The Intelligent Consumer: Wash, wax and polish

cleanse, tone and moisturise; Why's skincare like car care? Because if you don't do it regularly, boys, the rot sets in. Annalisa Barbieri on products for men
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Indy Lifestyle Online
What fun has been had these past few weeks with my boy testers. Neil, 65, was stopped in the nick of time from putting eye-cream in his eyes. Feeling smug, I left him to his own devices, only to discover a few weeks later that he had been using the Neutrogena Fresh Facial Foaming Wash as a bodywash. Decadent boy. Steve "you're working on stony soil", aged 59, rejected every type of shaving aid: foam, gel, oil, dynamite. He liked his little brush and soap and mug and nothing else would do.

The younger ones were more flexible, although some sport was still to be had. Alvin, 40, was only able to hang onto a few of his products as his "mum swiped the rest". Ian, 36, complained that his Charles Worthington Impact products were the "wrong shape to fit in his cupboards", and Julian, 29, was upset by the Marks & Spencer pre-shave face wash as he couldn't "get the top on and off in a rush". Eagle-eyed, Harley-Davidson-riding David, 33, spotted that his Philosophy Oil Free Moisturiser instructed users to put it on "two minutes before applying make-up". Oh dear, a woman's product no doubt.

And this is how a great deal of men do view skincare: as make-up. You may read loads about how the sale of potions and creams for men has soared in the past few years, but it is still a habit which a fair chunk of men think of as nonsense. "Will it show?" was a common question, when all we were talking about was the application of moisturiser. In the end, it was the analogy of washing and waxing a car that got through: do it regularly and your car/face with glow, neglect it and the rot sets in.

The problem most men have with their skin is the trauma it goes through with shaving. Two makes stood out: Aveda for its Shave Emollient, pounds 11 for 225g, and After Shave Balm, pounds 20 for 225g, and Philosophy for its Razor Sharp shaving gel, pounds 9.50 for 119ml. The Aveda products, in simple, pharmaceutical- style bottles, were praised to the skies. The Balm is not astringent but heals, stops bleeding and smells luxurious. The Shave Emollient was described as "the best shaving product ever: you don't need a lot, it moisturises the bristles, comes off when you rinse and the skin doesn't feel tight. I don't know what I'm going to do if I can't afford it." The Philosophy shaving gel was a "very good top product". It gives an excellent, moisturising shave, goes on clear, so you can see what you're doing, and keeps the razor clog-free.

Philosophy's Common Man shaving cream, pounds 9.50 for 4oz, was hated by one ("Californian bollocks on the packaging, difficult to get out of the pot, clogs everything, difficult to get rid of and makes you itch") and couldn't be praised more highly by another ("I can't say enough good things about this. At first, I was sceptical, but it suited my skin and I didn't get the usual redness"). Boys, eh. Just as well - if they all liked the same thing, there'd be a lot of happy blonde girls in short skirts and lots of clever brunettes crying.

As I keep saying, expensive products really are worth it. Although cheaper ones were tested and they all did the job, none came in for the evangelical praise given to the two aforementioned products. Despite not liking the shape of his Charles Worthington Impact products, Ian did warm to the Skin Soother Post Shave Moisturiser, pounds 6 for 175ml, as it was cooling and fresh, and would consider buying it. The Fresh Start Pre-Shave-Anti-Pollution Skin Wash, pounds 3 for 175ml, was deemed a bit unnecessary. Talking about the bumpf on the bottle, he said: "Why 'alert' my skin that it's going to be shaved?"

Despite Neil's near blinding experience, the eye creams and gels were a success (we'll cover this area in more detail in the future). Neil liked applying his aptly named Clinique Daily Eye Saver, pounds 16.50 for 15ml, each afternoon (sod the instructions to apply morning or evening), finding it most refreshing.

Steve thought his RoC Active Melibiose anti-ageing eye cream, pounds 14.95 for 15ml, was miraculous. He liked applying it after his "make-up" - his moisturiser, Clinique Exceptionally Soothing Cream for Upset Skin, pounds 20 for 30ml (of which he said, "There is a psychological barrier between me and it because I think of it as make-up"). He decided it removed the creases from around his eyes and made him look like a different person.

RoC's soothing eye gel, pounds 10.95 for 15ml, and Philosophy's Eye Believe, pounds 20 for 0.5oz were also popular for calming down redness - good after a hard night's drinking or a day staring at the computer and especially cooling if kept in the fridge.

For stockists: Aveda, 0171 410 1600; Charles Worthington Impact, from Boots nationwide; Clinique, 0171 409 6953; Philosophy, 0171 636 2523; RoC, 01628 822222. Next month: treats.