Here’s the thing. From a female’s perspective, male grooming tends to come in wild extremes. There’s the guy who uses a dried-out bar of soap on his face every few days (or at least on special occasions, anyway). And then there’s the guy who forces you to keep a padlock on your bathroom cabinet to stop him pinching your expensive moisturiser (“Yes, it really is £115 for that pot and oh my god you have a £30-worth dollop in your hands right now”).
We can’t decide which one is more annoying, but what we do know is that the preener is on the rise. Men are spending more time and money on grooming than ever before, with the industry set to hit $60.7bn (£44.8bn) by 2020, according to Euromonitor.
Groom too much and we get bathroom angst. Groom too little and we complain that you smell like a post-match changing room. To avoid getting up your other half’s nose (in every sense), these are the grooming habits that irk women the most and how to fix them, pronto.
The Reality TV Tan
We’ve all been a failed faker at some point – so trust us, we can spot the signs. Reaching for the bottle isn’t the problem here (according to tanning brand Fake Bake, half of all men do), but verging into satsuma territory and leaving tidemarks on your tees (and our bedsheets) is where we draw the line.
Orange palms aside (come on guys, use a mitt), one of the biggest giveaways is stubble stainage. “At-home tans are thicker and therefore stick to hair,” says celebrity spray tanner James Harknett, who counts David Gandy as one of his clients. “To avoid this, put a small amount of Vaseline on the hair before applying the tan, then brush away any residue with a beard brush after.”
So prevalent is manscaping right now that there are even names for different styles of ‘tidying’ down there (tip: don’t Google ‘Boyzillian’). According to men’s grooming brand Men-ü, around 40 per cent of under 35s regularly shave/trim their sensitive areas, but joining the zero-to-barely-there pube club could be more of a turn-off than a turn-on.
“The manscaping arena has advanced way beyond taking a razor into the shower with you,” says Glamour magazine’s sex editor Gemma Askham. “There are now male-focused waxes, pube oils and levels of trimming beyond the all-off approach.”
We fully appreciate the deforestation efforts, we really do, but unless you learn to do so without us having to see wiry stubble regrowth or a scrotum with a rash, leave the freshly waxed schlongs to the porn stars, please.
Sorry to break it to you, but those body spray ads lied to you. It’s not possible to gas a woman into following you home from the no.22 bus stop (particularly asthmatic ones). Avoid death by eau de toilette by rationing your spritzing game so your date can breathe.
“Always make sure you’re wearing the fragrance, not the other way around,” says Lewis Peacock from cosmetics giant Coty, which manufactures for the likes of Calvin Klein and Davidoff. “Three or four good sprays is a good marker and should last all day.”
It’s also worth adjusting the type of scent you wear to the occasion, too. Heading for dinner? Peacock recommends swapping ouds and other heavy musks for a more subtle floral fragrance, scenting only your clothes or a scarf.
Newsflash: moisturising on Christmas, birthdays and the first day of football season is not enough to keep your skin in check. Nobody likes a bathroom hogger, but daily moisturising with a built-in SPF to fight the damaging effects of UV rays keeps rough-as-velcro faces at bay.
“I’m consistently amazed by how many men use harsh soap on their face and fail to moisturise. Hello dry, red and irritated skin,” says Dr Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist at The Harley Medical Group. “Men tend to dislike any sticky residue on their skin, so I often recommend lotions that absorb easily to leave skin smooth, but not greasy.”
Of course, using the wrong moisturiser (i.e. ours) is almost as bad as using none at all. So take time to seek out a face-saving solution that’s tailored to your skin type.
An Overly Attentive Brow Game
Nothing gives a woman rage like a boy who has a better brow game than her. It’s taken us years to get these arches on point, so we don’t need any extra competition from the 45 per cent of men who regularly take to trimming their eyebrows, according to Men-ü.
“Sculpt abs, not brows,” says eyebrow guru Nilam Holmes. “An over-plucked, over-pencilled brow really just stops being a man brow.” That’s not to say they should be left to grow into a dense forest thicket. “If you need to tweak, splitting a monobrow into two separate brows is a good start – but only a small gap no wider than your thumb.”
Kicking rogue hairs that extend beyond the natural browline into touch (either by tweezing or getting in the chair from some threading) is also advisable, but stop short of attempting to alter the shape. No, it won’t make your eyes ‘pop’.
Body hair is as divisive among women as Marmite on toast. Some love a smooth torso, others prefer it furry, but a hairy back is where every girl draws the line.
Even if you only have a few stray hairs rather than a full shag pile carpet going on back there, choose your weapon (laser, wax, scythe) and get it sorted.
“Back waxing is probably the least painful body part for a guy,” reassures Kim Lawless aka The Wax Queen. “It should keep you super-smooth for a couple of weeks. Some guys use hair dissolving creams, but it’s similar to shaving in that it can grow back stubbly – and quickly. Not a hit with the chicks (swipe left).”
There’s only one guy with an overgrown beard that women welcome with open arms and that’s Santa Claus. The least favourite facial hair among women according to a MyAesthetics survey, the Gandalf look is one that needs to get the chop.
“Every beard needs consistent maintenance to keep whiskers in check,” says Tom Chapman, founder of suicide awareness group The Lions Barber Collective and ambassador of grooming brand The Bluebeards Revenge.
As well as visiting your barber at least once every six weeks to keep your beard length on-point, Chapman advises regular at-home upkeep. “You don’t need to wash a beard too often – maybe once a week – and don’t be afraid to condition it too.”
There are a handful things that women will always, always secretly check out on a guy: 1) his shoes and 2) his nails. If we bolt in the other direction, check that yours aren’t so overgrown that they could rival Rihanna’s acrylics. Ick.
“Nobody likes to see a man with grubby or unkempt nails,” says podiatrist Margaret Dabbs. “Keep your nails neatly clipped, short and clean, and invest in a good quality crystal nail file to neaten when needed.”
And this doesn’t just apply to your hands, those hooves need to be kept handsome too. “But be careful not to go too short on toenails, as this can lead to problems like ingrown nails. Always cut or file the nail straight across and soften the edges if you need to,” adds Dabbs.
A Carpet Of Beard Trimmings
Up there with peeing on the seat, wayward beard trimmings are every women’s (recurring) worst bathroom enemy. The zen of brushing your teeth at a sparkling white sink is instantly lost when it looks like you’ve had a scrap with a tub of iron filings. And lost.
“It’s a given that when trimming facial hair, you’re going to need to clean up afterwards – not just the sink but the appliance,” says Panasonic grooming category manager Ian Griffiths. “If your beard trimmer or shaver is waterproof, one way to avoid the mess is to take the entire process into the shower.”
If you’re convinced your eagled-eyed other half will spot a rogue whisker on the grouting, consider investing in a new piece of kit that mitigates the risk. Panasonic’s ES-LV95 model features a self-cleaning function, while the Philips Beardtrimmer series 7000 comes packing a built-in vacuum.
We understand that losing your hair is a sore point, but given the choice we will always take a sexy Jason Statham head over a trying-to-disguise-a-bald-bit combover. Because nobody should ever have to share a hairstyle with Donald Trump.
“A good haircut will not require a combover,” says Hughes from Men-ü. “If going thin on top, a cut using square layering to the side to build a corner, leaving length on top, will shift the focus. If it’s a strategic trim or re-style, we encourage men to have a cut rather than use clippers.”
If styling out your strands doesn’t work, consider embracing the bald. It worked for The Rock, and who doesn’t want to be like The Rock?
Stealing Our Products
There’s a special place in hell (in the corner, right next to a radiator) reserved for guys who comment on how much we women spend on products, then spend the rest of the month using them.
Not only do you smell like a strawberry shortcake (not cute), you’re also probably doing more harm than good. “When guys steal female products, they often aren’t thinking about the intended use,” says Jaymarie Winkler from award-winning barbers Ruffians. “Take shampoo, for example: if you have thick hair, the last thing you want to do is slather on a thickening treatment.”
The same goes for other products. Men’s skin is around 25 per cent thicker than women’s, so our exfoliator will probably do sweet FA to your face. To put it nicely: treat yourself to some grooming products that will benefit your regime. To put it bluntly: cut it out, or we’ll start filling a decoy shampoo with hair removal cream.
Sweat dripping down a ripped torso in fashion campaigns is sexy as hell. But skip the morning shower and it’ll mix with the bacteria that clings to body hair to create an unholy waft that’s a total deal-breaker.
“There’s sometimes a genetic link to excessive sweating but you help combat B.O with a good routine,” says Dr Dawn Harper from Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. “Use a pH-balanced shower gel (heavily perfumed products can alter the skin’s pH and make the problem worse), wear an aluminium-based deodorant to help reduce sweating, and finally, stick to loose-fitting natural fibres.”
As well as waving goodbye to that skin-tight, acrylic rollneck, consider wearing a breathable cotton T-shirt under your work shirt (heather grey works best) and keep a spare in your desk drawer along with a fresh pair of socks.
Cosmetic surgery, whether for medical or aesthetic reasons, is a decision that every man must make on his own merits. But it’s a lot like tanning (just, you know, with a lot sharper objects) in that it looks better done subtly.
To save going OTT with the Harley Street-inspired tweaks, aim to keep your expression crinkles and laughter lines, says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Mervyn Patterson. “Weird elevations of the brows can be a sure-fire indicator that Botox hasn’t been done correctly for the male face. It’s important guys seek out skilled practitioners who are experienced in treating men so that any improvements are under the radar. It should be ‘You look well’, not ‘What have you had done?!’.”
Plus, secretly we like seeing your furrowed brow when we tell you off about those beard trimmings (again).
Taking Up The Whole Bathroom
We get it; you’ve discovered the grooming aisle at the supermarket, but you didn’t have to bring the entire thing home with you. Do you even know what a toner does? And what could you possibly need three trimmers for? Actually, don’t tell us.
“These days it’s not uncommon for men to have the same amount of products as women when you add up shaving kit, hair products and the different lotions marketed for day and night,” says Winkler, “but everything should be fit for purpose.”
That means only buying products that are right for you (not because they’re in a cool bottle) and throwing away anything that isn’t (yes, even if it is in a cool bottle).