A decent face wash should be the central component of any men's skincare routine, but it’s also the least interesting. Moisturisers, serums, night creams and face scrubs can promise the world, but a basic cleanser doesn’t have so much to boast about.
But face wash matters, probably more than anything else in your skincare regime. It’s not just about cleaning your face, but also balancing oil, removing all those free radicals that have set up camp in your pores, and eliminating bacteria that can lead to breakouts and blackheads. What's more, using the best face wash for your skin type will set you up for all the products that follow, ensuring optimum conditions for them to work as they should. In short, get your cleanser right and reap the rewards.
From lightweight face washes for oily skin to calming creams that will soothe sensitive souls, there’s a men’s face wash out there that is truly meant for you. Read on to discover your perfect match, according to our grooming expert.
1. Best Face Wash for All Skin Types
The brand makes several decent face washes for men, and this one is the crowd-pleaser. Formulated with all skin types in mind, it's simply a great cleanser that lathers well, sweeps away oil and grime, and leaves skin feeling hydrated—not tight.
For a more intensive pore cleanse, try the oil-absorbing Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleanser, or call on the salicylic acid-based Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser for quick clarifying.
2. Best Face Wash for Resurfacing
Proof that you don’t need to put in Patrick Bateman levels of effort to get great skin, Anthony's resurfacing cleanser contains glycolic acid: an alpha-hydroxy-acid that breaks down dead cells and trapped oil in the time it takes for you to wash your face. Consider it a face wash and an exfoliator in one.
3. Best Face Wash For Sensitive Skin
You need to treat sensitive skin nicely, or it'll only get redder and angrier in retaliation. Ditch the hardcore skin-strippers in favour of this ultra-gentle gel cleanser, which will keep the skin barrier clean and resilient, allowing it to heal itself.
4. Best Face Wash for Dehydrated Skin
What this one lacks in shelf appeal, it makes up for with sheer utilitarian performance. The workhorse of your skin routine, it delivers a satisfying lather and contains a heavy dose of ceramides, which work to reinforce your skin barrier to keep things calm and smooth. There's a reason all the dermatologists bang on about it.
5. Best Face Wash for Breakouts
The occasional breakout is inevitable, and the best line of attack is almost always salicylic acid. This gel-textured cleanser contains an effective dose, alongside AHAs to work on brightening tone and smoothing texture.
6. Best Exfoliating Face Wash
Part cleanser, part face scrub, this hardworking formula will wake you up in the morning—thanks to the orange-spiked scent—and help remove old, dead skin cells.
7. Best Face Wash for Enlarged Pores
If your pores are looking larger than you'd ideally like, it's probably because oil has become trapped inside them, stretching the cellular walls. Sounds terrifying, but it's really just a case of employing something pore-purging to dissolve that unwanted sebum and restore order.
Pai's new foaming face wash uses poly-hydroxy-acids, a gentle yet effective resurfacing ingredient ,to dissolve the gunk lingering within pores without upsetting sensitive skin.
8. Best Face Wash for Combination Skin
Part of the new school of affordable yet science-based skincare brands, Byoma creates fuss-free products that'll keep sensitive skin happy and resilient.
The brand's signature cleanser has a jelly-like texture that sweeps away oil without over-drying the skin's barrier. A great all-rounder for pretty much everyone.
9. Best Face Wash for Dry Skin
Hydrating cream cleansers are often missing that satisfying lather, but Soho Skin's cleverly combines moisture-boosting ingredients with a gentle foaming agent, meaning you get the best of both worlds. Squalane works to quench dry skin, while oat extract soothes irritation from shaving.
There are a number of things that male Korean celebrities and idols have in common. The chiselled jawline, the perfect nose bridge, seemingly poreless, porcelain skin, and disarming boyishness. To complete the package, they also tend to be devoid of facial hair, save for perfectly shaped eyebrows.
It’s not enough that these examples of contemporary male beauty possess the visual exuberance of a 21-year-old in his physical prime, they also have underarms so smooth and clear that they can be likened to vanilla ice cream. I mean, one can’t help but notice this when male members of K-pop groups opt to wear sleeveless outfits during their energetic dance performances.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m affected by these rather impossible standards—not only are those underarms hairless, they also look unbelievably smooth—I am however a fan of keeping things clean and groomed. And having hairless underarms does have its benefits. For one, it reduces the chance for the accumulation of bacteria. Hairy pits give bacteria something more to cling on to and thrive in, and subsequently cause that after-workout funk, or that end-of-day earthiness simply by living in a humid climate.
Hair has a tendency to retain moisture, which means hairy pits also often translate to visible wet underarm patches. And while sweating is normal and healthy, having perspiration seep through clothing isn’t exactly a good look. Depending on whether you’re for deodorants and antiperspirants (typically aluminium-based to temporarily block sweat pores) or their more natural alternatives, a hairless underarm also provides a smoother canvas that increases their efficiency.
I’ll have to confess that I am mildly obsessed with hair removal. After all, I have tried pretty much every at-home solution. Like most guys, I started out with the standard shaving routine. It’s fast and idiot-proof; I typically had zero issue or experienced any nick from using a Gillette razor. But the downside to shaving is the potential for ingrown hair. The constant scraping action of shaving can also lead to minor cuts to the skin and exacerbate hyperpigmentation, making skin appear darker—definitely not K-pop-star-approved.
Forget about hair-removing creams. My experience with them has never been positive. They either didn’t work as advertised or weren’t as effective as the razor. Then, there was the one time I decided to try out an at-home waxing kit in preparation for a marathon run. In the interest of reducing abrasion to the skin during the long-distance run (it happens around the underarm area too, especially after a bumpy shave), I laid out the components in the kit and read the instructions carefully before proceeding. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t begin the experiment with a DIY-Boyzilian (the male variant of a Brazilian that involves removing hair from the front and back of the pubic region), because not only did I suffer from post-marathon abrasion, some skin was ripped off in the process.
“There’s almost ZERO downtime with waxing. I can (and I do) use my lunchtime on a work day to go to a waxing salon near the office, spend about an hour for a BOYZILIAN and underarm hair removal, and then head back to my desk without anyone knowing I just had my FOLLICLES STRIPPED OFF of me.”
As effective as self-waxing strips are, the quality of the pre-attached wax is nowhere near what professional salons use. And they’re messy and hard to manoeuvre on yourself—the strips need to be at the absolutely perfect angle to work. The risk of getting it wrong—clearly, in my case—is pretty high.
Professional waxing is probably the best temporary hair removal technique out there. There’s still some degree of pain involved unfortunately, but results typically last for a couple of weeks. After repeated visits, regrowth is generally slower and you may only need to go just once a month.
There’s almost zero downtime with waxing. I can (and I do) use my lunchtime on a work day to head to a waxing salon near the office, spend about an hour for a Boyzilian and underarm hair removal, and then head back to my desk without anyone knowing I just had follicles stripped off of me. All one has to avoid for the next couple of hours are exercising and showering with hot water, or anything else that could irritate the open pores of a waxed area.
While the usual waxing salon I frequent isn’t too shabby with its private rooms and sterile environment, a visit to STRIP’s Ion Orchard outlet proved to be a luxurious experience. There’s nothing clinical about its deep coloured walls and interior furnishings as well as the plush bed in the middle that all together resembles more of a private boudoir than a salon.
Homegrown brand STRIP has been at it for 21 years now and has expanded to eight other cities in the region. As part of its 21st-anniversary celebrations, a special STRIP Birthday Wax had been formulated especially for Boyzilian procedures. And like its name suggests, the wax smells like how a vanilla birthday cake would, which in hindsight, is perhaps not the kind of visuals one would want while getting hair removed from sensitive areas. But it smelt delicious and one can hardly complain to that.
“Do you see more guys getting waxed nowadays,” I asked my Waxpert (STRIP’s term for its wax specialists), ignoring my cardinal rule of never making conversation with the person you’re exposing your groin and crack to at the salon, all in the interest of journalism.
“Yes, of course!” she answered without skipping a beat, before asking me to take a deep breath and proceeding to yank a strip off. Surprisingly, the pain was minimal.
The pain element is inevitable—you’re essentially removing hair follicles right at the root. But experienced and well-trained specialists make quick work of it, which helps in reducing the pain whether it’s underarm hair removal or the more sensitive Boyzilian. Anything around the scrotum though, is bound to be the most painful owed to the fact that the skin is thin in that area. You might jerk from the swift motion or even yelp, but they’re all most definitely normal reactions that you don’t have to be embarrassed about. These wax specialists have probably seen it all.
You might be wondering at this point, why bother going through the pain? Especially when intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment is a pain-free option and lasts far longer. With IPL treatment, however, multiple sessions are required with results typically more visible after at least four sessions. Conversely, waxing is immediate, especially if you’re pressed for time and are not willing to wait for four months for smooth, hairless skin.
At the end of the day, it boils down to one’s personal choice, and I don’t just mean waxing versus IPL treatments.
Hair removal isn’t a necessity; it’s a preference. Having hairy pits doesn’t equate to being hyper-masculine nor does the lack of it means one is any less. For me, it’s not even about adhering to a new standard of male beauty; it’s about feeling more hygienic and knowing that I’m not the cause of a lone hair sticking on the rim of a urinal. Having said that, for the love of mankind, at least trim those bushes, bro.
Haider Ackermann is highly considered one of fashion's greats. At one point, the late Karl Lagerfeld openly declared that Ackermann should be the one to replace him at Chanel should he retire (but of course, like most creatives, Lagerfeld changed his mind a few months after).
Ackermann's masteries of fabric manipulations and drape have earned him a devoted legion of following. His eponymous fashion label may be on pause at the moment, but the man has been busy racking up collaborations in the past couple of years—a sportswear collaboration with Fila and earlier this year, presented a stellar collection under Jean Paul Gaultier's couture house. And at the same time, Ackermann continues to dress an A-list clientele the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Tilda Swinton, who have all made noteworthy (and at times, viral) moments on red carpets in his creations.
His latest collaboration is a first for the fashion designer: a collaboration with luxury skincare brand Augustinus Bader.
"Haider and I met at various events over the past few years," says Charles Rosier, the CEO and co-founder of Augustinus Bader. "Our paths first crossed at a private cocktail party honouring Azzedine Alaïa, which was a large gathering of creative and like-minded people. But it wasn’t until we met again at the Marrakech Film Festival that we actually discussed collaborating, and I was curious to see how Haider could interpret our vessel to create something truly unique. Fast forward to multiple meetings in Paris, moodboards backwards and forwards, many zooms later and it resulted in the partnership you see today."
Augustinus Bader is relatively new in the skincare industry. It was officially established in 2018 but the work that's made it a competitive entrant in luxury skincare is the result of more than 30 years of research by stem cell scientist and doctor of regenerative medicine, Professor Augustinus Bader. The brand's first launches—The Cream and its more potent sibling, The Rich Cream—have gained such a cult following that those who swear by them, wholly believe in their ultra moisturising benefits.
It's this fifth-year anniversary that have brought Ackermann and Augustinus Bader together. The fashion designer has reimagined The Cream and The Rich Cream in two separate limited edition sets. Each features a 50ml Nomad Refill and chrome 50ml Nomad ("This collaborative partnership also sees the vessel be refillable, meaning that this bottle is an object d’art to keep and reuse again and again. It’s a keepsake forever, which was an important element of our partnership," says Rosier) designed by Ackermann that's a departure from the usual packaging by Augustinus Bader. And for that extra fashion-forward touch, the vessel is topped with Ackermann's name done in the blue that the skincare brand is associated with.
To find out more about the idea behind the collaboration, there's no one better than Ackermann himself to expound on the inspiration and his connection to beauty.
What was it about Augustinus Bader as a brand that got your attention?
When I first met Charles I was really intrigued about the idea of collaborating as I loved this brand and everything that it stood for: luxury, attention to detail, results-driven, dedicated to its craft. I wanted to do my research and use the creams first. The creme had such a calming effect on me, now I am devoted. The first word that spoke to me about the brand is when they talk about “healing”. Healing is such a big word, but something we all deserve.
How does the Augustinus Bader brand ethos tap into the DNA of your brand?
There's a lot of alignment here in the respect of the “metier” of hands-on luxury craftsmanship in the work that we both do as brands: whether it’s creating a collection by hand or creating a cream to be massaged into the skin—it's a very beautiful thing to do. I always come back to this idea of working around imperfection to elevate something to be the best that it can be.
What was the inspiration behind the chrome packaging?
When we first spoke about this project, immediately I knew it had to be a mirror. The packaging needed to reflect its owner. To have a mirror where you could look at yourself, and apply your cream wherever you are and have it be a reflection of yourself. I also wanted to have something very pure to mirror the purity of skin, as well as the intimate moment when you are applying your daily ritual. It’s also very calming to touch and to look at, which is also vital, because it's about trying to find peace with yourself in that moment of application.
What does beauty mean to you?
To define beauty is rather difficult and very personal, but the search for beauty is an intriguing and exciting path. When we look at our reflection in the mirror, our imperfections are often the first thing we notice and our reflection might not always be what we want it to be. But it’s always been my ambition to make a woman feel comfortable with herself, from the clothes that she wears to how she adorns her skin. I remember when I was young, looking at my mother and the tenderness with which she caressed her face and put her cream on. I was fascinated—there was something supremely beautiful about it. I have always appreciated the gesture of beauty.
Has the significance of beauty always tapped into your collections?
I have always said that backstage in the beauty area is where the major happens. The face is like a full diary into someone’s soul: you see every emotion and expression line, be that happy or sad. I could spend hours observing someone’s face—it’s like reading a poem. So when I create a piece, I am fantasising about the whole life behind the kind of woman who will wear it. The complexion is a canvas from which I begin this story.
Haider Ackermann - Augustinus Bader Limited Editions will be available exclusively at the Augustinus Bader pop-up at TANGS at Tang Plaza from 20 October 2023.
It was a year ago that Kiehl's recreated a New York City Subway station at ION Orchard—complete with musical performances too. The brand makes a return to the very same spot with another Subway-themed pop-up installation, but this time, as a driver to instil the importance of sustainability as well as to highlight its own efforts in the cause.
The Kiehl’s NYC Subway: Trash To Art installation provides visitors with the full-suite of experience one would expect of a typical Kiehl's pop-up. In addition to a range of activities dedicated to educating visitors on key skincare products as well as a personalised skin consultation, the pop-up highlights Kiehl's sustainability efforts which includes its refillable solutions in its skincare, hair and body categories. Like the name suggests, a number of art installations have been crafted from post-consumer materials—mainly Kielh's-related products, of course—such as the "Kiehl's Super Tree" and the "UFC Waterfall". The latter is positioned right above an empties drop-off point that encourages visitors to discard their empty and cleaned beauty empties. The goal is for Kiehl's to reach its target of collecting 60,000 empties for the month of September.
The brand has taken it a step further. A trio of Singaporean artists were commissioned to interpret trash into art that are now displayed as part of Kiehl’s NYC Subway: Trash To Art. In their own words, they share with us more about the process of recreating something out of trash as well as their thoughts on sustainability as part of artistic expressions.
The concept for the artwork was born from my fascination with discovering beauty in overlooked places. I became captivated by the idea of transforming everyday plastic bottles and containers, such as those from Kiehl's products, into a representation of the iconic Empire State Building, symbolising New York and embodying Kiehl's essence. As I worked on the project, it also made me think about how we often overlook the value of things we consider as waste. This led the artwork to take on a deeper meaning, becoming a statement about reusing and repurposing materials.
The primary challenge in creating this artwork was in the cleaning of the interior of the bottles, as there are often residues left. Additionally, sourcing suitable found wood and metals to complement the sculpture presented another hurdle. The journey encompassed everything from achieving cleanliness to meticulously selecting various types of plastic bottles/containers, ranging from Kiehl's products, to incorporate into the artwork. The diverse array of shapes, textures, and colours further contributed to the complexity of the task. Therefore, this creative endeavour wasn't a linear process, but rather one that opened up a multitude of possibilities demanding careful consideration and decision-making.
Seeing beauty in unexpected places is a big part of how I make art. I think there's something special in things that we usually don't notice. This way of thinking doesn't just apply to one artwork—it's in all my creations. I like to make art that surprises people, using different materials or showing things in new ways.
Every artist should think about using sustainable methods because of the current state of the world and environment. Artists possess a unique way of highlighting important issues in ways that make people think. When artists use sustainable methods to make art, they're showing that they care about the Earth. This can inspire others to do the same. It's like being part of a collective effort to stop problems like climate change and waste—even small changes can add up to a big positive impact.
One sustainable skincare hack that I highly recommend is opting for refillable products instead of purchasing new plastic bottles or containers. By opting to buy refills, you significantly decrease the amount of plastic waste generated. This small change not only reduces your environmental footprint but also encourages companies to offer more eco-friendly options.
I was inspired by the nickname of New York being "The Big Apple" which has become an iconic symbol of the city. I utilised old Keihl’s tubs to create "The Big Apple".
Planning the initial outline and working with Sketchup to design each layer of the apple structure were some of the challenges I faced while conceptualising "The Big Apple". I had to calculate the dimensions of each tub and how many would fit per layer in the structure.
I usually work with found materials or upcycle my previous materials into new works. Sustainability is a big factor in the repurposing of discarded materials, turning them into a language for my art practice.
I think that artists are self-aware and have a deep understanding of the way they engage with the environment and the world. Having respect for the way they treat materials and engage with them should be key components of their practice.
I like using water from rinsed rice as a toner for my skin.
My artwork is inspired by the main ingredient of the Calendula Toner, which is the calendula plant. Starting from the base: As a business owner of Chokmah, I do a lot of importing and therefore have accumulated pellets from shippings. The flowers on the base are from a previous Kiehl’s pop up. The stems are made from fabric rolls that were thrown away—I collected them from Chinatown. The strong base for the stem are made from my kid’s formula cans held by an eco-friendly material called jesmonite, a mixture of the remnants from the workshops that I run. The beautiful big petals are made from the offcuts of my photobooths decorations and dance costumes. The big calendula toner is from the decorations of a previous Kiehl’s pop up too—I asked if they had any past "trash" that they wanted to throw away that I could use to integrate into my installation.
One of the challenges I had was, because my installation was going to be a big artwork, worrying if I'd have enough trash to use to construct it. Thankfully, I have a community who believes in sustainability so when I requested for items to be used, there was no lack of it.
Art and education are equally important to me, therefore I believe in educating the community through my art in the hopes that they will be encouraged to also be sustainable in creating their own art.
I encourage every artist to have an element of sustainability in their art forms. But art is subjective; every artist has a different point of view and I respect that too.
Sustainability in skincare is so important to me that I would research on the ingredients used. That is why I love Kiehl’s skincare because the calendula flower petals are now sourced from a hydroponic farm. This system uses 96 per cent less water and 98 per cent less land than conventional farming, and allows the flowers to be harvested in two-month cycles versus the traditional eight-month cycle.
Interview answers have been edited for length and clarity.
The Kiehl’s NYC Subway: Trash To Art pop-up installation is now running until 13 September at B4 Atrium ION Orchard.
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
At 11 years old, I started noticing greys in my hair. I was naturally surprised but not really bothered—just a few strands at the back of my head that my mother vigilantly plucked out whenever they presented themselves. But then they started to appear more frequently. And barely a year later, the greys were sprouting all over the lower half of my head.
You can imagine how, as a pre-teen, having such a visible hair “issue” wasn’t the best thing for one’s self-esteem. It came at a point when I became obsessed about having my hair held down by copious amounts of hair gel—having greys meant that my school-going hairstyle wasn’t as slick as I’d like because grey hairs have a more wiry texture.
Plucking the greys proved to be increasingly painful and time-consuming. It may have been borderline therapeutic initially, but that quickly wore off as the number of greys grew exponentially. I settled on covering them using boxed hair dyes—a triweekly routine that I’ve grown accustomed to.
That’s the thing about hair: it’s such a major part of one’s sense of self. Anything that disrupts it from being what we perceive as the norm tends to be cause for personal concern.
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
“My hair has always been a part of my personality. When I was in my rebellious phase, I wore it really long. Then when I became interested in fashion, I changed course with more trendy haircuts. Any way you dress it, hair has always been my thing,” Bobby Tonelli tells me. The Singapore-based seasoned actor and host looks every bit the same youthful individual as when he first moved here in 2007. I tell him this. Tonelli thanks me and proffers, “When your hair is thicker, you tend to look fresher or younger. When it is thinner, people tend to relate that to looking older, you know what I mean? It’s a psychological thing."
One would think Tonelli is nowhere near the age when hair issues manifest, at least not in today’s society where people seem to be ageing more slowly than generations past. The reality—according to a study by University of Miami Miller School of Medicine published in 2020—is that men suffer a 50 per cent risk in developing hair loss once they hit the age of 50. A separate 2000 community study of male androgenetic alopecia (the most common form of hair loss) done in Singapore found that hair loss could start as early as in the 20s for men.
Tonelli’s experience seems to confirm the findings. It was in his 20s, while working as a model, that he started to notice some form of hair thinning. “I kind of noticed it. But when people doing my hair on shoots start pointing it out, I thought, ‘Oh ok. Maybe this is a bigger deal than I thought’,” he recalls.
Now at age 47, Tonelli is opening up about undergoing a hair transplant to fix lost hair around his crown and hairline. It’s been slightly over six months from the day he had the hair transplant and if I weren’t privy to it, it would never have crossed my mind that he had gone through an eight-hour procedure to harvest and transplant about 2,400 hair grafts from the back of his head. “I’m a mature male; I’m never going to get back that young hairline from when I was 20,” Tonelli acknowledges. “You want to create something natural and proportional. It’s been filled in a little bit to where I notice it, but not necessarily obvious to the average person.”
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
Graphic designer Juwaidi Jumanto, 31, would use his photoshop skills to correct a receding hairline in his photos. He too tells me that it started getting noticeable in his 20s. He would dabble with hair root makeup, anti-hairfall medication, and expensive hair treatments—“but once you stop going for them, the issues recur”—before finally investing in a hair transplant last year. “It was a personal goal. I wanted to get a hair transplant before I turned 30,” Jumanto shares. He underwent the procedure in May 2022 and says that he’s fully recovered with the transplanted areas already blending in with the rest of his scalp.
Jumanto cheekily attributes his receding hairline to his father who experienced the same issue. Pre-hair transplant, he shares that most people wouldn’t have noticed his receding hairline. “It’s more about how you feel about yourself. There were days when I’d wake up and the idea of my hair thinning away would affect my self-esteem. I did this for me,” he expresses.
Both Jumanto and Tonelli are part of a growing number of men opting for hair transplants. It’s a growing trend that has over three billion views on TikTok alone. Search for “#hairtransplant” on the social media platform and you’ll find numerous clips of hair transplant journeys—a majority of which shared by men. The clips are typically intimate and personal, bringing followers and casual viewers along the process from initial consultations to surgery day to recovery.
At the time of writing, John Hui—@thejohnagenda on TikTok—is into his 13th week of recovery since getting a hair transplant. He’s been detailing his journey weekly, capturing the realities of the recovery process. It’s a long one and visible results take a considerable amount of time, but in between, it’s often a rollercoaster wave of ups and downs. For example, Hui saw promising growth and he was elated with the shape of his hairline in week two, before things took a nosedive on week three with the development of scalp acne and a general sense of discomfort around the donor areas.
I am not my hair
“Hair is closely connected to self-confidence. The first impression that you give when people look at you, comes from the face and hair. Before I had my hair transplant, I would always subconsciously wonder if the people around me were thinking negatively about my hair,” Jumanto says. Tonelli elaborates that hair symbolises who a man is—their personality. “If you have a very nice, sharp crew cut, it’s like you’re clean and healthy,” he opines.
That’s not to say that having a lack of hair is, by default, a negative.
Hollywood celebrities embracing a relatively bare head are aplenty. Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Laurence Fishburne and Bruce Willis are but a small number of A-list names who have transitioned from a full head of hair in their youth to almost none at all. I dare you to say that The Rock projects anything but a manly disposition.
For 33-year-old Joshua Simon, hair was getting in the way of living his best life. The Singaporean Radio DJ took the plunge to shave his entire head in 2019 and has kept it as such ever since. “I was in Bali and I had a villa with a pool, but I found myself not going into it because I was like, ‘If I get into the pool, my hair is going to get wet. And then I would have to dry my hair, and style it, and then it’ll take me so much time before I get to go out...’” Simon details.
He got into the pool eventually and emerged with an epiphany: “I knew that I wanted to look the way that I feel on the inside. And how I felt on the inside was free.” Simon broke away from the tyranny of hairstyling he has remained free to this day.
Prior to shaving off his hair, Simon was no stranger to experimenting with his mane—rebonding, colouring, faux-hawking and even leaving it in its natural curly state. But due to that constant experimentation, he found himself losing “chunks of hair” around the age of 19. “My mom suffers from some form of alopecia and so does my dad,” shares Simon. “It’s the scariest thing when you’re in your teens and your hair is falling out.” Thankfully, it happened right before enlistment into the army for National Service. Simon took the opportunity to shave his head and let his scalp heal.
I am not your expectations
Hair issues are by no means unique to men. Women suffer from them too. While femininity is traditionally tied to having long, flowing hair, it’s the fullness that men are often judged by. It’s become a longstanding slapstick trope: a male character getting his toupee snagged off or blown away by a strong gust of wind, only to reveal a bald patch. Heck, we even ridicule Donald Trump for his combover.
The idea of hair being such an integral part of a man’s identity perhaps has little to do with being masculine—it has more to do with ageing and the denial of it. Society has conditioned us to desire looking younger than our age; to protect any semblance of youthfulness that has yet to be tainted by time.
Greying hair is undoubtedly a natural course of ageing. But prematurely greying while being in the throes of puberty? Not so much. The same goes for balding, thinning and receding hairlines. They are all inevitable effects of ageing across the gender spectrum. Sometimes though, for unclear reasons, it is possible to experience them when we’re not “at that age” and, understandably, not prepared to embrace them.
Having gone through a hair loss scare and embracing a buzz cut, Simon tells me that he has less of a fear of eventually losing hair as he ages. He still maintains his use of Propecia—a prescription-only medication for treating hair loss—to help keep what he already has. “I’m also mindful about not feeling shackled to it,” he says. “I don’t have the fullest scalp but even to have a semblance of this shape at my age, I’m grateful. If it continues to recede down the line, I’m super chill with it as well.”
Would he undergo a hair transplant like Jumanto and Tonelli? “I have thought about it. It’s also crazy expensive,” he counters. And it’s true. The latter’s procedure was an almost SGD10,000 investment. But Simon is not ruling it out.
At the end of the day, all three men agree that if their hair eventually succumbed to the test of time, there are no qualms about accepting the fact. But till that day comes, the proverbial crowning glory is getting the care and worship that it deserves, to better reflect the man that they each feel inside.
I am the soul that lives within
Usually, when you're a skincare brand that's on the up-and-up, you pull out all the stops and go all out. But for Grail, the local skincare label is eschewing the outlandish and instead, is going the way of the minimal. Co-founded by the actor, Lawrence Wong, Grail opted for a redesign in its packaging. With an even simpler logo and neutral hues on its glass bottles, not only does it emphasises the brand's ethos of simplicity, it helps it to stand out in an already saturated grooming market. We talk to Wong about the redesign and what the future is for Grail.
It’s only been a few years since you’ve launched, why the need for a rebrand?
Grail was a passion project during Covid. It was initially launched as a skincare brand but as time passed, I decided to use Grail for a bigger purpose. I wanted to be a responsible brand that's in line with my personal lifestyle habits. Ultimately, this also reflects the current climate of environmental issues.
The rebranding aims to convey my “essentials-only” approach to life. I've always believed that not only does this make my environment cleaner but it also makes it calmer. My mind feels less cluttered, giving me better headspace to relax, rejuvenate and restart from inside and out.
This lifestyle in embracing simplicity and mindful living is important as an actor with back-to-back schedules, I always try to find the time to relax. However, I’ve figured the best way to wind down is to create an environment that provides an overall positive impact. With our busy lifestyles, realistically, mindful living offers benefits to both the environment and mental health. Somehow they go hand-in-hand.
With this in mind, I mirror this approach to my skincare routine, as I believe that less is more. Instead of cluttering my skincare routine with too many products that might be unnecessary, I've developed a streamlined routine. Sharing my habits for simplistic living through Grail; this is a bigger picture of a longer-lasting impact that I hope to bring to users of the brand.
This is also a reflection of your personal aesthetic, right?
Yes, I like clean, minimalist aesthetics and this is the theme and design of my house’s interior. I call it my sanctuary, which gives me a calm and restful space and environment.
The new packaging reflects this minimalist approach through the neutral colours and clean lines and the shapes used.
Could you talk about Grail's sustainability efforts with Grail?
Besides using glass containers, our Deep Hydration Treatment Mask is also made from biodegradable Bemliese 384 fabric. The packaging is also made from recyclable materials that can be recycled after. It uses fewer materials like the masks, which now come in smaller boxes. Our products are also animal-cruelty free.
What were the challenges in rebranding Grail's look?
The rebranding took a year’s worth of work. Grail’s relaunch was only ready when all the formulations were perfected.
I was present for the logo selections to packaging design and colours, to new product development; I did test samples on my skin in-between shoots... it was tough juggling my time between Grail and my acting. As the products are meticulously formulated with natural ingredients, this delayed the relaunch.
Another challenge was sourcing for the ingredients as we used natural ones of premium quality. With such care that goes into our formulation, rest assured that Grail’s products allow you to enjoy your skincare routine with peace of mind. I personally use all the Grail products in my own routine.
Despite all these challenges, I am of course very grateful to my team, who are always patient with me. We did a great job on making products that I can be very proud of for a brand that is very close to my heart.
Are there changes to the ingredients in Grail’s line-up?
Nothing major but we've introduced new ingredients in our latest addition: the Hydrating Dewy Moisturiser.
It contains a newly-patented ingredient, the Hydroplex HHG; it's developed by CLR Berlin, a globally renowned laboratory and skincare ingredient manufacturer. Hygroplex HHG's unique combination of intense hydration, long-lasting effects, non-greasy feel, barrier support and proven efficacy sets it apart from other brands. Unlike some moisturisers that offer only temporary hydration, Hygroplex HHG creates a protective barrier on the skin's surface, preventing moisture loss over an extended period.
Meanwhile, our Deep Hydration Treatment Mask, Daily SPF++++ and Amino Acid Probiotics Foaming Cleanser, now come in new packaging and underwent improved formulations.
Grail's redesign and updated collection can be found online.
Having only one season to contend with here in Singapore, we should all have our grooming needs sorted by now. But the temperatures in mid-2023 are hitting unprecedented highs, ostensibly because of climate change, and it feels as if we are wilting in the cloying heat and humidity. Even some of our trusty products that have kept us in top form before seem to fall flat, which probably means it’s time to take our grooming game to task if we want to look fresh and feel clean through any single day. To that end, we leapt ahead and tried out some new skin and body care upgrades that we think would help you ride the heat wave.
Designed to filter out skin damaging UV rays, sunscreen remains the one product that dermatologists insist we do not ignore. Since no one said there should only be one product on our bathroom shelf, we're happy to go beyond the basic defensive action. Besides, according to a 2017 report by The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Study, SPF is “only partially effective in blocking free radicals produced by UV exposure.” Enter vitamin C serums.
The same study found that topical vitamin C provides support in protecting the skin against environmental aggressors, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Not only that, vitamin C in skincare also helps stimulate collagen production and disperse melanin clusters. It seems introducing vitamin C into your skincare regime could help your complexion regain a healthy glow over time.
Some of our favourite products include Allies of Skin’s 20% VitaminC Brighten + Firm Serum, a waterless formula infused with a potent form of vitamin C known as 20% ethylated L-ascorbic acid , which does all the heavy-duty work in reversing and preventing the signs of ageing. Dr Barbara Sturm’s The Good C Vitamin C Serum is ideal for those who want to reap all the benefits of vitamin C minus the risk of irritation, as it is supported by soothing ingredients such as glycerin, sodium hyaluronate as well as aloe and olive leaf extracts. To instantly breathe new life to dull and tired skin, Fields of Yarrow’s Super C Drops Revitalising Serum does the trick with its botanically charged formulation.
If there is one bathroom product that we men don’t pay enough attention to, it would be detoxifying shampoos. Dermatologists and trichologists have long emphasised that the scalp is an extension of facial skin, and warrants as much attention—especially as the temperature and humidity levels soar this summer season. A combined build-up of dead skin cells, hair product and grime on the scalp over the years is the most probable reason behind scalp irritation and hair loss. This build-up also provides a food source to malassezia, an organism present on the scalp that is responsible for oxidative damage (impacting hair growth as a result), according to a 2018 study by the International Journal of Trichology.
While the shampoo you are currently using is probably all well and good, perhaps it’s time to take scalp care to the next level with a deep-cleansing step every two weeks using one of these powerful purifying formulas. Ingredients such as salicylic acid, charcoal and micellar technologies do wonders in restoring a healthy shine to your tresses while allowing the scalp to finally get that breath of fresh air it desperately needs once it is free of follicle-blocking impurities.
We recommend K18’s Prep Detox Shampoo because it effectively exfoliates and detoxifies the hair and scalp with a blend of salicylic acid and charcoal. The best part is that it leaves your hair feeling bouncy and light even in the heat and humidity.
Another product to consider is Kevin. Murphy’s Scalp.Spa Wash. Aside from removing build-up, celery extract in the formula soothes any form of inflammation and restores the balance of healthy microflora on the scalp. Aesop’s Equalising Shampoo is a treat for the senses, thanks to the blend of aromatic essential oils in its mix. But ingredients such as fennel fruit, mistletoe leaf and eucalyptus are the true MVPs of this formula, as they help with introducing freshness and controlling excess sebum production with continued use.
In anticipation of the inter-monsoon season and an El Niño event, we should consider ditching our trousers and full sleeves. Breezy summer shorts and polo tees will certainly help us to embrace the season in comfort and style. But don’t go exposing any dull and ashy skin. Remember to use a quality body scrub to maintain a healthy full-body glow that you'll be proud to show off. Additionally, sloughing off dead skin cells off your body regularly also helps to reduce the risk of developing body acne and stave off heat rash significantly.
Drunk Elephant’s Sugared Koffie Almond Milk Body Scrub is a great pick-me-up with its hydrating almond milk and coffee-infused formula. Not only do the sugar granules promote a healthy sheen to the skin, caffeine in the mix encourages lymphatic drainage to allow your skin to look more taut and toned with every use.
If you’re yearning for a quick escape to a tropical island but haven’t had the time to, Fenty Skin’s Buff Ryder will help put your mind in holiday mode, thanks to its tropical fruit-scented formula. It also leaves your skin feeling so soft, your partner won’t be able to resist touching.
For a relaxing spa-like experience, Trilogy’s ultra-luxe Exfoliating Body Balm is one to consider as it effectively exfoliates, nourishes and provides aromatherapeutic benefits, thanks to a blend of almond and rosehipoils, as well as calming essential oils.
Perspiration, sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria are the culprits behind body odour, and they can get to devastating levels in the summer heats. Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve already made antiperspirants and regular showers a part of your daily care routine. Now it’s time to include a unique and timeless summer scent to keep you smelling fresh all day. Penhaligon’s latest addition Solaris EDP smells like a day out sunbathing in Mykonos. Its creamy vanilla note is balanced with the bright and radiant bouquet of white florals and ylang ylang, bringing to mind an image of the sun, sand and sea, with a good slathering of a luxurious sun lotion.
If you prefer a unique marine fragrance that blends well with your natural body scent, Goldfield and Banks’ Pacific Rock Moss is one to consider. The blend of Italian lemon, sage, moss and geranium blends beautifully into something that smells like you, but better. Ilio EDP by Diptyque is a clean, juicy fragrance that uses notes of prickly pear and bergamot to bring about the relaxing image of a slow Sunday afternoon. The radiant touch of iris and jasmine brightens the mood with uplifting qualities.
Photography: Jaya Khidir
Styling: Joan Tai
Photography Assistant: : Danial Mirza