Ok, I went to ask them, that is, my usual first point of contact, the fabulous ladies in John Lewis manning (ladying?) the concession stands there representing the major producers of skin care stuff and hugely knowledgeable and passionate about their products.
But…after hours of chatting and discussing and exploring with a few of them I am, I think along with all these lovely ladies, caught between a couple of concepts that I find troubling and contradictory. I’m so keen to get blokes to use products that it’s almost a sickness. But I want them to use the right ones! Yes, it’s easier for men and the rugged look is hot (I’m not helping my own argument here am I?!) and their skin is more resistant to ageing blah blah but why not protect and maintain what you have and keep it in tip top condition?
As the Lush Ladies at the John Lewis Aveda Counter (LL@JLAC) point out, they sell heaps of men specific hair products as men clearly like to keep their hair in texturised and glossy condition so why not their skin? http://www.aveda.co.uk/supercat/index.tmpl?CATEGORY_ID=CAT5339 Is it up to the partners of these wily skin product resistant chaps to slowly break them into submission, or, the responsibility of the product manufacturers to break down the barriers and educate and liberate the inner vanity of men? I was labouring under the false opinion that if a bloke wanted to moisturise or cleanse he’d just go to the relevant store and buy the relevant products and hey pongo he’d be cleansed, toned and moisturised in no time. But oh no…not the case. The John Lewis crowd uniformly said that men make up a tiny percent of their clientele but they love it when a man comes in and they get to work on him. There was a slightly unnerving glint in their eyes when they said this…
It seems that men largely rely on the contents of their girlfriends cabinets (not a euphemism) and that’s great in the sense that at least they are taking care of themselves but not so great as it’s unlikely their skin is the same type and so it might not be the right product for them. I mean this in the sense that although many ranges are designed to be unisex there might be a discrepancy between skin types – oily or dry or combination.
It’s simply not in the realms of sanity for a company, that has spent a gazillion pounds packaging and marketing a ‘men’s skincare range’, to suddenly say its all spin and discontinue it amidst a torrent of ‘they’re all the same’ commentary. But are they? Well, some say yes and some say no and some don’t even differentiate.
Eve Lom, for instance, does not even claim their range is unisex, however, the lady at the Eve Lom counter points out that individual products like the Dynaspot http://www.evelom.com/ and Rescue Mask are good for men too but they often find them through their partners. Déclor has a small men’s range but it seems to be of limited use (i.e for normal skin only) http://www.decleor.co.uk/men-care but if you ask them then they’ll recommend other products especially for sensitive or oilier skins but from the women’s range. The bronze packaging has a look of suntan lotion, I think, but masculine enough for the male, one product fits all, market. Shiseido is ‘engineered’ for the different skin of men, it’s not just a fragrance or packaging change, I’m firmly told. http://www.shiseido.co.uk/men.htm#/men/shiseido-men. Like a lot of brands that promote the different women’s and men’s ranges the reasons given are the same. Thicker, oilier skin and the effects of shaving. I point out that most men only shave a third of their faces so what about the rest of their face? I got that ‘hmmm he’s got troublemaker written all over his face’ kinda vibe from the staff so I smiled wanly and swept out. The non differentiaters like Aveda promote a lifestyle and environmental outlook.
A word of warning for those completely against animal testing: AVEDA is now owned by Estee Lauder and although claims it isn’t available in countries where testing is required by law, Estee Lauder has the usual caveat these mega companies have stating: “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law (my italics).”
Products for the world not genders. With the afore mentioned exception of hair products (formulated to tackle the thicker scalps of men…well, that’s no surprise to hear is it? Men have thicker heads…no brainer!) they make their products for everyone. Like all the staff at these concessions in John Lewis (beware the agency fill-in staff…surly and less knowledgeable #justsaying) they actively encourage (plead) that men come in to see them (they’re all naughty, naughty girls) and discuss their needs and then the girls can chose and create the ideal regime for the individual. So if you’re a one product guy with dry skin then boom! Sorted. A guy that wants a bit of a pamper process then boom! Sorted. See? Now we just have to get the blokes in there…! How do we do this? James Bond product placement? George Clooney in residence on a leather chaise? Beer? Pole dancers…? Hmmm…
Ok once they’re in (let’s follow through with this fantasy skin care world for a moment) what’s the benefit of being there?
This reminds me of my recent promenade near the Biotherm counter. Although I love the Blue Therapy Serum (Algae and plankton) I was staggered that the staff immediately pointed me to the men’s range!! They claim to have the most popular men’s range in the world and I’m delighted for them but quite apart from the fact I might be looking for a present etc where’s the sense?! Duh! Also, nothing makes me feel a tad vomity more than a display that announces the offer, ‘live like a man!’ With pictures of randoms playing snooker(!) and generally stood about doing manly things but with perfect bodies and perfectly hydrated skin. Sheesh…! Who really falls for this stuff?!?! And I really want to like Biotherm as they’ve been running a men’s range for over twenty-five years and I love their Mission: Skin Rescue – it’s a great bit of design. http://www.biotherm.co.uk/men/services/media/PDF/about_skin-rescue_en.pdf
As the lovely Liz Earle rep pointed out, many ranges (like theirs) are designed for skin. All skin. Yes, they have a men’s range but it’s very similar, with fragrance and packaging changed to appease the males maleness. http://uk.lizearle.com/mens?gclid=CIusoJvN8rMCFePHtAodnAQAxA BUT she uses the man’s body wash as it’s the same lovely natural base but with a more spicy smell (it is a sexy mix of bergamot, patchouli, vetiver and aloe…ding dong. It’s like their Botanical Essence de Parfam with the girly bits taken out! The women’s washes do smell a tad less delicious – more floral – but there are more options…) and if a man came to see them she would recommend according to his needs and skin type. She would cross-recommend definitely and even, more unusually, recommend the men’s range for a women! The lightness of the men’s moisturiser is often perfect for ladies with oiler skin…#toplizearletip. Liz Earle benefits from having a colour scheme that isn’t particularly gender associated (it’s actually based on the colours of the sands on the Isle of Wight)
So the non-man’s range isn’t too girly – it’s pretty uni-sexy in its aesthetics. It employs the same basic ingredients and ethos even down to the hot cloth action that is required with the cleansers etc. but the cloth has been man-ed up with a brown overlocked edge (so gay, even know it’s called that!) instead of a sea green one. This hot cloth malarkey is clearly the flannel for the twenty first century.
Can’t help thinking we are just going back in time. Whatever next? Crinolin? The snood? Shaving with a piece of sharpened flint? Lord they’ll be asking kids to read books next…anyhoo…I digress.
Liz (I feel I’m on first name terms with her now) doesn’t promote anti-ageing – the products are designed to make the best of what you’ve got. Calm down in the cheap seats it’s good sound advice actually. If you start early and use good, nourishing and correct-for-your-skin products you can keep the beautiful skin you were born into and keep it lush and vibrant. It’s proageing at its best. But they readily admit that a majority of men prefer the packaging of the men’s range and opt for it over anything else.
A word of warning for those completely against animal testing: Liz Earle is now owned by AVON – again the usual caveat: “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law (my italics).”
So, is it easier for men (and women – after all not all women have the time or energy to mooch about the department stores either) just to pick up the products during the weekly shop (again wise words from the LL@ JLAC)? What we don’t want here is to have persuaded a man to brave the world of skin care and come away with the wrong product and be put off forever. Get him in, get him hooked, remove any ridiculous and pointless stigma and then we have a groomed and glowing man to swoon over for the rest of our lives. Dreamy.
But does it really make a difference (please answer the question, Mathew!) Well, I don’t bloody well know do I?!? …you’ll have to decide!! Is it as simple, yet annoyingly time consuming, as trying a load of stuff till you find the ones you like and then just using them?!? But skin changes as time wears relentlessly on so that means changing them to suit…but hey we do that with our clothes, hair and partners don’t we?!?
However, this is all very well BUT…the other thing we have to work on is the terrorising and confidence obliterating attitudes towards getting and looking older (your actual age). When this isn’t a crime, and youth isn’t prized above water, then we might have a world where grey and brown packaging isn’t needed to persuade a man to do something he should desire to do simply because it’s a good idea, and women won’t need to buy into a dream to achieve an impossible…or otherwise we are simply all going to end up looking like the love child of Joan Rivers and Dolly Parton (no I don’t mean Nicole Kidman) and thems our choices folks. I know which I’d rather be…!
(Presses publish and reaches for the telephone…’Hello? Dr Face von Liftingstein?’…)
I’m KIDDING…! It’s the peer pressure…it’s getting to me…