A man must make choices every day: which shoes to wear; what to have for lunch; whether to skip an evening of barbells for pints of bitter. In grooming too, we’re faced with a raft of difficult choices. And with more products on the market than ever before, those choices can sometimes be downright bewildering. Should you use soap or a facial cleanser? Shave cream or foam? And what’s better for your teeth: an electric toothbrush or a manual one?
To make those decisions a little easier, we put a whole array of grooming products head-to-head to find out which packs the most punch. So, grab a ringside seat, the fight’s about to begin.
Eau De Toilette vs. Eau De Parfum
Although the weakest fragrance strength in women’s perfumery, eau de toilette is the standard for most men’s fragrances. “Around 80 per cent of [eau de toilette] will disappear from the skin within four hours,” says perfumer Roja Dove. Eau de parfum’s strength, on the other hand, sits between eau de toilette and perfume, with around 70 per cent of it vanishing after four hours, so it does offer a little more longevity on the skin.
A handful of mainstream scents for men, like Bleu de Chanel, Terre d’Hermès and The One by Dolce & Gabbana, now come in eau de parfum strengths. But don’t just expect added staying power – many have tweaked formulas that slightly change how the fragrance smells too.
Winner: Eau de toilette has the edge in terms of range available. Eau de parfum is often more expensive too.
Aftershave vs. Aftershave Balm
Sales of aftershave have seen a huge decline in recent years and with good reason. “There isn’t really much point in wearing aftershaves,” says James Craven of specialist perfumery Les Senteurs. “Not only is their fragrance concentration often as low as 1 per cent, the alcohol irritates and dries out freshly-shaven skin.”
Soothing balms, on the other hand, are formulated to hydrate, reduce redness and kick-start the skin’s own repair process so microscopic nicks and cuts can heal quickly. And they don’t sting like hell.
Winner: Aftershave balm, which wins by more than a neck. An irritation-free neck, obviously.
Manual Toothbrush vs. Electric Toothbrush
According to a study published by The Cochrane Library, electric toothbrushes can remove 11 per cent more plaque than manual ones, reduce gingivitis by 6 per cent and, with regular use, lead to a 17 per cent reduction in gum bleeding.
Their effectiveness, of course, depends on using them correctly (according to Dr. Uchenna Okoye, Clinical Director of the London Smiling Dental Group, the biggest mistake is using them like a manual brush, so always read the instructions) and ensuring they’re always charged.
The big pluses are that they do all the hard work for you and some even indicate when you’ve hit the optimum two-minute cleaning time recommended by dentists.
The main advantage of manual brushes, meanwhile, is their cost, portability and the fact that you can never forget to plug them in.
Winner: Electric. Just. The most important thing being to brush with something at least twice a day.
Soap vs. Face Wash
Soap might have been the mainstay of men’s grooming regimes for centuries, but most skincare experts now recommend using a face wash rather than a bar of the pink stuff.
The reason? “Most soaps are alkaline by nature and skin is slightly acidic, with a pH of about 5.5,” says Candice Gardner of the International Dermal Institute. “This means that soaps tend to be extremely drying, disrupting the skin’s natural protective barrier and leaving it feeling itchy, tight and vulnerable to dehydration.”
The last bit is especially important because dry skin tends to be more susceptible to premature ageing too. Most face washes, on the other hand, are glycerine-based, which tends to be much kinder on the skin and also acts as a moisturising agent.
Winner: Face wash, in a clean sweep.
Shave Cream vs. Shaving Foam
All shaving preps, whether they’re gels, creams or foams, have one aim: to provide a lubricating cushion between your skin and the blade, improving razor glide and minimising irritation.
Creams and shaving foams both do the job but, generally speaking, creams tend to be richer, more moisturising and lubricating, and are better for tough stubble and sensitive skins.
Foams might be more convenient and easier to use but they have their drawbacks. “The problem with some foams is that they can dry out quickly and so don’t always offer enough lubrication,” says Mark Sproston, founder of The Shavedoctor men’s shaving range.
Winner: Shave cream. With decent preparation being essential to the perfect shave, it pays to use the most lubricating product available.
Eye Cream vs. Eye Gel
Given that the skin around the eyes is some of the thinnest on the body, it’s particularly prone to wrinkling because of all the action it sees. It’s also easily irritated, so it’s easy to see why products specially formulated for the eye area are essential.
But which do you go for? As a rule of thumb, creams tend to be great for wrinkles, thanks to their nourishing and hydrating properties, while gels, being lightweight and watery, are more cooling, making them especially good at shrinking eye bags and reducing puffiness.
Winner: Draw. Choose the product based on what you want to achieve.
Moisturising Lotion vs. Moisturising Cream
The average supermarket shelf or department store counter is heaving with men’s moisturisers; some called lotions, others creams or balms. They all do the same thing (keep skin supple and hydrated), but which one you should buy is largely dependent on your skin type and your needs.
“Moisturisers vary from light to heavy depending on their oil and glycerine content,” says Dr. John Gray, author of The World of Skin Care. Lotions tend to be lighter and creams and balms richer and heavier. The former is perfect for oilier skin types to which you want to add moisture but not extra oil (oily skin still needs moisturising remember), while the latter are perfect for guys with drier skin and for winter when skin takes a battering.
Winner: Draw. Always pick the right product for your skin type.
Wet Razor vs. Electric Shaver
The battle of the blades has been raging ever since the first electric shaver was patented back in the 1920s and men tend to divide into two camps: those that love the closeness of a wet shave; and those preferring the convenience of electric.
Electric shavers tend to be better for time-poor men, guys with problem skin and those with an aversion to nicks and cuts (not to mention an aversion to cleaning the bathroom sink). Razors, on the other hand, deliver exceptionally close results and exfoliate skin in the process.
Winner: Razor, by a whisker. Traditional blades will always deliver the closest shave.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
“Deodorants control body odour by preventing bacterial growth on the skin and masking unpleasant odours,” says Dr. Stephen Antczak, author of Cosmetics Unmasked. “They often contain alcohol which effectively kills most bacteria but, since the bacteria often return, frequent applications are required.”
Antiperspirants, however, reduce the skin’s ability to perspire with the help of duct-blocking aluminium compounds, lessening the secretions bacteria have to feed on.
Winner: Antiperspirant, by a nose. If you’re kicking back on a Sunday, a deodorant might be enough, but if you’re braving the daily commute or delivering an important presentation, antiperspirant remains the best way to avoid unwelcome smells.
Game over. So what other grooming showdowns need to happen?
Let us know the products you’d pitch against each other below.