Tam­ing my in­ner war­rior with a man makeover

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Feature -

Male groom­ing prod­ucts are run­ning off the shelves . Cu­ri­ous to see what all the fuss is about, skin­care novice Pat Fitz­patrick puts him­self in the hands of three beauty ex­perts

IHAD to go back to the Tom Ford counter in Brown Thomas to get my beard tamed. I was ini­tially plan­ning to get it done at the Clin­ique counter, as­sum­ing that Carol and the team there would have a range of beard groom­ing prod­ucts. They do usu­ally, but as Carol told me the de­mand is so strong, it’s very hard to keep beard prod­ucts in stock.

It was a theme re­peated at the three coun­ters I vis­ited in Brown Thomas in Cork — the male groom­ing boom is show­ing no signs of run­ning out of steam. Each of the women — Louise McCarthy at Tom Ford, Carol O’Con­nell at Clin­ique and Elaine Henry at Ri­tu­als — told me they were hav­ing their best year ever across the male ranges. It’s like men are mak­ing up for lost time.

You could look at a David Bowie doc­u­men­tary and be fooled into think­ing that men have been dab­bling with make-up since the 1970s. We all know that’s not true. Al­most ev­ery man of my gen­er­a­tion (I’m 51) grew up think­ing we’d make it to the grave with­out com­ing into con­tact with a sin­gle pump of mois­turiser, let alone a €45 brow sculp­tor from Tom Ford. And yet, this is where we are now.

At least some of us are. For ex­am­ple, I don’t know any men in my cir­cle who use groom­ing prod­ucts, be­yond a bit of af­ter­shave or mois­tur­is­ing sun cream. But then we’re old men and we don’t watch enough Love Is­land. Those who do are clearly fu­el­ing some kind of boom, with a re­port from Kan­tar World­panel re­veal­ing a 16% growth in male skin­care prod­ucts in Bri­tain while the show was on dur­ing the sum­mer. Add in the re­turn of the Queer Eye make-over sen­sa­tion on Net­flix, and there is clearly a surge in men look­ing after them­selves.

I have two things I want to get out of my trip to Brown Thomas. I want to pro­tect the skin on my face and I want to con­trol my beard. As a bonus, I would like to look 45 again. If my wife found me ir­re­sistible when I got home, that would be great too.

A quick word on make-up. I won’t be us­ing any. First of all, I wear make-up once a week on RTÉ’s To­day Show with Maura and Dáithí, and it makes me look like a frag­ile ghost (off cam­era, at least.) Se­cond, I’m not able for the tyranny of make-up. I might be a stuck-in-my­ways old grump, but at least I can al­ways leave the house at 90 sec­onds no­tice, and have never had to ap­ply mas­cara in a mov­ing car. (At least not to my knowl­edge.)

I start my visit at the Tom Ford counter. I don’t know any­thing about the brand, but I have this weird feel­ing that I need to buy it. Louise, who must have the most in­fec­tious laugh in Ire­land, in­tro­duces me to their oil-free daily mois­turiser. Be­fore you con­sider an in­tro­duc­tion of your own, it costs €90 for a 50ml tube that Louise reck­ons would last for about four months. When she puts it on my face, it feels light and re­fresh­ing, with a pros­per­ous aroma that hinted at hunt­ing pheas­ant with a very rich banker. I never knew I liked this aroma un­til now.

It made me feel good about my­self. This is why I’m slow to dis­miss male­groom­ing as a sign the world has gone stone mad. It’s just an­other group of men look­ing after them­selves, along with talk­ing about feel­ings and go­ing on 50k cy­cles. And there are much worse ways to spend our money than look­ing after our skin.

Or our beards. We were sup­posed to be past peak beard about five years ago, but now it looks like they’ll never go away. Mine is a bit un­wieldy and wiry these days, so Louise rubs in some Tom Ford con­di­tion­ing beard oil (€47 for 30 ml), for what is known as beard tam­ing. (I got my eye­brows tamed as well — the male groom­ing in­dus­try likes the word tam­ing, pre­sum­ably to make me feel like I’m break­ing in a stal­lion, rather than just rub­bing oil on my face.)

The best thing about this oil was the smell, of to­bacco and vanilla. It had an in­tox­i­cat­ing whiff of Mad Men about it. I like that, maybe too much, be­cause in the fol­low­ing days, I asked a cou­ple of women to sniff my beard, and they seemed un­com­fort­able with the term.

Next up, I went over to Carol at the Clin­ique counter. She reck­ons she has just the thing for my rud­di­ness, the sun­burn I can get in Jan­uary if the wind is blow­ing. She uses a Clin­ique skin di­ag­nos­tic tool (for men) on an iPad and tells me that I have nor­mal skin, which is re­as­sur­ing.

She then puts on some of Clin­ique’s Su­per En­er­giser with SPF 40, de­signed to pro­tect my skin in all kinds of weather. It has pep­tides and tau­rine, two must-haves in skin care these days, ac­cord­ing to Carol. It’s a hot seller as well, at around €50 for 48ml, pop­u­lar among out­door types look­ing to pro­tect against wind and sun dam­age, when they are out walk­ing or on their bike. I could see my­self work­ing this into my skin­care reg­i­men if I had one.

In the end, skin­care is about go­ing toe to toe with the age­ing process. So I head up to Elaine at the Ri­tu­als counter and ask her if she can knock 10 years off my age. Ri­tu­als have a Sa­mu­rai range for men, in­spired by the fact that Sa­mu­rai war­riors were big into per­sonal ap­pear­ance, ac­cord­ing to Elaine. (Ob­vi­ously we men can’t get enough of the whole tam­ing, war­rior theme).

Elaine puts on their Sa­mu­rai Anti-Age­ing cream (€29.50 for 50ml), en­riched with Ja­panese shisho, which is known for its skin pro­tect­ing qual­i­ties in that part of the world.

It didn’t knock 10 years off me there and then, but you can’t have ev­ery­thing.

In fair­ness to Elaine, and the other peo­ple who looked after me in Brown Thomas, there is a lot to be said for look­ing after your­self and your skin.

When I was telling Kate Noonan, one of Cork’s top make-up artists, about my Brown Thomas visit the fol­low­ing day, she warned about de­vel­op­ing deep wrin­kles if you ex­er­cise out­doors. You could post a let­ter through them, was how she put it.

It’s still not enough to make me take on a skin reg­i­men. I’m just too old to want to look young, I can’t get my head around ex­fo­li­at­ing, mois­tur­is­ing and tam­ing my­self war­rior-style be­fore I head out the door. But I’m glad went to Brown Thomas and opened my eyes, not least be­cause I’m kind of ad­dicted to the scent of to­bacco and vanilla.

If you want to know if my wife finds that ir­re­sistible, you can mind your own busi­ness!

“As a bonus, I would like to look 45 again. If my wife found me ir­re­sistible when I got home, that would be great too

Pic­ture: De­nis Mini­hane

NEW MAN: Pat Fitz­patrick with Elaine Henry, counter man­ager, Ri­tu­als at Brown Thomas, Cork.

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