David Beckham has a lot to answer for. Two decades ago, all that most men put on their faces was soapsuds and a splash of Brut. Then Becks ushered in the era of the metrosexual, and with it a male grooming industry that went from a standing start to something expected to reach a global value of over US$20bn next year.
Still, that’s a pittance compared to the fairer sex, who – in the UK alone – buy products to keep themselves that way to the tune of around £17bn a year. Because despite Becks’ best efforts, for most men a ‘grooming regime’ tends to mean they now slather a moisturiser on after the razor’s done its worst. And that their fragrance now comes in a bottle that looks like a Dale Chihuly sculpture, often with a matching price tag.
If that’s you, then you need to expand your Father Time-fighting arsenal. The proper products, applied with aplomb, can undo years of abuse from hard weather and harder living. However, while avoiding the Ernest Hemingway aesthetic is advisable, dive too deep into the same lotions and potions that litter female shelves and you’ll emerge as Joey Essex. There’s an important difference between baby-soft skin and looking like a hairless man-child.
The key is in knowing the handful of products you’d normally ignore, but which offer benefits that’ll see you looking your best – without having to spend an hour in front of the mirror every morning.
To sort the skin-saving wheat from the it’s-probably-just-expensive-yoghurt chaff, we tapped the expertise of Marcus Jaye, founder of The Chic Geek, FashionBeans’ resident style guru and a man better groomed than a Crufts prize-winner, as well as Dan Gregory of Marylebone barbers Man Made London, a grooming haven that could polish a deep sea trawlerman on shore leave into a fashion week front row guest.
That cream you smear onto your mug in the morning is a start, but a before-bed re-up isn’t enough when your birthday cake is more candles than icing.
“Your skin does a lot of repair work at night,” says Jaye. Unlike the abuse it endures during the day, when it’s tucked up away from sunshine and traffic fumes at night your face enjoys the spike in oxygenated blood it needs to undo twelve or so hours’ worth of damage. “So you should give it a helping hand.”
Coupling this natural rejuvenation with something night-time specific doubles down on this rebuild time and means you’ll wake up looking better than when you went to bed. Look for something without the sun and pollution blockers that make a good day cream – they’re pointless unless you’re sleeping in a tanning bed – and opt for a product that’s especially moisturising instead; your skin loses more water at night, so you want to keep it hydrated.
Baxter of California Night Cream AHA, available at Niven and Joshua, priced £24.
Bin products that weigh your hair down if you’re starting to lose the battle for scalp coverage. “A man’s worst worry is thinning hair,” says Gregory. But you can take a load off by giving the impression there’s a load more on: “A salt spray will help to add a thicker feel to the hair and bulk it up, giving the overall effect of thicker hair.”
It’s as the name implies; a combination of salt water and chemicals to protect your barnet from damage that makes you look like you’ve spent the morning catching waves, not the bus to work.
For best results, spray onto damp hair, style and then blow dry in the volume and devil-may-care attitude, before finishing with a matte clay. Just remember to deploy the latter sparingly – if you weigh them down, your newly pumped up tresses will collapse.
Man Made No 1 Texture Salt Spray, available at manmadelondon.com, priced £15.95.
Anti-Ageing Eye Cream
“A man’s age is always given away by his eyes,” says Jaye. The skin around the eyes is more delicate so years of smiling and squinting imprint themselves here faster than anywhere else.
You can’t rely on your moisturiser to undo the damage though; ordinary creams aren’t only insufficient, they can also cause the kind of puffiness that makes you look as if you’re always coming off an all-nighter.
The trick to outflanking the years is knowing your enemy. Tackling wrinkles? A moisture-rich cream is your best bet, especially one with an SPF that wards off sun damage. More bags than a Kardashian in Harrods? Then look for a gel, which tightens your skin quicker and gets straight to work on the blood vessels causing problems.
“Apply it religiously day and night,” says Jaye. And don’t wait until the signs appear before taking steps to tackle them. The earlier you start saving your skin, the longer it will stay at its youthful best.
Clinique for Men Anti-Age Eye Cream, available at clinique.co.uk, priced £26.
Odds are you’re using conditioner wrong. Fine-haired men should avoid it altogether – it speeds oil’s already pacy travels along your hair, turning lively locks into a greasy mess by lunchtime – while those more Aidan Turner should only be washing their hair every couple of days to avoid it drying out.
One across-the-board win is to swap your shower stuff for a leave-in conditioner, says Gregory: “Most not only help to strengthen your hair, but have an SPF in them too, which will help prevent sun damage.” Spray on when your hair’s still wet, then just forget about it.
Men-U SLIC Smooth Leave-In Conditioner, available at mankind.co.uk, priced £9.95.
A Scent-Free Antiperspirant
All men should have a signature fragrance. It’s the kind of thing that gets former partners misty-eyed when they catch a hint of it years after you broke up, an olfactory time machine that reminds them of you at your most intimate.
That’s not going to happen if your Terre d’Hermès is battling the smell of everything from your strawberry shampoo to your coconut face cream, or the Lynx Africa you’ve bathed yourself in as if trying to remove lice.
“Use a fragrance-free antiperspirant or deodorant,” says Jaye. “Stop the sweat first, then use your own fragrance with an eau de toilette or aftershave.” Leave the scent blending to perfumers.
Menscience Advanced Deodorant, available at mankind.co.uk, priced £19.50.
If grooming can be a minefield, these products are your map to safe passage. Just remember to actually use them. The biggest barrier to an effective regime is complication; if it adds too long to your morning routine, you just won’t do it.
Are there any fail-safes you think we’ve missed? Or maybe you feel male grooming has gotten a little out of hand?
Let us know in the comments below.