The Interview: Baldape Founder, Ben Rivers
Baldape Parlour is a men's grooming brand based in the UK. The brand was founded by Ben Rivers, who sought to tackle the lack of practical solutions and suitable products for everyday grooming and hair removal.
Rivers found that hair removal options such as shaving, and waxing were often painful, messy and costly- as well as being almost impossible to do yourself on tricky-to-reach areas such as the back. He tried out other hair removal products but found that many of them contained unnecessary ingredients that were too harsh on the skin. The natural and vegan-friendly products are formulated with specific ingredients to avoid irritation and achieve smooth results.
TheIndustry.fashion speaks to Baldape Parlour Founder Ben Rivers about founding the business, the brand's charity commitments, product formulations and hopes for the future of the male grooming industry.
"I wanted to challenge current products out there – in terms of formula, branding and customer engagement – in a space which has seen little innovation or change for a long time."
Tell me everything about yourself Ben! What was your life like before Baldape Parlour?
I graduated in 2015 with a degree in economics and have spent most of my professional career in banking and finance in London. I caught the entrepreneurial bug when working with a friend on his start-up and it was one of the most thrilling things I’ve done and ever since I’ve been working towards my own venture. One thing that has been consistent throughout my adult life is the challenges and frustrations I have faced with finding a reliable and healthy skincare routine. As someone prone to dry skin and eczema and having trialled a lot of products out there, I always thought I had something to offer in this space.
Founded two years ago out of a need for practical solutions to men’s unwanted body hair, you currently offer both hair removal products and facial products. Tell me more about your products.
I needed something to remove the angel wings on my back. There were no suitable products for me on the market and the only other options were visiting a salon or asking for assistance. I’m not an avid manscaper but I did want an easy and healthy solution that I could do myself.
After testing a few ideas I came up with what I like to call the ‘lather & loof’ technique and the Silverback Kit was born! It comes with all the tools you need to reach tricky areas and with our charcoal hair removal formula, it’s been specifically designed for coarser male hair but at the same time contains great ingredients to look after the skin and minimise irritation.
I wanted to challenge current products out there – in terms of formula, branding and customer engagement – in a space which has seen little innovation or change for a long time. What is surprising is a lot of these brands haven’t branched out into other areas of personal care whereas we feel that we have a lot more to offer.
Skincare is an area I really want to make a difference in, and we recently launched a collection of cleansers and scrubs. They’re all natural and vegan friendly and boast skin-loving ingredients like cucumber and grapefruit which leave the skin feeling clean and nourished. When it comes to shaving and beard care, I have always found that many products contain irritating and unnecessary ingredients such as unnatural/perfumed fragrances, particularly beard balms, which would cause my skin to flare up. We’ve used zero fragrance in our beard balm and have only kept the key elements needed to condition and style beards and live harmoniously with the skin.
And the hair removal features something quite rare in the product category – a nice scent. Was this an important part of the product development?
Anyone who has used a hair removal cream before is well aware of the awful smell they usually have. I had to address that if our products were going to be used regularly and so incorporated natural scents into the formula to make it a more pleasant experience. My main objective with our products is pinpointing the parts which are missing or not working for existing products and essentially improving or removing them.
Where did the name come from, I presume linked to the animal?
Yes, well we kind of are like bald apes….and the “Parlour” embodies our brand and the quality products and service we deliver. Choosing the name was one of the hardest parts and I spent a long-time considering candidates, but my instincts lead me to Baldape Parlour: it just looks and sounds right. I wanted to create something different, more standout and memorable, more inclusive, and less intimidating whilst highlighting our ethical and sustainability values and tying everything back to that.
Even as a small business you do great stuff for important causes, donating 5% of proceeds to charities including Humane Society International, what’s the motivation behind this?
I’ve been lucky enough to see and experience a lot of the world so far and I’d like to do my part in keeping that possible for future generations to come. We have a truly extraordinary planet with so much to see and we need to look after it for so many reasons. It’s something close to my heart and I want to build and build on this contribution as well as start projects internally going into the future. If all businesses could contribute more, the impact would be extraordinary.
Tell me about the sustainability/ethics of your products.
Our body and skincare ranges are vegan friendly, and all our products are made with the best natural ingredients from the UK & EU with a zero tolerance policy on animal testing. We’ll always use natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly ingredients in our formulas that do not harm the environment after they have been used and our accessories are designed to be reusable and one-time buys so you don’t need to continuously replenish items such as razor blades etc.
One important area of focus for me was packaging, I wanted to use as little as possible and the only piece of plastic packaging used is our hair removal cream tubes. We are working to switch these to recycled material (PCR) and eventually something biodegradable, whereas we have used recyclable glass for our recently launched skin and beard care products. Customers are given the option to receive their orders without any excess packaging – essentially the naked product – and we have seen a large proportion selecting this which is great!
What about the formulations, is there anything that you’ve deliberately chosen to include/use?
Yes, this is a major area of focus. I want to create products that aren’t just great the first, second and third time but are consistently effective. You need good quality products you can rely on every day. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying something new, loving it and then three weeks down the line it has made your skin worse and you’re back to the drawing board. All our products have been tested long term and I have a good grasp on what’s going to work having had my own challenges.
With hair removal creams we found that most products contain unnecessary ingredients that are simply too harsh and often leave you with a rash. With our cream we used mostly natural ingredients and included charcoal and bamboo extract which work really well to leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturised.
Our more sensitive cleansers contain cucumber extract which is great for hydrating the skin and reducing redness and puffiness, while our grapefruit version works for rejuvenating the skin and achieving a brighter complexion.
Do you think there’s a stigma for most men, attached to products in categories like hair removal?
Male grooming is really exploding at the moment and has come a long way, but I do believe there are still a lot of stigmas attached to products including hair removal. A lot of men who want to remove unwanted hair are either not confident in their grooming abilities or don’t consider it to be a ‘manly’ practice however compared to 5 years ago, more and more are open to grooming. I think a lot of the current branding out there can be quite alienating, especially if there’s a bloke with an 8 pack on the front. We want to promote a body positive culture and whether you want to grow, style or remove your hair, we’ll have the products to do so.
What has the last two years in business been like for you? Have you seen growth as you have increased brand awareness?
It’s mostly been a one-man band so far with me handling all aspects of the business but I’m looking forward to bringing more perspectives and fresh ideas on board as it grows. COVID-19 really sped up the time to launch and Baldape officially entered the market back in Spring 2021. Summer was a key period for the body care range and being a new, innovative product, it did really well. As a niche product we saw that the more positive reviews we got, the more people wanted to try it.
More recently we picked up an award at the Pure Beauty awards in London within the ‘Best new male shaving and hair product’ category which was fantastic given the brand was so new and our customer base was much smaller than our competitors. I’m really excited for the future and to see where the brand can go, what it can achieve and the positive social impact it will make.
Do you intend to explore other male grooming product categories?
Absolutely, there are big plans for the brand. I think the main thing is to continue listening to our customers and men in general and the painpoints that they have and to then search out and curate the very best products and solutions, for any product category.
I have always found that I need to buy my products from different brands, some of them not even designed for men as there’s just not enough range out there at the moment, nowhere near what is available in more gender neutral and female offerings. I want to create a fully encompassing male grooming brand which can deliver on all these areas without compromising on quality and affordability, providing men with the confidence to use each and every day.