Lab Series At-A-Glance
Strengths: One good cleanser; some outstanding moisturizers, including one with sunscreen; very good shave cream and shave gel; well-formulated post-shave lotion; good absorbent mask and lip balm; many products are fragrance-free; packaging that keeps light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable during use (and it is masculine-looking).
Weaknesses: Cleansers, scrubs, and toners with irritating ingredients; lack of products for men with dry skin; some of the pre- and post-shave products contain irritants such as menthol; only one sunscreen; no effective anti-acne products.
Owned by Estee Lauder Corporation, Lab Series Skincare for Men used to be called Aramis Lab Series for Men. Lauder also has other brands that offer male-specific products, including Clinique Skin Supplies for Men and Aveda Men, but the Lab Series products by far have the better formulas. That's not to say there aren't any missteps to watch out for, because there are plenty, but given that the formulas of most men's products fall far behind those of women's products in terms of basic good skin care, a few good products in a men’s line is something out of the ordinary. Compared with Clinique's soap- and alcohol-laden toner routine and the incomplete, overly fragrant offerings from Aveda, Lab Series is the Lauder-owned men's line most deserving of your consideration.
Originally launched in 1987 (well before the industry was taking the men's skin-care market seriously), the people behind this brand now are described as "an elite team of doctors, scientists, and skin-care specialists" who join forces at the Lab Series Research Center to create advanced products tailored specifically to men. However, lofty descriptions don't necessarily make for great skin care. In fact, all that these "specialists" needed to do was look at the well-formulated products from the best Lauder has to offer. In some cases, it's clear they did just that, but in other cases ... well, it should've been an across-the-board strategy but that's now how it shakes out.
In terms of ingredients, there is nothing in these formulas that you don't also find in products marketed to women. Regardless of gender, skin is skin. Hormonal elements do play a role, such as male hormones making a man's skin thicker and more oily than a woman's skin, just as female hormones make a woman's skin smoother and softer, and, more often than not, with smaller pores than a male. But, in terms of what either gender needs to create and maintain healthy, protected skin, there is no fundamental difference. When it comes to acne, sun protection, free-radical damage, growing older, rosacea, psoriasis, and on and on, there is no research showing that men require products that are different from those women need.
Quality aside, what generally differentiates men's products from women's is packaging, and Lab Series Skincare for Men follows that theme. They offer masculine, no-nonsense packaging and plenty of products to deal with the morning shaving ritual. And considering all the talk about elite doctors and scientists endeavoring to create superior products for men, it's disturbing that these so-called experts formulated several products that contain irritants such as alcohol (which also generates free-radical damage), menthol, sandalwood, and peppermint. Those bracing, invigorating ingredients may seem manly, but it's only sensory perception. The reality is that the amount of these irritants in many of the problematic Lab Series products makes them damaging to skin, especially when applied immediately after shaving, causing "razor burn" (which is not really only about the process of using a razor. Think about women shaving their legs; they don't get red bumps unless they use overly fragrant moisturizers afterward.)
It is worth mentioning that Lab Series offers sensible advice about the best ways to shave skin on their Web site. Some of their other information about men's skin having special needs is off base and not at all rooted in fact, but it works within the context of getting guys to become more interested in keeping up their appearances using a sensible skin-care routine.
For more information about Lab Series, call (866) 316-4819 or visit www.labseries.com.