A few weeks ago we invited Alex Leith from Viva Lewes up to the shop for a facial. I read what he wrote with interest, particularly the first paragraph which typifies the attitude towards skincare for men: “People kind of smirked when I told them I was going for a facial, and I must say, it did feel a little, what… metrosexual? But then I figured that male skin is pretty much the same as female skin: if women get so much out of their moisturisers and suchlike, why can’t we?”
He went on to describe how much he had enjoyed the process and how wonderful his skin felt having had a little care. Ellie used many of the same products for Alex that she uses on women clients with the exception of 2 – a balm which we have called ‘Face and Beard Food’ and a ‘Face and Beard Serum’. The Face and Beard Food is formulated to calm irritated skin either post shaving or underneath a beard. It also makes beards super soft and shiny. The Serum is a lovely treatment to keep skin supple and protected. These 2 products are our concession to producing products specifically for men – they earned their titles.
When I started A.S Apothecary there was much discussion about producing a range purely for men and I resisted. With the exception of beards, which are generally the domain of men, skincare is about skin health and matching the correct product to the person. There’s no need for a separate range other than on aesthetic grounds. A sensitive male skin needs a product to calm and protect it (particularly after shaving), an oily male skin needs a product to support and balance it, a mature male skin needs effective moisturising to keep it in good condition. It’s generally the same for men and women.
We chose to label without recourse to gender stereotypes, our bottles and jars look as lovely on a man’s shelf in the bathroom as a woman’s and that’s important to us. The essential oil blends we use for therapeutics and to scent our products are as suited to men as to women – particularly products with a #3 which have a fantastically rich, earthy warmth and #6 with its clean bright scent.
That there is now a sudden dash to make men’s skincare with manly names and hunky labels is no surprise, the big player commercial beauty industry is casting about for new customers and men’s skincare is ripe for expansion. What is sad is that rather than closing the gender gap, it seeks to exploit it. Young men are being exposed to the same undermining nonsense that women have had to endure for years – the pursuit of youth, the perfection of tone and the idea that any imperfection is a lapse in personal care, a failure to invest in the correct product. The same rubbish ingredients that have graced most commercial skincare for women are being reformulated for men with additional Pine.
It is assumed that men want such a narrow band of scent on their skin – the trees: Pine, Fir, Cedar, Juniper, Sandalwood. The resins: Vetiver, Patchouli. The citrus: Lemon, Lime. These oils are beautiful but the result is often a formulaic concoction of ‘l’air d’homme’ – a scent somewhere between lumberjack and toilet cleaner.
We sell Face Cream #3 to many men, it contains Labdanum, Rose, Orange, Myrrh, Frankincense, Bergamot and Cedar. It is a complex, multi-layered scent – the best essential oil blends do not allow you to pick out each ingredient but rather present a synergised whole that feeds the skin and lifts the spirits. This is our aim…always.
And so for all you chaps out there, do consider using skincare to protect your skin, forget any rubbish about specifically male products unless it's justified, ignore nonsense about anti-ageing, eschew ghastly rugged packaging and choose a product that smells beautiful, is carefully made, as natural as possible and your skin (and your partner) will thank you.