Chemical reactions

Many of the average 85 ingredients a man puts on his face every day can be harmful, writes Susan Schwartz

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am


Male beauty can come at a price - in a bid to look good, the average man puts 85 ingredients on his face every day, many of which can be harmful.

So how do you detox your products and replace them with more natural options?

It can be difficult to navigate the minefield of brands on the market, but there are those with ingredients that will make you look good and also be good for you.

In its Top Tips for safer products, the US Environmental Working Group (EWG) on Cosmetics says the average man uses six products daily, which add up to 85 unique ingredients.

Some of these have been found to affect hormones, of which some are specifically linked to male reproductive system disorders.

For instance, phthalates have been associated with altered hormone levels in men and boys, as well as sperm damage.

'Male skin is more exposed to allergens and irritants especially because of the shaving routine, so it is always better for men to choose natural and mild products,' explains Harriet Lee, general manager of Joyce Beauty, whose newly launched Joyce Grooming boasts a range of natural skincare brands including Kyoku for Men and Milk & Co.

It is a myth that governments prohibit dangerous chemicals in personal care products, or that companies wouldn't risk using them. 'Cosmetic companies may use any ingredient or raw material, except for colour additives and a few prohibited substances, without government review or approval,' warns the EWG.

The Oriental Spa's treatments manager Kathryn Cousins adds that a product may be called 'natural', even if its formation has been entirely chemically synthesised.

'This means that a product can have derivatives from a plant or marine source, however would not be necessarily particularly pure,' she says.

'If consumers wish to ensure a high-quality natural product, they should choose products that detail a high level of genuine natural ingredients. This can be found on the ingredients list of all products.'

So for men looking to reduce their exposure to harmful toxins, what should they look out for when buying skincare products?

For starters, when buying shaving cream, the EWG says to avoid DMDM hydantoin, fragrance, PEG/ceteareth/polyethylene and triclosan.

Beauty expert Siobhan O'Connor, co-author of No More Dirty Looks, notes that besides the propellants and butane in many shaving creams, there is also diazolidinyl urea, a formaldehyde releaser; triethanolamine, which is often contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines; parabens, which are weak oestrogen mimickers; and synthetic fragrance, which can affect sperm.

She also says to watch for moisturisers or lotions that can contain up to 30 ingredients filled with silicones, penetration enhancers, fake fragrances and petroleum derivatives.

Put simply, 'the fewer preservatives and synthetic ingredients found in a product, the better the results on the skin', says Cousins, whose VitaMan, TwinLuxe and Aromatherapy Associates ranges 'do not contain parabens, alcohol, silicone or mineral oil'.

The new Men's Care line from Apivita is also extremely gentle on the skin and stands out from the crowd because of two unusual approaches. Firstly, it does not contain alcohol, an ingredient that exists in most men's (and in fact women's) products for facial treatments. Alcohol can irritate and dry the skin but is often used by manufacturers to stabilise or preserve formulations.

Instead, Apivita uses propolis (a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from plants) and essential oils, giving the products a light texture as well as an antiseptic action.

Secondly, water has been replaced with organic cardamom infusions for its antiseptic action.

In most other products, water is used as a filler because it is cheap and abundant.

In addition, Apivita Men's Care does not contain parabens, silicones, propylene glycol or mineral oil.

Products such as the Gentle Shaving Cream and Anti-wrinkle Anti-fatigue Face & Eye Cream consist of rich formulas with up to 99 per cent of natural ingredients.

Also boasting a range of natural ingredients and an absence of parabens is Gentlemen's Tonic grooming range, including a Daily Foaming Cleanser made with alpine moss and quillaja and the non-lathering Classic Shave Cream with no artificial colours or preservatives.

For those looking for completely organic products, it is important to ensure they are certified.

This means the ingredients used have been grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the certifying body.

French brand Melvita bears the Ecocert logo, which means it includes at least 95 per cent natural ingredients, at least 10 per cent of which are organic, and among the vegetable ingredients at least 95 per cent of these are also organic.

Melvita's Pour Homme collection features a Facial Cleansing Gel with jojoba wax and silica combined with juniper, maple and birch sap to clean and purify pores, exfoliate dead cells and make shaving easier.

The complete routine includes Shaving Cream, After-Shave Balm and an Anti-Ageing Fluid for natural grooming from start to finish.



Kick-off your new skincare regimen with a detoxing facial designed specifically for men's skin.

Gentlemen's Tonic
Inspired by a traditional barber's shop, Gentlemen's Tonic goes beyond shaves and haircuts to offer a variety of targeted facial treatments using its signature natural products.
These include the popular Multi-Vitamin Facial (HK$1,050) designed to combat ageing and the relaxing Aromatherapy Facial (HK$1,000).
There's also a Wet Shave and Prep Facial (HK$550) for those looking for the complete package.
2525 2455,

The Oriental Spa
Ingredients such as grass lily, blue cypress oil and aloe vera extract feature in The Oriental Spa's VitaMan Detox Facial (HK$960 weekdays, HK$1,040 weekends).
Aloe vera extract moisturises the skin, while grass lily helps heal scars and skin irritations.
Deep massage techniques are used during the 60-minute treatment with a focus on relieving tension around the jaw and scalp.
2132 0011,

Joyce Grooming
Signature treatments at this men's grooming destination include a rejuvenating facial for stressed-out skin, a rebalancing facial to detox an oily and acne-prone complexion and a revitalising facial to restore moisture and brighten skin tone.
Complete the look with an eyebrow-shaping session (HK$250) to enhance the face and eyes. All facials last one hour and cost HK$1,100.
2522 2886,

Bliss Spa
The aptly named Homme Improvement facial (HK$1,295) at this luxe spa in the W Hong Kong is a masculine take on Bliss' signature Triple Oxygen Treatment.
A series of scrubs, a fruit acid wash and calming mask target fine lines, dull skin tone and ingrown hairs.
Bliss also offers facial 'build-ons' such as microdermabrasion and a warm wax mask to enhance treatments.
3717 2797,