Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Man In The Mirror

The Man in the Mirror

Male grooming is nothing new. From massage at the roman baths to ‘pec’ implants the male of the species has been keeping an eye on his looks.

Ever since poor Echo got thrown over by Narcissus – because he was fatally in love with himself – we've known that men can be just as self-absorbed as females are reputed to be.

The New Narcissus?
Figures speak for themselves and a recent survey from Salon Services suggests more than 21,000 salon jobs could be created this year alone due to male converts. One figure cited is £233 on fake tanning every 3.8 weeks.  However, it’s not surprising to find the majority of these particular converts are found in Wales and the North West of England, where real sunshine is somewhat of a rarity. But almost a fifth of salon customers now are men seeking a range of services – from manicures to facials, according to data from more than 2,200 outlets.

If all that ‘salon’ stuff sounds a bit too fey for your liking, and you want to look like a ‘man’s man’ you can buy products on-line such as ‘Bulldog Natural Grooming’, ‘Mandom’ or Kiehl’s ‘Facial Fuel’. You’ll have no idea what it does, but it sounds seriously Top Gear and full of testosterone. For the retro-lovers, check out the three million sites that a Google search throws up when you type in ‘waxed moustache’, humorously described by The Handlebar Club of London as "a hirsute appendage of the upper lip and with graspable extremities.” However, as moustaches and elegant face-fuzz came back into fashion over 2013, its knock-on effect was a drop in sales of razors and shaving products mirrored by an upward trajectory as more men across Europe adopt a skincare routine.

According to the industry website, the desire to look healthy and stylish in later life is driving sales of post-shave cosmetics that offer SPF protection and moisturising products. In Russia, this desire accounted for $211m sales last year. Coincidentally there was also a rise in photos of middle-aged men posing shirtless with guns.

But is this development of male skincare a necessity or a fad driven by marketing gurus? The truth is men’s skin really is different to women’s.

In short, there are four points of difference. Men tend to get ingrown hairs; they have more active sebaceous glands which are larger and more numerous; they can suffer from persistent redness (erythrosis) because of the fragility of facial capillaries and a higher concentration of these especially on the cheekbones, and they tend to acquire dry skin because of the high astringency of alcohol-based products. And it is thicker. That might cause a few knowing looks in some households, but it is a fact and is due to male hormones called androgens, such as testosterone. Male skin will thin with age, but has a 25% advantage over female skin. The density of the underlying support network of collagen is closely related to the level of testosterone and it’s possibly why women appear to age more quickly. However, all those androgens also account for why men have longer lasting and more severe acne. Mother Nature has no favourites.

Both sexes have resorted to quackery for their beauty boost. In the days before benzyl peroxide, blemishes were treated with applications of mercury (as was syphilis, spawning the charming saying, “A night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury). It was easily absorbed but had a variety of side effects including tremors, fatigue and death.

Lucky modern man has a range of safe products and equipment to prolong their youthful looks; correcting and protecting the skin. Discreet appointments with Botox and fillers aside, top of the league is probably Microdermabrasion – the salon’s equivalent to sandblasting. Sterile crystals are delivered at speed across the skin’s surface removing dead cells, blackheads and debris in their path. Second must be peels; quick, effective and reassuringly scientific, a peel can treat ageing, acne, scarring and a host of other unwelcome indications. Both of the above can also be used to clear blemishes on the back and chest. Finally, a little electrolysis can be a boon too. It’s not only for the females who need a little ‘tidy’ but in the hands of an advanced therapist, your skin tags, thread veins and sun spots can be decimated in minutes. Not a candle or lavender pillow in sight.

Geraldine Walters
Btec HND/Cert Ed

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Binge & Bake Diet Books

I just realised that I once shared the stage with  Daniel Day-Lewis. It struck me as I was speed reading an article about the great actor in this week's Observer magazine. And it's true; I did.

As I was skimming its sister paper last weekend (I don't have the luxury of a full, indulgent digestion of the weekend papers now) I was struck by something else. But maybe that's the purpose of newspapers - to present something new. Anyway, The Weekly Charts that appear in the Review section of the Saturday Guardian and which show book sales in the UK, are an interesting read for those of us who, as I said before, have little leisure time on their hands. A list is a good thing to read. No long sentences or complicated concepts to grasp. But they can be truly enlightening.

On 12th January 2013 there were eight books competing for the attention of our stomachs - not our minds. Four were cookery books (nos. 1,5,7,and 10) in Hardback non-fiction and four were diet books (nos. 1,2,7 and 10) in the Paperback non-fiction.

The fact that THREE of those ratings match each other leads me to assume, quite rationally I think, that the fatties who bought 'The FAB Diet' (Rosemary Conley, Arrow £6.99) crumbled under exposure to the delights on display in 'Nigellissima:Instant Italian' (C&W £26). As with top notch chocolate, her much more plumptious price tag was no deterrent. Both are riding high at number seven in their respective charts.

From that example, it is easy to extrapolate that our love of food is equal to our desire to be thinner. But which of these tomes will last? Which are designed to stay in our kitchens? In my house, the hardback book is a purchase of love. It reflects a desire to keep said book for years, to be cherished and enjoyed by many others. My oldest book is a copy of 'Boris the Bearhunter'. Nothing about Mr Johnson, but a book of boyish escapades that was loved and handled by my Grandfather as a child. It celebrates its centenary this year.

I'd love to know if anyone who has, say, Paul McKenna's 'The Hypnotic Gastric Band' (Bantam £12.99) clutched close to their over-sized bosom, is simulataneously gorging on the recipes and visual feasts of Paul Hollywood's 'How to Bake' (Bloomsbury £20).  Which makes someone feel most guilty? Being fat, or reading how to get fat?
I think the price of these books is an indication of their intended shelf-life. Diets come and go; some work and some fail.  They are the post-Christmas self-inflicted punishment (often called a 'New Year's Resolution') for those who don't do Lent. But a good cook book is for ever. I often use my Grandmother's edition of 'The Radiation Cookbook' which was a huge publishing success in 1932 but for some reason somewhat fell out of favour at the end of the Second World War. I bet it's being read long after the diets books have stopped being flavour of the month.

And as for me and Daniel Day-Lewis? We were both very young and I was studying English A Level. He was performing with the travelling arm of the Royal Shakespeare Company and we were taking part in a study workshop in Wisbech, adjacent to the Fens of Cambridgeshire. He was the most handsome Romeo, displaying the naked, tortured soul for which he is now so famed, and I fell in love at first sight. He never even spoke to me but we did share the stage.