Sunday, January 10, 2016

Balsem skin care for men: Face Moisturizer, Shave Cream

Last month, I talked about Balsem in my men's gift guide and mentioned how bf was enjoying the shaving cream. I'm back today with a proper review on the Balsem Face Moisturizer and Shave Cream, but first, a brief introduction:

Balsem is the recent-ish men's personal care line launched by Frank & Oak, a Montreal-based men's clothing and accessories store. The Balsem line includes face cleanser, moisturizer, hair styling products, and extremely fancy towels. Their clothing aesthetic is minimalist and straightforward, and that's reflected in Balsem too. However, behind the simple black and white packaging are effective products with some fairly impressive ingredients, at least when it comes to the Face Moisturizer and Shave Cream.

Balsem Face Moisturizer is recommended as being suitable for all skin types, but "especially normal to dry." Bf has dry skin similar to me, but never wants to use my stuff because he claims they're all "too greasy" 9___9. This moisturizer is perfect for him because it hydrates but is lightweight and quickly absorbed, so I'm happy to report that he's been using it very consistently. I once ended up falling asleep and spending the night without bringing my overnight bag, and stole this moisturizer for myself in the morning. Although I still prefer my own arsenal, it did a good job as a stand-in, though bf said it was weird that my face "smelled manly" :P

In terms of formulation, Face Moisturizer includes shea butter and soybean oil to moisturize; shea butter is something I often look for in products for dry skin because it's so hydrating. I was surprised to see it here since my experience is that shea butter products are a bit heavier, yet this moisturizer feels pretty light. Polyacrylamide is second in the ingredients list behind water; this is a "film-forming" agent with water-binding properties. The latter third of the ingredients lists Betula alba (birch bark) juice and Epilobium angustifolium (willow herb) flower/leaf/stem extract. I wasn't able to find anything about specifically birch bark juice, but there is a study here about birch bark extract improving the skin barrier. Willow herb extract has anti-irritant and antioxidant properties. There's other antioxidants in the formula with the presence of retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C), and tocopherol (vitamin E). Since antioxidants are sensitive to light and air, the opaque tube packaging helps keep the formula stable and effective.

Balsem Shave Cream and Face Moisturizer, pictured with return instructions that include sudoku grids :P
Balsem Shave Cream has a luxuriously thick texture to help create a comfortable shave. It includes triglycerides, sunflower seed oil, and aloe leaf juice to moisturize. Like the Face Moisturizer, it also has willow herb extracts, but I am not sure how effective they are in a product that gets rinsed off fairly quickly. Bf reported that shaving was much smoother compared to his usual drugstore shaving cream. A problem I've noticed with his usual cream is that his skin can become visibly dry after shaving; with the Balsem Shave Cream, his skin was flake-free and surprisingly hydrated. I could feel where he applied the shaving cream, because those areas of his face felt smoother and more moisturized compared to the rest of his face.

We debated the merits of a $24 CAD shaving cream. On one hand, since he only needs to shave every few days, he might as well spend a little extra on a product that works well, right? On the other hand, if he was someone that had to shave daily, then maybe he should be using a product that takes better care of his face anyway? In the end, the answer was the same regardless of whether he shaves daily or not XD

Balsem Face Moisturizer / Balsem Shave Cream
You can see how thin the Face Moisturizer (left) is in this swatch, in contrast to the thick, creamy Shave Cream.

By the way, I really love this. The folks at Frank & Oak packaged my press samples just as they would a regular order, so if you place an order you can also expect to receive some sudoku puzzles on your return instruction card, just because. (Alternately, you can check out Balsem at one of their retail locations. Vancouverites, there's a shop in Gastown.)

Overall, the two Balsem products I received proved to be pretty good! Face Moisturizer caught me by surprise with an impressive ingredients list that contained emollients and antioxidants. Maybe what I've been most pleased by, is the fact that Balsem created something that bf actually wants to use. Shave Cream is kind of a given, but he's actually been using the Face Moisturizer daily and his skin is looking better as a result! These two are great products to check out for effective yet fuss-free men's care, particularly if you have dry skin.

FYI Balsem products all carry the same signature scent: a lightweight crisp, woodsy, conventionally-masculine scent. Bf and I like it, but it may be a turn-off if you are sensitive to fragrance (scent-wise or to the added ingredient itself), or if woodsy scents just aren't your cup of tea.

Lastly, I love this black and white speckle design on the boxes. You'll see just how much in tomorrow's post >:D

Available at Frank & Oak online and in-store: Face Moisturizer ($28 CAD / 2.6 oz); Shave Cream ($24 CAD / 3.8 oz)

Face Moisturizer ingredients: water, polyacrylamide, cyclopentasiloxane, C13-14 isoparaffin, laureth-7, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cococaprylate/carprate, glycerin, Butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, Glycine soja (soybean) oil, dehydroacetic acid, sodium benzoate, fragrance, Betula alba juice, Epilobium angustifolium flower/leaf/stem extract, phospholipids, retinyl palmitate, tocopherol, ascorbyl palmitate, beta-carotene, EDTA

Shave Cream ingredients: water, stearic acid, glycerin, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, trimethylolpropane triethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceral stearate, PEG-100 stearate, polysorbate 20, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, cocamidopropyl betaine, fragrance, phenoxyethanol, triethanolamine, hydroxyethcellulose, caprylhydroxamic acid, caprylyl glycol, sodium hydroxide, Epilobium angustifolium flower/leaf/stem extract, allantoin, EDTA

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