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Monday, Feb 16, 2004

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It pays not to ignore men

Shubhra Gupta

The beauty business is one area where the urban male is getting all the attention. From moisturisers, after-shaves, gels and face balms to herbal packs and colognes, the choice is endless and comes at a price.

It's getting harder and harder to find beauty products which claim to merely enhance your looks. People in the beauty business say that the mantra of wellness and rejuvenation is now being taken so seriously that products minus these attributes are in danger of being treated with disdain.

Take Southern Island, the brand new skin range from New Zealand. Like the very similar Dead Sea range, these products too claim to harness the "special properties of botanic extracts, the purity of organic saltwater, and the mineral riches of the Pacific Ocean". The ingredients include kelp, a cold water sea-weed from the coastal waters of New Zealand, manuka tea tree oil, and kuikui nut oil, all of which are supposed to have great rejuvenating, cell-knitting properties.

Says Bhavna Sood, Head of Corporate Communications with Dr Morepen, whose chain of Lifespring stores stocks the Southern Island products exclusively: "We chose these products because they not only pamper the skin, but they reinvigorate it, and make it healthier." The range includes bath salts, sea salt exfoliators, body washes, scrubs and the latest beauty-aid-in-ladies'-handbag — spritzers, all priced at about Rs 250 - Rs 500.

A week's trial with the body moisturiser, scrub and the spritzer yielded satisfactory results: The first seeps into the skin minus that distasteful oily residue, the second must be the rare scrub which cautions only body use (too rough for the face, the small print states, and not too many apricot-based scrubs will tell you that), and the third has a nice, refreshing feel when you spritz the face after a long, tiring day, just the ticket for our mostly hot, tropical climate.

Among the middle and high-end products, in fact, there is a definite shift towards a `salon-type' product (most well-known lines usually do two ranges, one for the shelves, the other for salons, and the latter is usually better in quality, and is higher priced). The new range of shampoos from Modicare, appropriately called Salon, is distinctly salon material: The 200 ml bottles are priced at Rs 175, and going by their use, they are easy on the hair, and leave it shiny.

The formulations, much like the norm these days, cater to dry, oily and normal hair; the last one addresses your dandruff problems. "What's good about our shampoos is that they combine ceramide and vitamins like no other Indian shampoo does," says Chris Bolsover, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at Modicare. Like Morepen's Sood, Bolsover is clear that quality costs just a little more. "We think our prices are fair when you see the results," he says recounting an example of a man who used the anti-dandruff formulation and had an astonishing before-and-after outcome: ceramide is meant to repair damage to the hair follicle and strengthens cuticle resistance.

This columnist's sweep of the stores in the past fortnight also yielded the knowledge that men are being targeted like never before: Apart from the usual after-shaves and colognes and shaving creams, there are face and hair care products aimed at the urban male, someone who doesn't mind swapping tales about his favourite brand of moisturiser with his buddies.

There was a time when Shahnaz Husain `man power' range was the only full-bodied men's line, with its suncreens, liquid moisturisers, hair cleansers, skin tonics and freshners, scrubs and masks (all priced at Rs 200 - Rs 400). Like all Shahnaz Husain products, the antiseptic and medicinal properties of the products are emphasised; among the most popular products has been Shamen, an after-shave cream (instead of the usual alcohol-based lotions which are leave the skin dry). Its henna-based shampoos and hair vitalisers are also among its fast-moving items.

Now, there is a flood. Vichy's latest anti-hair loss and anti-dandruff formulations (Rs 900 to Rs 1,900) make a distinction between men and women: The reason for hair loss in men is different that of women, say cosmetologists. That determines the kind of treatment required.Global skincare leader Clarins, which has been slowly introducing its men's range towards the end of last year, is now out with a whole range — face washes, shaving gels, after-shaves, moisture gels and balms, shampoos and deo-sticks, and two very interesting products, an energising gel and an under eye serum, priced between Rs 950 andRs 1,600.

Skin specialists know that men's skin is thicker, and is often irritated due to shaving, so the products have to have ingredients which both soothe and nourishe Clarins claims it uses such natural plant extracts as bison grass, Chinese galanga, and purslane, which are specially adapted to men's skincare needs. The under-eye cream is effective: A few days' usage was enough to cause any puffiness to go down.

The Modicare men's line, by comparison, is much more affordable (Rs 60 - Rs 250). Apart from the shaving creams and after-shaves, body talc and body spray, it also has blades and razors in convenient blister packs. Like all its products, the men's line is packaged in a deep, eye-catching flame red. A special mention for its after-shave and spray: The perfume is spicy, warm and lingers hours after you put it on, testifies a friend who was gifted these two products. Clearly, for those in the beauty business, it pays not to ignore men.

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