A few years ago I remember staying at a lovely week-end house in Dutchess County, the place of a beautiful and impossibly trendy media executive lady friend. Using the bathroom for my morning ablutions, I discovered that the shelves were overflowing with all kinds of cleansers, exfoliators and face scrubbing tubes, all from the very poshest brands of cosmetics. Curious, I tested a handful and was surprised that most products were of the “sand paper” variety: they contained some form of granules and were very harsh on the skin. Being an amateur woodworker, I recognized the oddly satisfying feeling of using an over coarse sanding disk: you know you shouldn’t do it, but at least the wood immediately changes color and texture. Keeping aside their efficacy for a second, I can understand the marketing approach for these products: users will feel satisfied that some real cleansing is taking place as they are physically attacking and removing the outermost skin layer as impurities and dead skin one suspects are stuck there are scrapped away. There is probably a modern psychological effect at work here, a strange form of symbolic redemption that I put alongside teetotaling, going to steam yoga as if sweating was cleaning your insides or, indeed, some form of stomach or even colon cleansing…All these things are about taking sin away!

Zirh’s cleanser called CLEAN takes a totally different approach. Here, the overused (in cosmetics) word “gentle” is totally appropriate. The product is nearly liquid, very soft, hardly colored and spreads easily with incredible smoothness. It is not too liquid either and stays comfortably on face and neck. Within a few strokes, it foams nicely. There is no scratching of the face, just like a marvelous soap. It also rinses relatively easily. If it is perfumed, it is very slight and certainly there is no residual smell. Better still, the skin is never dry, a big relief as men’s skin tend to dry off with shaving and Zirh CLEAN almost moisturizes the face. The experience is faultless.

There are three types of acid that are responsible for feeling smooth as well as cleansed. Of the three, malic acid has me warming further to Zirh. This is an alpha hydroxy acid. Bite into a green apple and malic acid will be responsible for any mouth-puckering sourness. Applied topically, it is a gentle exfoliator that will make skin feel softer. It is ideal if you want the benefits (dead cell sloughing, pore unclogging) of glycolic acid, but without the potential irritation. Malic, lactic and salicylic acids all do more or less the same thing, so this is a product that is going to smooth any rough edges.

The real miracles of this product are threefold:
1.    It makes the skin silky, no redness anywhere, no shine either.
2.    One uses a cleanser on the assumption that it is preventative; it should prevent zits and other marks due to impurities. Zirh CLEAN does that well. In addition, it appears to be curative as well: it removes zits, blemishes, or redness in a way that is truly spectacular. The magical touch I was desperate for when an acneic teenager!! Quite simply, I have not found anything better.
3.    The product is amazingly economical. I was bought an 8oz bottle nearly three years ago for less than $20 and it looks like I have hardly reached the half level! Actually, the greatest challenge is to let only the smallest nut of the liquid out of the bottle as this is quite enough for both face and neck.
Men being who they are, this is their dream product: terribly efficient, totally discreet, easy and cheap.

Zirh being economical, I would imagine they cannot make much money, even from fans even as dedicated as me. $20 over three years, how can they make much money from me? Zirh has other products, also cheap. But I am not sure they sale very many of them. I have actually tested some other Zirh, but they did not do much for me.  Candidly, the unreconstructed man in me has yet to understand the point of eye creams, a cream “replenishes your skin with vital nutrient” or such other sophisticated endeavors… We have recently reported in Truth In Aging the recent Zirh attempt to launch a more upmarket line called Platinum, but the jury is still out. Trade press reports that they would have annual revenue of below $20m and they have been acquired last June by no less that Procter & Gamble after an unsuccessful stint at Shiseido for a few years. For sure, this will be a marked improvement on Old Spice and Gillette!

Kudos to P&G for recognizing the attractiveness of the product line and its positioning. I found market research from Mintel suggesting that 17% of American men use face cleansers, that may sound low compared to 54% of women, but it represents 25m individuals in the United States. Take out youth and aging men and you may be contemplating 18m potential customers. If P&G’s marketing and distribution prowess makes them reach 10% market share for the cleanser and if they add $2 to the retail price, they could multiply the revenue of their Zirh acquisition by two. Should I call my broker?

Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, PEG-120 Methylglucose dioleate, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxylethanol, Fragrance [Parfum], Glycolic Acid, Sucrose Cocoate, Polyquaternium-10, Methylparaben, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Menthol, Propylparaben, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Salicyclic Acid, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool.