Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

To everyone who reads this here blog, from those lovely people who come back time and time again to read my ramblings to the brands that let me try out their products without fearing the backlash if I don't like it, have a very Merry Christmas.
To my enemies, in 2017 I will crush you (joke - I wouldn't waste my time on you all).
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

AFTERSHAVE: Four fragrances you should try in 2017

There are so many fragrances out there that I barely finish trying one out at home before another arrives in the post (thanks super PR people) or I just can't resist the urge and splurge on a few at a time, wrecking my bank balance (and BeautyqueenUK's sanity) in the process. The collection currently stands at well over fifty fragrances that range from £19.99 (Spiced Wood by Yardley - well worth a look) to well over £200 for a bottle. Buying a fragrance for a bloke or buying online without trying it our first is like tap-dancing across a well laid minefield as fragrance is such a personal thing. 

One other addition I will add in here is that when I try new fragrances they are screened by my HR department mainly because they have good taste - each aftershave will get a HRT rating - Human Resources Test.

Zadig & Voltaire For Him
Four fragrances you should try in 2017
Head: Grapefruit
Heart: Black pepper, Incense
Dry-down: Vanilla

My take: As aftershaves go, this one stands head and shoulders above about 80 per cent of fragrances I've ever tried. It has an amazing staying power, a beautiful subtle fragrance and is actually a bit of a conversation starter. It is hugely unique in aroma and I constantly get asked what that lovely smell is. Always a good confidence boost.

Strong to start with you don't really get a blast of citrus that you would expect from an aftershave with grapefruit as the head note, in fact you can detect an instant hint of black pepper which dries down within about fifteen minutes. The aftershave becomes a touch spicier for a further twenty minutes before the vanilla takes the edge of that warmth and leaves a lovely subtle sweetness that remains for well over ten hours. 

HRT Rating: 10/10
Costs: £40 for 50ml bottle
Available from: Superdrug

Creed Silver Mountain Water
Four fragrances you should try in 2017
Head: Bergamot, Mandarin
Heart: Green tea, Blackcurrant
Dry-down: Galbanum, Sandalwood, Petitgrain

My take: This is one that I absolutely love, it starts off with a lovely fresh citrus blast from the mandarin that gives way over about an hour to a warmer and heavier fruity scent. As you would expect from a luxury fragrance from Creed it has stunning lasting power, well over fifteen hours in fact and once it has dried down properly, after around an hour you have a beautiful blend of citrus, the warmth of the sandalwood with just very slight hints of the blackcurrant. Out of this world in my opinion.

HRT Rating: 9/10
Costs: £100 for 30ml bottle (yep, £100 for 30ml) 
Available from: Selfridges

Jack Piccadilly '69
Four fragrances you should try in 2017
Head: Patchouli, Bergamot
Heart: Petrol, Ginger, Musk
Dry-down: Amber

My take: From the Jack range of aftershaves and perfumes designed by Richard E Grant I confess that this one fell into my collection by accident after a visit to the Gentleman's Grooming Show. I picked up a bottle after becoming so intoxicated by the lovely fragrance I completely ignored Mr Grant who was desperately trying to talk to me about the range (d'oh). Richard, you're my hero, and sorry for being rude. 

The overriding scent is of a light bergamot which becomes much spicier for around twenty minutes. It starts to dry down into a very subtle spice and the amber provides a body that ensures that this lasts for well over eight hours. Personally I forget I'm wearing this but others around me insist that it continues to smell unique. It oozes refined sophistication.

HRT Rating: 8/10
Costs: £95 for 100ml bottle
Available from: Liberty London

L'Occitane Cedrat L'Homme
Four fragrances you should try in 2017
Head: Cedrat, Mint
Heart: Violet leaf, Lavender, Black pepper
Dry-down: Cedar, Amber, Musk

My take: I was something of a fan of Eau de Cedrat but felt that it lacked that edge, mainly because it didn't last all day and night long but this seems to have been fixed with the latest male fragrance from those lovely people at L'Occitane. The cedrat citrus tones give a lime zest to the top notes while the mint gives a freshness that can't be rivalled. It's good as soon as it leaves the atomiser. Give me any aftershave or cologne with lavender and pepper in it and I'm a happy bunny but this takes my love to new and exciting levels. It's lush from one minute in to ten hours later. 

The heart notes really make this for me and as they been with the dry down it takes an edge of the citrus and it becomes much warmer on the nose without making it overly warm on the senses. Top notch stuff.

HRT Rating: 8.5/10
Costs: £45 for 75ml bottle
Available from: L'Occitane

There you have it, four fragrances that I would mug my gran to get hold of the cash to buy (I wouldn't really, she's dead). There are brands here that I would consider luxury, particularly Creed Silver Mountain Water (thanks Auntie Sue for buying it for me) but with all of these you really get what you pay for as they have such striking and unique fragrances that have depth and last on the skin for nearly twenty four hours at a time. They are stunning and all come highly recommended from me.

Start 2017 fragrantly, and take a closer look at these babies. 


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Formal accessories from House of Fraser

Who doesn't like to don some swanky clothes and look a million dollars? I'm no different and after some time tucked up in the wardrobe the old tuxedo has seen quite a bit of action this year in between very posh birthday parties and an assortment of award dinners (we didn't win sadly). One thing that strikes me every time I come to dust off the tux is that some gremlin has eaten my bow tie and every airing inevitably requires me to buy another bow tie! Step forward House of Fraser, who with their rather large collection of bow ties can always be relied upon to bail me out.

While you will see a few pictures of yours truly looking rather dapper (even if I do say so myself) I'm also going to pick out a few favourites from the House of Fraser range to suit all budgets.

Formal accessories from House of Fraser
So, which bow ties stand out and appeal to me? Read on.....
Formal accessories from House of Fraser

First up is the Skopes Silk Bow Tie at £12.95. While I'm completely useless at tying my own bow tie (I usually opt for one with a clasp to avoid frustration) it's something I have always wanted to master and this baby looks fantastic.

Second up is the Alexandre of England Pre-Tied Bow Tie at £28 (reduced from £35), guaranteed to stop you tearing your hair out in frustration!

Thirdly if you want to push the boat out and go for something extra nice we have Hugo Boss which at £59 is more than double the price of other Bow Ties but it is stunning.

Last but not least is the TM Lewin Barathea Self-Tie at £29.95.

So there you have it, a wide ranging selection of accessories for any fella who wants to impersonate James Bond or who just want to look completely on point!

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas 2016: Gifts for a Bearded Bloke

Over the course of the year I've been inundated with various products to tame my mane (read beard) or just to get rid of it completely. There are a range of products, services and experiences that I would recommend, but rather than just re-hash things that I've already written about I've gone a little bit further and decided on a mash up of products. Some I've written about, some I've used and some stuff is just really cool. So, stuck for a gift idea for the bearded man in your life or for the bearded man in your life you no longer want to be bearded? Read on!

The Real Shaving Company
There are two little crackers (not literally crackers) from The Real Shaving Company. First up is the Shaving Brush Collection which at £9.99 from Boots here is well worth a look for those interested in taking some time and effort into their shaving preparation. Not only does it contain a professional synthetic bristle brush (it's hard to tell the difference between this one and real badger hair brushes), it also comes with a 50ml tube of their shave cream which again is actually well worth a look.
The Real Shaving Company Shaving Brush Collection
The Real Shaving Co Men's Travel Essentials
Second up is the Men's Travel Essentials, only £5.99 from Boots here. It contains steps one, two and three from the range with all of the products coming in travel friendly 50ml tubes.

So, the three products are:

  • Daily Face Scrub 
  • Shave Cream 
  • Moisturiser
All three products are good value for money and the pack is a must have for the frequent flyer/traveller (no more ditching products at airport security)

Barber Pro Shave Mug
With a variety of shaving brushes on hand now in my bathroom for yonks (read a while) I have struggled to actually use them properly, either rubbing the brush into a bar of soap or squeezing an assortment of product onto the brush. Neither approach has really been ideal, but lo, what is this, a funky little enamel coated cup to finally end my half arsed approach to applying shaving cream! 

At just £8.95 here, this mug is not only a bit of a looker (I think it's cool) it's easy to wash out and let's me mix my shave cream properly before spreading it across my face with a brush.
Barber Pro Shave Mug
This would make an affordable secret Santa, a cute little stocking filler or quirky gift.

Two products from the Big Boy range in focus today, with more to come in the New Year. Big Boy are a new brand to me but I've been using them on and off over the last few months. The brand originates in Sicily. They say that their products combine rich natural ingredients like Sicilian olive and almond oil with bees wax and shea oil create superior hair and skin products.

First up is their Soothing Drops, which cost £24.95 from their website here. They smell amazing and are applied with a dropper into the hand before applying to your beard. I love the fragrance, it's like a clean, sterile smell and it doesn't interfere with any aftershave or cologne applied after using it. The emulsion drops are absorbed by the beard and skin quickly and since using this I've found a marked decrease in the number of acne outbreaks under my facial foliage.
Big Boy Soothing Drops
Second up is their Moisturising Cream, with a SPF20 and hefty £36.95 price tag comes in a 50ml tub. Again it has the fragrance of the soothing drops and despite the price tag it happens to go a long way, even when used on a face as large as mine. Not only does this reduce the damage to your skin from sunlight I have found that it does help to keep my skin feeling and looking more hydrated - the harsh cold weather has form for drying out my skin but this acts as a kind of rescue remedy! Top stuff and with this you get what you pay for.

What about a seven piece all you need travel bag and essential grooming products? Well, over at the Mankind site you can pick up everything you need as a kind of grooming grab bag for just £22.49 here
Christmas 2016: Gifts for a Bearded Bloke
I'm a big fan of their products and have used a large amount of the range before, but in this gift set you get to play with:
  • 100ml of Daily Refresh Shampoo
  • 100ml of Shower Gel
  • 15ml of Shave Cream
  • 15ml of Healthy Face Wash
  • 15ml Matt 'Skin Refresh' Gel
  • 15ml of Liquifflex
Before you ask where the seventh product is, its the actual toiletry bag. In the past I've used the shampoo and shower gel and been impressed, but for me, the Skin Refresh gel was a real eye opener that soothed my skin after shaving. 

Cornerstone shaving box
How about a monogrammed razor and enough product to keep your face as smooth as a peach? Well, you could take a peek at the Cornerstone subscription shaving box. It comes with a cool blade shaft, enough razors to keep you going for well over a month but best of all, it comes with one of the best face scrubs ever, excellent shaving cream and a lovely cooling balm for when you've finished. 
 Cornerstone shaving box
At £30 for the monogrammed razor and six blades, face scrub, shave gel and post shave balm it is well worth the cash. You can read my review of the box here, or just pop over to the Cornerstone site here and take a look at the options available (you can tailor the box to suit your bearded bloke's shave routine).

This Bearded Life
Yes, a shameless plug for a recent post, but I genuinely did enjoy reading this book by Carles Sune. I'm not one for endless reading about grooming, I find it all very repetitive if I'm honest but I did find this a page turner. The interesting facts, history of the beard and quirky illustrations captured my attention, and that's hard to do. At £12.99 you can't go wrong. You have the chance to win one of two copies in a previous post here (until midnight on 14 December).
This Bearded Life
Ted's Grooming Room gift vouchers
I've visited three of Ted's Grooming Rooms over the last two years and each time I've found the experience to be truly uplifting. I'd strongly recommend a visit for a haircut, to have your beard trimmed or removed or to just shape your brows. It's a great grooming experience and you can pick up gift vouchers here.
Ted's Grooming Room gift vouchers
The 'Full Ted' service that I usually opt for is available for £48.50 and includes a haircut with a clean shave or beard design. A few pictures of my before and after visits are below to show how they really can transform even the most neglected (grooming wise) into something that looks sharp and on point.
Beautykinguk before and after visit to Ted's Grooming Room
Before and after a visit to Ted's Grooming Room just off The Strand
Beautykinguk before and after visit to Ted's Grooming Room
Before and after my latest visit, this time to the new branch by St Paul's
So, there you have it, my selection of possible gifts for the bearded bloke in your life. There are so many things that I could have added, like the amazing Oil Can Grooming Iron Horse Beard Oil (£24)Jamie Stevens MR Beard Oil (£10) or Citrus Wood by Yardley London (£19.99), but alas I didn't want to overload you dear readers with too many choices. Needless to say, they all come highly recommended from me.

I do hope you find this useful in your quest for gift ideas, and please do let me know what you think to my selections, or indeed the products if you choose to buy them for yourself, a friend or a relative.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London

Healthy body and healthy mind so they say. For me, the healthy body element is just a pipe dream (I lack the internal organs to be fighting fit) but that said, I have over the years managed to replace this mantra with 'smell nice, feel nice' and it's hard to refute that when you smell good or smell something wonderful you get an uplifting feeling - call it that warm fuzzy glow! With that in mind, scented candles have been all the rage in our house for some time. In the past I've dodged candles but when my other half presented me with the Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London I couldn't wait to torch it and feel all warm and fuzzy.
Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London
Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London
Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London
Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London
Christmas Gifts 2016: Samarkand Luxury Candle by Timothy Dunn London
My inner-arsonist was put back in his box and I managed to resist the temptation to just let it blaze away after seeing that this candle costs nearly £50, yes, £50 for a candle and never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever see myself recommending parting with that kind of cash just to see it melt before your eyes, but here we are people, here we are.

This is what they say about the candle over at Timothy Dunn website here:

'One of our most popular home fragrances, the luxurious Samarkand scented candle was born out of a desire to recreate the essence of Samarkand’s ancient architecture, its diverse cultures, lush, beautiful gardens and, of course, the lavish silks and flavoursome spices that still flood through this extraordinary city. 

Discover a rich, sensual spicy wood accord with exotic tea, bergamot, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and clove; generously wrapped in sumptuous Madagascan vanilla, suede musks, frankincense, patchouli and vetiver. This beautiful, evocative fragrance will radiate warmth throughout your home.' 

First of all, this baby is no flash in the pan candle that will be gone faster than you can say "£50 up in smoke" as it has a burn time of some sixty, yes sixty hours. The candle has been burning away on and off for most of the weekend it's hardly made a dent in the wax yet it has released quite possibly one of the richest most fabulous fragrances since the last time I bought a bottle of Creed aftershave! It's divine to be blunt and this is where it really made me stop and think that actually, this is worth the price.

I'm a massive fan of bergamot, musks and patchouli and within 3-4 minutes of lighting you start to get subtle hints of the fragrances in the air. After ten minutes the air is awash with the lovely fragrance - think a warm spice with a hint of sweetness and you are close. Unlike some other candles (I'm looking at you Yankee) you don't get that build up of the fragrance (loose term) in the back of your throat that I seem to struggle with if in a room with lit fragranced candles. For that I am truly grateful.  After extinguishing the candle the fragrance stays in the room for ages afterwards - it really is nice after popping out to return home to be greeted by the slowly fading notes from the candle. I really have sat in a room where this candle has burned away and felt far more relaxed, calm and generally at ease with the world (I can be a touch highly strung) - good smells are good for your mental health (well mine anyway).

Yes, £46 is a lot for a candle but if you are a fan of subtle yet manly fragrances you'll really like this, and it'll last for an absolute age. It has worked wonders when helping me to relax in the evening after a long day and I for one wouldn't be without it now and it has resulted in me considering firing up some of the other Timothy Dunn candles the other half has floating around. I'm loathe to say this because it seems so cliched, but there is a reassuring quality to this candle and it would make a great gift at any time of the year.


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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

BEARDS: The Great British Grooming Co. Beard Wash and Beard Oil

I had planned on writing lots of beard related posts for Movember but alas the day job got in the way (in a very nice way - check out 'The Meters Collection post). I had intended to talk in depth post after post about the variety of potions and lotions I’ve been using to keep my facial fuzz clean, under control and most of all, calm. Nothing is more irritating than a scratchy beard and before I shape my facial hair into something resembling an effort at growing a moustache I want my face as calm and clean as possible. First up though are two products, The Great British Grooming Co. Beard Wash and Beard Oil.
The Great British Grooming Co. Beard Wash and Beard Oil

So, who are The Great British Grooming Co.? This is what they say about themselves over at their website here:

‘The Great British Grooming Co.™ Traditional grooming made modern. Custom built to be at the very core of the modern man’s grooming kit, The Great British Grooming Co.™ is a capsule beard care collection designed to care for the manliest of faces. With exceptional formulations blended with the hydrating, nourishing and skin boosting properties of Argan Oil, The Great British Grooming Co.™ tames facial hair in four simple steps …’

Beard Wash - £4.99 - 200ml - With a rather thick tea-strainer of the moustache and the beard coming along nicely it does mean that my face seems to attract even more dirt when travelling around the polluted streets of London. Rather than wasting face scrub, using this beard wash has been something of a revelation. 

In the interests of seeing how much grime this removes I washed my face in the sink rather than in the shower as normal and I have to say, "yuck"! It was vile seeing how much grime was removed when I first used it. There had clearly been a build up after using just a normal shower gel to face my face and beard.

The fragrance is manly and actually quite subtle, it has more of a rugged and earthy aroma which doesn't seem to linger on the skin or the beard after drying off. In addition, there is no unsightly flakes of beard dandruff and to the touch it feels squeaky clean.

The best part about this is clearly the moisturising and smoothing effect that the Argan Oil provides and personally, my face feels really soft and smooth, as does my beard, and that's before any beard oil is applied! 

Beard Oil - £8.99 - 75ml - This is the third beard oil brand that I've tried on my facial fuzz and once again, I have to rate it on just a few factors - price, how quickly it is absorbed, how it looks when applied and how it leaves the beard feeling. 

Price wise, you can't grumble at the cost, it's really reasonable (I paid £20 for a 50ml can of beard oil at the weekend) when compared with other brands out there on the market. In terms of application just a little is enough to spread across my growing beard and once applied it gives the oily shine you would expect but after around five minutes it dries into the hair and has more of a matte effect. 

The best thing is that it works, it makes brushing the beard into shape (in my case just smoothing the hair down and in one direction) a breeze and after a week of using it my beard itch is barely noticeable. My beard feels more conditioned and even when first waking in the morning the horrid itch isn't bad. 

Both of these products are reasonably priced and for me are must haves now in the bathroom to keep my beard on point. Nobody likes a crusty old beard and I'm not different and thanks to these two top products my face doesn't act as wife repellent! Why don't I just shave you say?
You can find these products on the highstreet at Waitrose and Superdrug and they would make a lovely Christmas gift!


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Friday, December 02, 2016

GROOMING: Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the City

Anyone who has read previous posts where I get my hair cut will know that I have a rather strong and unhealthy fear of hairdressers, so much so that my hair grows out and to stupid lengths before I build up the courage to finally sit down in the barber chair. Sadly, due to illness I was unable to attend the launch of the latest Ted's Grooming Room near St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London, but managed to wangle a visit a couple of weeks ago to see the new store and what they could do to make me look respectable again after some six months of hair growth.
Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the City
Before going I likened my hair to a Darth Vader helmet and to be frank, my eyebrow (there was only one) looked as though a hairy caterpillar had crawled across my face and died. The look was not a good - being blunt (am I ever anything but?) I looked a right state.

As always, I opted for 'The Full Ted' of a wash and cut, a beard trim and some much needed threading of the brow. Bearing in mind I was off work at the time I visited, I had partied a little too much the night before so was delicate to say the least. On arrival I was sat down, given a much needed strong and sugary Turkish coffee (it was lush) and had a brief chat on what sort of style I wanted to go for. I opted for an undercut, but one that gradually cut under my flowing hair on the top, with that thinned out and trimmed so that I could sweep it back and manage it easily. 

While struggling to stay awake while my hair was washed (it's so relaxing) the cut itself did take some time, about 50 minutes but that was mainly due to the massive amount of hair on my head and the care taken in trimming my barnet. At my age watching the grey hair fall to the floor is a bit scary (I'm getting old) but even without my glasses on I could see the style taking shape and about ten minutes in I was grinning from ear to ear and the nerves I'd been experiencing (read nausea) has evaporated. Good stuff, good stuff.

As the cut went on the lovely staff continued to talk to me about the theme for the new store. In the store just off The Strand there is a TV theme, but here in The City its Pearly Kings & Queens and when they mentioned that they had had real ones along for the opening I knew I'd missed out on a good night.
Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the City
Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the CityTed's Grooming Room - Ted in the City
After the cut was finished there was another wash, a careful style and a few snips here and there as the barber searched for perfection. He found it very quickly! 

Rather than go for a full clean shave due to Movember I asked what he could do to make the moustache stand out without removing the beard (the other half says that removal of the beard is grounds for divorce). The suggestion was a tapered trim that brought out the hair around my mouth and chin while retaining a reasonable length on the sides gradually getting shorter as it approached my ear. It looked the bees knees when finished.

They say they leave the best until last, I dispute this, they left the pain until last. I may be going soft in my old age, but when I had my brow first threaded back in October 2015 when visiting the Holborn branch I hardly felt a thing, the second time it stung but this time, ouch, it battered. It felt as though my face was being ripped off. The pain was worth it and in all fairness, they did have a lot of hair to remove from the brow and then to separate them properly. The end result, two brows, perfectly shaped and looking spot on.

And here are the before and after shots - it's hard to disagree that they know their craft!

Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the City
Ted's Grooming Room - Ted in the City
Ted's Grooming Room never fail to turn what I call my hobo-chic grooming efforts into something that looks amazing, well kept and as though I've spent hours perfecting my look. I love my hair, I was impressed with the attention given by the barber to make sure every last hair was cut and trimmed perfectly and best of all, on leaving I felt on top of the world. 

My acid test for hair salons is how I feel when I leave - in this case I felt about a foot taller, felt more confident and genuinely liked the pictures I took of myself on the way home just so that I could see the style again. That speaks volumes in my book, and means that I can't help but recommend this new store and the talented folk who work there. Top marks, top marks.


Ted's Grooming Room

9 New Change Passage
St Paul's

Open Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Telephone: 0203 397 9966

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