Axe — scorned by anyone who has to come into contact with tween boys regularly — is finally growing up.
Unilever’s intensely fragrant collection of grooming products is getting a big brother. It’s called Axe White Label, and comes in four distinctly upscale-sounding elemental scents: Night, Forest, Island, and Air.
You may wonder why Unilever decided to go with the Axe label on a line they are attempting to position upmarket — alongside their own line of Dove Men+Care as well as competitor Proctor and Gamble’s Old Spice line. But one sniff of any of the new products, and you’ll understand.
Though Axe describes them as “scents made with premium materials,” they’re still incredibly strong. This is still the Axe you remember, and it can be overwhelming at times.
I tried the entire line of White Label, which Axe provided to Business Insider for review purposes, in the “Night” scent. Axe describes Night as “a cool rush of grapefruit, lavender, cedar wood, and praline notes,” and it’s a far more pleasing scent than the Axe you’re used to.
The line comes in dry spray antiperspirant deodorant, antiperspirant solid deodorant, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, bodywash, and cooling style cream. For maximum effect, I applied them all the same day. (The line also includes a “style refresher,” which I did not get to try).
Here’s what I thought:
Axe White Label dry spray antiperspirant deodorant
This is as close the White Label collection comes to Axe’s signature body spray. And it’s quite a far cry from the spray that fills the halls of your local high school.
I’ve never used dry spray deodorant before trying this product out. And I’m not sure I loved it.
The spray is easy to apply but it has a bit of a learning curve (watch where you’re spraying it — your nose is NOT the target). It does fulfil its promise of going on dry — which is pretty incredible for a deodorant spray — and wears pretty lightly throughout the day. There’s no damp film under your arms.
The spray kept me dry (and aromatic) until about midday. At the time, both the wetness protection and fragrance seemed to disappear completely. It’s possible I didn’t apply enough, but I thought three seconds of continuous spray under each arm would to be enough for the advertised 48 hours of feeling “confidently fresh.”
The deodorant’s scent smelled pretty good, but it was still too much. By the time it wore off, I was happy to see it go.
At $US5.49, it’s about the right price for deodorant, but I’m not sure how long the container would last.
Axe White Label body wash
This body wash actually surprised me. It’s soft and light and doesn’t dry your skin out like I expected it to. It’s incredibly fragrant, but not overwhelmingly so. After your shower, it doesn’t leave a lot of fragrance on your skin so you don’t really smell like “Night” as much you might expect.
Overall: fragrant and generic, but a notable step up from a wash like Irish Spring and even Old Spice’s harsher offerings. It retails alongside other premium bodywash at $US3.97.
Axe White Label solid antiperspirant deodorant
This is a pretty standard, nondescript antiperspirant deodorant. It’s mostly identical to the offerings of the Dove Men + Care’s line, except with Axe’s explosive signature scents.
If you’re into Axe’s scents, you’ll like this solid. If not, this won’t convince you. Its $US3.97 MSRP prices it right alongside most competition.
Axe White Label 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner
Your standard stinky shampoo, in that less-than-desirable two-in-one combo. Personally, I much prefer separate shampoo and conditioner, but this works well for what it is.
It’s also an unexpected, unnerving green slime colour, unlike the deep, shiny purple of the body wash. I’m not sure if this was intentional to make it easy for sleepy men to tell the difference during their morning shower, but it’s pretty strange.
The price tag of $US3.97 for a relatively small bottle is slightly steep, but in line with other premium products.
Axe White Label cooling styling cream
Axe’s new hair product is by far the best of the new products in the collection.
Allow me to rave a bit:
The cream comes packaged in an easy-to-use bottle — which squeezes out more like a sandwich condiment than hair product — making it easy to remove from its tube.
Once you get it out, the pasty white cream takes a bit of effort to rub into your hair. But as long as you apply it root-to-tip, you’ll be good. After application, the cream dries quickly in your hair.
The product wears light in your hair, and it looks and feels like there’s nothing in your hair at all. It has a smooth matte finish and somehow leaves your hair feeling softer.
I can’t say enough about how hard this is to find in a product at this price level, and what a great feat this is by Axe. It’s also allows you to restyle your hair throughout the day.
The cream doesn’t offer the strongest hold — if you’re looking to spike your hair up, look elsewhere — but it will give you style and definition your hair naturally lacks. It was perfect for my rather thick, heavy hair.
In a switch from the rest of the Axe product line, this cream has only a light, pleasant scent.
The cream’s price-to-quality ratio sets a new standard for budget hair product — one that I don’t think another product will be able to reach. It’s $US6.97 MSRP is about half the price of any product that has the potential to be near as good as this.
Apart from the products, even the labels are grown up.
Gone are the insinuations that Axe will get you laid. Instead, the focus is on the wearer and his “confidence,” which can be seen referenced in the packaging and advertisement material’s insistence that wearing the products will make you “confidently fresh.”
It’s clear Axe is gearing this product to a more sophisticated, discerning man. They have even partnered with John Legend — a sophisticated pop icon if there ever was one — to start a new indie music label called “The White Label Collective.”
It remains to be seen if Axe will be able to break away from its high-school/frat boy image successfully, however.
So should you buy it? Well, I liked what I tried, but the signature smells that are Axe’s biggest draw aren’t enough to steal me away from my favoured brands. The one exception is the styling cream, which I can’t help but recommend wholeheartedly.