As a teenager in Texas, I was often confused for a girl. My skinny body, narrow face, overgrown hair, and slightly (or so I was told) effeminate manner meant that I got called ‘ma’am’ at nearly every place I went to. ‘That’s my son,’ my mum would coldly correct the hostess at TGI Fridays after she had greeted us with the usual ‘Hey ladies!’ When I flew the nest to a very queer-leaning college in Boston, I started to take pleasure in watching waiters trying to work it all out! He, she, they: Call me whatever you want, I thought, for I am all.
But all I actually was, as it turns out, was a late bloomer. So when I started sprouting thick, dark facial hair, it felt like an unexpected threat to the very fabric of my being. I tried everything to get as close a shave as possible to restore my youthful ambiguity. But the constant shaving and reshaving of my now naturally grizzly face, no matter how meticulously I did it, meant that I also started to bear hideous red, itchy razor burn. It was as if my skin was physically manifesting the sensitivity I had long felt on the inside — outside! For all the world to see, naked on my neck.
After college, I ended up in London, living in a squat full of wayward artists and weirdos. It was glorious. Hygiene, however, wasn’t a massive priority. There were stretches of time in which we didn’t have hot water. Swapping ancient-looking yellow Bic razors rinsed in freezing water that we kept in a communal bucket quite rightly angered my inflamed skin even more.
When one of my squat mates, the writer Karley Sciortino, moved to New York and started working as a dominatrix and sugar baby, she told me about a product she had recently discovered called Tend Skin, which helped keep her intimate areas tidy and prevent ingrown hairs. “Why don’t you try it on your neck?” she asked me when I came to visit her, handing over a big blue bottle containing a clear watery liquid that smelled like pure alcohol. “It will change your life.” She wasn’t wrong.
The first time I put it on my face I had a full-on Kevin McCallister moment; it felt as if I were pouring Everclear into an open wound. But within 24 hours, the crime scene that had consumed most of my face for the better part of a decade completely disappeared. Literally overnight, shaving went from being the bane of my existence, painful, messy, traumatic — like a perpetual breakup lived out daily across my lower jaw — to baby smooth. Neck rash, begone.
Needless to say, I started preaching the good word of Tend Skin to anyone who would listen, often repeating Karley’s exact words with more conviction than a cult member. This. Shit. Changes. Lives! And I’ve yet to hear any negative feedback. What’s more, I’ve started to think of it as a kind of a cure-all. If I have a painful spot that’s yet to rear its ugly head, I splash a bit of Tend Skin on it, and away it goes. Out of deodorant? Tend Skin’s new roll-on version makes for a perfect stand-in. Stressed out and in need of a stiff drink? Guzzle down some of Tend Skin’s toxic cocktail and bye-bye problems! Just kidding. Please don’t drink Tend Skin.
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