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EDGE Grooming & Fragrance Holiday Gift Guide

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Monday Dec 13, 2010

You waited until the last minute, didn’t you? You ignored your mother’s admonitions; you boycotted Black Friday - and now, here you are, the holidays square in front of you.

Picture this: your partner’s face when s/he realizes you didn’t even purchase a candy cane.

Fortunately, here’s a solution that will make you both look (and smell) good: a gift guide devoted to grooming and fragrance. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite emollients, along with some new fragrance releases, just appearing on the market, and tossed in a few classic products, all of them guaranteed to earn you kisses under the mistletoe.

Pick up a couple of these favorites, add a bottle of bubbly - and you’ll be as well-loved as the boys on Glee.



Borghese : Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme

Recently we saw a t-shirt that read "Who doesn’t love an Italian boy?" Amen. And specifically, who doesn’t love the skin of an Italian boy? In which case, it might be Borghese.

Years ago, there was an Italian princess who lived at the Villa Borghese in Roma, where she had toiletries made from the botanicals found all around her villa. And though the princess lived to be ninety - she looked twenty-five at her death. Oh, all right - we made up that last part, but the Borghese line has, for years, insured that most Italians rarely look their age.

And probably because they start the morning with Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme. This gentle, water-activated lathering cleanser is loaded with botanical ingredients such as geranium, cypress, chamomile, and rosewood - all working together to supply a variety of soothing and anti-inflammatory functions. Squeeze a dime-sized amount into your wet palm - and massage into your face; the lather is thick enough to be used for shaving (and not only on your face...)

Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme also features Borghese’s exclusive Acqua di Vita mineral-water complex, which whisks away impurities while deeply cleansing pores - without depriving your skin of natural moisture.

The result is skin as dewy as that Italian boy we saw wearing the aforementioned t-shirt.

Don’t believe us? Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme was also featured in Lucky magazine - and you know those gals know their product.

PRICE: $32.50 / 6.7 oz.
LINK: Borghese : Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme


CellCeuticals® Biomedical Skin Treatments: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment

Sometimes your face needs a shield (and we’re not talking a paper bag...) A shield against the sun and the wind, and smoke, and the harshness of winter cold, the extremes of the environment. Your face needs protection: defense against attack.

Founded in 2007 by a cosmetic surgeon and a beauty industry veteran, CellCeuticals? Biomedical Skin Treatments has become an industry leader in preventative anti-aging treatments for all ages and skin types - and a recent recipient of the "Cosmetic Innovator of the Year" award. CellCeuticals® revolutionary products are specifically designed for those unwilling (as yet) to face the knife and needles.

Reach instead for CellCeuticals®: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment. This anti-aging product is loaded with vitamins C and E, along with green tea, making this cream one of the more powerful antioxidant treatments on the market.

Packaged in a sleek hexagonal container, CellCeuticals®: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment’s plastic cylinder is both chic and effective, with a pump that dispenses exactly the right amount. Three small dabs cover an entire face - and the effect is almost immediate.

CellCeuticals®: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment also contains aloe vera and vitamin B5, known for their skin-soothing properties, and almond, avocado, and sunflower oils, which replenish skin lipids, as well as beta glucan for skin firming. So effective are these elements that one clinical study concluded that CellCeuticals®: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment diminished wrinkles by nearly 40% and redness by almost 90%.

As soon as this cream touches your face, something starts happening: the cream is readily absorbed into your skin and you could swear that you’re watching fine lines disappear, melting before your eyes. It’s somewhat transfixing - and hard to pull yourself from the mirror. Apparently, according to the experts behind CellCeuticals®, the effect is caused by the products working beneath the skin, rather than only topically.

All we know is that we’re testifying: we’ll keep using this product, even if it means stealing it from our own mother.

PRICE: $70 / 1.0 fl. oz.
LINK: CellCeuticals® Biomedical Skin Treatments: Extreme Defense?Anti-Cell Damage Skin Treatment


Murad : T-Zone Pore Refining Gel

There can be a lot of stress during the holidays: stress exacerbated by culinary indulgence, such as excessive sugar and alcohol intake. Overheated offices, brisk winter winds. Your poor schizophrenic skin: it doesn’t know whether to sweat or inflame.

That’s when you reach for Murad’s T-Zone Pore Refining Gel. This patented gel formula contains glycolic and salicylic acids, which gently exfoliate your skin, removing imperfections and clearing pores, leaving your t-zone (your forehead, nose, and chin) with a healthy glow.

Murad’s T-Zone Pore Refining Gel also contains Retinol for skin radiance, as well as pomegranate extract, which defends skin from free radicals. Best of all, this translucent gel (stickier than a serum, lighter than a cream) normalizes your skin’s production of oil, while reducing the size of your pores. What’s almost miraculous about this product is its ability to balance its effects between the oily and dry zones of your skin.

For more than ten years, Murad’s T-Zone Pore Refining Gel has been garnering industry accolades (Good Housekeeping’s Research Institute gave this product its top award for pore-minimizing products). Perhaps even more importantly, Murad’s website is loaded with glowing testimonials, nearly two hundred at last viewing, titled with phrases like "can’t live without" and "YES! YES! YES!" and "where have you been all my life?"

Enough said.

PRICE: $40 / 2.0 fl. oz.
LINK: Murad : T-Zone Pore Refining Gel


(Holiday Gift Guide continued on next page: fragrances from Comme des Garçons, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels)


Commes des Garçons and Artek: Standard: A Fragrance (2009)

There’s a "High Episcopalian" church in midtown Manhattan fondly known as "Smoky Mary’s" - and sometimes referred to as "Bells and Smells," pet names given for the abundance of incense burned, up and down the nave. Incense so heavy as to follow you home in the fibers of your clothing - and ultimately into sleep, where you dream of priests in cassocks swinging thuribles on chains above your bed.

Rei Kawakubo, founder of the Tokyo-based, avant-garde fashion house, Commes des Garçons (French for "like the boys") has gone on record as saying that she’s never been overly fond of fragrances - and yet Commes des Garçons has become known for a line of fragrances as esoteric and conceptual as the clothing.

The Commes des Garçons fragrance line is not for the shy or faint of heart, which makes it perfect for its edgy corps of cultish devotees (we have one artist friend who has religiously worn the first Commes des Garçons fragrance ever since its launch in 1994). These are fragrances that flaunt unconventionality with blends meant to evoke concepts such as ink, or gas, or tar - albeit with a kind of compulsive attraction. (Remember how you used to love to fill up your car - and the smell of gas on your hands?)

Standard is the latest in a line of collaborations that Commes des Garçons has done with similarly idiosyncratic and visionary companies or individuals (Monocle magazine, for example, or fashion muse, Daphne Guinness), this time with Artek, the Finnish furniture company founded in 1935 by architect Alvar Aalto (whose chairs and stools are universally recognized - and idolized). Given Aalto’s renowned work with laminated bent-plywood furniture, it’s no surprise that the fragrance created in his honor (by Commes des Garçons in-house perfumer, Christian Astuguevieille) is heavily woody - particularly with cedar.

With top notes comprised of fennel, ginger, lemon, and cedarwood, Standard diffuses into a dry-down that is a softer version of that incense-laden thurible. Mass has ended, but you’ve lingered in the high choir. You might even have fallen asleep on a pew cushion, breathing in the musky and slightly chilled air of a cathedral that’s been standing for centuries.

Introduced at London’s Dover Street Market, Standard was launched in 2009 to commemorate Artek’s 75th anniversary. Packaged in a matte gray bottle with silver cap, Standard’s visual aesthetics are completely complementary to Aalto’s work and philosophy - and its mesmerizing evocation of high church and high school wood shop is breathtakingly brilliant.

PRICE: $110.00 / 100 ml (3.3 oz.)
LINK: Commes des Garçons and Artek: Standard: A Fragrance


Van Cleef & Arpels : Midnight in Paris (2010)

With a name like Midnight in Paris, a name harnessing two of the more beautiful concepts in the world, what else would you expect but a revelation? Years ago, when we were very young, we found ourselves walking all night through the streets of Paris. Over the bridges and across the Place de la Concorde and Place Vendome, through the parks and past the cafes, inhaling everything we could, in the exhilaration of being young and free in the City of Light.

For years, Van Cleef & Arpels has been sheathing the necks, wrists, and ears of the world’s more beautiful specimens with their legendary jewelry. Fragrance is a natural extension of a jeweler, particularly when one considers that the placement of fragrance is often right next to the jewels: behind the ears, on the wrists, at the tip of the sternum. Ever since the 1976 introduction of Feerie from its flagship on Place Vendome, Van Cleef & Arpels has solidified its place in the fragrance industry.

Inspired by Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight in Paris timepiece with its map of the stars under a Paris sky on the watch face, this eponymous fragrance is packaged in a box as indigo as the Paris sky in winter. The midnight blue glass bottle, rounded like a watch face, is embossed with the constellations, while an engraved silver-plated rim encircles the bottle. As for the bottle top, its etched surface evokes the crown of the eponymous watch.

Harking back to the work of the great perfumers during the days of Art Deco, when bottles were created by artisans at Lalique, Midnight in Paris is one of the more stunning bottles in modern fragrance.

Opening with a burst of lemon and bergamot, the citrus top note is almost immediately mitigated by an intensely aromatic rosemary. With leather and lily waiting in the wings - you can feel them pushing forward through the citrus - it’s as if you’ve slipped into your favorite banquette at La Coupole, right around midnight. There’s a black lily on the table, next to your black leather briefcase - the one your godfather gave to you years before which still retains his scent: incense and scotch. Wes Montgomery’s on the piano, playing "’Round Midnight" - and you’re reading Hemingway’s "A Moveable Feast," while sipping Courvoisier. It’s hard to believe, but everything has come together, your whole life, every experience, bringing you here to form this perfect moment.

That’s the genius of Midnight in Paris: one element building upon another, a linear progression moving on from the darkened lily and leather into the base notes of amber and incense, with the warmth of tonka bean as soothing as the liquor.

Slowly the joint empties out until it’s just you and the bartender, the waiter reading Le Figaro at the bar. You and Midnight in Paris, enveloped in dreams and memories of the City of Light.

PRICE: $95.00 / 125 ml.
LINK: Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight in Paris


Hermès : Hermès Iris Ukiyoé (2010)

Not unlike Firenze, where the iris line the banks of the Arno, and where you find yourself marveling anew at a town that has for so long smitten artists, romantics, and lovers - so, too, does Hermès Iris Ukiyoé reward those who return, inexorably drawn back to its mesmeric beauty.

You think you know it. Like a haiku you read in school, one as beautiful as it was clean and straightforward - and yet when you read it again, studied it further, you realized the paradoxes imbedded within its 5-7-5 structure.

So it is with Florence, and its iris - and Hermès Iris Ukiyoé.

Hermès master perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has long admired the haiku for its ability to convey the ephemeral and the eternal with restraint and clarity. Iris Ukiyoé, the ninth fragrance in the Hermessence collection, draws inspiration from the Japanese word ukiyoé, sometimes defined as "images of the floating world," and which also refers to 19th-century Japanese wood-block prints. The concept behind ukiyoé is the art of living for the moment in the enjoyment of sensory pleasures - while disengaging from that which is disheartening about life.

In a word, ukiyoé is about beauty, which is why it’s an apt name for Ellena’s latest olfactory creation.

As with the great Japanese ukiyoé master, Hiroshige, whose work Ellena greatly admires, Hermès Iris Ukiyoé reveals its hidden treasures upon closer scrutiny. Described as a "divertimento on the theme of iris," the fragrance opens with a sharply-focused rose and orange blossom bouquet, a reflection of the many scents Ellena associates with the iris flower (rather than the ubiquitous rhizome), which Ellena cultivates in his garden. Deepening into an aqueous muguet before shifting again into a vegetal crispness that one might associate with the cucumber in a Pimm’s Cup, Hermès Iris Ukiyoé possesses an almost-thespian quality of registering emotion with the tiniest shifting of expression and gesture.

Like a watercolor in the process of being painted, the color mutating as it meets the water and slides across the paper, like misty clouds across a storm-swept sky, like an Impressionist painting that reveals itself in distance, Hermès Iris Ukiyoé is an endlessly fascinating, shape-shifting illusion, moving from its cool, floral morning tones into the warmth of an afternoon with the hint of a storm on the horizon.

As with all objets Hermès, the presentation is as artful as the content. Both the stopper and the bottle are dressed in Hermès signature saddle-stitched leather, this time in violet iris Swift calfskin, with Hermès orange Mysore goatskin lining the interior of the case. The glass of the decanter-cut bottle is tinged with streaks of violet, evoking again the watery banks of the Arno with its profusion of heraldic iris in spring.

In short, Hermès Iris Ukiyoé is as hypnotizing as nature on one of those mornings when the mist on petals seems as miraculous as the shimmer of leaves - and you remain transfixed, in awe of all that envelops you in the evanescent moment in the midst of the garden of life.

PRICE: $235.00 / 100 ml.
LINK: Hermès : Hermès Iris Ukiyoé


(Holiday Gift Guide continued on next page: Borghese, Murad Man, Hugo Naturals)


Borghese : Crema Saponetta Cleansing Bar for Face & Body

Sometimes, in the shower, there’s nothing like a of soap. And especially one that’s creamy... A soap that’s gentle but also effective. In short, you want a soap as good as your (wo)man.

For the past decade, Borghese has been in the hands of Georgette Mosbacher - and while her politics might rankle, there’s no denying that her skin looks flawless. And while under Mosbacher’s tutelage, there’s no question that Borghese has become a lifestyle brand. One result of which is the Crema Saponetta Cleansing Bar, derived from the well-loved Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme. Now, with this oversized,, twelve-ounce bar of soap, your body enjoys the same benefits that your face received from the Crema Saponetta Cleansing Creme.

This creamy, moisturizing soap, with its luscious lather, leaves you clean and refreshed - without drying out your skin. Crema Saponetta Cleansing Bar stimulates...the skin; lather all over and you might even get a shave in the shower.

One bar of soap - when was the last time you had so much fun for less than twenty dollars?

PRICE: $16.50 /11.5 oz.
LINK: Borghese : Crema Saponetta Cleansing Bar for Face & Body


Murad Man : Razor Burn Rescue®

Shaving, it’s a daily struggle with the razor’s edge. Redness and razor burn and red bumps - and then there are those sleep-deprived mormings when your hand slips and you’re bleeding like a victim of the demon barber of Fleet Street.

On the very day that you’re on your way to lunch with your very own Blaine.

Fortunately Murad Man has a product just for those occasions: Razor Burn Rescue®, which is formulated with anti-inflammatories to reduce redness. Apply a small amount to your neck and jawline - and you’ll feel the healing commence almost immediately.

For those of you with extremely sensitive skin (or those with morning jitters), Razor Burn Rescue® infuses your skin with healing antioxidants such as vitamins E and B5, as well as tea tree oil, while glycolic acid sweeps away dead skin and debris from your hair follicles. There’s also neem oil, widely used in ayurvedic medicine for its treatment of skin afflictions.

Not only does Razor Burn Rescue® soothe and cleanse your skin, it helps stimulate the production of collagen, making your skin as soft as... Well, you know. You’ll be stroking your neck the way... Well, never mind.

PRICE: $35 / 1.5 fl. oz.
LINK: Murad Man : Razor Burn Rescue®


Hugo Naturals Medium Hold Styling Gel

What you want in a styling gel is a product that nourishes and protects your hair - while it’s working your look. You want a gel that helps your hair retain moisture, while boosting shine - and one thing you definitely don’t want in your hair is alcohol (that’s for sipping, remember?).

Hugo Naturals is an all-natural line of products that are free of petrochemicals, gluten-free, and made from sustainable sources. Perfectly emblematic of these values is Hugos Naturals Medium Hold Styling Gel which is formulated with quinoa (and you know how good quinoa is for you, so you know it must be good for your hair...) and oat protein, both of which protect and repair your hair.

With a light orange and lemon scent, Hugos Naturals Medium Hold Styling Gel is just the sort of product that makes him want to run his fingers through your hair.

PRICE: $5.99 / 4 oz.
LINK: Hugo Naturals Medium Hold Styling Gel


(Holiday Gift Guide continued on next page: Nickel, Vichy Laboratories, Relastin, Nu Skin...)


Nickel: Morning After Rescue Gel

There are mornings - and then there are...mornings. Mornings when the head pounds as hard as the sun slams against the windows, and even raising your pinkie can cause you to wince.

Caffeine to the rescue - for your face. And no, we’re not talking water-boarding yourself with a mug of java; we’re talking Nickel’s Morning After Rescue Gel. As the tagline states, "a shock treatment" of natural wheat-based proteins, caffeine, and menthol-enriched unroasted green coffee complex (and you thought Starbucks was esoteric?) that reactivates and stimulates. And you’re getting no argument from us: this is facial gel like a "Snap out of it" slap from Cher. And we love it! Go ahead, Nickel; slap us again!

Nickel is the place for "serious skin care for men," with spas in Paris, London, and New York, so they’re familiar with nocturnal overdosing. The Morning After Rescue Gel (fortified with witch hazel to prevent under-eye puffiness) goes on smooth, with a pleasant citrus aroma, and starts working immediately to awaken your senses and restore your skin’s elasticity. You’ll feel so energized by lunch, you’ll be ready for a cocktail.

PRICE: $45 / 2.5 oz.
LINK: Nickel: Morning After Rescue Gel


Vichy Laboratories : Aqualia Antiox ’New Skin’ Antioxidant Fresh Serum

Remember chemistry class? Mixing solutions to form compounds, using beakers and pipettes? Admit it - you had fun. Now you can relive the thrill of mixing your own emollient with Aqualia Antiox ’New Skin’ Antioxidant Fresh Serum. This innovative serum (Don’t you love serums? The way they gloss your face and invariably feel so scientifically advanced?) is comprised of two of the most powerful antioxidants currently available: pure citrus polyphenol and pure vitamin C at 10% dose. Here’s what you do: you mix in the powder sachet of pure vitamin C with the polyphenol serum, shake and refrigerate. (Refrigeration is necessary because there are no preservatives or parabens in this concentrated elixir.)

Use the pipette to dribble a small amount of the vitamin C-enriched serum on your face - twice a day, if you want - and within twenty-one days, it’s conceivable that you’ll look twenty-one again. Of course that depends upon what age you’re currently rocking, but never mind about that, the point is, Aqualia Antiox ’New Skin’ gives your face a renewed glow while erasing fine lines. That’s the power of vitamin C : it boosts collagen and elastin production - and this serum delivers straight to the pores like an injection to the forehead.

Who knew that going to the fridge would be so beneficial to your facial health?

PRICE: $45.00 / 30 ml.
LINK: Vichy Laboratories : Aqualia Antiox ’New Skin’ Antioxidant Fresh Serum


Relastin Ultra Emollient / Zinc Firming Complex™

Facial factoid: elastin fibers, those bundles of protein found in connective facial tissue, can stretch to nearly twice their length - and then snap back to their original size. When you’re twenty years old, that is.

If you’re no longer twenty, the elastin in your face can render your face more like a played-out waistband: wrinkled and saggy. Because you know why? Your body stopped producing elastin at puberty.

Solution? It’s time to take charge. What you need when you’re less a chicken than a hawk is Relastin Ultra Emollient with patent-pending Zinc Firming Complex. This vitamin-rich, super-hydrating, anti-aging cream boosts the production of elastin while restoring elasticity to those delicate areas all over the face.

With a blissful cocktail of Vitamin A and C, as well as collagen-stimulating peptides that reduce the appearance of wrinkles, Relastin Ultra Emollient is a rich moisturizer that protects the face during cooler weather. Think of this potent potion as a luxurious complement to that Hermes scarf around your neck.

Even in the jar, Relastin feels luxuriously indulgent. It’s one of those toiletries that you want to leave out: on the vanity, the bureau, merely for being so attractive. Use it regularly (under your eyes, too!) - and in as little as two weeks, don’t be surprised if someone asks if you’d had work done. Smile smugly like a Fifties minx and murmur, "Relastin."

PRICE: $99.00 / 50 g / 1.7 oz.
LINK: Relastin Ultra Emollient / Zinc Firming Complex™


Nu Skin: ageLOC™ Transforming Night

You know how you feel at the end of the season, after all that holiday debauchery? You know how you almost anticipate January - with its inherent potential for starting over, starting anew?

Think how your skin feels after all that revelry. What you want to do is go to sleep on New Year’s Eve - and wake up a new person. And that’s just what Nu Skin: ageLOC™ Transforming Night enables. This rich, hydrating cream utilizes ultra-mild ingredients such as pea and bamboo extracts to work with your skin’s own nightly renewal process, thereby stimulating cell turnover.

The morning result? No more bedface, for one thing; instead, Nu Skin ageLOC™ Transforming Night cream reduces those morning lines and wrinkles, leaving your face as youthful as Sleeping Beauty.

In short, Nu Skin: ageLOC™ Transforming Night is similar to a nocturnal work-out for your skin: while you’re sleeping, this water-based, anti-aging emollient releases glucosamine, a powerful anti-aging ingredient (yes, the same glucosamine you take for your aching joints...), as well as ceramide 3, which retains and protects your skin’s moisture for increased hydration.

Think of Nu Skin: ageLOC™ Transforming Night as a sort of noctural protein shake for your face; you’ll wake up radiant - and ready to race like a hare into 2011 (which is, of course, Year of the Rabbit - but you knew that...)

PRICE: $83.00 / 1 fl. oz.
LINK: Nu Skin: ageLOC™ Transforming Night


Still need gift ideas? Check out these other EDGE Holiday Gift Guides:

Kitchen and Comestibles



A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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