Like many men I grew up being told that appearance wasn't something for men to care about: caring about your skin and hair was for women and girls, and it was fine to mock and sneer at men who showed any interest in their appearance.
I grew up with oily skin and bad acne, so whilst I often felt very self-conscious and embarrassed about my skin, I also felt like there was nothing I was "allowed" to do about it.
Now a few years later it is more socially acceptable for men to care about their appearance, but I had no idea about what was right to do to help my skin. Product packaging made big claims, magazines made confusing, sometimes contradictory advice. So I tried things out, spending time and money on approaches that often had no obvious benefit.
Last month I had the opportunity to visit the Oslo Aēsop store and talk to their lovely staff about their products, their company philosophy, and how best to manage my skin.
I'd always been told that I needed to dry out my skin as much as possible, to stop spots popping up. Talking to the knowledgeable and attentive staff at Aesop, I was informed that drying out the skin with products would only provoke the skin to make more oil, turning into a vicious cycle.
We spoke about how I currently care for my skin, and after some discussion I came away with their new Blue Chamomile Hydrating Face Masque. I've been using it for about a month now, as a way to repair my face, and care for the skin which gets stripped of moisture by anti-oil products.
The results have been very pleasing. My skin is generally healthier, softer and smoother, and breakouts have reduced, and any spots I get seem smaller, less red and angry than before.
As well as feeling happier and more confident with my skin, the mask is a pleasure to put on. A couple of times a week I apply it, after washing my face, just before bed. It is a smooth and soothing mask, unlike thick, tough cleansing masks, and feels great on the skin and smells great too. It's more like a thick moisturiser than a mud mask, so it's not like you have to lie motionless on your back to avoid making a mess. I just drift off to sleep with it on: easy to apply, then you just leave it there, fall asleep with your skin feeling refreshed and a pleasant scent in your nostrils, and in the morning your skin is soft and smooth.
I anticipate this will help a lot during the winter months too, when frosty Norwegian weather can leave skin dry and cracked if left untreated.
All Aesop products are plant based and totally vegan, so it is a pleasure walking into their store and knowing that anything you might find which could work for you doesn't require the usual research that cosmetics often do.
My experience with Aesop, both with their products and their staff, has been overwhelmingly positive and I'm looking forward to delving into the rest of their product range and finding more ways to care for myself and my skin.