People like to watch traditionally attractive people. It’s the foundation on which the majority of reality TV shows and Instagram is based upon. Love Island returns to our screens, and while I dip in, I’m usually away for men’s fashion weeks to get the full minutiae of people trying to fulfil their social media destiny, it is, currently, a huge influence. It’s also a barometer of how this demographic of people look and what they buy and do when to comes to fashion and grooming.
Left - Love Island contestant Curtis with no underarm hair looking like a holiday from the 90s
The prevailing trend for men seems to still be bald as a coot bodies. The hirsute trend we’re seeing in porn, in gay culture and even in women, doesn’t seem to having an impact on this group of people. Or on the producers casting these people. There’s even one guy, Curtis, who doesn’t seem to have any underarm hair. He probably won’t be the only one…
When Frida Kahlo is the poster girl for women, is it a wonder how this smooth ideal for men persists. It does feel like this is the last gasp of the completely smooth trend we’ve been seeing since of the 90s when grooming and men messing around with their intimate areas first started.
A report from Mintel last year stated 46% of British men remove hair from their bodies, up from 36% in 2016. They also discovered that 57% of young men aged 16-24 remove hair from their pubic region. UK sales of shaving and hair removal products to reach £558 million in 2018 with Veet the headline sponsor of reality TV, TOWIE. According to Mintel’s Shaving and Hair Removal – UK, October 2016, 14% of men say that they remove hair from their chest, rising to 20% amongst men aged 25-44.
It does feel like we’ve reached peak body grooming and the figures will start to reverse when they realise looking smooth looks dated and as fashionable as a tribal tattoo or skinny white jeans.
The trend for hairy has been growing for a few years now, some have been calling it the ‘Poldark Effect’, named after actor Aidan Turner’s hairy torso seen scything in the BBC drama.
Right - When Frida Kahlo is today's poster girl for women, is it a wonder how this smooth ideal for men persists
Often removing body hair was about appealing or pleasing a partner. According to dating site MissTravel.com – which conducted a poll on male chest hair – 2017's straight women prefer partners with bare chests (61 per cent like a man to shave or wax), while gay men prefer them hirsute (at 58 per cent).
Gay men are often the leaders of trends when it came to fashion and grooming and were the first to start removing hair, they are now doing the reverse. Men now look lean and hairy as opposed to bulked out and smooth like in previous decades.
Hairier is, now, seen as more masculine, more mature and sexier. Being smooth looks immature and feminine and it’s this polarised worlds of hairy versus smooth which makes the Love Island guys look even more confusing. On a positive, at least those Jacuzzi filters won’t be getting clogged up.
Below - The full 2019 Love Island line up of without a single body hair
Hims is a new American ‘ personal wellness’ brand entering the UK market. ’You should look and feel your best all the time. Men now have easier access to the care they need - because men trust hims with the things they find hard to talk about.’ or so the company blurb says. The Founder and CEO is Andrew Dudum who is a serial backer of start-ups.
TheChicGeek says, “Hims is more than a grooming brand, and goes deep into the wellness area for men. Covering hair, skin, mouth, sex and health, hims is trying to broaden the grooming scope and make these new areas cuddly and sexy. The branding is great. The phallic images of the flaccid cacti feels more like a premonition when you get to my age… (On that note, they could make the information on the bottles a little bit bigger for those us actually losing our hair and of that age).
I tried the ‘dht shampoo’, ‘morning glow serum’ and ‘immunity’ supplements, all achingly cool lower case. It’s a very Helvetica type brand, - it looks a bit like an underwear brand - but I like its modern approach and tone. It’s an open platform and makes more sensitive subjects feel just as easy and fixable as buying a new moisturiser.
Hims offers erectile dysfunction and hair loss treatments, but you have to go through a consultation and an online doctor will prescribe these. The company works with a large network of doctors to prescribe Finasteride - a proven-to-work hairloss treatment - and Sildenafil - the active ingredient in Viagra - through their website - customers will be assessed by an online consultation with one of the team. If they pass the assessment (in the US an average around 10% of patients are refused), an online prescription will be drawn up by a pharmacist and mailed in a discreet manila envelope. There is a huge emphasis on aftercare and customers will be able to follow up with the same doctor to monitor use.
As for the more traditional products I tried: the blue shampoo blocks DHT to help prevent hair-loss, the serum focuses on vitamin C for its collagen benefits and cute gummy bear shaped supplements support a healthy immune system. I have tried ‘Beauty Candy’ before. (Not quite a replacement for Haribo!)
These are all fairly long term products and need a longer of period of time if you’re going to see and assess any benefits. I did want a bit more ‘glow’ from the serum though.
Hims feels like an inclusive brand rather than one trying to rinse people’s insecurities. I just kinda wish they sold the penis cacti too!”
Because the non-prescription products haven’t launched in the UK yet, they haven’t released prices, but looking at the American website they look pretty keenly priced. The prescription products are: Hair Loss (Finasteride): £35 for a month’s treatment, Sildenafil (50 mg pill): £33 for 8 pills or a months supply. There is also a £10 consultation fee on top - www.forhims.co.uk
Disclosure - The products were gifted by Hims to review
TheChicGeek says, ”The first question really should be, why did London have to wait so long? It seems almost too obvious, that, in 2018, there wasn’t a single, male specific environment offering, exclusively, pedicures and manicures for men. There are a few traditional barbers offering some hand and feet treatments, but this is the first, than I’ve ever known, to specialise.
Left - Put your feet up for 'The Modern Footman'
Situated in a private room at the back of Sharps Barber Shop on Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, Aldwyn & Sons, has the assured look and feel of a gentleman’s club. The brainchild of former city boy, the fabulously named Aldwyn Boscawen, Aldwyn & Sons is ‘taking inspiration from the role of the footman from yesteryear’.
Boscawen retrained in hand and foot care and saw the potential of a male only grooming brand offering these treatments. Literally asking men to put their feet up, ‘The Modern Footman’ has a new meaning as your slide into the leather club chair. An area long neglected by guys, me included, our trotters need some TLC every now and again.
Room for only one gentleman at a time, the small room is an intimate and relaxed affair with a collection of furniture and pictures celebrating the revival of all things Georgian during the 1980s.
I must admit, my feet are extremely ticklish, and I’m not massively keen on having my feet touched, but I also like the idea of somebody tidying up my toe nails and making my plates-of-meat look a little more presentable.
I mentioned this to Aldwyn, and, after the initial soapy soaking, he gently cut and filed by toe nails and feet - this is the wriggly bit for me - and then moisturised and massaged my feet.
Right - Aldwyn & Sons' intimate gentleman's club atmosphere
I wished I could have enjoyed it more, but that was more about my sensitivity than the actual treatment.
Pedicures for men are a great idea, especially when nearing beach or pool time, and anywhere that makes you feel relaxed, comfortable and leaving with a spring in your step has got to be a welcome addition to London’s grooming scene."
Aldwyn & Sons’ bespoke menu of treatments includes manicures priced from £30 and pedicures from £40. The signature, 45-minute ‘Modern Footman’, encompassing a pedicure of nail and cuticle work, foot filing, exfoliation and moisturising, followed by a foot massage is £50
Aldwyn & Sons, Barber & Shop on 9 Windmill Street, London www.aldwynsons.co.uk
Below - Liquor as hard as (toe) nails? Soz
Founded by footballers, Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil, UNITY, is a new men’s grooming brand that has been “designed to put people’s health and our planet on the right path to a sustainable future".
The range is comprised of 11 vegan friendly products that feature the highest grade of up to 100% natural origin formulations free from SLS & SLES, parabens, PEGS, mineral oil, silicones, synthetic colours and artificial fragrance for maximum results and performance.
In a bid to reduce the use of virgin plastic, the brand sought out a bio-plastic alternative made from sugar cane that is 100% recyclable, thus minimising the carbon footprint of the brand. Alongside the product, UNITY strives to keep sustainability at its core throughout the business, with customer deliveries arriving in fully recycled craft boxes with bio-degradable and non-toxic starch chips as packing fill.
The brand also believes in the importance of giving back, with 1% of all company revenues going towards causes that seek to make a true difference to people and planet
Left - UNITY - Hair Boost – Shampoo, £10.95, Body Boost – Shower Wash, £8.95, Skin Defence – Face Moisturiser, £11.90, Skin Detox – Face Wash, £10.95
TheChicGeek says, “In our post Blue Planet world, plastic is vilified as the devil of all packaging. If only solving our plastics problem resolved the whole of our environmental issues… But, we have to start somewhere and these guys seem passionate about this subject.
Surely the most environmentally packaged grooming product ever is the humble bar of soap? Used for millennia, is it not the reason Lush made all their products solid? The problem with trying to care for the environment is - and, let’s be honest, anything in the right direction is a good thing - you put yourself out there to be ripped apart. Anything packaged and part of consumerism can be lambasted for simply existing. I think it’s important to say you care, but you also have to acknowledge you’re part of the problem. People will still need to wash and clean themselves and how a brand facilitates this can be minimised. Ernest Supplies’ pouches spring to mind.
Launching with 11 products isn’t really saying "minimal" to me, especially when there’s a shower wash for the morning and and separate one for the evening. (British people only shower twice a day on holiday, FYI).
The main parts of the tubes are made from sugar cane, - Bulldog is another brand I know who is using this too - but the tops are a 25% mix and there’s a beard oil in a glass jar. This goes back to the main problem we have of mixed recycling issues.
The branding is pretty nondescript - it feels a bit 10 years ago - and the packaging is a bit anonymous and generic. There’s no indication of the main ingredients on each product, leaving you to guess the main scent, and saying ’99% Natural Origin’ just makes you think what’s in the other 1% then?
As for the products, they’re not bad and I think they offer value. I tried 4 out of the 11. I sampled the face wash, shampoo, body wash and moisturiser. It feels natural, hence the looseness of some of the consistencies, and the smells are light and not overpowering.
I like the smell of the face wash and moisturiser. The former is a mineral clay in a light toffee colour and the latter is coconut. There’s no lingering smell from the body wash.
This feels like a reliable range, I just wished they’d tried to be more dynamic with the branding and packaging to reflect the passion they have and also to standout in a crowded market. Whispering your green credentials won't change anything”.
Below - UNITY Founders Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil
TheChicGeek says, “You’ve probably seen this brand before. This is L’Oréal relaunching the men’s grooming brand, Baxter of California, back into Europe. Established in 1965, it is one of the oldest men’s grooming brands and was acquired by the huge beauty conglomerate, L’Oréal, in 2012. (They’ve been hoovering up a lot of brands over the last few years).
The thing I remember most about Baxter of California was the metal tubes. It gave them a retro and quality feel. These are now gone, though the packaging looks similar and I still like it. I don’t actually remember the products themselves.
Left - Some of the vast Baxter of California range
It’s a big range, but feels reliable. I tried the Oil Free Moisturiser, which I really liked and they also do an SPF option which is great. The Citrus & Herbal-Musk Deodorant, is an alcohol and Aluminum-free stick sensitive skin. I also tried a not very memorable body wash, and, the deep cleansing, black bar of soap. These could both do with a stronger and more longer lasting quality fragrance especially at these prices. Men expect and desire this, now, especially when paying a premium.
The pricing is relatively high, with similar prices to that other L’Oréal brand, Kiehl’s.
It’s simple and easy to understand, which is good, but I’d like to see more of its background and history in its products. Where’s my California sun? Which ones are new? Which ones are your heroes? This brand would be perfect to tap the outdoor/active feel that grooming should be heading in.
If I was going to pinpoint one standout product, then it's the Oil Free Moisturiser.
I’d rather buy this than L’Oréal’s new men’s brand, House 99. Read why here
Right - Everybody loves sunshine - Baxter of California needs to push more of its heritage. Or make some up?!
ITV’s hit show ‘Love Island’ didn’t just dominate people’s evening viewing, this summer, it also inspired guys to get grooming. Recent data from Kantar Worldpanel showed a spike in grooming sales during the 12 weeks to 12th August 2018. The reality show is credited with helping to drive a 16% sales surge in men’s skincare products.
“Love Island not only tugged on shoppers’ heartstrings but also their purse strings,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, which produced the report.
Left - Love Island 2018 cause a spike in male grooming sales
An incredible 3.6 million tuned into to watch Dani and Jack win the show, breaking viewing records at ITV2. The scantily clad couples, supposedly all looking for love, clearly hit the right spot when inspiring guys to make the best of themselves.
Superdrug – which has sponsored the last three series of Love Island – launched a campaign promoting the products “the Love Island boys will be using all summer”. These included avocado and manuka honey conditioner, beard oil, volcanic cleansing wash and charcoal toothpaste to get that all important Love Island smile.
Lee Kynaston, Grooming Expert, Grooming Guru, says, “Those Love Island lotharios are a televisual reminder to all men that they need to raise their grooming game. The programme, with its identikit contestant selection, is saying 'this is what men are meant to look like in 2018' and the fact that the producers seem to pick guys that conform to a stereotype - hairless, muscular, tanned, perfectly-groomed eyebrows, blindingly white teeth - reinforces the image. I mean, where are the guys with hairy chests? It reinforces the idea that men shouldn't have a scrap of body hair. Love Island is manscaping's biggest cheerleader. Everyone of them is (forgive me for saying this) 'Instagram Ready’.”
Love Island adds that competitive element to how men look. Are you good looking enough? It clearly hit the marketing sweet spot.
“Well, the premise of the show is about getting the girl (or the boy if you're a female contestant) so it automatically associates a certain physical look with romantic - and sexual - success. Quiet sad really because we all know that outside of the Love Island/Instagram bubble that that's not reality.” says Kynaston.
Since the start of the new Love Island series, the number of men having eyebrow threading treatments at Superdrug have increased by 43% compared to last year.
Less than two years ago, only one in 50 appointments at Superdrug’s ‘Brow Bars’ were for male customers - today, men make up almost ten per cent of all appointments at the retailer who has 293 Brow & Lash Bars in its stores across the UK.
According to the brow specialists in Superdrug it appears younger men are opting for perfectly shaped dyed brows whereas the 40 plus generation are opting for a ‘tidy up’.
Simon Comins, Superdrug Commercial Director, says, “Programmes such as Love Island always influence customers to try out a new look and this year we’ve already seen males customers rush in to stores to get their guy-brows shaped and tidied.
“There has been a huge shift in male grooming over the past few years with a significant increase in customers looking for male grooming products with an 11 per cent increase in sales. But, male grooming has changed now it’s as likely to mean a concealer and lipgloss as shaving products.”
The UK’s men’s grooming market is said to be worth £2 billion a year and this is continuing to grow as men start to use more products and the grooming categories increase. Even Chanel is launching a men’s line called ‘Boy de Chanel’. It will first launch in South Korea, the biggest men’s grooming market in the world, with three "essential” products: a tinted foundation, coming in four colours, a matte moisturising lip balm, and four shades of eyebrow pencil.
So, what are men buying into?
According to Mintel, “Popular reality TV shows including Love Island and TOWIE have helped to popularise a preference for hair-free bodies amongst younger men, underscoring a growing demand for men’s hair removal products.”
All six men who originally entered the Love Island villa did so with hairless chests and all but one sported some form of facial hair or designer stubble.
Josephine O’Brien, analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Male contestants were even shown lathering hair removal cream on their bodies in an open-air shower and the hairless chests of the islanders set the standard for men hitting the beach this season.
Right - Will Love Island be looked back upon as 'peak grooming'?
“This is reflected in the sales – the number of men buying hair removal cream is up a staggering 17.7% in the past year and under-45s shopping for hair removal products have shot up 35.6% in the past 12 months.
“There’s less stigma among men about these grooming practices. In fact, peer pressure is one of the factors contributing to the increase in sales, with British men more likely than their European counterparts to remove their body hair because of societal pressures. This means that brands hoping to attract shoppers should be looking at the male market and how they can target this growing group – something the likes of Nads and Veet are already capitalising on.”
Over a quarter of men (28%) have shaved their body in the past 6 months with 72% of these removing hair from their intimate parts according to the Kantar Worldpanel data.
Brands such as Nads and Veet are capitalising on the trend and bringing out products targeted at men as brands like Nair. 54% of men who remove body hair describe themselves as image conscious compared to 41% of those that don’t, while the biggest driver to remove hair is personal hygiene with 42% saying a fear of odour makes them reach for the razor.
Men are also buying “Manscaping tools like the Philips OneBlade Face & Body and you dare not be pale these days, so a spray tan or bronzer is going to be important and I think there's a real interest in perfecting products - skincare products that act like real life filters.” says Kynaston.
“Increasingly men buy for themselves. Women are no longer the gatekeepers of male grooming. Yes, they're still popping things in the shopping trolley for their bf/husbands/sons, but increasingly men are seeking out their own grooming gear and treatments. They want to take charge of how they look and they have plenty of role models for inspiration. Plus, those role models are totally comfortable with manscaping, fake-tanning and eyebrow threading. I know a lot of men who are incredibly fussy about what skin and haircare products they use and they spend ages selecting the right gear. That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago.” he says.
Love Island is a reflection of where the image conscious male is right now. This show intensifies and proliferates a single image of tanned, hairless and ripped males with glossy hair and white teeth. This type of look requires money, time and products and has clearly resonated with its male viewers and the subsequent uptick in grooming sales.
What’s interesting is, it feels like this type of look is becoming increasingly dated and men are and will be turning to more hairy, masculine(?) and natural looking ideals. It’ll be interesting to see, when we look back in a few year’s time, whether Love Island will be seen as the era of the peak groomed man?
An unbelievably lightweight, water-jelly that delivers 24-hour hydration repair plus pollution protection. The 24-hour hydrator with Clean Shield Technology™ locks in the good—like moisture—and filters out the bad - pollution.
The Clean Shield Technology™ is formulated with a moisture barrier blend of sunflower seed cake, barley extract and cucumber fruit extract to strengthen skin’s barrier, improve its resilience and balance and retain skin’s moisture levels. Hyaluronic acid acts as a natural moisture magnet/humectant.
Left - Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly - 125ml - £31
TheChicGeek says, “Are you ready for this jelly? Hoping to leave your skin ‘Bootylicious’ is the new ‘Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly’ from Clinique. ‘Dramatically Different' is one of the strongest brands in the mainstream moisturising category for women.
Guys got the 'Maximum Hydrator Gel' last year - read TheChicGeek review here - which looks similar.
This is a new clear jelly aiming to not just hydrate, but with the added benefits of protecting the skin against pollution. You’ll need this walking down Oxford Street. Just don’t breathe in!
I asked whether it should be used differently on men’s skin, but they said just treat it the same. It’s really light, moves and disappears like water. This is a good everyday moisturiser that you’ll happily keep reapplying throughout the day. During this heatwave you’ll be tempted to put it in the fridge for a cooling effect. Just don't forget you SPF on top.
I’m never sure how they can say these products hydrate for a full 24 hours, but I guess they’ll be some moisture left under testing.”
Founded in Greece by Anastasios Anastasiou, over 30 years ago, Frezyderm is well-known for its paraben-free ingredients which are gentle enough for the most sensitive of skins and guaranteed to give complexions a radiant glow.
This transparent serum sunscreen glides on with a velvety feel which is non-oily and leaves no white marks. Also perfect for those suffering with acne or rosacea, this water resistant sunscreen blurs imperfections, absorbs sebum, has a matte finish and is available in 30 and 50 SPF.
Left - Frezyderm Sunscreen Velvet Face SPF 30 - £19.50
TheChicGeek says, “Meghan Markle is supposedly a fan of this. I’m still undecided on whether that’s a good thing!
First thoughts, the packaging is cool, if a bit overly packaged for only 50ml. It’s a container within a container, which looks, at first glance, like an overweight syringe. I’d try and design this to be more streamlined because you want something easy to put in a pocket or bag or take on holiday.
The branding of ‘Frezyderm’ is too small for you to take any notice of the name. I’d never heard of it before.
As for the product, you think it’s going to be another standard white suncream and out comes an almost clear and Royal Jelly-like gel that goes on oil-like, and, just when you think it could be too greasy, it dries to a matt and soft finish.
It’s really good. It’s light and not heavy at all. I tried the SPF 30, which is plenty for a standard daytime. If you’re out in the sun for a long period or on holiday, I would reapply every couple of hours because you sweat and just to be on the safe side.
If you’re one of those guys who doesn’t think it’s worth buying a separate sun product for your face, then think again. Sun damage is the most ageing to your face, so think of this like an anti-ageing product and don’t be stingy when applying it.”
This new woody aromatic leathery fragrance was designed for Jimmy Choo by Nathalie Lorson. On top, clary sage’s aromatic imprint strikes a balance between freshness and refined texture. The tonic transparency of bergamot brings a breath of fresh air and contrasts with the spicy warmth of black pepper. The intense texture of leather reveals itself in the heart of the fragrance, assuming an extreme masculinity enhanced by the urban elegance of grey amber and the vegetal woody facets of cypress. The creamy sensuality of sandalwood provides a distinctive and addictive dry-down, supported by magnetic vanilla and vetiver.
“I composed this set of textures around three impacting elements: the aromatic and velvety texture of sage leaves, the grained and raw texture of leather and the smooth texture of sandalwood to create a masculine and modern addiction,” explains Nathalie Lorson.
TheChicGeek says “This is the Jimmy Choo Man reimagined as a carefree skateboarder. I’m thinking Rocco Ritchie or one of the Beckham boys. I thought the blue element would denote an aqua fragrance, but it’s a leather wood. It’s slightly older and more mature than the skateboarding image suggests.
There’s a sweetness of the vanilla, but it’s a classic mid-market leather fragrance that I think works better on clothes than on the skin. Nothing pokes its head above the leather parapet and I’m not sure what’s ‘blue’ about this fragrance, unless it’s your knees after a turn on that skateboard!”
Left - Jimmy Choo Man Blue - EDT - 100ml - £66
Launched in 2017, MARRAM Co offers a luxury, personalised natural shave with the finest of essential oiled infused foams and chrome hardware kits. Hoping to transform shaving into a pleasurable ritual, MARRAM Co believe that the preparation behind the shave is key and have created shaving creams to match your mood, all manufactured in the UK.
Left - MARRAM Co - "Power Up" - Metal tubes and quality fragrances makes this shaving to remember
Using organic essential oils sourced from 212 organic farms all over the world, the creams are therapeutic even for the man with the most sensitive of skin. Choose from “Wake Up Call”, “You’ve Got This”, “It’s Cold”, “Power Up”, “Night Out”, "The Morning After”, “Time Out” and “You Might Get Lucky”.
TheChicGeek says, “When you think about shaving products it’s interesting how, for something we literally put under our noses, quality fragrance hasn’t played a more dominant role.
Named after the grey-green tufts of Marram grass found on British coastal sand dunes, MARRAM, also a palindrome - the same forwards as backwards - is a collection of shaving creams offering distinctive and quality scents.
The brand centres on the traditional barbering routine of cream, bowl and brush. Most guys won’t be bothered with this faff on a daily basis, but it’s definitely for a time when you can enjoy the ritual.
The brushes, razor handle and bowls are really top quality and are priced to match. The razor takes a Gillette head and everything, including the shaving creams, is made in the UK.
Right - MARRAM Co - Brush & Bowl Set - £250
While the hardware is expensive, I like the way they’ve made the shaving cream realistic in pricing - in two sizes, £8 for 20ml and £20 for 100ml - it also means you can play with the fragrances and try a few.
There are 9 different scents, all with fun names, 7 are permanent and a couple are limited-editions. It’s light and foams up nicely and easy to apply with your hands.
I think people are willing to pay more for products with quality scents. I feel £20 is good for 100ml, here, and those essentials oils are the things that transport you, for a few seconds at least, to another place and makes shaving less of a chore and more of a pleasure. The heat and steam of shaving is ideal for these essential oils to really do their best work.
This reminds me of the shaving cream from Buly that smells like marzipan that I like - read more here - and my favourite is “Wake Up Call” with its earthy vetiver fragrance.
I think MARRAM & Co are onto something here. I like the branding, I like the metal tubes and I like the fragrances. I just need to shave more!”
Below - MARRAM Co - Shaving Cream - 20ml - £8 100ml - £20
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