I’m not sure what kept me away from beauty products for so long. I think there was a stigma, an irrational fear that I was too old to ask the right questions, too naïve to know what was what. As far as I know, no one ever taught me how to take care of my skin, how to treat my body or even what the purpose of moisturizer might be.
Even as a young gay man, I just didn’t know what was what and I didn’t really know who to ask. Beauty products seemed intimidating. I remember a time going through duty free when I just wanted to buy a face wash and I was suddenly cornered by a salesperson. I was overwhelmed with all the information she had spewed at me—how I needed this or that. I’m not adverse to taking the advice of a salesperson, but there’s still a matter of trust in that kind of interaction, and during a spur-of-the-moment duty free shopping experience, I didn’t know who to trust or what to ask.
So, in January earlier this year, I found myself inside a Beauty Brands shop in the USA. I’d discovered the place like I discover just about everything else—on Twitter, from a follower who’s a hair stylist and offered me a cut and style. Part of my unspoken New Year’s Resolution and a long-running theme of this blog: what the fuck, why not, let’s do it; I found myself in the shop after my haircut asking for beauty advice. And this time, maybe because of my newfound energy in life and looks, I trusted the salesperson. There was no pretension, nothing to worry about, nothing to really think about. She walked me through the process of skincare. And I learned something.
I was determined to commit myself to a beauty regimen. And so I did. Nearly $200 later, I had bought a whole new range of products; I’d learned how to properly apply concealer and blush. I was ready and willing to start taking care of my body and my skin—not just as a way to look pretty, but to just take care of myself. Hey, it’s a start—and better late than never!
We’re physical beings and I guess that always-back-in-the-mind thought about aging was finally rearing its head enough to convince me to start listening to my body, to start paying attention. And as soon as I had my first set of samples for a new beauty routine, I was hooked. Carefully moisturizing each morning and night, applying makeup with more and more skill.
That brings me to London. During a day of exploring the men’s fashion and lifestyle shops in London’s Seven Dials neighborhood, I found myself drawn to the sleek, black-bricked shop BEAST—the letters written boldly outside on a white box, perfectly kerned (sorry, I’m a former graphic designer). Inside, a pair of two simple tables keep the space open, while the walls are stacked with shelves showing off over 200 different products. Large, straightforward labels identify which products are what. It was easy to understand, easy to see, and the salesperson—approachable, comforting and quite clever.
While some beauty and lifestyle shops are cluttered with tables and stacks of boxed products, this one presents each product plainly—no extra clutter and no signage more than necessary. A wide range of beauty products exclusively for men. BEAST opened just a few months ago, in October 2017, and the staff inside are friendly, approachable and there to answer questions or make recommendations. The beauty world can be insanely complicated and complex—chemicals, formulas, products, oils, skin types.
There is seemingly an endless amount of ways to treat your skin and knowing what works or what doesn’t is as difficult a world to navigate as any other. In my own quest to understand the beauty world, Google seemed to direct me in every way imaginable. That’s why it’s a matter of finding the right help—best in person from an experienced and knowledgable person who can work with you directly. The comfortable atmosphere of a place and a person to listen to. And at BEAST, it was easy.
I was given a simple mantra for healthier skin: drink water, don’t use dry soap, wear sunscreen. And, I walked away with a new charcoal face wash and a subtle but masculine fragrance by British perfume brand Tom Daxon.
I never really accounted for beauty products in my travels or in my budgets, but these days it’s simply become a part of my life. And while there’s of course a bit of vanity in the process, it’s also just plain healthy. I feel better; I feel more empowered. Frankly, I feel pretty. And isn’t that something we can all enjoy? The joy of feeling pretty. Sure, there’s a joy in looking pretty, too, but what matters most is how we feel about our own body, our own image, our own sense of self.
BEAST is located on the trendy Earlham Street in Seven Dials London—a popular shopping district between Convent Garden and Soho, just a few blocks behind Leicester Square. The shop also operates a basement residency program where other beauty and lifestyle brands can showcase their products or service. Currently, BEAST is hosting Haeckels products (from hipster hotspot Margate) which offer aromatherapy and massages. Learn more about BEAST on their website at shop-beast.com or explore the other shops of Seven Dials on the neighborhood’s helpful guide to beauty and grooming.
19 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9LL