It would be easy, really easy, to hate on Rob Lowe for rolling out a signature fragrance with a nearly $90 price tag and a name, 18 Amber Wood, that could have been plucked off the stage at Jumbo's Clown Room on Hollywood Boulevard, but then you have to consider two things: The actor, who quietly launched a skincare line last year, sounds downright passionate about his mission to mentor and moisturize mankind, and the fragrance smells a heck of a lot better than a celebrity scent has a right to.
These revelations came at this week's launch event in a Beverly Hills whiskey bar, which started with an explanation of how he ended up with a skincare side-gig in the first place and included geeking out over a tube of under-eye serum. ("Here's what I like about it," he said. "Girls are lucky. They've got their little mascara wands. They've got every gimmick and cool thing they can throw in their purses, and guys have nothing. I carry this everywhere I go.")
"I've almost finished raising two young men," said Lowe, 51. "And as that begins to wind down for me, [the skincare line] Profile becomes a vehicle for me to have those conversations with other guys of all ages, but particularly, guys that are my age and saying, "Dude, what the heck? You look like you're still in 'St. Elmo's Fire.' " (Which he pretty much does.)
The top notes of 18 Amber Wood (the "18" in the name refers to his age when "The Outsiders" premiered) include bergamot and pink peppercorns, and middle notes are blue sage, lavender and cardamom. The whole shebang is anchored with a forest of woody base notes that include sandalwood, sequoia bark and cedar. That sounds heavier than it smells, the result being surprisingly peppy and peppery. It's the kind of smell that might greet you when you open the door of a freshly built log cabin.
We caught up with Lowe and peppered (or perhaps, peppercorned) him with grooming- and fragrance-focused questions. Here are highlights from our conversation:
Who was an early mentor to you in the grooming arena?
I wish there had been someone for me. Everybody has their father. My father was on the other side of the country, so I made a lot of it up as I went along. I went to my icons. ... I would go and see Paul Newman on screen. I would see Warren Beatty. And maybe I'd get a chance to brush up against them somewhere, look at what they're wearing or how they comported themselves. And I had to pick it up there.
So there wasn't any one person who handed you a tube of, say, under-eye serum?
I had people doing it for me since I was 18. ... I didn't want to take care of my skin, but that was their job. The hair and makeup people would put sunscreen on me when we were shooting outdoors. So I now know there's a baseline of things that are really easy that guys can do that will prevent the march of time and make them be the best that they can be.
Where did the name of the brand, Profile, come from?
My original production company was Lowe Profile. Then there's the double meaning of the profile of a face and the idea that every man should want to raise his profile.
And you founded the company?
Yes, I started it myself, and through the process of one step up, three steps back, two steps up, four steps back, it's been six years and the final iteration of Profile funded 15 months ago. The line officially launched in September 2015 in Nordstrom's. Getting the fragrance I wanted took probably nine months actively working with the fragrance house.
What direction did you give the fragrance house at the very beginning? Did you give it specifics like, "I want a back note of red cedar or a top note of pink peppercorn"?
Look, the gift of ignorance has always been great to me. I wanted to be an actor in Ohio, and I had no idea what that meant, what the failure rate was. Had I known any of it, I don't know if I ever would have done it. This was very much the same thing. I know what I want. I have a vision for what I want. But the rest of it I don't know. And I actually think that's my competitive advantage.
What was your vision for the fragrance?
I spoke to them in terms of experiences and stories. I wanted something bold and powerful but with a subtle confidence. For me, it would be the feeling of, "You've made the movie. You've worked very hard. You've made the television show, and now it's time to be on the red carpet and enjoy the fruits of your hard work." What I said was, "I want a fragrance that speaks to the red-carpet moments in every guy's life." That includes, "My kid's graduating from school," "I'm going on the big date," and "This is the big job interview."
Who is this fragrance aimed at? Is this for the guy who wants to smell like Rob Lowe? The guy who wants to smell the way Rob Lowe feels? Or something else?
It's for anyone who wants to stand out, be noticed in a timeless, elegant, subtle way. … I have the cologne that [President John F. Kennedy] wore. You can't get it anymore, but I found it online. I can't remember the name of it, but I found it when I was researching JFK. And I was really interested in what JFK wore because I aspired to his aesthetic. So, to the extent that people would aspire to my aesthetic — whatever that would be — this [fragrance] is absolutely on point.
You've already got a second fragrance in the works that's due out before the end of the year. If 18 Amber Wood is about evoking the confidence of the red carpet, where are you headed for your sophomore scent?
For lack of a better term, it's more of an everyday [fragrance] that's more in the fresh-and-clean family.
Bottled fragrances aside, what are a few of your favorite smells?
Sea spray, celery and ion[ized air].
Are there any smells you absolutely can't stand?
I don't think I have one, but I have to laugh because my son's is the innards of a carved pumpkin.
Final question: Of all your film and television alter-egos, whose signature scent do you think would be a guaranteed bestseller?
If we had the flash and joie de vivre of "The Grinder" mixed with the sort of subtle dignity of ["West Wing" character] Sam Seaborn, we would give Chanel No. 5 a run for its money.
18 Amber Wood eau de parfum (3.4 fluid ounces $89.50) and hydrating hair and body wash (5 fluid ounces $29.50), available at Nordstrom and nordstrom.com and profile4men.com.