The South African Beauty Connection

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense

Some people collect cars, watches, handbags and art. My fragrance and vintage glass fetish aside, I can’t resist collecting ideas for a theme. As a Johannesburg-based blogger, this theme started out with a focus on top South African beauty/grooming products. It gradually morphed into something more fluid and fascinating the more research I did. I am hoping this round-up – the South African beauty connection – will intrigue and inform you too. Please let me know if I have left anything off this admittedly edited list.

The South African Beauty Connection


Graham Wulff’s anti-ageing product has come a long way from its origins in the 1950s. The Durban-based, ex-Unilever chemist created Oil of Olay Beauty Fluid, using lanolin as one of its main ingredients. Such was its popularity that it found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.

“Olay found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.”

Fast-forward through changes in ownership, a change of name to Olay in 1999 and the brand is now one of American giant Procter & Gamble’s billion-dollar businesses. Mum’s little helper now includes everything from body and eye products to cleansers and moisturisers.

South African Beauty Connection - Olay

Maninka Fruit

I’d never heard of the maninka fruit before Boss The Scent was launched in 2015. I was reminded about this fruit, the heart of the fragrance, when Boss The Scent Intense was recently launched in South Africa. How could I forget with the wall-to-wall advertising that has accompanied this seduction EDP?

South African Beauty Connection - Maninka Fruit

NOT THE USUAL: Maninka fruit, a key ingredient in Boss The Scent and Boss The Scent Intense. Pic courtesy of P&G Prestige.

Anyway, what counts is that maninka comes from South Africa. And apparently Boss The Scent was the first time it had been used in a fragrance. According to a Basenotes interview with Will Andrews, scientist and senior evaluator at P&G Prestige,  maninka fruit (long used by the locals) was discovered by a team looking for unusual ingredients in the Western Cape’s fynbos region. The fruit itself comes from the Oncoba spinosa tree and was chosen for its “dried fruit” and “strawberries and chocolate” qualities.

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense EDP

While I can’t vouch for maninka’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities, I do appreciate a good back-story. The Scent itself? Maninka has been pumped to the max in Boss The Scent Intense. Leather, ginger, vanilla, lavender and cardamom notes all do their best to lend their notice-me-baby support.


German-born chemist, South-Africa-based Dieter Beier launched Bio-Oil in 1987. Little did he know that his cult product would become an international best-seller. Bio-Oil’s new owners, Justin and David Letschert, re-branded Beier’s dry-skin product as a treatment for scars, stretch marks and uneven skin tone in the early 2000s.

South African Beauty Connection - Bio-Oil

Their big investment in marketing and international distribution has paid handsome dividends. The product is a skincare success across the globe. Bio-Oil celebrates 30 years in the beauty biz in September 2017, with new and sleeker packaging. But the formulation – PurCellin oil, vitamins A and E, calendula, rosemary, lavender and camomile oils – remains the same. Proof than even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.

“Even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.”

Mark Eisen

What do Dunhill Icon, Montblanc Emblem, Montblanc Lady Emblem and Shanghai Tang have in common? Their flacons (“bottle” sounds too common for these visual beauties) were designed by South Africa’s Mark Eisen.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Montblanc Lady Emblem

MARKSMANSHIP: Mark Eisen’s design for Montblanc Lady Emblem.

The Capetonian had a successful international career as a fashion designer from the late 1980s. He then turned his talents to industrial design, in particular fragrance bottle and wine bottle design.

I shamelessly used the South African connection to attempt to wangle an interview with Mr Eisen for this post, but he politely declined. So I will let his South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen flacon design work for Richemont’s luxury fragrance brands speak for itself.

(While I am on the South African beauty connection thing, Dunhill, Montblanc and Shanghai Tang are just some of the luxury brands owned by Richemont, the company founded by South Africa’s Rupert family.)

Exhibit A: Eisen’s cylindrical bottle, metal-encased design for Dunhill Icon. A powerfully functional and stylish statement for this scent that’s sure to become a modern classic. Dunhill Icon bagged the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Award for Best New Male Design & Packaging in 2016.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Dunhill Icon


Better known as South African/African geraniums, pelargoniums are mostly indigenous to South Africa. They are from the same family as geraniums but they are, in fact, very different plants. The scented varieties are an important part of the perfumer’s toolkit.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums

PERFUMER’S TOOLKIT: Pelargoniums are found in a variety of fragrances. Pic courtesy of

I asked Cape Town-based natural perfumer Agata Karolina (House of Gozdawa) for some info on scented pelargoniums. This is what she had to say: “Pelargoniums are commercially farmed, but still in small amounts at this time. We source our pelargonium oil in the Western Cape from farmers we work closely with developing their crops especially for oil harvest. They hold all of the knowledge about the plants and their best conditions for growth. I bring my nose and knowledge of scent combination and complementary attributes of each plant’s characters.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums

PELARGONIUM PARFUM: House of Gozdawa Marta contains pelargonium oil.

“Pelargonium is less ‘rosy’ and has a far more green character to its scent. It smells like freshly cut lemongrass, lemon flesh, boiled candy sweets, rose leaves and earth.”

I spotted South African geranium as a key ingredient in Atelier Cologne Sanguine Orange. Superbly summery and uplifting, it’s the debut fragrance from the Paris-based niche fragrance company.

South African Beauty Connection - Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine


I was a dismal chemistry pupil, so I will keep this one as reader-friendly as possible. South African company Pelchem is the only Southern Hemisphere producer of perfluorodecalin, an active ingredient found in a wide variety of anti-ageing products.

South African Beauty Connection - Perfluorodecalin

ANTI-AGEING ACTIVE: A 3-D representation of the chemical compound perfluorodecalin. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

An article in the Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Review yielded more insights. “The active ingredient is a fluorocarbon and derivative of decalin, which is used in cosmetics formulations to dissolve and deliver oxygen to the skin. Due to the ability of perfluorodecalin to dissolve oxygen and other gases, it revitalises skin and reduces wrinkles…” I love a good success story, so I’ll wave my small South African flag in recognition of Pelchem’s innovative and patented work.

PS: I have not included South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt, the founder of niche fragrance company Etat Libre d’Orange, in this round-up. You can read my interview with the maverick here:


Stolen Goods: 6 Top Beauty Products To Pinch From The Women In Your Life

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Men today have so many more grooming product choices compared to, say, five years ago when shopping at the local pharmacy yielded the bare minimum. But even with the growth in the male grooming market, there are certain female products that you just can’t beat. While I am not condoning day-light robbery, I am certainly recommending that you “borrow” these items from the women (partner/mother/sister) in your life. After all, we men have a fine tradition of using women’s products. Think of these beauty products for men as valuable market research.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue

ALIENATION: Are you brave enough to wear this fragrance?

Lancôme Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

If you’re serious about anti-ageing, serums are the way to go. They offer a concentrated form of active ingredients (the goodies that do the real work) to deliver smoother, brighter skin. Yip, this product is on the pricey side. But then it’s packed with the skincare science the French are renowned for. R1 060 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Lancome Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Serum

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Created by Ms Arden almost 90 years ago, this is one of the best beauty products for men around. Dry skin, sunburn, chapped lips, scratches – it’s all in an honest day’s work for this multi-skiller. Because I am a slacker when it comes to foot-care, I am using it on my cracked heels, with impressive results so far. R285 for 50g.

Beauty Products For Men - Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

Basically, a toner completes the cleansing process, especially if you have oily skin, and prepares it for moisturisation. While many of us are going to find the three steps – cleanse, tone, moisturise – too time-consuming, this spray product is a nifty way to refresh and hydrate your skin when needed. R640 for 250ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

L’Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

This combo of three pure clays and charcoal is the answer to dirty, dull and drained-looking skin. We boys like to get messy. So slap it on, feel the tingle (that means it’s working), wash off after 10 minutes and a cleaner, brighter complexion is yours. Mask and ye shall receive… R150 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

The name of this product sums up the beauty of this anti-ageing serum. Formulated with an Advanced Amino-Peptide Complex to stimulate collagen production, it hydrates, firms and smoothes the skin. Non-greasy and easily absorbed, you will never look at mother’s little helper the same way again. R299.95 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

Mugler Alien Essence Absolue EDP INTENSE

The notes alone – jasmine, cashmere wood, orris root, vanilla, amber, myrrh and incense – will tell you that this EDP is not for sissies. It’s a seductive gem with top longevity and projection, so best not used in open-plan offices or stuffy boardrooms. But when the sun goes down, let it rip, big boy. R925 for 30ml and R1 270 for 60ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue