Going Traditional

Going Traditional

This week, Gareth Lindsay our resident fashion assistant heads to The Refinery in Harrods for a traditional wet shave for his upcoming usher duties at a friend's wedding.

I'm sitting in a leather barber's chair in The Refinery in Harrods about to experience my first ever wet shave. Having spent the last couple of weeks investigating the world of the wet shave, my expectation for a razor sharp new 1950's-inspired look have suddenly been replaced with images of Sweeney Todd. At best I will leave nervous; at worst I leave looking like I've done a round with Ricky Hatton.

Male grooming had until this moment been somewhat an enigma, a fearful metrosexual maze of over-plucked eyebrows or the ultimate back, sack and crack by a junior beautician.
But whilst attending an usher's meeting for my friend's wedding, we were shocked by how many of us had never been taught how to shave. A sportsman hero endorsing a 5-blade pimped out razor and a can of foam was as close as anyone had got to a cracking the shaving code.

This was not the order of the day at The Refinery: Rafik my Algerian barber was about to change all of this. Taught from the age of twelve I was in experienced hands.
The first lesson is that prepping is key to a good shave - with my face wrapped in a hot towel to soften my beard hair and lift the London grime from my pores, I was ready for step two. A few drops of The Refinery Shave Oil were massaged vigorously in upwards strokes to cover every hair and create warmth for a smooth application.

Next came a well-lathered badger shaving brush which gently lifts the hairs and exfoliates the skin in preparation for the shave. The main pleasure so far was the speed and charm at which my face was being prepared. While looking up at the original 1930's art deco ceiling in the basement of Harrods this time it was not the desire for an escape route occupying my mind but one of relaxation and ease. My head was gently tilted with accuracy from one side to the other. At first I was unsure if the shave had started - it all felt so smooth and continuous without a drag or pull insight.

This smooth technique was helped by Rafik using his fingers to map out the direction of my beard growth, which from home-shaving looks as close to spaghetti hair junction as you can get. Identifying the direction of growth eliminates in-growing hairs and razor rash. The razor ducked in and out of the dimple in my chin with complete precision and skill.

Next my face was prepped for the second application of shave cream. Shaving against the hair growth will ensure a close shave so any lip-locking on the day will leave your bride blushing not bashed. Holding my skin taught with short strokes, Rafik cleaned the blade of the razor after every stroke for a totally smooth '5 o' clock shadow'-free face that had long been a thing of the past.
My shave was finished with a facial massage to tighten and tone the face, then an ice cold towel to close the pores and invigorate my skin.
My reflection impressed even this jaded grooming junkie. Pleasure and perfection a hard combination to beat!

Find out more at www.the-refinery.com or www.urbandretreat.com.

Hair School

Hair School

Pay attention brides-to-be, and jot down our four reasons on why you should love your local Headmasters salon:

1. It's not just your average chain of high street hair salons:
Their stylists do catwalk shows, editorial shoots and ad campaigns, and their trend-setting styles are never weird/edgy/freaky/art-studenty.

2. They're nationwide:
With over 40 salons from Bath to Brighton and Bromley, we've heard praise from clients all over the country.

3. They do great discount:
If you sign up for an HM card, you'll get 25 per cent off all services Mondays to Fridays (9am-4pm). They also have a selection of special offers like Credit Crunch Colour (30 per cent off colour every Tuesday).

4. You'll learn a thing or two: from November 1st, book in for the Party Pin-Up Masterclass. It's the perfect me-treat if you're thinking of doing your own wedding hair and need some tips. A trained stylist will guide you through creating a modern-retro chignon suited to your hair type and length, then accessorise it with a pretty ribbon. Not only will you leave with expert knowledge on how to style your hair, but you'll have a gorgeous up-do to show off, so book your appointment on the day of your hen night. The Masterclass is just £45 for 45 minutes. Find out more at www.hmhair.co.uk.

Lesson over for today.

Water Trial: The Results Are In!

Water Trial: The Results Are In!

I've been testing out a mystery brand of mineral water over the past couple of months, drinking around 1.5 to 2 litres daily to see if the brand's anti-ageing claims are true (click here to see my previous post). Finally, it was revealed to me this week what I've been drinking: Willow Spring Water.
The key ingredient is Salicin, a naturally occurring mineral found in Willow bark that, once inside the body, is converted to Salicylic Acid. When used topically, it's a mild skin exfoliant and is present in many beauty products (such as Clinique Clarifying Lotion) and works by dissolving the keratin that sticks dead skin cells together. Salicin is also an anti-inflammatory agent making it an ideal ingredient for skincare. This is the first time I've come across it as 'edible' product and even though the amount is barely present (it says 'trace' on the bottle) they claim it has a homeopathic effect and makes skin more radiant.
I don't think I've seen a dramatic change in my own skin but I have noticed that, for the past few weeks, I haven't had a single spot or blemish. My undereyes are a little clearer too and since I haven't changed my skincare routine I'm guessing it's because of the water.
I still have about 30 bottles to get through (!) so I might keep them for the weeks leading up to Christmas to ensure I'm flawless for all the festive parties. Likewise, if I was gearing up for my wedding I'd definitely keep a stash of these bottles with me (under my desk, in my fridge, next to my bed) to prevent dreaded spots from ruining my big day.
I've been looking at the website and they have a pretty good incentive to win a 6-week supply of bottles, plus a weblink to Planet Organic offering 20% off online orders.
Well, I'm hooked so if you're up for the challenge get drinking Willow and keep me posted below on how you get on!

Party Prepping

Party Prepping

This weekend I organised not only our Christmas Day plans, but New Year's Eve and a January beat-the-blues party. Efficient huh? My mind floated off to 'getting ready' party-prepping (my favourite hobby) and there are a few things that would greatly improve this beloved ritual. So, Santa, if you're reading this, please remember what a good girl I've been and send these three new lust-haves my way!

- Ruth Mastenbroek Scented Bathrobe (pictured). Not satisfied with just a plain old fluffy dressing gown, I want one permeated with a delicate perfume that leaves a magical sillage as I walk through my home. Ruth's signature scent is encased in microcapsules woven into the soft downy robe, which can be washed 20 times before the fragrance fades. Fabulous. (£120; www.ruthmastenbroek.com)

- WonderCap. It's not the most attractive headwear, but I'm sure this heated chapeau will change my life forever. I depend on regular deep conditioning masks to keep my long hair in good shape and this glorified shower cap (which you heat in the microwave) opens up the hair cuticle and helps the products penetrate deeper. To be used behind closed doors I should think! (£30; www.victoriahealth.com)

- Miller Harris Personal Engraving. Just when I thought my signature scent L'Air de Rien couldn't get any more delicious, along comes the opportunity to have my next flacon hand-engraved. One can have a name, date or personal message etched into the already-beautiful bottle. For mine, I think I'd have "Spray me... I'll make it magical", because that's what I imagine it whispers from my dressing table as I get ready for a night out. (call 0844 561 0992 or visit www.millerharris.com for your nearest boutique).