Thom Watson is the writer and creator of Manface - one of the highest ranking male grooming blogs in the UK.
Through Manface, Thom has been able to build contacts with some amazing people and prestigious brands such as L'Occitane, REN, Clinique, Crème de la Mer, Harrods and Sofitel to name a few.
As well as writing Manface, Thom has also featured in Homme Style Magazine, Pure Beauty Magazine and featured as one of the world's best beauty bloggers by H&M in H&M Life, published and translated internationally into over 40 languages.
Thom kindly took some time out from his busy schedule to grant me an interview, from one grooming guru to another. Here, I dissect Thom's thoughts on mens grooming, male skincare and what he predicts in the future for this growing trend. So, sit back, get comfortable and prepare to be blown away...
Tell us Thom, how and when did you start to develop an interest in cosmetics and how did you end up working professionally in the industry?
I started in the industry at the age of 16, working part time for The Body Shop whilst studying at college. From then I went to University where I decided to move up a gear and work with Clinique where I was to be transferred from John Lewis in Cheadle to form part of a 'super' team working for the northern flagship counter at Selfridges, Trafford. Before leaving the cosmetic retail industry to focus on Manface full-time, I spent 12 weeks delivering skin care training with teams the Manchester / Liverpool region for The Body Shop as they prepared for their Pulse relaunch. My training has spanned the years through courses and seminars as well as continually drudging through endless cosmetic research papers.
In your opinion, what key factors contribute to making a great skincare product/brand?
A good product that has been researched, tested, trialled and well thought through, that delivers good results that is better than its competitor. Good branding is also key, and no longer do I enjoy seeing products branded with over-the-top and over-compensating visuals of: men, manly, beard, sex, sport, energy, cars, grrrrr. Men have definitely evolved over the last 10 years, and more subtle branding that still retains it's masculinity is always top in my books. Check out Prospector Co. for a wonderful example of this. Finally packaging, not hugely important in the grand scheme of things, but something the looks good in my bag, in my bathroom and something I'd be excited to show my friends.
What new products on the market have you recently tried and been impressed with?
There's been a couple recently. Firstly the Wilkinson Sword Hydro Power Select; a product so new to me I haven't had chance to write it up, but a fantastic wet-shave razor that delivers fantastic results. Secondly Glamour Shot from Sampar, which will be coming to the UK very soon is the perfect solution for men who want to even out skin-tone, reduce the appearance of pores and refine wrinkles, but without having to resort to makeup products. Finally GlamGlow Super-Mud, the face mask for men that in one fell swoop, delivers fantastic brightening and texture refining benefits as well as powerful pore, spot and blackhead reducing results, you've got to try this out.
What three skincare products can you not live without?
The top 3 for me are Crème de la Mer Eye Balm Intense, a super-powered eye product that banishes my dark circles, keeps my eyes smooth, hydrates intensely but also keeps my highly sensitive and reactive eyes in check. Number 2 would be my Clarisonic Mia, the travel version of the amazing Clarisonic exfoliating brush. Just 60 seconds twice-a-day will relieve you of most skincare concerns including blocked pores, ingrown hairs, rough texture, inability to absorb product and dull complexion. Number 3 has to be my REN Photoactive Sun Veil SPF15, as everyone should wear daily sun protection and this is one of my favourites, lightweight, free from nasties and goes over anything without leaving residue.
This is a difficult one, but if you had to pick one skincare product on the planet as your favourite, then what would it be and why?
Crème de la Mer Moisturising Gel Cream. Often receiving a bad reputation for it's price, but once you've discovered a moisturiser that is so well suited to your skin type, you'll never look back. To experience the brand properly, you need to discover their 5 different textures, as most people try the original cream and think because it's not for them, it reflects the whole brand. This gel cream is lightweight, but packs an enormous amount of hydration, whilst smoothing out my skin's texture, brightening my complexion and leaving it feeling calm, cool, fresh and healthy, even when I'm at my most stressed. One pot seems to last an eternity, and I really recommend exploring the brand.
With massive growth in the male grooming sector since 2006, how do you envisage the industry trends over the next 10 years?
I have said for a while that we will start to see men and women's skincare coming together a lot more. Now obviously men's skin is thicker and has a slightly varying physiology, but in terms of how a product is marketed, I can see the industry becoming more unified. I also see a backlash of the insipid 'metrosexual' style, that in all fairness has relatively disappeared, but in my opinion, products such as Manscara, Guyliner and Mancealer have become a bit of a joke within the industry. At the moment we're seeing a massive push of 'the modern gentleman' combined with pan-Scandinavian imagery, I like this style, but I'm curious to see how long this will last.
What kind of demographic would you typically associate with the current mens grooming industry?
Young men, 20-30 who haven't been brought up with the mentality that a man is a man and any deviation from this stereotype is a sign of a fundamental weakness. A lot of guys I know and have met over the years are genuinely interested in sorting out their skin, but are both underwhelmed by mass market 'men's skincare' whilst being intimidated by the beauty halls, not knowing where to go.
Why do you think an increasing amount of men are currently turning to mens grooming products?
We take more pride in our appearance, gone is the day where you can throw on a flannel patterned shirt, slap your unwashed hair down with brill cream and drown yourself in Blue Stratos or Joop. Men are taking more pride in their appearance, and skin is definitely a part of that. There's no point in having gorgeous clothes, a fantastic haircut and great shoes but the most terrible skin you've ever seen. It's about having the complete package.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting up a skincare line of products?
Talk to people who know, who work in this industry every single day, who see mountains of products on their desk and who place their bets, seeing brands come, and sometimes inevitably, go. Take criticism, there's no reason to defend against that which is reasoned and justified as often it's what a prospective customer may also be thinking.
Finally, what does the future hold for Thom Watson?
You'll be seeing both myself and Manface out there quite a bit. This year I will be working publicly with some great and well-loved brands.
Thanks again to Thom Watson from Manface for taking time out to speak to us.
Check out Thom's amazing beauty blog - Manface - it's so brilliant you'll wish yours was this good! You can also follow Thom on Twitter - @ManfaceBlog