City: Tried and tested

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The Independent Culture
Cityplus asked three Independent journalists to road-test Superdrug's new range of men's toiletries: Jack O Sullivan, associate editor; Randeep Ramesh, transport correspondent, and David Robson, features editor.

Jack O'Sullivan

I'm someone who likes to smell good. I'll usually add essential oils - normally lavender - to my bath. And I regularly use a light aftershave, "L' eau de Contadour" by L'Occitane, which is made up from lavender, sage, mint and lemon. So I was initially excited about the idea of the new Superdrug range, but disappointed by the reality. For one thing, the smell of the bath oils and shower gel, rather than being discreet, were overpowering. I knew something had gone wrong when my wife asked if I had poured toilet cleaner over myself. The aftershave, "Brrr!", was so harsh that I wondered whether I'd gone in for a skin peel rather than a freshening up. I was, I confess, prejudiced against the body spray, which always seems like a perfume too far, and when I emerged smelling like a male locker-room my prejudices were confirmed.

Superdrug's range is presumably aimed at people who like natural products. I was completely put off when I looked at the ingredients and found, in addition to certain essential oils, a cocktail of chemicals I had never heard of and whose effects are unknown to me. I certainly have no desire to soak myself in such a brew. But, perhaps most important, men have surely moved on from wearing overfragant products reminiscent of cheap, teenage Brut aftershaves. Come on Superdrug - treat us like grown-ups.

Randeep Ramesh

These fragant potions may be meant meant to "wash worries clean away" and "promote a positive mental attitude", but of course we all know the only thing the smelly solutions really want to sell is sex. Yes, spray on that "stimulating and refreshing blend of Rosemary, Lemon, Grapefuit, Juniper and Cypress" - sold as "Yesss!" - and watch the pool of pretty women emerge around you. Unfortunately, this theory does not seem to work in practice.

And while I was more than happy to wallow in a bath of "Aaahh!" for an hour, any noticeable effect on the opposite sex was neglible. Less than neglible. Nothing. Then again, you get what you pay for and at pounds 2.49 for 300ml of the green and purple oily mix, you can't expect a quiverful of Cupid's arrows.

The Superdrug range was not all bad news however. The "invigorating shower gel" - "Woah" was inoffensive. Priced at an oh-so-reasonable pounds 1.99 and described by the manufacturers as a "perfect morning pick-me-up when there's no-one else around", the mauve mixture proved a hit with the ladies. OK, so they were my mother's friends...

Most men I handed the 125ml bottle of "Brrr!" to thought the clear green liquid was a potent liqueur I had acquired from a dodgy duty free shop. And you do run the risk of being sniggered at for days if your friends find any bottle marked "Ooh!" - actually a shaving oil - in your bathroom cabinet.

The point about men's grooming products is that they are aspirational. You may not look like the greased Adonis in the Aramis adverts, but you can smell like him. Unfortunately the image conjured up by the Superdrug collection is less haute couture than High St shopping.

David Robson

Last week my family witnessed extensive and humiliating testing of cosmetics on a live animal. Avert your eyes, Anita Roddick! I was that animal, and while exposure to Superdrug's "Woah!" shower gell, "Aaahh!" bath oil, "Brrr!" after shave and "Yesss!" body spray caused me no pain, it did cause me some confusion and self-loathing.

I have used no cosmetics since early teenage experiments with an aftershave called Old Spice (slap it on and wince) and the smell of myself when Brrr- ed and Woah-ed was difficult to endure. I have rejoiced in my own undisguised odour throughout my life, happy in the belief that men who have recourse to eau-de-this and fragrance-de-that usually have problems that are not entirely olfactory. Sorry, Superdrug, but I think of myself as sufficiently fragrant already. Bottle my scent and call it "Hubris".

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