Birchbox & Baxter of California

2015-05-07 20.34.23-1Skincare brand Baxter of California has earned a cult-like following, and with good reason. As one of the original men’s grooming brands, created by Baxter Finley in 1965, Baxter of California has stayed true to its mission of nature plus science.

Cutting edge for its time, and way ahead of the men’s grooming trend by decades, the brand started with just one product – Super Shape, a men’s skin conditioner that offered protection from the sun and sea.

Over the years, they pioneered a comprehensive range of products tailored to a man’s needs – and OTC has been a longtime fan and customer. To honor those years of dedication, one of our other favorite brands, Birchbox, is throwing a bit of a party with a special edition box.

Offered in special packaging that celebrates Baxter of California’s surf and sand heritage, the box is available for US$20 through May 9th, 2015, by clicking here and entering the promotion code “BAXTER15″ at checkout.

Included in your box:

  • Daily Face Wash
  • Super Close Shave Formula
  • After Shave Balm
  • Clarifying Clay Mask
  • Surfrider Candle

So, consider your summer dopp kit stocked. But hurry up!


Men’s Grooming Original: American Crew

AC_NEW Classic Daily Shampoo  250 mL
While not our typical focus, OTC does on occasion highlight grooming products that make life a little easier and help you turn out in your best form. Being aware, educated, and confident when it comes to your hair and skin is very much a part of leading a well-rounded and stylish life.

American Crew is a stalwart brand that carved out a niche in the men’s grooming space way back in 1994. Founder David Raccuglia started with his original Daily Shampoo and it’s now back, featuring a new and improved formula that uses naturally derived cleansing agents to break down and gently rinse away your hair’s excess oil. According to the American Crew crew, the new formulation gives hair softness and manageability without build-up, while Sage Leaf and Chamomile extracts provide shine and reduce bacteria. Sounds pretty good to us.

We have indeed testing out this new and improved Daily Shampoo for a few weeks and feel that, in fact, it really does do a better job that some other brands we have have field tested of late. It’s a solid performer that is worth the money.

As we are also product design and branding junkies, we delved a bit into American Crew brand value and positioning. The overall branding and product imagery remains in place and projects a masculine, confident image.

The label and bottle design reference a manly spirits bottle, think hip flask or small-batch bourbon. The overall appearance and brand value is that of functional reliability underpinned by a sense of heritage and simple quality – all attributes that appeal to the core menswear market that doesn’t want too many flowery extras when it comes to grooming products. In fact, the American Crew lineup has significantly expanded to touch on all facets of men’s grooming, from haircare and styling , to skincare, and shaving.

They are even getting into the scent market; but then again, who isn’t?

Sold primarily through salons (U.S. customers can also purchase through a dedicated online retail site), the label is marketed as limited-access professional quality styling products. When it first hit the shelves, most men were more than a decade away from even thinking about men-focused grooming products. That prescient move by Mr. Raccuglia helped position American Crew as a core player in men’s grooming long before other brands even thought about the space.

While often viewed as being middle-market, it’s not positioned as a luxury line, American Crew’s price points are solidly in the salon product-purchase range. And, to our honest surprise, we feel it performed better than some other super niche-y men’s grooming brands that cost at least twice as much.



Birchbox knows how to track down the best when it comes to interesting and effective men’s grooming products.

For Father’s Day we highly recommend stocking up on these winners. Women have known all along that taking care of your skin and having a smart grooming regimen helps to keeps your body in shape and you feeling better about yourself.

So, have some fun and pick out a few items for your favorite dad.  Birchbox has an extensive inventory of grooming goods for guys. As for this selection, we have tried them all and our faces, hair, and significant others all thank us for it.

English Laundry 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash


Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal Bar Soap


stubble & ‘stache Face Moisturizer and Beard Conditioner


Davines Naturaltech Energizing Shampoo


MiN New York Wash Active Hair Care Shampoo


Essential Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shampoo


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Birchbox is an innovative and creative brand that has helped to create the curated product discovery market.  Founded in 2010, Birchbox helps consumers discover beauty, grooming, and lifestyle products through monthly deliveries of curated, deluxe samples that are tailored to their personal profile.

An important trend in the evolution of retail for both brands and consumers lies in the discovery experience.  Birchbox brings the excitement of product discovery online and its innovative approach allows brands and consumers to connect in a unique and intimate way.

Each new box includes a mix of products across categories – haircare to skincare and body, plus lifestyle extras.  Their distinct product offerings cater to both men and women via dedicated website sections and individual marketing outreach.  Special seasonal and holiday boxes also provide unique opportunities to sample new items and introduce new brands and products.

Recently, Birchbox Man sent us some new grooming samples from Gentleman’s Brand Co., Mr. Natty, and Sachajuan.  From hair gel to Bay Rum aftershave to daily moisturizer, our Birchbox samples are all outstanding and unique.

In the Birchbox e-shop, they sell full-sized versions of every product they sample, as well as other editor-selected products. With a highly personalized and targeted profile, Birchbox allows consumers to try the best and latest products in their home, including hard-to-find international or niche brands, and then provides a seamless way to purchase the full size versions of the products they love.  Pretty smart.

The Birchbox site also features robust editorial content designed to educated and inspire consumers; from how-to videos to expert interviews, and beauty news roundups.

In just 3 years, the company has experienced rapid organic growth and now boasts more than 400,000 current, active subscribers each month. In April 2012 Birchbox Man was launched for customers in the United States, and in November 2012, Home items were added to the Birchbox Shop. The acquisition of JolieBox in September 2012 expanded Birchbox to the UK, France, and Spain.






Birchbox Find: Hanz de Fuko

Hanzdefuko_Quicksand_900x900Even classically stylish guys need to focus on grooming.  While we here at OTC central don’t have a major personal care regimen, per se, we do need good stuff for our hair.  And thanks to our friends at Birch Box, we now have a new favorite hair styling brand, Hanz de Fuko, which is currently being sold exclusively through

We checked out their Pomade, Spongewax, and Quicksand products and found all three to be outstanding, each in their own way.  The great thing about these products is that they can help style your hair whether wet or dry and do so with a natural look.  It’s this quick and effective styling that has received some pretty glowing coverage from the likes of Esquire, QG, and Details.  So, whether you are going for something highly styled, a la David Beckham (a regular user), or you pull the I-don’t-do-the-style-thing-I-just-have-cool-hair, bit, this brand has you covered.

Here is a little bit about the three products we tried out through Birch Box.  Our everyday go-to choice is Quicksand.  It’s particularly light, holds well, and looks perfectly natural.

Hanz de Fuko Modify Pomade

A lightweight, modern pomade that’s great for a slicked back but never greasy look.  This medium-hold formula is water soluble which means less grease with a softer feel, still giving your hair smoothness and definition.

Hanz de Fuko Spongewax

This is a firm-hold hair styler for everything from perfect “bedhead” to a put-together pompadour.  This lightweight, water soluble wax, made with organic ingredients and natural plant extracts, thickens and adds fullness while still allowing you to sculpt your hair.

Hanz de Fuko Quicksand

An oil-absorbing styler to get that back-from-the-beach look. This medium-hold hair product is one part styling wax, one part dry shampoo. This gritty formula contains a soft granular rock similar to pumice that sucks up excess oil and adds lots of texture.