There comes a point in every man’s life when he stands in the aisles (and aisles, and aisles) of grooming products, squinting at the label on a mysterious bottle of fluid, with furrowed eyebrows and thinking ‘But what are exfoliating, anti-pore clogging micro-bubbles?’
Male grooming is a burgeoning industry (worth around £15bn worldwide) and cosmetics brands are churning out all manner of confusing lotions, potions and tools at machine gun pace in a bid to entice us to part with our hard-earned. The problem is, some of it is about as much use as an inflatable dartboard. Some, but not all.
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, here are the grooming products you probably aren’t using, but should be.
We all know moisturising is important, and we all know that we need to slap on SPF to keep ourselves from burning to a crisp. But few think to combine the two to protect against the everyday effects of exposure to the sun.
Harmful UVA and UVB rays don’t just exist around the pool – even on an overcast day, they’re at work sapping the skin of much-needed moisture, accelerating the ageing process and causing brown spots and wrinkles to form.
A good moisturiser loaded with SPF will keep your face hydrated and stop you from turning into a lobsterman, all without overcomplicating a morning routine.
Bulldog Protective Moisturiser, available at Superdrug, priced £8.40.
Anti-Ageing Eye Cream
A man’s age is always given away by his eyes. This is because the skin around our peepers is more delicate, so years of smiling and squinting imprint themselves here faster than anywhere else.
You can’t rely on 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 the enemy. Tackling wrinkles? A moisture-rich cream is the 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.
Clinique for Men Anti-Age Eye Cream, available at Clinique, priced £27.
Thinning hair is a man’s worst worry, but you can take a load off by using a salt spray, which helps add a thicker feel to the hair while bulking it up.
As the name implies, this type of product is a combination of salt water and chemicals to protect your locks from damage that makes it look like you 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 or paste.
Man Made No 1 Texture Salt Spray, available at Man Made London, priced £15.95.
You can dress immaculately and have a hairdo so sharp it could cut diamonds, but if you’ve got black curly hairs sprouting from your nose and ears, then it’s all for nothing.
A dedicated trimmer for these unsightly growths is an absolute must. Unless you actually want cotton buds covered in hot wax shoved up there. Because we’ll find you, and we’ll do it.
Simply turn this (immeasurably less painful) bit of kit on, give it a bit of a waggle around up there and bob’s your uncle.
Philips Nose Hair Trimmer, available at Boots, priced £10.49.
A good body scrub is the grooming product you never knew you needed, but won’t be able to live without. In short: it’s the easiest way to buff yourself, well, buff.
Lather it up and scrub away to stimulate the body’s lymphatic system, increase circulation and remove dead skin cells to result in healthier and all-round more handsome skin.
Just try to opt for something natural and without plastic micro-beads if you’re at all bothered about saving the planet.
Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Scrub, available at Mankind, priced £25.
Despite David Beckham’s best efforts, for most men a ‘grooming regime’ tends to mean they now slather a moisturiser on after the razor’s done its worst. This means our other exposed extremities, namely our hands, are often neglected.
Hand creams are designed to work with the thicker skin around joints and knuckles, and are especially important if working in a manual job or are prone to dry spots.
Just apply a small amount, massage your hands together like Mr Burns and away you go.
Korres Guava Hand Cream, available at Lookfantastic, priced £9.
The proper products, applied with aplomb, can undo years of abuse from hard weather and harder living. A face serum is one of those that can seriously improve your skin.
Much lighter than moisturisers, on account of being made up of much smaller molecules, serums are able to penetrate much deeper and deliver targeted solutions such as dry skin, wrinkles and fatigue.
Granted they come with a higher price tag than traditional creams, but a small pea-sized amount goes a long way so they keep trucking month after month.
Lab Series Future Rescue Repair Serum, available at John Lewis, priced £48.
Nail care doesn’t just mean hacking away at half-bitten fingers once a fortnight with a pair of rusty scissors from the kitchen drawer. It means taking proper care and paying attention to cuticles too.
The cuticle is a thin sliver of dead tissue that sits along the bottom of the nail to form a protective barrier against germs. Because this has a tendency to peel off (read: guys tend to yank them off, causing them to bleed) is pays to keep them in check.
Simply use the right tool to nip the cuticles and follow them around until completely gone. You’ll be surprised at how much better your hands will look.
Tweezerman Gear Mini Hangnail Nipper, available at Feelunique, priced £12.95.
The amount men spend to appear better groomed than a Crufts prize-winner is still a pittance compared to the fairer sex, who – in the UK alone – buy products to the tune of around £17bn a year.
That said, a crossover has begun to emerge in recent years, with typically ‘feminine’ products becoming acceptable for use by blokes. Including face masks.
These proven skin savers and are one of the best tools available for cleansing pores deep down and preventing future breakouts, providing you buy according to your skin type. Simply slap one on, have a good laugh at yourself in the mirror for a bit and then relax. Oh, and don’t forget to take it off.
Anthony Deep-Pore Cleansing Clay, available at Lookfantastic, priced £23.
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.
Unlike the abuse it endures during the day, when it’s tucked up away from sunshine and traffic fumes at night, the skin enjoys a spike in the oxygenated blood it needs to undo 12 or so hours’ worth of damage.
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 hit the hay. Opt for a product that’s especially moisturising as skin loses more water at night, so you want to keep it hydrated.
Lab Series Night Recovery Lotion, available at Boots, priced £35.
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. On the flip side, those with a mane like 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. Most not only help to strengthen the hair, but have an SPF in them too, which fends off sun damage. Spray on when your hair’s still wet, then just forget about it.
Men-U Smooth Leave-In Conditioner, available at Men-U, priced £11.95.
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 strawberry shampoo to coconut face cream.
Always choose an antiperspirant or deodorant that’s fragrance-free. Not only will this minimise skin irritation, but it always lays the perfect foundation from an eau de toilette to work its magic.
Menscience Advanced Deodorant, available at LookFantastic, priced £19.50.