You probably need that new product, right? The age-correcting 24-hour serum with SPF 15 (paraben free, of course) that just launched. You’ll find it on the shelf between the anti-irritant toners and mineral pigment BB creams. While you ponder your purchase, why not check out the fragrance counter and compare the top notes of the summer’s hottest new scents? Oud is in, if you didn’t know.
Many product peddlers have profited from man’s collective desire to scrub up a little better, usually using terms so sciencey that they cease to have any meaning. Indeed, so perplexing is grooming terminology now that we need a specialist dictionary as much as oily skin needs a water-based toner. (Or at least, we think that’s what oily skin needs.) Which is why we’ve created this field manual, to cut through the confusing marketing speak and help you make every purchase with confidence.
If the age-correcting serum still finds its way into your basket, at least you’ll know what it does instead of lathering it on your elbows and waiting for handsome to happen.
Eau De Parfum
Shopping for fragrances can leave you perplexed to the bottom layer of your dermis. It’s not as easy as just following your nose (also confusingly the name for someone who makes the scents). You also need to choose between different concentrations.
The most common (and affordable) is eau de toilette, which is strong enough to last two to three hours, making it perfect for day wear. Slightly stronger (and therefore more expensive) is eau de parfum, which can last up to five hours. Finally, parfum has the highest concentration, lasting up eight hours, but usually with a hefty price tag to match.
Plainly Speaking: How much money you got and how long do you want it to last?
Oddly taking its name from the liquid within blood plasma, cosmetic serums (like their biological namesake) are designed to transport important compounds where they are needed.
Essentially moisturiser 2.0, skin serums are made up of much smaller molecules than traditional creams. This not only makes them faster to absorb, but also allows for deeper skin penetration to deliver active ingredients that target specific problems.
Plainly Speaking: Your moisturiser looks upon this slicker counterpart with envious eyes.
It would be remiss of us not to first mention that a lot of men don’t need a toner. If you’re blessed with a comparatively even complexion (lucky sod), then a regular face wash will do just fine.
For the rest of us, toners are there to reduce blemishes and blotches, improving the overall ‘tone’ of the skin.
Usually applied between showering and moisturising (or indeed, serum application) these products are effective for men who wear a hangover on their face or simply desire a cleaner appearance.
Plainly Speaking: Fancy face wash that evens out your skin tone. If you need it, that is.
While ‘age-correction’ might sound like a mission to cull the elderly, it is, in fact, the industry’s not-so-subtle way of reminding you that the ravages of time will cause changes to your face that you may (or may not) like.
If the aim is to stay as close to pre-teen as possible, then consider an age-correcting/anti-ageing product, many of which deliver collagen to the face, thereby increasing elasticity in the skin and offering a facade that belies your years on this earth.
Proceed with caution, though: using an age-erasing product too early can slow the body’s natural production of collagen. These are best deployed when time’s winged chariot is clipping at your heels.
Plainly Speaking: Defy time. Or at least look as handsome as you did two weeks ago.
One of the few times when it pays to know the exact science behind the slather, UVA and UVB are what is emitted from the sun and kickstart the body’s natural reaction (i.e. that defensive tan or tell-tale lobster redness).
UVA rays age the skin while UVB rays cause the burn (think ‘A’ for age, ‘B’ for burn). Neither of these are desirable effects from a week in the Med so when you’re picking a sunscreen always opt for a ‘broad spectrum’ SPF, which is designed to protect against both.
Plainly Speaking: The nasty side of the sun that can cause everything from cosmetic issues like wrinkles to more serious problems such as skin cancer.
Few areas of the grooming cabinet are as prone to grooming-ese as the fragrance shelf. One of the most common pieces of olfactory vernacular is ‘top note’, which refers to the composition of a fragrance.
The top note is what you’ll get in the store: it’s the combination of smells that hit you first on spraying, but that dissipate over time. Next is the heart: deeper notes that also eventually give way. What’s left is a combination of the heart and the lingering base notes.
While you should never use these terms in good company, you can put them to use by spraying on a sample and continuing shopping for 40 minutes before coming back. The smell left on your wrist is effectively the smell you’re buying.
Plainly Speaking: A fragrance manufacturer’s way of saying, “What smells are in ‘ere”.
In case you need us to tell you, there are some acids you do and some acids you definitely do not want to put on your skin. Salicylic acid falls into the first camp, and for good reason.
Dermatology geeks call it a beta hydroxyl derived from aspirin, we call it a kick-ass way to cut through clogged pores, reduce inflammation and attack any blemishes invading your face. Look for it in anything from face wash to moisturiser if you’re prone to breakouts.
Plainly Speaking: Acne’s biggest enemy.
Gird your fragile masculinity, gentlemen; we’re going in at the deep end. After girls went wild for this complexion-clearing cheat code, brands immediately saw pound signs and released BB creams for men, too.
BB (which stands for ‘blemish balm’) cream works as a moisturiser that leaves behind a subtle, make-up-like foundation. Brands have dubbed it an all-in-one solution; we call it a lifesaver for days when you’ve been burning the midnight oil and a paper bag seems like too extreme a cosmetic solution.
Plainly Speaking: Call it what you want – it’s make-up for men from where we’re standing. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Like all ‘real men’, you’ve been methodically neglecting this stuff because, y’know, who cares? Well, it turns out you should. Blokes are far more likely to fall foul of skin cancer than women, in no small part due to the fact that many tend to sidestep SPF.
But you’ve heard of it before, so why is it in this list? Because in moisturisers it’s utterly confusing. The ratings are often too low to have a notable effect, plus an SPF 15 lip balm doesn’t give you carte blanche to sizzle topless on whatever part of the Costas you hit this summer.
Don’t mistake this for sun cream. Instead, SPF moisturisers give you daily a stealthy protective barrier once back on home shores.
Plainly Speaking: Even if you cover yourself in the moisturiser, yes, you still need that factor 30 around the pool.
No, we’re not about to tell you there’s a lofty name for some post-shower towelling technique. Dry down is a term that’s used to describe the gradual diminishing of fragrance notes.
We’ve included it in case you don’t heed the advice above and find yourself discussing the olfactory delights of your latest scent and feel the need to whip out terminology to impress others.
In which case you, sir, are now part of the grooming jargon problem. Time to get new friends.
Plainly Speaking: What happens to your fragrance over time; y’know, the liquid dries.