Will you get him under your skin?

British men are waking up to the sweet smell of successful beauty routines - to the tune pounds 750m a year. Now Charles Worhington, celebrity hairdresser, is hoping for a whiff of the action with his new range.
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The Independent Culture
When it comes to beauty routines women, on the whole, have had it pretty easy. If we didn't receive pearls of wisdom from our mothers (mine came down pretty heavily on scab-picking and nail-biting) then there was always the press to fall back on. I remember relying on Cathy and Clare in Jackie myself, and even in today's climate of weightier teenage problems, such as achieving multiple orgasms, there is still sage advice given on how to cope with a crop of blackheads - thank the Lord.

But men, now that's a different matter. Who teaches them about T-zones and exfoliation? How many fathers take their pimply adolescent offspring to one side and hesitatingly enquire: "Now then son, have I ever told you about moisturisers?" Not many, I'll bet.

More's the pity; they don't know what they've been missing. Or, at least, not until now. After aeons in the beauty doldrums, men (and, more specifically, British men) are starting to come out and admit that, all right, a dollop of face cream after a shave does feel quite nice. They're recognising that a passing interest in facial preservation does not mean you've taken leave of your masculine senses.

According to a recent report by the global markets analysts Euromonitor, British men are spending more money than ever on toiletries, and that's not just soap and deodorant, but moisturisers - the lot. This year, the total British market for men's toiletries will reach pounds 753m plus, compared with pounds 570m five years ago, and a pathetic pounds 6m back in 1960.

Alan Rex, an immaculately-turned-out 30-year-old payroll assistant, is living proof that it works. "My skin is quite sensitive," he admits carelessly, "and feels dreadful if I don't put something on it after a shave. But I don't like anything too greasy - I have to find something that suits my skin."

Anthony Hotson, 43, an investment banker, is a more recent convert to skin care. "I've recently been persuaded to use Clinique M-Lotion - the stuff in the grey bottle - rather than my wife's moisturiser. But I just put it on in the sun or when skiing. Ten years ago I wouldn't have noticed if my face was dry and peeling, but I do now, and don't like it. I wouldn't be happy going to a women's beauty counter to buy the stuff, though," he adds.

Having switched some time ago to wet-shaving ("less drying on the skin"), Duncan Fox, a 34-year-old food manufacturing analyst, is now a fully paid- up skin care devotee. "I spend more now, because I can, but also my appreciation of better quality products has changed," he says. "I always wear a cream in winter to replace the moisture, because the cold and wind dries out the skin."

At the top end of the beauty market Lanvin l'Homme is launching the complete works in the UK next month and Fendi has launched Life Essence for men. But for those who prefer a price point somewhere between designer and supermarket (but preferably with packaging fit to be seen in public) there's a new name in skin care: Charles Worthington.

Worthington is a well-established London hairdresser who is fast achieving star status (he was recently seen on the image programme Looking Good, and is a regular on The Clothes Show), but is known for approachability as well as his clutch of celebrity clients.

Two years ago he introduced a general hair care range, but has now turned his attention to a total grooming (skin and hair care) collection for men, called Impact. It will be on sale in major Boots stores next month, price between pounds 3 and pounds 6.

So, what's different about this one? Worthington has a ready answer for both questions. "I'm concerned about the skin on the scalp, so why stop at the forehead?" he asks reasonably. "And shaving is actually skin care and hair care, so Impact is a logical step for me. I'm aiming at an educated audience that is not prepared to pay for a designer fragrance range. They're probably using a cheaper product at the moment but want to upgrade to something that does the job, and doesn't cost the earth but still looks good. Style is everywhere now, and the average person is so switched on to it."

So a lot of thought has gone into the packaging. No gunmetal and black here - nothing so overtly butch and, frankly, passe. But instead a bright, wet-suit yellow for the hair products and ice blue for the skincare ones. Worthington, who trained as an architect, has an eye for the practical and the visually pleasing. Impact bottles are chunk,y easy to grip and elliptically shaped, narrow enough to fit on a bath ledge "And they can be turned upside down so nothing is wasted," he adds.

But do they work? All the products have been tested on Charles Worthington salon customers, but I decided to give them another going over by a couple of sceptics.

My husband was unwilling to be prised away from his very expensive jar of moisturiser, but he had to admit that the Skin Soother was satisfyingly "untacky" (a big bugbear of his) and that the shaving foam was "really creamy" but went on usefully thinly, which, he says, allows you to see where you're going with a razor.

Anthony, a fortysomething architect and grooming innocent with perfect skin, was not convinced that he needed any sort of skincare regime. Forced to use everything, he had to own up to "quite enjoying the experience", even if it did mean extra minutes in the bathroom.