Skincare has a lot in common with wine. No, really. Bear with us. In the supermarket, you can find both a £5 bottle of plonk and similarly priced face lube in a tube – neither may be fancy, but they will do the job. However, if you visit a wine merchant you’ll come across a £50 bottle that tastes more refined and might be softer on the hangover. Likewise, in a department store you can pick up a £50 moisturiser which smells good, looks nice and keeps your skin happier for longer. For the money-is-no-object brigade, £500+ bottles of wine also exist. As do luxury skin creams with eye-watering price tags.
Where are we going with all this? Well, we’re saying there’s likely a greater improvement between the £5 and £50 bottle, than the £50 and £500 one. This conclusion might annoy some people (sommeliers for example), but most of us don’t have the palette (or wallet) to really observe the difference. The same goes for skincare. A £500 cream might impress a certain type of person, but – we hate to break it to you – there’s no such thing as a face lift in a jar. Some brands might make bold claims, but in reality sun exposure, lifestyle and genes make the biggest difference to how we age. Beyond a certain point you are simply paying for packaging, branding, marketing and status.
So, no matter how much you have to spend, or your individual needs, here’s where you should put your money.
The Botanical Brand: Aēsop
Aēsop brought much-needed aesthetics to the world of grooming; from its eco stylish store fits to the strong, recognisable packaging. For a skincare brand, their best-selling product is actually hand wash. Cult hand wash no less; you wouldn’t Instagram your bathroom without it, would you? Clean hands aside, Aesop make really good things for your face, using mostly natural ingredients.
Skin Heroes: Fabulous Face Oil (£39), B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel (£81), Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser (£27)
The Cult Brand: Buly 1803
The brain child of Ramdane Touhani and Victoire de Taillac, Buly 1803 is like a globetrotter’s apothecary cabinet. The antique styling belies modern formulations that have roots in ancestral grooming methods and natural remedies from different cultures around the world.
Skin Heroes: Pommade Concrète Hand and Foot cream (£38), Pommade Virginale Face Moisturiser (£42), Vide Poche Eye Serum (£26)
The Luxury Brand: Sisley Paris
A Sisley addiction is an expensive habit to have. It’s a family run skincare company that hasn’t been bought up by one of the major luxury houses, so they tend to launch when they feel they have something new to bring to market and not for the sake of it. They have one dedicated (excellent) moisturiser and aftershave balm for guys, so if you’re comfortable using products that don’t have “for men” emblazoned all over them then it’s well worth exploring the rest of the range; the quality here is top notch.
Skin Heroes: Eye Contour Mask (£90), Sisleyüm for Men Global Revitalizer (£187), Black Rose Cream Mask (£111)
The Designer Brand: Tom Ford For Men
When Tom Ford was looking to launch a skincare brand, he knew the experts at Estée Lauder could deliver his vision. He understands that men want to look their best, but in an easy, natural way, so his skin-enhancing products are basically fool-proof.
Skin Heroes: Intensive Purifying Mud Mask (£48), Bronzing Gel (£21), Oil-Free Daily Moisturiser (£78)
The Holistic Brand: ilāpothecary
Denise Leicester, founder of ilāpothecary, is a healer who wants to treat everybody. She launched her spa and beauty line, ilā, in 2007 and has a background in complimentary medicine, aromatherapy and massage and uses Ayurvedic principles. The ilāpothecary products work like mini spa treatments: they’ll leave you feeling less stressed and your skin in balance.
Skin Heroes: Beardy Balm (£29), Fresh Faced Mud Cleanser (£28), Warming Anti-Breakout Face Mask (£27)
The Affordable Brand: Bulldog
There’s a buzz around sustainability at the moment and a lot of “green wash” too: some brands talk about being good to the environment, while other brands make real changes to lessen their impact. We’ve always liked Bulldog for its affordable, effective products – now we love them because they don’t cost the earth either. They’ve switched to sugar cane derived plastic packaging, offer bulk sizes for economy and brought out the first bamboo razor handle.
Skin Heroes: Sensitive Face Wash (£4.50), Original Moisturiser (£6), Age Defence Eye Roll-On (£10)
The Performance Brand: Lab Series
Trend hunting Lab Series has given us great skin over the years. They’re not “free-from” or conscious but they research what works and know what we’re looking to achieve. Lab Series are on a mission to bring us better skin and in doing so brought out the first BB tinted cream for men and one of the first moisturisers to use skin perfecting blurring technology.
Skin Heroes: Day Rescue Defense Lotion SPF 35 (£31), Multi Action Face Wash (£21), BB Tinted Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 35 (£38)
The Dermatologist Brand: Ole Henriksen
As a dermatologist to Hollywood’s A-List, Ole Henriksen regularly preps men for the scrutiny of the red carpet. He knows a thing or two about getting the best out of our skin and just relaunched his signature line in Boots. It’s a broad range that’s split into four categories for easy navigation: Truth, Transform, Balance and Nurture offer targeted products for anti-ageing, brightening, oil control and dry/sensitive skin, respectively.
Skin Heroes: Banana Bright Eye Crème (£30), Truth Serum (£42), Balancing Force Oil Control Toner (£20)
The Natural Brand: Dr Hauschka
Like skincare that’s made from 100% organic, bio-dynamic ingredients and comes in plastic-free glass and metal packaging? Look to Dr Hauschka, it’s one of the original “free-from” brands. The clarifying range is great for spotty, breakout prone, congested skin – and it’s gentle too.
Skin Heroes: Clarifying Steam Bath (£25.50), Clarifying Clay Mask (£25), Eye Balm (£35.50)
The Spa Brand: Aman Skincare
Top of our bucket list? A trip to an Aman resort: probably Utah’s jaw dropping Amangiri or the ultimate paradise, Amanpulo in the Palawan Islands. This exclusive global chain of tropical hideaways and urban sanctuaries has a set of super fans known as “Aman junkies”. It’s Kim Jones’ default destination for a post Dior fashion show recharge. These aren’t cheap places to visit, so the closest we can get to the Aman experience for now is in our bathroom, using the signature bath and skin line.
Skin Heroes: Grounding Face Mist (£110), Purifying Marine Face Wash (£50), Purifying Hyaluronic Facial Hydrator (£75)
The Barbershop Brand: Baxter of California
Based out of Los Angeles, Baxter of California has been around since 1965. Baxter Finley started his line with the relaunched Super Shape moisturiser and the rest is well-groomed history. Check out the body and cleansing bars if you want to go plastic-free.
Skin Heroes: Daily Face Wash (£19), Facial Scrub (£19), Oil Free Moisturiser (£24)