What’s So Expert About L’Oreal Men Expert?

L'Oreal Men Expert.

The male skincare shelves at my local pharmacy are becoming increasingly busy with new arrivals. But even among all the clutter, the L’Oreal Men Expert range manages to stand out with its overtly masculine and you-can’t-ignore-me packaging that speaks to modern, active and successful men.

It also helps that the French beauty giant has pumped big bucks into its visibility by using F1 champ Lewis Hamilton as its global ambassador. Whether Mr H actually uses L’Oreal Men Expert is a moot point. I recently used some of the products from the ever-growing range that even includes a tattoo reviver. Unfortunately, that particular product is not available in South Africa.

Lewis Hamilton for L'Oreal Men Expert.
WINNING FORMULA: Lewis Hamilton for L’Oreal Men Expert.

These are my quick impressions of the following L’Oreal Men Expert products:

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash

Don’t know about you, but it’s not only my brain that needs a kick-start in the a.m. My face could do with some assistance too. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash does the trick with its soap-free, pH neutral formula. It contains the very snazzy-sounding Cryo-Tonic and Active Defence System (ADS). These mean it refreshes, cleanses and reinforces the skin, without leaving it drier than a Cape Town drought.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash

Activated charcoal is known for its purifying properties. It attracts all the nasty stuff our skins are exposed to through the process of adsorption. Everyone from Clinique to Tom Ford now has a charcoal-based product of some sort. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash is the best mass-market charcoal product I have come across so far. This product takes on shine, blackheads, stickiness, dullness and enlarged pores with voomah. I love how the black gel transforms into a white lather. You only need a tiny amount of this high-performance baby to do the job, so best squeeze the tube g-e-n-t-l-y.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion

With vitamin C, anti-oxidant, the above-mentioned ADS and SP15, L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion combats a variety of skin issues. These include dryness, dullness and sun exposure. I used it in the morning and evening, and noticed how easily it is absorbed. However, as I need a higher SPF for my, ahem, mature skin, I wouldn’t continue to use this product. I would recommend this one for gents in their 30s, though, as it’s a good all-rounder.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion, R129 for 50ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser

No doubt you’ve heard of creatine as a nutritional supplement. How about in a skincare product? Some studies suggest that when applied topically, it perks up the skin. And I could always do with some of that. The headline ingredient in L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser is this organic acid. This product promises to revitalise and moisturise lacklustre skin when used morning and night. It’s no-nonsense stuff that works a charm. Cool packaging too!

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser, R124.95.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser.

Fragrance Review: L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Before I share my thoughts on L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade, let me ’fess up. I have a soft spot for L’Occitane en Provence fragrances. Not just because the company (now owned by Austrian billionaire Reinold Geiger) still uses many traditional Provençal methods and ingredients in its products. But because last year, when I was man-down for almost a month in a clinic, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat was my fragrance companion. I had to pack super-light, so I grabbed Eau de Cedrat, which I had not yet worn properly.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat

With its notes of cedrat (citron) bark, bergamot, nutmeg, ginger and cashmere wood, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat became my fragrance pick-me-up during that tricky time. So I will always associate healing and upliftment with this special scent.

AND WHAT ABOUT L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE EAU DE CADE?

Coincidentally, there’s also a healing angle to L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade. Of course, juniper berries (actually, seed cones) are best-known for the flavour they give to gin and their antiseptic properties. But that’s not the reason why I really like this EDT.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

There’s an unmistakable pink peppercorn note whenever I first apply this fragrance. As I love a pink peppercorn note, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade’s initial sharpness does it for me. Give it time to develop… And the juniper berry, bergamot, cedar wood and cade (the oil of the wood of the juniper berry shrub) come through. And then there’s iris and labdanum to soften the effect.

Karine Debreuil – the nose behind Gucci Pour Homme II, Yves Saint Laurent Vice Versa, Lalique Chypre Silver, Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Grosellina and the classic L’Occitane en Provence Eau des Baux – created L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Respect to her for creating such a simply constructed, yet distinctive fragrance, with a most appealing woody, smoky character.

L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT and L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat EDT, both R890 for 100ml.

PS: L’Occitane en Provence has several collections, including Baux, Cade and Cedrat. These feature body and skincare products that I have yet to try.

Beauty In The Strangest Of Places

Beauty - Jasmine.

Firstly, credit where it’s due, plus an apology if I am bastardising its original meaning. The title of this blog post is a paraphrasing of a quote about beauty from designer Alexander McQueen.

“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places. It’s the ugly things I notice more, because other people tend to ignore the ugly things.”

It comes from the book Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). I did not get to see the retrospective show of McQueen’s creations. However, I do get intense, visceral pleasure paging through this book, which highlights the Scottish designer’s maverick approach.

Beauty - Savage Beauty.
SHOW AND TELL: An image from the book Savage Beauty.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have not had a proper holiday for years (workaholic, moi?) and I am yearning for some travel / escape / change of scenery / passport-stamping.

The good news is that I have a family road-trip coming up in mid-August. In the meantime, I explore the idea of beauty as a tonic. These are just some of the things in my immediate vicinity that do the trick.

LIME LIGHT

Can a leaf lift your spirits? Oh yes, if it’s a lime leaf. I get a kick from rubbing lime leaves between my fingers. This releases a fresh, crisp, citrus scent that never fails to captivate me. And the lime itself calls for a mojito.

Beauty - Lime Leaves.

VITAMIN SEA

While the Amalfi vacation will have to wait, Tom Ford Sole di Positano will do for now. There’s a veritable citrus and floral cocktail in this EDP, including notes of Calabrian bergamot, bitter orange, lemon, shiso leaf, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lily of the valley and neroli. Alas, on my skin, it dissipates very quickly. A case of fleeting beauty…

Beauty - Tom Ford Sole di Positano.

INDIAN SUMMER

We are having a very warm winter here in Johannesburg, with day-time temperatures averaging above 20ºC. As a result, the jasmine is out even earlier than usual. I am not complaining. Its rich scent is my imaginary olfactory ticket to an Indian summer.

Beauty - Jasmine.

VINTAGE VIEW

There’s something very re-assuring about a vintage treasure. I adore this kit, a gift from my sister. The leather case contains two functional glass bottles and glass containers. There’s no company or brand name on it, so I can’t trace its origins. And, you know what, it doesn’t matter.

Beauty - Vintage.

Stranger Things: Weird & Wonderful Beauty Ingredients

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

From civet musk (extracted from the animal’s anal glands) to caviar extract, the beauty industry has often used some pretty bizarre ingredients. All in the quest to create the ultimate perfume or skincare product.  With their exotic and out-of-the-world ingredients, the following three products rank high on the weird-o-meter.

The Ambergris Effect

Ambergris is one of the most sought-after ingredients in perfumery, fetching anything from $100 000 upwards for 1,5kg of the precious stuff. Contrary to popular belief, ambergris is not sperm whale vomit. It’s a by-product of the sperm whale’s digestive system and is excreted by these creatures. This may float in the ocean for decades before being washed up on the shore in solid form. It then becomes highly prized by perfumers for its musky (some would say fishy) quality.

Unusual Ingredients: Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique

As it is very expensive and rare, ambergris is not used in perfumes such as Chanel No5 anymore.  Ambrox or ambroxan is now widely used in many best-selling fragrances. Christian Dior Sauvage, Versace Dylan Blue, Giorgio Armani Si and Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique all owe their character to this synthetic compound.

However, for customers willing to splash their cash, ambergris can still be found in premium perfumes. These include many of the highly rated Creed fragrances such as Aventus.

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

Ambergris is very distinctive in Creed Millésime Imperial. This EDP was launched in 1995 to mark the Paris-based perfume house’s 150th anniversary as the fragrance of choice by European royalty.  It’s somewhat of an acquired smell

Creed Millésime Imperial EDP, R4 850 for 120ml.

The Snail’s Pace

If I told you that I have used a snail-gel skincare product would you think less of me? Journalistic curiosity got the better of me when I heard that Celltone products contain this ingredient. Apparently snail gel is packed with glycolic acid, allantoin, protein and vitamin E. These are all very useful in the fight against ageing. One might even say they are highly effective in slowing the pace of ageing. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Now, for the big question? Are any snails harmed in the making of this product? Yes. I used it for two weeks and then felt very guilty about it, even though I had started noticing a tightening of my skin.

Celltone Snail Extract Gel, R399.90 for 50ml, www.celltone.co.za

Unusual Ingredients: Celltone Snail Extract Gel

Meteoritic Impact

Lab Series is one of my favourite male skincare brands. So I was very excited to read about its new high-tech range, Maxellence, which contains meteorite extract. Unfortunately, I was brought down to earth when I found out that this range is not available in South Africa.

Then a friend told me that Anesi Man Secret Serum had just landed in the country. This anti-ageing skincare product from the renowned Spanish spa professional range also utilises meteoritic extract. Talk about sci-fa (science fact).

Unusual Ingredients: Anesi Man Secret Serum

So why is meteorite extract such a big deal? It’s rich in minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. This makes it a potent anti-ageing weapon, with deep-penetrating, firming and plumping properties.

I used Anesi Man Secret Serum for a month and enjoyed its light, non-greasy texture.  I noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my skin. Was this due to meteorite extract? Or any of this product’s other exotic ingredients (including mineral extracts from precious mineral stones)? While I read up more on that, I must explore Anesi some more.

Anesi Man Secret Serum, R750 for 50ml, www.exclusivebeauty.co.za

Product Review: Schick Hydro 5

Schick Hydro 5

When a product bags an award, I want to know WHY? and HOW?. So when I saw on Instagram that the Schick Hydro 5 had won Product of the Year in the Male Grooming category, of course, I had to try it out myself.

NOT TO FEAR, THE SCHICK HYDRO 5 IS HERE?

While I am not a certified xyrophobe, the prospect of shaving daily fills me with dread. I share this dread with many other hirsute men. Fortunately, I work in an industry where stubble is not an issue and the ongoing beard trend has given me some relief too.

Shaving dread
THE SHAVING DREAD: What a pain!

As I am not one for a full-on beard, I know that by day five of not shaving, I have crossed the line between hopefully rugged to definitely ragged. And it’s time for the shave…

A FIVE-STAR PERFORMANCE FROM THE SCHICK HYDRO 5?

So would the award-winning Schick Hydro 5 make shaving more bearable and a lot less irritation free? Well, before I tell you about that, let me first list the Schick Hydro 5’s key features (courtesy of the website):

  • A hydrating gel reservoir to deliver hydration throughout the shave and for up to an hour afterwards.
  • Ultra-Glide Blades with advanced skin guards to reduce friction.
  • A flip trimmer for those tricky areas.
  • A newly developed handle for better grip.
Schick Hydro 5
BLADES OF GLORY: Into battle we go…

Over the last three weeks, I have given the Schick Hydro 5 several shaving challenges. A day four of major stubble when I usually shave. A day five of ragged stubble. And a seven-day major growth when I look like I have taken leave of my senses.

Thanks to its hydrating gel reservoir (not a lube strip, the packaging emphasises), the Schick Hydro 5 handled all these shaving tests with impressive ease. When there were some unfinished bits under my nose and near my lips, that’s because I was in a rush to get to work. Slow down, mister…

Schick Hydro 5
SUPER SLICK: The Schick Hydro 5 is up for all challenges.
AND THE PRICE

I still have my Gillette Sensor Excel (sadly discontinued a few years ago) and some blades. This trusty razor didn’t cost me a fortune (under R100 for a five-pack of blades) when it was still on the market. And we know what an expensive business shaving is for us men. The recommended price for the Schick Hydro 5 is R119.99 and R194.95 for a four-pack of blades at my local Dis-Chem. So not cheap, for sure, but it certainly does the job.

Fragrance Reviews: Gucci Guilty Absolute, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

Gucci Guilty Absolute, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint

So what’s on the Fragroom sniff-list this week? Well, we have three BIG designer fragrances. Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT. I am deliberately reviewing these three fragrances together, as they represent the best of what designer fragrances have to offer.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP 

The Gucci Guilty line has been on the market since 2010. While I have not tried all the flankers and limited editions, to me the super-fresh Gucci Guilty Eau EDT was the best of the range. But just when I thought Gucci Guilty was becoming a bit predictable, Gucci Guilty Absolute arrived.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP

This close collaboration between master perfumer Alberto Morillas and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele is a very brave release for Gucci.

Its listed notes include a custom-made leather accord (Woodleather), a natural extract of the nootka cypress (Goldenwood), three types of patchouli and vetiver. All of this adds up to create a rich, woody-leathery EDP that’s most intriguing.

To my nose Gucci Guilty Absolute is almost medicinal in character. And I mean that in a very good way. With its deep leather vibe, it pays respectful homage to Gucci’s luxury leather goods heritage. (PS: Did you know Gucci will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2021?) Gucci Guilty Absolute is not a get-as-many-as-you-can crowd-pleaser, so not everyone will “get” it. Either way, it’s good to see Gucci taking some risks with this new fragrance.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, R1 210 for 50ml, R1 605 for 90ml and R1 895 for 150ml.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

I am always very excited about a new Prada fragrance, as the Italian luxury brand doesn’t just churn ’em out. Of course, it’s in the money-making business, but there’s always a conceptual intelligence to the Prada aesthetic. And so it is with the latest addition to the Prada Luna Rossa range, originally launched in 2012.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

A fougère with a modern twist, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon has been crafted as a fusion of botanicals and synthetics, the natural and industrial. It features top notes of Italian bergamot and pepper; middle notes of lavender, soil tincture, water, metal and coal; and base notes of patchouli and ambroxan.

Perfumer Daniela Andrier has created all the Prada Luna Rossa fragrances. And her latest creation reflects the above-mentioned contrasts with aplomb. As with many Prada fragrances, there’s something quite austere about Prada Luna Rossa Carbon. Yet it’s sophisticated stuff at the same time, because there are no silly gimmicks to grab the attention.

In my opinion, Carbon is the best in the Prada Luna Rossa range. It’s well worth sniffing out if you’re partial to lavender. While you’re at it, please also check out the award-winning, iris-infused L’Homme Prada EDT.

Prada Luna Rossa EDT, R990 for 50ml and R1 355 for 100ml.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

A new Thierry Mugler A*Men fragrance is always cause for celebration. Originally launched in 1996, there are now 17 fragrances in the A*Men line, including the latest incarnation. You would think that with the umpteenth flanker, A*Men would have run its course. Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint proves otherwise, with a new variation on the love-it-or-hate-it gourmand formula.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

So what does Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint smell like? There’s a lot going on here, with notes that include peppermint, patchouli, tonka bean, geranium, vanilla and coffee. If that sounds totally scrumptious, that’s because it is.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is the olfactory equivalent of over-indulging in after-dinner mints. Remember, this is Thierry Mugler we are talking about, so reserve and restraint are not on the menu.

Sure, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is not the very best in the range (my favourites are still the original and the honey- and tobacco-laden A*Men Pure Havane). But kudos to nose Jacques Huclier, who has created all the A*Men fragrances, for playing with our noses again.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT, R1 195 for 100ml.

Fragrance Reviews: Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua, Jimmy Choo Man Ice, Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral, Scuderia Ferrari Forte

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

It’s been almost a month since my last fragrance review. And I have a backlog of fragrances to report back on here at Fragroom HQ. So this week and the next I will be reviewing seven newbies on my sniff list. This week we have Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua, Jimmy Choo Man Ice, Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral and Scuderia Ferrari Forte.

Issey Miyake Nuit d'Issey Bleu Astral
FEELING BLUE: Is Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral a hit or a miss?

Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP

If, like me, you have never really explored Ferrari fragrances (surely too much testosterone), give this one a go. It’s not nearly as macho as it sounds. Scuderia Ferrarai Forte EDP is created by the esteemed Maurice Roucel (the nose behind Amouage Reflection Woman, Bond No 9 New Haarlem, Estée Lauder Pleasures Intense For Men, Gucci Envy For Women, Lancôme Hypnôse Homme, Rochas Man). The listed notes of this oriental fragrance include apple, lemon, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and patchouli notes. I mostly get a sweet and spicy pineapple vibe from this EDP. While not in the haloed company of the previously mentioned fragrances, it’s a good excuse to check out the world of Ferrari fragrances. Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP, R895 for 125ml.

Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP

Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT

Jimmy Phew! That’s Really Sweet. That was my initial reaction to the third addition to the Jimmy Choo Man fragrance franchise, which features mandarin, bergamot, cedrat essence, vetiver, patchouli essence, cedarwood, apple, musk, moss and ambroxan notes. I have revisited this fragrance several times since then to give it a fair chance, because sometimes an initial reaction can be influenced by factors such as mood. However, I still get major sweetness, rather than icy freshness, from Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT. Perhaps I am being too literal? So while this one ain’t for me, I see it working very well for trendy, active 20-something gents. Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT, R695 for 30ml, R895 for 50ml and R1095 for 100ml.

Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT

Hard to believe that CH 212 has been on the market for almost 20 years. You know you are getting older when you can measure your life in fragrance launch cycles. Anyway, enough about me. The latest CH 212 Men incarnation, created by master perfumer Alberto Morillas (who-co-created the original), features notes of grapefruit, bergamot, marine, cardamom, gardenia, ambrox, cypriola, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, rose and musk. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition is not going to score points for originality, but it’s super-fresh, high-performance stuff. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT, R1 200 for 100ml.

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT

I really like Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Parfum, with its grapefruit, leather and tonka bean characteristics. For their latest creation in the series, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong up the contrasts ante. So Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral opens with a fresh burst of lime and Russian coriander. Then there’s a sensuous aspect with leather, ambery woods and vetiver notes. It’s very minimalist in a Japanese way and very effective. A case of less is more, and I want a lot more of it. Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT, R965 for 75ml and R1 175 for 125ml.

Issey Miyake Nuit d'Issey Bleu Astral EDT

How To Maximise Your Beauty Sleep

How To Maximise Your Beauty Sleep

While there are many airy-fairy concepts when it comes to grooming and self-maintenance, beauty sleep is not one of them. There’s plenty of research which shows how the skin goes into regeneration mode when we sleep. And beauty sleep becomes even more important as we get older.

Lavender For Beauty Sleep
CALM DOWN: Lavender to relax.

There are many things we can do to improve the quality of our beauty sleep. Most of these centre on reducing the hyper-stimulation of modern life. (Note to self: Do not post on Instagram before bedtime. You know you will not be able to help yourself replying to comments. Ditto copious amounts of tea and coffee. Self-lecture over.). If you are looking for a good read on the dire consequences of sleep deprivation, I would recommend The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (WH Allen).

Lavender and camomile tea are well-known for their calming properties. So I am making a conscious effort to include these in my bed-time routine.

Camomile tea for beauty sleep
CUPPA SLEEP: More camomile, less caffeine.

Recommended beauty sleep products

A good night’s rest will show on your face. But it’s also a good idea to incorporate the right products into your bedtime routine to maximise your beauty sleep. I have been using all of the products below for over a month. And while they are not all strictly bedtime products, they have all worked for me.

Beauty sleep products
TIRED AND TESTED: The beauty sleep quartet.

Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Peel and Reveal Revitalizing Mask (R385 for 50ml)

It’s only recently that I have started using Elizabeth Arden products. This beauty sleep product for all skin types does exactly what it says. Its active ingredients include cabernet seed extract, a botanical complex of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, salicylic acid and natural sugar extract. I have been applying Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Peel and Reveal Revitalizing Mask once a week at night. I get a major kick from peeling it off after 20 minutes.

Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Peel and Reveal Revitalizing Mask

Gatineau Melatogenine Futur Plus Anti-Wrinkle Radiance Mask (R750 for 75ml)

This superb beauty sleep product from the French pharmacy brand Gatineau comes with wrinkle-busting collagen, the company’s exclusive Melatogenine molecule and hyaluronic acid. If you are in a rush, it can be applied for 10 minutes. Even better, apply a thin layer and leave overnight for a more intensive anti-ageing treatment. It can be used on the face and around the eye area. Beauty sleep bonus!

Gatineau Melatogenine Futur Plus Anti-Wrinkle Radiance Mask

Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging Overnight Cream (R1 450 for 50ml)

Prevage is Elizabeth Arden’s premium anti-ageing range, with super-slick packaging to match (yes, these things are important to me). Dehydrated skin? Slack skin? Wrinkles? Sun damaged skin? Prevage Anti-Aging Overnight Cream combats all of these with a tongue-twisting mix of Idebenone Ester (a powerful antioxidant), hydroxypinacolone-retinoate (a vitamin A derivative), lemon peel extract, vitamin A acetate, glycerine, shea and cocoa butter and an advanced moisture complex. It ain’t cheap, but it’s a top beauty sleep investment. Plus you will only need to use a little at a time.

Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging Overnight Cream

Dermalogica Age Reversal Eye Complex (R990 for 50ml)

The area around the eye is super-delicate and is often the first to show signs of ageing. Fine lines, wrinkles, puffiness, dark circles and dryness… you know the look. Dermalogica Age Reversal Eye Complex contains a potent mix of ingredients to improve cell turnover, collagen production and firmness. These ingredients include retinol, vitamin B3, hyaluronic acid, algae extract and provitamin B5. Due to its high concentration of retinol, I used this on alternate nights for two weeks and then made it part of my bedtime routine.

Dermalogica Age Reversal Eye Complex

House of Gozdawa: The Art of Nature

House of Gozdawa

It’s not often that you will see “Made in South Africa” on the bottle of a luxury fragrance. But then Cape Town-based Agata Karolina can lay claim to being one of South Africa’s few perfumers. Her niche fragrance company, House of Gozdawa, produces very limited quantities of extraits de parfums. All of these are made with high-quality natural ingredients.

For Agata, working with the cycles of nature is of utmost importance. This philosophy is carried through from the selection of her ingredients to the distillation process.

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa.

Although I have not met Agata (yet), her deep and highly personal connection to her art of perfume is unmistakable. When she sent me samples of House of Gozdawa’s Confessions Collection, these came with a hand-written letter. “As with all things in nature, these scents take their time to reveal their full story. I hope you enjoy experiencing that which they have to tell,” she wrote to me.

Delivery from House of Gozdawa.
MR DELIVERY: House of Gozdawa personal touch.

There are six fragrances in the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection: Marta, Andrea, Albert, Simo, Hel and Aga. What I like most about these scents is their unpretentious character. To my mind and nose, these fragrances could only come from Africa.

TRUE CONFESSIONS WITH AGATA KAROLINA OF HOUSE OF GOZDAWA

I asked Karolina Agata about her preference for natural materials, her artisanal approach and her Confessions Collection. 

House of Gozdawa
IT’S PERSONAL: Agata Karolina’s hand-written letter.

How did you get into perfumery?

Perfumery found me far in advance of me finding it. As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together. I enjoyed it as a personal pleasure. But for a very long time never considered it as a career. I was brought into the world of distilling, tinctures and natural oils through my mother and grandmother. These two women taught me everything I know and inspired a life deeply connected to nature.

“As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together.”

After working as a curator and project initiator in Europe, Asia and Africa, I finally decided to return to South Africa and pursue my passion for scent. I launched House of Gozdawa in 2015.

Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.
BOXES, LITTLE BOXES: Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.

Are all your perfumes 100% natural? Why are natural perfumes so appealing to you?

All House of Gozdawa scents use only 100% natural ingredients. No matter how many synthetics I have smelt, they have never been able to present me the depth a natural material carries. Essentially these ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence. In connection with the skin these materials take on an even deeper depth.

House of Gozdawa Hel
HOUSE OF GOZDAWA HEL: With notes of grapefruit, tuberose and cajeput.

How do you ensure that your perfume-making process is also eco responsible?

The farms and suppliers I work with in Southern Africa and across the African continent all follow eco responsible and sustainable practices. All materials are ordered directly and for the batches we create, I personally blend and bottle all of them to ensure no wastage occurs. Respect for your materials is as essential to creating a globally responsible product as much as any certification.

House of Gozdawa Marta
HOUSE OF GOZDAWA MARTA: With notes of geranium, lemon, black pepper, carnation and wood.

As a South Africa-based perfumer, where do you source most of your materials from?

Most of my materials are sourced from the African continent. I do work with many materials from abroad, mostly those that are not yet available locally, or simply do not grow in our environments. Many of the ingredients we use are from wild harvest, which I do myself. These will be even more present in our new collections after the full extraction and ageing process is complete. One has to have a lot of patience when waiting a year or two for one ingredient to be ready.

House of Gozdawa Simo
HOUSE OF GOZDAWA SIMO TRAVEL VIAL: With notes of crushed lemon rind, orange blossom, cedar wood, atlas and vetiver.

For those who are more used to the conventions of mass market fragrances and who at first might not “get” your fragrances, what would you say to them?

I often compare niche or luxury scents to taste kitchens pushing the boundaries of taste or of highest quality wine-makers perfecting the art of flavour from a single grape varietal. If you are an individual of passion in these areas, then why not afford yourself the quality of such an experience in the olfactive?

“These ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence.”

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.
ARTISANAL APPROACH: Agata Karolina transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.

Chefs, winemakers and perfumers are some of our last genuine artisans. We take raw materials and manipulate them into deep and unexpected orchestrations for people to experience intimately.

If this is not conviction enough, I encourage anyone to do a little experiment for themselves. Take a fresh juicy lemon and sprig of lavender. Scratch the surface of the lemon’s skin until the oil starts running out and spread it across the back of your hand. Crush the lavender between your fingers until the sticky oil finds its way onto your skin. Breathe these scents in deeply, smelling the oil on the surface of the lemon’s skin and then on your hand, paying attention to how the heat of your skin makes the scent react. Now take a deep smell of any conventional hand cream, bathroom spray or dish-washing liquid with the same ingredients. Which has more depth and quality?

Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?
LAVENDER CRUSH: Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?

My favourite from your Confessions Collection is Aga. Tell us more about that extrait de parfum.

I wanted to create a collection which I felt expressed something real and honest, rather than creating stories that had no context to the wearer. I decided to tell my own confession as the perfumer behind the brand. I chose six people in my life that over the years had influenced the person I had become, together creating the whole.

House of Gozdawa Aga
HOUSE OF GOZDAWA AGA: With notes of jasmine, rosemary, fynbos and dark fruits.

Aga, The Romantic, is the persona of the collection that was created to reference a part of myself at the time. Aga is my nickname. I often exist in the arena of the heart and at the time I was questioning a lot about what I valued, wanted in my life and my connections with others. This scent reflects my choice and definition of that part of myself. It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers. But the reward, as you have experienced yourself, was worth letting go of the fear to be fully open.

“It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers.”

The scent reflects spaces and moments which have moved this part of me the most in life. The ingredients – fynbos, jasmine, passionfruit, ravintsara – all capture the aspects and characteristics which I felt closest to. The fynbos is wild harvested and the tinctures are developed and distilled in house.

For more information and to order any House of Gozdawa fragrances, https://houseofgozdawa.com.

Why Men Should Wear Women’s Fragrances

I have been mulling this post for some time. Why do so many of us buy into the notion that fragrances are specifically “male” and “female”, “him” and “her”, “homme” and “femme”?

For a long time, I was also guilty of such self-limiting behaviour. In my defence (and this is admittedly a rather weak defence), I associated “women’s fragrances” with all things sickly sweet. Blame it on the joys of badly ventilated, open-plan offices where everything is to be shared.

Of course, there’s so much more to female fragrances than candy overload. Just as there’s so much more to male fragrances than aquatic notes. A lot of women already know this fundamental truth. They buy men’s fragrances not only for their fathers, partners and sons. They buy men’s fragrances for themselves, because they realised they were missing out on a good thing.

To a large degree, a lot of “male” and “female” is just marketing, with gender stereotyping galore. Perfumer Mark Buxton summed it up best in a recent Fragroom interview: “If you like a specific smell, wear it. What’s masculine or feminine in the perfume world anyway?”

“If you like a specific smell, wear it. What’s masculine or feminine in the perfume world anyway?” – Mark Buxton 

3 very good reasons why men should wear female fragrances

Your masculinity will not be questioned. Au contraire. It takes a very self-assured man to be brave enough to explore a whole new world of possibilities.

It increases your options. If buying a new fragrance, gets you going, just think about all the choices you will now have at your disposal.

Fact: Floral notes work very well on men, especially roses.

3 tips to get you started

Next time you are out and about buying a fragrance for yourself, make a detour via the female counters or shelves. If you are not quite ready to say you are looking for a female fragrance for yourself, a little lie will be acceptable. “I am looking for a great rose fragrance for my girlfriend” will do.

Allow yourself some initial olfactory confusion, and even revulsion, at first. You are just retraining your brain and sense of smell to respond to new stimuli.

As with any fragrance, experiment until you find what works for you. And always try the fragrance on your skin.

Some recommendations

Ready to explore? Here are some female fragrances I have taken to wearing recently. Perhaps you will like these. If not, keep hunting…

Please note that this teeny-weeny selection doesn’t even include the classics: Chanel No 5, Guerlain Shalimar, Dior Poison…

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pure EDT

With its marine opening and minimalist character, Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pure EDT is a gentle intro to the world of female fragrances. Then you will be hooked by its jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and orange blossoms. Methinks the water-drop bottle design has a tool-like appearance.

Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pure EDT

Elizabeth Arden White Tea EDT

Yes, your mama will probably have several Elizabeth Arden fragrances and she knows best. Like its namesake, Elizabeth Arden White Tea is a relaxing and comfortable scent, with notes of fern, the sea, clary sage, white tea, tonka and musks capturing this mood so well.

Elizabeth Arden White Tea EDT

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme

You should already know Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. While Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme provides some floral fireworks in the form of jasmine, orchid, osmanthus and freesia notes, the major helping of vanilla gives it serious sensuality.

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme

Alaia EDP Blanche

There are only five listed notes in Alaia EDP Blanche: powder, solar, vanilla, musk and white flowers. It’s very elegantly on the right side of sweet. If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, Alaia EDP Blanche scores big time.

Alaia EDP Blanche

Elie Saab Nuit Noor EDP

A big fragrance for big boys and girls. Rose takes the leading role in Elie Saab Nuit Noor EDP. Ylang-ylang, wood, incense, patchouli and black pepper add to the sense of drama. Master perfumer Francis Kurkdijan created this one, so top quality assured.

Elie Saab Nuit Noor

Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her EDP

Don’t judge a perfume by its lurid pink bottle. I did not like Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her EDP at all when I first tried it almost six months ago. What was I thinking! Rose, peonies, pink peppercorns, patchouli, musk and amber make this a superb, stand-out fragrance.

Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her