REVIEW: Men’s Grooming Products in India

Until recently, there existed a vacuum in the Indian market – while the market was flooded with grooming products for the fairer sex, there was a strange paucity of men’s grooming products! Not anymore, thanks to a number of start-ups that have sprung up online in last two to three years. Each of them has a strong presence on the social media with catchy slogans and promotions on their Instagram and Facebook pages. They all swear by natural ingredients in their products and sell online via well designed, search engine optimized websites. Enter Ustraa, The Man Company, Bombay Shaving Company and the likes, a new generation of Indian companies catering to a niche segment – men’s grooming products. I have been using these products for the last one or two years and it is time I wrote down my thoughts on them.

Disclaimer

This review is to be taken as an end user experience, based entirely on my personal preferences, and not as medical opinion. For expert opinion on skin-related queries, a dermatologist must be consulted. Also, the scope of this article is limited to aforementioned three companies. Finally, this is not a sponsored post and purely my unbiased review.

Summer ready with the right grooming products!
Ugly no more! Summer ready with the right grooming products.

The Bombay Shaving Company

I was looking for a good quality traditional single-blade double-edged safety razor for quite some time because I think that nothing cuts better than the old-school single blade. While there are reputed safety razor brands, e.g. Merkur, I chose the Bombay Shaving Company safety razor because the razor handle came with my initials engraved on it. The razor is indeed a piece of fine craftsmanship. Devoid of any ornamentation, the chrome finish on the razor looks simple yet elegant. According to a communication I had with the Bombay Shaving Company customer care via email, the razor is made of Zamac, one of the best alloys, which makes it strong and sturdy. The razor feels good to hold, not too light or too heavy.

The Bombay Shaving Company double edge single blade safety razor
The Bombay Shaving Company double edge single blade safety razor

Interestingly, the razor comes with two clamps – standard and aggressive – giving you more control on how close a shave you want. The aggressive clamp, which gives a closer and more efficient shave, is surely not for the weak in the heart. I had switched to the aggressive clamp after shaving with the standard clamp for a few days. The imported Feather blades, supplied with the razor, are coated with platinum and claimed to be the sharpest blades. What I like most about these blades is the disposal chamber the blade box comes with. This is important because unless disposed off properly, blades carry the risk of injuring human waste-sorters (a real issue in India) and innocent animals. The latest addition to their product range is the razor sheath, a protective plastic cap for the razor; I ordered this toy right after launch. I must say Bombay Shaving Company has done a commendable job in putting the emphasis on traditional single-blade double-edged safety razors. The mainstream market has been misleading us towards so called multi-blade cartridge-based razors which prove to be costly in the long run and are actually an overkill. A man needs just one blade, not more, to cut his beard right.

The Bombay Shaving Company double edge single blade safety razor
A close look at the safety razor

I use the Bombay Shaving Company shaving brush which came with the shaving kit. I didn’t expect a plastic handle at this price. The bristles are artificial badger hair which is fair as I am against killing of innocent badgers. It works up a good lather and the bristles feel new even after months of use. The shaving brushes from Ustraa and TMC come with wooden handles. Of the two, I particularly wish to acquire the natural brown shaving brush from The Man Company which looks very classy. Not anytime soon, as I am content using my current one.

My shaving regimen starts with a warm pre-soak using the Bombay Shaving Company shaving towel. I am quite happy with the Bombay Shaving Company shaving cream, a concoction of tea tree leaf oil and Aloe extract, which creates a nice lather and smells good. I am also sticking to the Bombay Shaving Company post-shave balm which has a good soothing effect and adds a healthy glow to skin. It contains no alcohol (denatured alcohol used in after shave is no good for skin) and comes with Aloe Vera Extract, Carica papaya Extract, Vitamin E acetate, Citrus lemon extract, among other things, to make me date ready!

I have used face wash products from all the three companies. For now, I am sticking to the Bombay Shaving Company face wash not only because it feels and smells good, but I like the fact that there is salicylic acid in it – which is appropriate for my skin type. The spearmint + menthol flavour of the Ustraa facewash is a bit too strong for my liking. The Charcoal Ylang Yang face wash from The Man Company is definitely a good product, but I am not a big fan of charcoal per se.

True to their name, Bombay Shaving Company maintain an almost complete collection of shaving essentials for the modern man. I would like to see some more additions to their product range like shaving bowls, trimming scissors, etc. With time, they have also added beard and skin care products to their collection.

Flaunting minimal design and beautiful typography, the Bombay Shaving Company website is the best designed website by far. To keep things neat, the ingredients are not mentioned on the product pages. You have to go to the FAQ section to read about the ingredients which is a bit of a task. Their blog titled ‘Aftershave‘ is worth taking a look at. Bombay Shaving Company churns out good video campaigns from time to time. The Video section on their Facebook page is worth checking out. Recently, they posted this track called #BombayBeardBeat and got celebrities to groove to it. They also have a very responsive customer care. I had written to all the three companies enquiring if they used microplastics / microbeads in their face wash / scrub products. Bombay Shaving Company promptly replied clarifying that they don’t, while Ustraa and The Man Company didn’t bother to reply at all.

Bombay Shaving Company shaving kit
The minimal design concept is carried on to the product packaging too. A lot of thought went into the design of their shaving kit box, which is truly functional and can be used to store the shaving kit for years.

Ustraa

I had been planning to make my own DIY beard oil for quite some time but I wasn’t able to procure the essential oils locally. Ustraa got my attention with their ‘4×4 Mooch and Beard oil‘, a heady concoction of Argan oil, Sunflower Oil, Evening Primrose Oil and Lemon essential oil. I am sold on its earthly smell and it keeps my whiskers shiny, soft and itch-free throughout the day. The beard oil has found many takers among my friends after they saw me using it. Ustraa has probably the most complete product line-up among the three companies. Their beard care product range is by far the most complete. It has everything – beard wash, beard softener and beard wax. The beard comb collection is a collection of three beard combs, each suited to a different purpose, which my grizzly friends have found extremely useful. Just like Ustraa, The Man Company has a huge arsenal of products aimed at beard maintenance but Ustraa has a superior advertisement strategy. In the shaving department, Ustraa sells an apothecary style shaving mug, although I’d prefer a shaving bowl instead.

A man needs to exfoliate once in a while (once a week for me). The face scrubs offered by all three companies offer both physical + chemical exfoliation combined in one pack. To make an educated choice, one should consider each ingredient carefully and find out what is best suited for him. I choose the Ustraa face scrub because it contains glycolic acid (supposed to have anti-ageing property) among its ingredients. The Bombay Shaving Company face scrub, which is also shipped with their shaving kit, feels a bit too coarse on my skin.

Ustraa won my allegiance with their winter care products
Ustraa won my allegiance with their winter care products

Ustraa has won my allegiance with their range of winter care products. I have always been averse to moisturizing creams but, let’s face it, moisturization is important. As a result, I looked dull and dry during the whole winter. That was until I came across the Moisturizing Cream from Ustraa! Made of natural ingredients, it kept my skin well moisturized without feeling sticky! The Ustraa body lotion took care of my dry extremities without feeling greasy. I was glad that it has no feminine fragrance, just a mild scent – a manly one that lasts throughout the day. The dispensing bottle makes it easy to use actually. Finally, the men’s lip balm, one of their most popular products, took care of my chapped lips throughout the winter and beyond. Ustraa is also the only among the three companies selling a sun-screen.

My favourite shampoo for daily use is the Ustraa Anti-dandruff Hair Shampoo which comes armed with tea tree oil and ginger extract. From its foaming ability to its very convenient click-top bottle packaging, there is much to like about this product.

Ustraa has a unique approach to product packaging. All their products come in jars stored inside old school tin cans! The tin not only looks manly and rustic, but it keeps the products well protected from the elements of weather.

The Ustraa website is fairly user-friendly and it is easy to find out the products, with easy to read information about them. Ustraa’s ad campaign dwells heavily on stereotyped male chauvinistic jokes. Now that feels really dated.

Last year, The Bombay Shaving Company posted the following series of posts (scroll right to see all of them) on Instagram, as a rebuttal to Ustraa’s ad campaign that was high on male chauvinism:

This International Men’s day, don’t live up to stereotypes. Break them. . . . #HappyInternationalMensDay #bombayshavingcompany #movember #november #mensgrooming #menshealth #celebrate #mensday #men #stereotypes #breakstereotypes #break #respect #mensday2017 #imd #empathy #mensday19nov #internationalmensday #internationalmensday2017 #change

A post shared by Bombay Shaving Company (@bombayshavingcompany) on

The Man Company

The Man Company has a large product catalog which can be overwhelming at first. Many of their products, popular ones at that, are out of stock, while they keep adding new line of products. Of late though, it seems they have consolidated their product line by pruning out some of the offerings and sticking to the bestsellers in each segment. They also seem to be fixated with charcoal! Almost all the new products launched have charcoal in them, in keeping with the global trend. The Man Company positions itself as a premium brand and usually prices their products a notch higher.

The Man Company’s Argan and Almond hair oil is currently my staple hair oil. It is too early to comment on how it lives up to its claim of promoting hair growth but I like how light it sits on my hair and doesn’t feel sticky at all. I also use one of their Neem wood hair combs. I am yet to try out the newly launched hair gels and pomades.

In an age of shower gels, I still swear by the old school soap bar. The Man Company’s Neem and Tulsi soap bar is my soap of choice for daily bathing. It does a thorough cleaning job and the bar lasts like forever. It has put an end to the problem of occasional acne breakout in the seborrheic areas of my trunk.

The only place where I use a shower gel is the gym locker room shower and in this case the product of my choice is The Man Company Vetiver Hair & Body Wash Roadies Edition.

The Man Company has the most elaborately designed reward system. I not only bought their leather toiletry bag at a huge discount (paid ₹599 instead of ₹2599) by redeeming my reward points accumulated on the website, but got a free perfume with it as well.

While all three companies sell dopp kits for men to store the grooming essentials, The Man Company toiletry bag is the undisputed leader in this segment. Not only it is made of genuine leather, it is also more roomy, with more compartments, and an example of fine craftsmanship. (The Bombay Shaving Company kit bag, on the other hand is water-resistant, and spill-proof; while it lacks the regal touch of the exorbitantly priced TMC bag, I have found it useful as a gym dopp kit. The Ustraa toiletry bag which I had used was rather plain but now they have replaced it with a new variety which looks improved on screen.) Although I haven’t used The Man Company leather wallet, which has seen a recent price cut, it deserves a mention. At 11 x 9 cm, it is a very compact wallet, and going by the impressive quality of the leather in their kit bag, I can vouch for its quality.

The Man Company website has some loose ends. It takes more than a few clicks to find out the accessories (wallet, toiletry kit bag) which seem somewhat hidden from plain sight. The product pages on the website are however rich with information. With ingredients mentioned and usage directions explained, it is the most informative website among the three.

The Man Company packaging
The Man Company ships their products in elegant wooden boxes

The Man Company has a significant offline presence, offering premium salon services by tying up with a number of salons all over the country. In Kolkata, Head Turners salon at Gariahat is one such outlet where you can indulge yourself with The Man Company grooming products.

Round-Up

  • Best Safety Razor: Bombay Shaving Company
  • Best Shaving Brush: The Man Company natural brown shaving brush
  • Best Shaving cream: Bombay Shaving Company
  • Best Post-shave balm: Bombay Shaving Company
  • Best Face wash: Bombay Shaving Company
  • Best Face scrub: Ustraa
  • Best Lip Balm: Ustraa
  • Best Moisturizer: Ustraa
  • Best Body Lotion: Ustraa
  • Best Sun Screen: Ustraa
  • Best Hair oil: The Man Company Argan and Almond hair oil
  • Best Shampoo: Ustraa Anti-dandruff shampoo
  • Best Hair wax: Ustraa Hair Wax
  • Best Soap bar: The Man Company
  • Best Shower gel: The Man Company
  • Best toiletry bag: The Man Company, if you can bag a good discount on it
  • Best Packaging: All three companies use plastic tubes and bottles which I don’t like so much. On this note, Beardo (although I haven’t used their products) deserves a mention for packaging their beard oils in glass bottles.
  • Best Website: The Bombay Shaving Company

Before signing off, I would like to share this Art of Manliness video on old school shaving with a safety razor:

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"REVIEW: Men’s Grooming Products in India" by @niponhaque