Monday, 14 March 2011

Let's Hear It For The Boys

Let's Hear It For The Boys..

Just as the females of our species suffer with "the curse" of menstruation, us men folk have our own fair share of involuntary bloodletting in the form of our daily shave. As a chap who has been shaving since the age of twelve (I swear I'm part werewolf), I've had my fair share of "man pain". Ingrown hairs, razor rash, nicks and grazes, I've suffered them all, and as a result, I've spent most of my adolescence and adult life in search of the world's best grooming products.

As a former style & grooming editor, and in my current role of prominent British expert on the aforementioned subjects, I'm privileged to trial the best of the world's grooming products. By no means a brand snob, I believe wholeheartedly in journalistic integrity, which is why I personally test every product that graces these pages. If it doesn't do what it says on the tin, I don't write about it. End of.

Naturally, every chap is different, we have different skin types and therefore one man's pleasure is another man's poison. I'm as fastidious about the food I put in my body as I am about the products I put on my skin, which is why, given the choice, I'd always choose natural brands over mass market synthetic offerings. The overriding reason being, through my journalistic research, I've learned about the side effects of potentially hazardous chemicals such as parabens (preservatives) and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate - a mass market foaming agent).

I appreciate that certain brands harp on about these subjects, not through a genuine desire to protect their consumers, but to jump on the "green" bandwagon and market themselves for commercial gain. However, I'm a fan of Liz Earle, because they don't blow their own trumpet, neither do they make false promises. The products I have tried have been brilliant (the men's Cleanse & Polish sorted out my pimple prone skin), feel great and smell nice to boot. When push comes to shove, surely this is all that any bloke wants from their grooming products? Fair enough, if like me, you are eco friendly, with a leaning towards holistic skincare, then yes, the brand's values will also mirror your own, which is definitely an added bonus, but when you cut to the chase, a brand's mission statement is pointless if their products don't actually work.

On the journalistic integrity front, has every single Liz Earle product I've tried genuinely blown my socks off? The honest answer is no. I do have an issue with the men's Face Scrub, reason being, I think the exfoliating pumice grains are too large and scratchy (but I will, in a polite manner, raise this with Liz when I meet her tomorrow). But no one is perfect, I certainly know I'm not. I'd like to think my friends and family love me despite my faults, and by the same token, my brand loyalty has in no way been lessened by this particular experience. The good things about cosmetic formulas, is that they can be altered. Is the keyboard mightier than the sword? Well, I'll keep you posted on that one, but given my open and honest relationship with the brand, and my considerable experience within the field of men's grooming, I've every reason to believe they'll take my opinion on board.

And while I'm on the subject of campaigning for my fellow men, it's time we said; "let's hear it for the boys", because Liz Earle Naturally Active Men's Skincare is celebrating its 5th Birthday (Happy Birthday)! In honour of this momentous occasion, I want to pay tribute to two products from the range that have quite honestly revolutionised my daily shaving routine. Having grown sick of mass market shave gels and foams that reek of gym locker rooms heavy with the stench of cheap deodorant, and formulas so packed with synthetic chemicals, you could clean drains with them (probably), I was more than a little chuffed when some natural alternatives came my way. A lot of mass market shaving formulas rely on menthol for a quick burst of freshness to mask the inherent burning sensation that goes hand in hand with the daily ritual of stripping off the top layers of your face. What they often lack however, are certified, lovingly formulated naturally active ingredients, that have a clinically proven history of not only soothing skin during and post shave, but also nurturing the skin with nutrients afterwards. If you care about your consumer, they're going to repay you tenfold with brand loyalty, and that's where Liz Earle wins. They do their research, don't place financial gain above the needs of their customers, and respect the planet (and the fluffy animals too). Granted, I'm no Rambo, but I defy any man to not feel at least a little warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of all that.

Sensitive Shave Cream

Having reviewed my fair share of traditional barbering and shaving services (at The Refinery and Gentlemen's Tonic to name just two), I'm resolutely in favour of hot towels prior to a wet shave. The Sensitive Shave Cream + Hot Cloth Kit is only £1.30 more expensive than the same product in the range without the hot cloth (I refer you back to my comments about not fleecing your customers). Granted, shaving after a hot shower or bath will also soften your stubble in a similar manner, but opt for the hot cloth and you'll give your pores (and your senses) and unparalleled sensory treat. If you've never tried it, I suggest you shell out the wallet friendly £11.50 and give it a try (at that price you can afford to experiment).


What differentiates this shave cream from all the others on the market? Well, for a start, there are no potential carcinogens or toxic nasties, just a host of naturally active ingredients that make for a super smooth shave, and smell great to boot. I don't know about you, but I'm like one of the Seven Dwarfs first thing in the morning (Grumpy). The uplifting and mood stabilising aroma of lavender, lemon, geranium, palmarosa and clary sage are the holistic equivalent of Prozac, turning my frown upside down, no matter how little sleep I've had (and admittedly, my preference for writing in the peace of the night means I rarely clock the recommended eight hours). Eucalyptus and peppermint oils are like a piercing ray of sunshine through the dark clouds of my morning brain fog, invigorating my senses far more effectively than the hideous caffeine habit I ditched at Christmas (and without the jitters, dehydration and irritability). Add to this the humectant properties of glycerin (it attracts moisture to the skin), and the moisturising and cell-renewing properties of D-panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), and you have all you'd need in a shaving product and a lot, lot more.

After-Shaving Moisturiser

Before I extol the virtues of this post shave treat, I'll share a little story about one of my moisturiser misdemeanours. Back when I was a style and grooming editor, mass market skincare giant L'Oreal were launching their Men Expert range. Yet with all their money and research capabilities, they managed to come up with the shockingly hideous Hydra Energetic Turbo Booster Moisturiser (still on the market, horror of horrors). I'm not the type of guy who makes a huge show of talking about "football n' birds" in the gym locker room (ok, so I'm gay and prefer tennis and yoga to football). But even if I was the quintessential alpha male, what kind of company is naive enough to market a face cream by naming it like a Formula 1 super car. Athleticism and stupidity are not mutually exclusive, and by resorting to those tactics, I feel they've hampered the evolution of the male grooming industry. More to the point, this product was the colour of Sunny Delight, that day glow orange 90's phenomenon of a beverage reviled by dentists, doctors and mothers alike. Quite probably linked to a mass increase in ADD amongst our nation's children, it was packed with colourants, preservatives and E Numbers. When the dreaded L'Oreal face cream dared to cross my editorial desk, one peek at the colour of the product (let alone its ridiculous name), was enough to raise serious question marks. Did I really want to slather my face in something that looked like the freaky guy from the Tango adverts? Hell no! Unsurprisingly, it was so heavily scented (in the Lynx vein), that it made my eyes water. It professed to be invigorating, when really, all it did was bring tears to my eyes (for all the wrong reasons).

The Liz Earle moisturiser is a simple white cream, in a simple pebble coloured bottle. No Lynx effect odour, no tears, just pleasantly comfortable, smooth and hydrated skin. It doesn't need male models, or an international multimedia marketing campaign, nor does it require futuristic packaging or a name akin to something you'd find under your car bonnet. It doesn't pander to underlying insecurities about our masculinity, it just WORKS.


Packed full of Vitamin E derived from avocado, wheatgerm oil and tocopherol, this cream not only moisturises (again, the humectant glycerin and pro-vitamin B5 join the skin protecting arsenal), their inherent antioxidant properties shield the skin from the damaging effects of solar radiation, free radicals and environmental aggressors (a must for city dwellers like me). GLA rich borage oil further enhances the skin soothing properties with a rich dose of essential fatty acids, self-heal extract tackles little nicks and razor burn, while lavender, clary sage and cedarwood essential oils lend it a satisfyingly masculine scent (no turbo boosters here).

Liz Earle's Top Shaving Tips..

To ensure you all get the closest, smoothest, carnage-free shave possible, Liz Earle has even thrown in some expert tips to ensure your morning shave is second-to-none (I told you she cares):

  • For the best possible shave, soak your hot cloth in the hottest water you can possibly stand, remove excess water and place over the beard, pressing into all the contours of your face. Leave the cloth covering your face for 30 seconds to soften hairs and open pores.
  • Feel the direction in which your hair grows - as a general rule this is the direction you should shave.
  • Use one shot of Sensitive Shave Cream and rub vigourously over your beard to help lift hairs away from your skin.
  • Using a sharp multi-lade razor, shave in the direction your hairs grow, using light, slow stroked to avoid grazing or nicking the skin. Whilst shaving, use your other hand to gently stretch the skin to create a flat surface for your razor blade to glide over easily.
  • Regularly rinse and gently tap your razor on the skin to remove hair and cream build-up.
  • Smooth hands over your beard to check for stray hairs and re-shave any areas you missed.
  • Splash your face several times with cold water to rinse and refresh the skin. Pat with a clean soft towel, leaving skin slightly damp. Do not rub as this may cause irritation.
  • Follow with After-Shaving Moisturiser to soothe your face. This light, easily-absorbed formula will lock in moisture, leaving skin soft, smooth and nourished.

Sensitive Shave Cream + Hot Cloth Kit - £11.50
After-Shaving Moisturiser - £16.85

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