeates all men’s grooming products, though, is the name. No matter what the products contain, there’s always going to be one massive difference between men’s and women’s lines — the word "grooming." Unless, that is, we realize it’s just another name for beauty.
Aesop Hydrating Cream
Ole Henrickson Loofah Body Scrub
Baxter of California Toner
CARE 5 Benefits Moisturising Cream
Anthony Logistics Ingrown Hair Treatment