Do organic men’s skincare products really do the job?

Everywhere you look, there are products and articles claiming that “organic is best” — but what would make an alpha male go organic? In an environment where sex sells and sustainability doesn’t, can organic skin care for men cut it?

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Organic for men

It is hard selling skincare to men. Sure, most guys will slap on some form of moisturiser, but give him any more than that, and watch his eyes glaze over as you rattle off the different product types for different needs. So getting them to try organic skincare? Fat chance.

Not when personal hygiene brands like Lynx promote their shower gel’s promising to “turn nice girls naughty with this seductive fresh fragrance”. Where sex sells, sustainability does not.

Why make the switch?

So why should an alpha male go organic? A little online research quickly reveals some of the startling chemicals commonly found in skin care products:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), found in most skin care products from shaving foams to shampoos, and also in garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers. It is a cheap and effective foaming agent, but also excels at causing “malformation in children’s eyes”, according to an American College of Toxicology report. Perfect for depression and severe skin irritation, too.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol. No, it is not something you can drink. More cleanser than Kahlua, isopropyl alcohol is a key ingredient in facial cleansers and antifreeze, where ingestion or inhalation of its vapour can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting.
  • Fragrance. That fresh, minty scent coming from your shaving gel is not from the actual plant, but is more likely from the 4,000 different ingredients that chemically create fragrances. Symptoms of a reaction to the synthetic smell can include headaches, dizziness and rashes.

This is where organic skin care steps in. Yes, it is usually a little more expensive, but by replacing these toxins with naturally occurring ingredients, organic skin care may save you from turning into an extra on George Romero’s next zombie movie.

Caring for the planet and your skin

Primal Earth is one such company with an organic skin care range for men. Established in 2007 and based in New Zealand, Primal Earth’s philosophy was to take advantage of New Zealand’s many natural resources to make “skincare products that care for not only skin, but the planet”.

Shane Young, founder of Primal Earth, created this line due to his experiences with allergic reactions. “I was one of those kids with asthma, eczema and allergic reactions to pollens and dust mites — lots of fun,” Young says. “To this day I still can’t use standard foams or face shaving creams without breaking out with contact dermatitis, which can stay red several weeks after first contact.”

The Primal Earth’s range reflects Shane’s goal of naturally derived, environmentally aware skin care products. Primal Earth’s line consists of a face wash, moisturiser and three types of shaving gel. They also contain natural extracts of aloe vera, mamuku fern, harakeke flax and green tea, all of which contain healing properties for the skin.

In addition, Primal Earth advertises its products as being free from “SLS and SLES, parabens, synthetic fillers, enthoxolated ingredients, mineral oils, pegs, petrolatum and phthalates”.

Next: Organic skincare results >>

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Organic skincare results

So how does Primal Earth weigh up against my usual beauty [I use that term loosely] regime? My daily morning routine consists of shaving with a Nivea for Men Sensitive Shaving Gel, before slapping on Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin. While there were no discernable toxic chemicals in Neutrogena’s product, I spotted parabens in Nivea’s shaving foam.

Primal Earth’s Aloe Hydrate Shave Gel was up first. According to the website, it blends “Aloe Vera gel and Harakeke Flax extract into a natural, low-foam shave gel that gives you an optimal shave without dryness or irritation” that causes “no unnecessary chemicals and irritants, preventing razor burn, rashes, or skin blotchiness.”

And low-foam it really was. Unlike Nivea, which foams up into a palm-sized white bubble with one squeeze, the Primal Earth’s shaving gel was underwhelming. Even with twice the usual amount and rather heavy lathering, Primal Earth barely foamed up for enough lubrication, making shaving a much rougher experience. Nivea, one, Primal Earth, zero.

Primal Earth’s Moisturiser, on the other hand, faired better. Made from Aloe and Harakeke Flax extracts in a non-greasy formulation that “rehydrates and reinvigorates your skin”, its product replaces “essential minerals helping repair damage from the sun”. As I applied it, the moisturiser leaves behind a faint yet pleasant scent of Aloe Vera. Unfortunately, Primal Earth’s moisturiser does not protect your skin from the sun, while Neutrogena contains the S.P.F. 15 sunscreen ingredient. Primal Earth tied with Neutrogena.

But after trying out Primal Earth’s shaving gel for a few more days, I realised what was wrong with my initial judgment. In a blind rush towards modernisation, our world has turned to cheap, synthetic chemicals for artificially enhanced experiences, causing us to lose touch of the real and the natural. Nivea’s shaving foam is no difference; too used to big lumps of shaving foam caused by the chemicals, I wrongly rejected Primal Earth’s simplicity, when I should be embracing it.

Maybe if society followed Primal Earth’s example of going back to basics, our world would not lose touch of whom we really are. Primal Earth two, Nivea, zero.

[Ed: Primal Earth provided samples of the products mentioned to writer and reviewer Jethro Kang to test. He is in no way related to any company mentioned. This review is his own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers.]


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