Men’s Grooming: The Ultimate Guide
Ten years ago when it came to men’s grooming, it would have been hard to convince the average man to use more than a single block of soap to look after himself from top to toe, let alone a root-boosting hair tonic, alpha lipoic acid night serum or white algae anti-ageing eye cream.
Today, a daily Korean seven-step personal care routine is becoming more the norm, with a tsunami of new, sophisticated grooming products launching every year. But although we have them, do we know what we’re doing with them?
To save you the mortal embarrassment of heading to the emergency room having ingested half a tub of sugar wax, FashionBeans has put together a definitive guide to all things male grooming: a handbook on hair, a manual on manscaping, a primer on, well, primer. You get the idea.
Quick Links: Face | Hair | Facial Hair | Body
How Men’s Grooming Has Evolved
Male grooming can be traced back millions of years to when cavemen used hinged shells to tweeze whiskers from their face. However, the trend didn’t move from the fringe to mainstream culture until much more recently.
The gay community was one the earliest adopters of male grooming during the 1970s, from the ultra-preened and plucked-all-over look to the ‘hairy bear’ tribes. A few decades later in the noughties, the football pitch became the next global platform, with the likes of David Beckham (who now has his own range of men’s grooming products) first castigated then celebrated for his ‘metrosexual’ commitment to cosmetics.
Simultaneously, there was a burgeoning obsession with the gym body. All the while, with the female market reaching saturation, beauty brands began eyeing the men’s category as ripe for growth. Fast forward to the present day, and global revenues in men’s grooming are expected to reach $78 billion (£60bn) by 2023, according to research firm IMARC.
Global warming has had an impact, too. Recent summers have brought some of the hottest days ever recorded around the world, resulting in a spike in self-tanning, and a 30 per cent increase in male body waxing, according to beauty booking platform Treatwell. Since the beginning of 2018, the website has also seen a jump in demand from men for regular haircuts, hair colouring, Brazilian hair straightening and facials.
What is clear is that guys continue to embrace men’s grooming in all its forms, with no slowdown in sight.
How Male Grooming Has Changed
Social media has arguably had the most significant recent impact on body ideals. A constant stream of comparison with friends and colleagues, easy access to celebrity culture, brands and influencers always selling to us – it all means we’re more conscious of how we look than ever before. We now live in a global community, and we’re also influenced by trends from around the world.
In November 2018, Chanel launched a makeup line for men in the UK, but the French fashion house chose to debut it in South Korea, where men have long had an advanced take on men’s grooming. One look at androgynous K-Pop stars like BTS tells us all we need to know; glossy lips, meticulously groomed brows, flawless, poreless skin and hints of mascara: these are the current aspirations for a lot of young men in the East Asian nation.
Of course, some will argue that a bathroom cabinet stocked with anything more than a gift set body wash diminishes traditional ideas of ‘masculinity’. Ten years ago, most alpha males believed that armpit juice was all that was needed to attract a mate. But what’s wrong with wanting to be a smoother, fresher version of our original selves? Isn’t being happy and comfortable in our own skin the ultimate goal?
Whether that means for you a baby smooth chest, a weekly moustache trim or an all-over golden tan, we say: go for it – and we’re here to help you get it right.
The Complete Guide To Men’s Grooming
No man ever won points for adulting by using the same bar of soap on his danglies and his face. Aside from not being clogged with nasties, a face wash designed specifically for your skin type will be PH-balanced to avoid leaving your skin feeling tight, uncomfortable or dry.
Though Tom Ford prescribes to the two-times-a-day school of men’s grooming, outside of showering it’s not necessary to cleanse your face more than once a day – with the emphasis on a good scrub down to remove dirt and grime before bed.
Sonic cleansing brushes add a luxury element to the ritual and work as a pre-shave prep, lifting and softening stubble. They also offer a deeper cleanse; helpful if you live or work in a city and are exposed to air pollution all day.
FashionBeans Tip: Don’t be scared of oil-based cleansers, they won’t cause spots or blackheads and are kinder to dry and mature skin types.
Unless you want to look like something found behind a crypt door, using a moisturiser is an essential part of the male grooming routine.
To start your day off right, leave the house with the skin protected against environmental aggressors such as sun and pollution – that means looking for formulas loaded with SPF and antioxidants. Energising formulas can also help pep up tired looking skin and hide the evidence of nocturnal activity.
After sundown, the skin enters repair mode, so boost its internal functions with a specific night cream or nourishing formula designed to promote cell renewal and stave off the signs of ageing.
FashionBeans Tip: Adjust your routine for the seasons; upping the UV protection and using lighter gel/water-based textures in summer and layering on the hydration during the winter.
Every day the human body sheds around 50 million flakes of skin, the equivalent of around 0.03 and 0.09g of skin every hour. (Sorry if you were eating.) This is important to keep your face looking fresh, however, the turnover of new cells decreases as we age, meaning we need to give the natural process a helping hand.
Exfoliation refers to the removal of the very top layer of the epidermis. The benefits of this include keeping pores clearer and blemishes at bay and making skin feel and look smoother.
Cleansers often double up as exfoliants. These can be physical exfoliants like the grains of salt in a scrub, or chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acid.
FashionBeans Tip: Exfoliating every day can be harsh and ultimately counterproductive – once a week is ideal.
Gentlemen, it’s time to tone up with this expert-level step of the men’s grooming regime that fits between cleansing and moisturising.
Despite what many think, toners do not close your pores. The purpose of toning is to get rid any impurities not removed by washing and to set the stage for whatever product you’re applying next. They come in several different forms, from mists to cleansing waters and can also work to target specific skin issues such as dry skin or excess oil.
FashionBeans Tip: Toning is a nice part of any skincare ritual, but don’t lose sleep if you don’t do it. Some guys can get away with skipping it altogether.
Before you start running back to the body wash aisle, don’t be scared by all these newfangled names. Serum is essentially moisturiser 2.0.
They are made up of much smaller molecules than traditional creams, making them able to target specific concerns like wrinkles or pigmentation using more potent ingredients.
Serums and similar facial oils can be used in conjunction or in place of a traditional moisturiser. It’s all about finding the right texture and combination that works for your skin.
FashionBeans Tip: Moisturiser ever feel too greasy or heavy? A serum is probably what you need.
Like popping zits and doing the air drums to Phil Collins’ songs, face masks are a guilty pleasure men can’t seem to get enough of.
Clay- and charcoal-based masks are best for congested skin and clogged pores as these ingredients work to draw out impurities. Sheet masks, another Asian trend, are good for use while traveling as they come individually wrapped and can help replenish moisture sapped by low-humidity airplane cabins.
Some peel off, some need to be rinsed off, but all will make you feel like Patrick Bateman. (Well-groomed, not murdery.)
FashionBeans Tip: Face masks work like a booster for the skin – sudden breakout, hungover or feeling extra dry? There’s a mask for that.
It’s a bold statement, but a cool haircut has the power to make more of an impression than an expensive wardrobe.
Whether it’s a high-maintenance pompadour or a fuss-free buzz cut, keeping on top of your locks should be the front and centre of your men’s grooming routine, particularly before any wedding, work do or job interview.
Finding a good barber is key if you are going to get the right hairstyle for your face shape, hair type and lifestyle. Thinning or receding? Your stylist will know the best way to enhance what you have got.
FashionBeans Tip: Get organised and into the habit of booking a regular cut. That way you can build a relationship with a barber and they can learn what you do and don’t like.
Most guys like to think they have the whole hair washing thing down, but while it may seem routine, not all are doing it right.
Sure, we need to keep our hair clean, but because shampoo strips the hair of its natural oils, washing it every day might be unnecessary. In fact, for the brave, it only takes six weeks of not washing at all to restore the hair’s natural cleaning mechanism.
Of course, there can be times when a rinse and repeat is required, such as to remove the build-up from hair products. But even in this case, less is often always more.
FashionBeans Tip: Shampoo bars offer a more eco-friendly way to wash your hair.
Ask any hair stylist worth their Barbicide and they’ll say the same thing: when it comes to men’s grooming products, we should be using less, not more.
Whether it’s pomade or clay, always start with a pea-sized amount. Work this forwards from the back of the head to ensure you don’t have too much product around the front.
Aside from making sure you are matching the right product with your hair type, style and condition, it’s important to know how different techniques affect the finish the result. Using a hair dryer will help you achieve a more polished finish whereas applying to wet hair will give a rough and ready look.
FashionBeans Tip: Before applying to your hair, warm the product up in your palms. This makes it more pliable and easier to work through the hair.
The Best Styling Products
An early frontrunner to gel, pomade is the original greaser product needed to create styles like the pompadour and quiff. Glossy and moveable, you can comb through and restyle as needed. Good for dry hair.
For a fixed hold and slick, wet-look style, hair gel is the go-to product. The good news is that it has come a long way since you last wore it as a spotty teenager, so there’ll be no white flakes if it dries up.
Great for styling short, choppy cuts like fringed styles and French crops, wax can have a matte finish or give a low sheen while offering a medium hold that can be easily reworked.
Sea Salt Spray
Beach hair at your fingertips, sea salt spray is the latest hype product in the hairstyling world. It can be used to add volume and loose hold to longer hair lengths, curls and waves.
Clay is thicker than gel but more pliable than wax. Ideal for guys with fine or thinning hair, it can be used to add body and density without weighing individual strands down, giving the appearance of thicker locks.
Part hair styling product, part grooming aid, hair crème works best on mid to long-length styles. It helps to smooth away frizz, add definition to curls and waves and improve its overall condition.
Previous generations had to put up with the genetic lottery when it came to their hair. Nothing could stop the march of male pattern baldness, and the only fix for unmanageable curls and thick frizzy waves was to slap a crew cut on your head.
Now, provided you’ve got the funds, there’s a solution out there for almost all every hair woe.
Brazilian/Keratin Blow Dry A relatively expensive process, a Brazilian or keratin blow dry essentially laminates the hair with a layer of fibrous proteins to control frizz, give a smoother texture and make the hair easier to style.
Straightening To permanently change the texture of hair, say from curly to straight, you need a chemical relaxer. By breaking the bonds within the hair and re-setting them with a fixing agent you can make curly hair much straighter, smooth out kinks, reduce frizz and the need for styling. It doesn’t wear off but it will grow out with new hair.
Dyeing Whether it’s to cover greys or make a statement by going peroxide blonde, colouring your hair requires frequent maintenance, making it a fairly expensive hobby. Though home kits are available, it’s a male grooming task always best left to the professionals.
Thinning It’s a cruel fact that half of all men over the age of 30 will eventually be affected by a thinning thatch. There are plenty of home treatment regimes (such as Propecia or Regaine) that can help arrest a receding hairline. However, these can come with negative side effects, so it’s important to seek medical advice first. The permanent solution comes with a hair transplant, during which healthy follicles are taken from the back of the head and moved to the crown.
You have to be a very special sort of person to genuinely enjoy shaving. We assume you also like changing bed sheets too? Weirdo. However, not all guys want to (or even can) grow facial hair, making it a necessary evil.
There’s still plenty of reasons to get on board with a bare face. Apart from standing out from the bearded crowd, facial hair often goes greyer faster than what’s on your head, so getting rid could suddenly take years off.
There are other reasons too. Because of the exfoliation the razor gives, it allows your skin to get the most out of masks, scrubs and serums while helping to minimise spots and blemishes. Providing you follow all the right pre and post-shaving steps in your male grooming routine.
Five Steps For A Good Shave
- Feel the heat: Shaving after a warm bath or shower helps to soften the stubble and open the pores, resulting in a much closer shave.
- Preparation: Exfoliating or using an electronic cleansing brush makes light work for your razor by lifting the hairs, help to avoid ingrowns in the process.
- Leave tricky spots until last: Start with flat areas like the cheeks. From there move on to the upper lip, then take your time to avoid any nicks around fiddly areas like the chin and the ears.
- Cool the burn: A final splash of cold water will help close the pores, then apply a post-shave balm to nourish and cool the skin.
- Invest in the right equipment: Guilty of using a blunt razor? A razor subscription box will mean your kit will always be fresh, without having to think about it.
‘Peak beard’ (remember that daft proclamation from 2014?) never really became a thing. In fact, grooming trends have meant we’ve seen more than a few of our favourite tastemakers walking around with a carefully crafted, seventies-style moustache. That doesn’t mean your facial hair doesn’t need the occasional trim to stay looking sharp.
To get the right shape with your beard trimmers, master barber Carmelo Guastella, who cuts hair for
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