There’s much the French do better than us Brits: public displays of affection, casual elegance, rich meaty stews. We can add cosmetics to that list too. Perhaps it’s a Gallic self-care sensibility, that leads to three-hour lunch breaks (with wine!), that explains how some of the most popular brands – Avène, Vichy and Clarins, to name a few – got their start across the Channel. 

Previously a France-only exclusive, men’s skincare brand Horace has just launched its first store in London’s Covent Garden. Although men’s skincare has made significant inroads over the past decade, a recent poll showed that over 60% of men don’t use moisturiser and have no intention of doing so. Horace, offering competitively-priced products in elegant packaging, might be the key to getting men to slather it on. 

The brand’s light-touch gendering is evident in the store’s interior design, with touches of the same reassuring navy as the brand’s packaging, and a bespoke portrait of a man rocking a clay mask by portrait artist Gaétan Vaguelsy. They’ve also debuted exclusive Horace umbrellas as a London store exclusive, a fitting concession for our drizzly climate. 

A booth is situated in the shop’s far corner, allowing customers who are new to skincare to receive a personalised consultation. With my oily t-zone and dry cheeks, I leant towards light serums, with a clay face mask for deeper cleansing. I even picked up a tube of concealer, still something of a taboo for many, if not most men, but a product I look forward to testing. Prices are exceptionally reasonable given the location: their hero product, the Mattifying Face Moisturiser, is a mere £15, pricier than a pharmacy product but cheap enough to not be prohibitive for curious customers.

Horace is proud of its eco credentials too: all products boast 95-100% natural-ingredient formulas and at least 80% recyclable packaging. All the products I tried were either unscented or had a gentle, watery smell, something I know from experience to be a barrier for men curious about skincare but concerned about any potentially “girly” associations. Notable too is a general emphasis on mattifying skincare products: if you’re looking for a glass skin effect, this won’t be the brand for you.

“The men who model our products are men just like you”, states the Horace website. For men who feel alienated by the barrage of lotions and ointments every time they enter a department store, this may ring true. In my ideal world, we would all have plump, hydrated skin irrespective of our gender, and with any luck, Horace may be leading the charge. Vive la France!

By Matteo Pini

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