A while back, I shared some of my most-prized inexpensive grooming products – those that did the job but didn’t cost the earth. But, as a Grooming Editor, I’m often asked what my favourite value for money products are.
To me, the notion of ‘value for money’ is a very different thing to ‘inexpensive’, in the same way that a £200 shirt you’ve worn a hundred times and which always draws compliments is different from a £20 one that serves you well enough for work but – in truth – isn’t really anything special.
So, the products below may not be the cheapest on the market but, having road-tested pretty much everything that’s out there, I can highly recommend them. Each deserves a place in this list because it delivers where it matters and offers you a favourable ROI.
According to the words of a 1930s-era New York Times ad, quality is never an accident; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Hopefully, this list will go some way in helping you make wise choices.
The Fragrance: Le Labo Patchouli 24
There are few things more disappointing than applying a fragrance you’ve just bought, only to find that an hour and a half later it’s disappeared from your skin faster than a cheapskate at a bar.
The longevity of a fragrance depends on many factors – from its concentration and your own personal skin chemistry to the notes it contains (fragrance designer Azzi Glasser suggests looking for one with notes of vetiver, oudh, labdanum, benzoin, amber and musk if you want staying power) – but it’s fair to say that there are a few fragrances famous for their tenacity.
This earthy, leathery and smoky one by Le Labo will set you back over £100 for a 50ml bottle but one or two sprays will last you pretty much all day long (I’ve even known it to survive showering), so it’s actually a sound investment.
Other scents with staying power include Chanel’s Antaeus, Terre d’Hermès Parfum, Creed Original Vetiver, Givenchy Gentlemen, Acqua Di Parma Colonia Leather, Czech & Speake’s No. 88, Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male and Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather.
Available at Liberty London, priced £105 for 50ml.
The Cleanser: Shiseido Men Cleansing Foam
I like to think of Shiseido Men as being the Kate Bush of the grooming world: quietly getting on with the job of being fantastic without making much fuss, which might explain why it’s a brand still not known to most men.
This premium cleansing foam costs around £24 but such a small amount is required to do the job that a tube of it will last two or three times as long as similarly sized products. So thick and creamy – yet gentle – is it, that it can even be used as a shaving foam.
Also worth checking out: Dermalogica’s legendary Special Cleansing Gel (£28 for 250ml), which is especially good for delicate or dry skin types.
Available at Mankind, priced £23.50 for 125ml.
The Electric Shaver: Philips Series 9000 With SmarkClick Trimmer & Brush
Good quality electric shavers are always a hefty investment, but what makes this particular Series 9000 shaver special is that it delivers much more than a decent shave.
Not only does this state of the art rotary shaver include a precision trimmer attachment that allows you to trim sideburns and moustaches, it rather cleverly comes with a facial cleansing brush too.
The brush is perfect for lifting stubble before shaving but also makes a great all-over-the-face exfoliator. Facial brushes themselves cost upwards of £79 and, given the price of face scrubs these days, this one will easily earn its keep as the months go by.
Available at Boots, priced £284.99.
The Aftershave Balm: Clinique Post-Shave Soother
I’ve converted so many men to this premium aftershave balm that I really wish I’d struck a deal with Clinique for a commission.
Why is it worth its weight in gold? Well, as well as being rich in skin-healing aloe, it has a pleasantly light consistency that ensures it never feels greasy on the skin. But that’s not all – it’s also fragrance-free, which means it won’t clash with any scent you happen to be wearing.
A little goes a very long way, so use sparingly and be sure to massage in thoroughly.
Available at Selfridges, priced £20 for 75ml.
The Body Wash: Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser
A body wash is key to any man’s morning grooming routine. If you think about it, it’s probably the only product that you use over your entire body, so it makes sense to invest in something decent.
Aesop’s cleansers don’t just look impossibly stylish (hey, these things matter), they fill your entire bathroom with a glorious scent and get you good and clean without leaving your skin feeling dry and tight.
This one features uplifting geranium leaf, mandarin and bergamot oils. There’s a Geranium Leaf Body Scrub and Geranium Leaf Body Balm, too, which allows for consistency in your skincare routine – something sorely lacking with many other brands.
Available at Liberty London, priced £31 for 500ml.
The Styling Aid: American Crew Fiber
It’s unusual for something as simple as a hair styling product to attain legendary status in the grooming world, and yet this fibre from American Crew has managed to secure itself something of a cult following, picking up award after award and thousands of five-star reviews over the years for its efficacy.
Especially good for shorter, choppier styles where you need hold, texture and pliability, it enables you to style your hair effortlessly, leaving a matte finish, protecting hair from water loss and making it appear fuller in the process.
Make sure you apply it properly though; to get the most out of it, rub a little between your palms to warm and apply to slightly damp, rather than wet or bone dry hair, working the product in with your fingertips.
Available at Mankind, priced £11.43 for 85g.
The Skin Defender: Dermalogica Daily Defense SPF15
A moisturiser with a built-in sunscreen is a must-have if you don’t want to end up with a face more wrinkly than a Shar Pei’s. And while there are plenty on the market, my own personal favourite is this one from Dermalogica.
A truly multi-tasking product, it not only hydrates skin without leaving a shine, but also guards against sun damage, soothes post-shave irritation, and is formulated to minimise the risk of ingrown hairs too.
What’s more, it contains a slew of antioxidants to help minimise the ageing process. It’s a little pricier than some SPF moisturisers out there but then, few products are quite as good a wingman for your skin.
Available at John Lewis, priced £36.90 for 100ml.
The Razor: Bolin Webb Men’s R1-S Razor
At £40, Bolin Webb’s beautifully designed razor might seem like an extravagance. And, in a way, it is. After all, you can still get a decent shave with something a quarter of the price. However, what a premium razor like this one brings to the party (apart from giving its owner a little style cred in the bathroom cabinet department) is a slightly more studied shave.
Fans of Bolin Webb’s razors tell me they tend to take more time with their shave when they pick one up; partly because the ergonomically designed handle feels so good in the hand, but also because having a luxury razor makes something that’s a chore seem like a bit of a special event.
A little pretentious, maybe, but if having a fancy razor results in a better shave, then it’s pretty much worth every penny, right?
Available at Mankind, priced £40.
Do you have a favourite grooming product that’s worth its weight in gold?
Let us know what it is and why you love it using the comments box below.