Ten years ago, it would have been hard to convince the average man to use more than a single block of soap to look after himself from top to toe, let alone a root-boosting hair tonic, alpha lipoic acid night serum or white algae anti-ageing eye cream.
Today, a daily Korean seven-step personal care routine is becoming more the norm, with a tsunami of new, sophisticated grooming products launching every year. But although we have them, do we know what we’re doing with them?
To save you the mortal embarrassment of heading to the emergency room having ingested half a tub of sugar wax, FashionBeans has put together a definitive guide to all things grooming: a handbook on hair, a manual on manscaping, a primer on, well, primer. You get the idea.
How Male Grooming Has Evolved
Male grooming can be traced back millions of years to when cavemen used hinged shells to tweeze whiskers from their face. However, the trend didn’t move from the fringe to mainstream culture until much more recently.
The gay community was one the earliest adopters of male grooming during the 1970s, from the ultra-preened and plucked-all-over look to the ‘hairy bear’ tribes. A few decades later in the noughties, the football pitch became the next global platform, with the likes of David Beckham (who now has his own range of men’s grooming products) first castigated then celebrated for his ‘metrosexual’ commitment to cosmetics.
Simultaneously, there was a burgeoning obsession with the gym body. All the while, with the female market reaching saturation, beauty brands began eyeing the men’s category as ripe for growth. Fast forward to the present day, and global revenues in male grooming are expected to reach $78 billion (£60bn) by 2023, according to research firm IMARC.
Global warming has had an impact, too. Recent summers have brought some of the hottest days ever recorded in the UK, resulting in a spike in self-tanning, and a 30 per cent increase in male body waxing, according to beauty booking platform Treatwell. Since the beginning of 2018, the website has also seen a jump in demand from men for regular haircuts, hair colouring, Brazilian hair straightening and facials.
What is clear is that men continue to embrace grooming in all its forms, with no slowdown in sight.
How Male Grooming Has Changed
Social media has arguably had the most significant recent impact on body ideals. A constant stream of comparison with friends and colleagues, easy access to celebrity culture, brands and influencers always selling to us – it all means we’re more conscious of how we look than ever before. We now live in a global community, and we’re also influenced by trends from around the world.
In November 2018, Chanel launched a makeup line for men in the UK, but the French fashion house chose to debut it in South Korea, where men have long had an advanced take on bathroom habits. One look at androgynous K-Pop stars like BTS tells us all we need to know; glossy lips, meticulously groomed brows, flawless, poreless skin and hints of mascara: these are the current aspirations for a lot of young men in the East Asian nation.
Of course, some will argue that a bathroom cabinet stocked with anything more than a gift set body wash diminishes traditional ideas of ‘masculinity’. Ten years ago, most alpha males believed that armpit juice was all that was needed to attract a mate. But what’s wrong with wanting to be a smoother, fresher version of our original selves? Isn’t being happy and comfortable in our own skin the ultimate goal? Whether that means for you a baby smooth chest, a weekly moustache trim or an all-over golden tan, we say: go for it – and we’re here to help you get it right.
The Complete Guide To Male Grooming
No man ever won points for adulting by using the same bar of soap on his danglies and his face. Aside from not being clogged with nasties, a face wash designed specifically for your skin type will be PH-balanced to avoid leaving your skin feeling tight, uncomfortable or dry.
Though Tom Ford prescribes to the two-times-a-day school of grooming, outside of showering it’s not necessary to cleanse your face more than once a day – with the emphasis on a good scrub down to remove dirt and grime before bed.
Sonic cleansing brushes add a luxury element to the ritual and work as a pre-shave prep, lifting and softening stubble. They also offer a deeper cleanse; helpful if you live or work in a city and are exposed to air pollution all day.
FashionBeans Tip: Don’t be scared of oil-based cleansers, they won’t cause spots or blackheads and are kinder to dry and mature skin types.
Unless you want to look like something found behind a crypt door, using a moisturiser is an essential part of the grooming routine.
To start your day off right, leave the house with the skin protected against environmental aggressors such as sun and pollution – that means looking for formulas loaded with SPF and antioxidants. Energising formulas can also help pep up tired looking skin and hide the evidence of nocturnal activity.
After sundown, the skin enters repair mode, so boost its internal functions with a specific night cream or nourishing formula designed to promote cell renewal and stave off the signs of ageing.
FashionBeans Tip: Adjust your routine for the seasons; upping the UV protection and using lighter gel/water-based textures in summer and layering on the hydration during the winter.
Every day the human body sheds around 50 million flakes of skin, the equivalent of around 0.03 and 0.09g of skin every hour. (Sorry if you were eating.) This is important to keep your face looking fresh, however, the turnover of new cells decreases as we age, meaning we need to give the natural process a helping hand.
Exfoliation refers to the removal of the very top layer of the epidermis. The benefits of this include keeping pores clearer and blemishes at bay and making skin feel and look smoother.
Cleansers often double up as exfoliants. These can be physical exfoliants like the grains of salt in a scrub, or chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acid.
FashionBeans Tip: Exfoliating every day can be harsh and ultimately counterproductive – once a week is ideal.
Gentlemen, it’s time to tone up with this expert-level step of the grooming regime that fits between cleansing and moisturising.
Despite what many think, toners do not close your pores. The purpose of toning is to get rid any impurities not removed by washing and to set the stage for whatever product you’re applying next.
They come in several different forms, from mists to cleansing waters and can also work to target specific skin issues such as dry skin or excess oil.
FashionBeans Tip: Toning is a nice part of any skincare ritual, but don’t lose sleep if you don’t do it. Some guys can get away with skipping it altogether.
Before you start running back to the body wash aisle, don’t be scared by all these newfangled names. Serum is essentially moisturiser 2.0.
They are made up of much smaller molecules than traditional creams, making them able to target specific concerns like wrinkles or pigmentation using more potent ingredients.
Serums and similar facial oils can be used in conjunction or in place of a traditional moisturiser. It’s all about finding the right texture and combination that works for your skin.
FashionBeans Tip: Moisturiser ever feel too greasy or heavy? A serum is probably what you need.
Like popping zits and doing the air drums to Phil Collins’ songs, face masks are a guilty pleasure men can’t seem to get enough of.
Clay- and charcoal-based masks are best for congested skin and clogged pores as these ingredients work to draw out impurities. Sheet masks, another Asian trend, are good for use while traveling as they come individually wrapped and can help replenish moisture sapped by low-humidity airplane cabins.
Some peel off, some need to be rinsed off, but all will make you feel like Patrick Bateman. (Well-groomed, not murdery.)
FashionBeans Tip: Face masks work like a booster for the skin – sudden breakout, hungover or feeling extra dry? There’s a mask for that.
It’s a bold statement, but a cool haircut has the power to make more of an impression than an expensive wardrobe.
Whether it’s a high-maintenance pompadour or a fuss-free buzz cut, keeping on top of your locks should be the front and centre of your grooming routine, particularly before any wedding, work do or job interview.
Finding a good barber is key if you are going to get the right hairstyle for your face shape, hair type and lifestyle. Thinning or receding? Your stylist will know the best way to enhance what you have got.
FashionBeans Tip: Get organised and into the habit of booking a regular cut. That way you can build a relationship with a barber and they can learn what you do and don’t like.
Most guys like to think they have the whole hair washing thing down, but while it may seem routine, not all are doing it right.
Sure, we need to keep our hair clean, but because shampoo strips the hair of its natural oils, washing it every day might be unnecessary. In fact, for the brave, it only takes six weeks of not washing at all to restore the hair’s natural cleaning mechanism.
Of course, there can be times when a rinse and repeat is required, such as to remove the build-up from hair products. But even in this case, less is often always more.
FashionBeans Tip: Shampoo bars offer a more eco-friendly way to wash your hair.
Ask any hair stylist worth their Barbicide and they’ll say the same thing: when it comes to products, we should be using less, not more.
Whether it’s pomade or clay, always start with a pea-sized amount. Work this forwards from the back of the head to ensure you don’t have too much product around the front.
Aside from making sure you are matching the right product with your hair type, style and condition, it’s important to know how different techniques affect the finish the result. Using a hair dryer will help you achieve a more polished finish whereas applying to wet hair will give a rough and ready look.
FashionBeans Tip: Before applying to your hair, warm the product up in your palms. This makes it more pliable and easier to work through the hair.
The Best Styling Products
An early frontrunner to gel, pomade is the original greaser product needed to create styles like the pompadour and quiff. Glossy and moveable, you can comb through and restyle as needed. Good for dry hair.
For a fixed hold and slick, wet-look style, hair gel is the go-to product. The good news is that it has come a long way since you last wore it as a spotty teenager, so there’ll be no white flakes if it dries up.
Great for styling short, choppy cuts like fringed styles and French crops, wax can have a matte finish or give a low sheen while offering a medium hold that can be easily reworked.
Sea Salt Spray
Beach hair at your fingertips, sea salt spray is the latest hype product in the hairstyling world. It can be used to add volume and loose hold to longer hair lengths, curls and waves.
Clay is thicker than gel but more pliable than wax. Ideal for guys with fine or thinning hair, it can be used to add body and density without weighing individual strands down, giving the appearance of thicker locks.
Part hair styling product, part grooming aid, hair crème works best on mid to long-length styles. It helps to smooth away frizz, add definition to curls and waves and improve its overall condition.
Previous generations had to put up with the genetic lottery when it came to their hair. Nothing could stop the march of male pattern baldness, and the only fix for unmanageable curls and thick frizzy waves was to slap a crew cut on your head. Now, provided you’ve got the funds, there’s a solution out there for almost all every hair woe.
Brazilian/Keratin Blow Dry
A relatively expensive process, a Brazilian or keratin blow dry essentially laminates the hair with a layer of fibrous proteins to control frizz, give a smoother texture and make the hair easier to style.
To permanently change the texture of hair, say from curly to straight, you need a chemical relaxer. By breaking the bonds within the hair and re-setting them with a fixing agent you can make curly hair much straighter, smooth out kinks, reduce frizz and the need for styling. It doesn’t wear off but it will grow out with new hair.
Whether it’s to cover greys or make a statement by going peroxide blonde, colouring your hair requires frequent maintenance, making it a fairly expensive hobby. Though home kits are available, it’s a grooming task always best left to the professionals.
It’s a cruel fact that half of all men over the age of 30 will eventually be affected by a thinning thatch. There are plenty of home treatment regimes (such as Propecia or Regaine) that can help arrest a receding hairline. However, these can come with negative side effects, so it’s important to seek medical advice first. The permanent solution comes with a hair transplant, during which healthy follicles are taken from the back of the head and moved to the crown.
You have to be a very special sort of person to genuinely enjoy shaving. We assume you also like changing bed sheets too? Weirdo. However, not all guys want to (or even can) grow facial hair, making it a necessary evil.
There’s still plenty of reasons to get on board with a bare face. Apart from standing out from the bearded crowd, facial hair often goes greyer faster than what’s on your head, so getting rid could suddenly take years off.
There are other reasons too. Because of the exfoliation the razor gives, it allows your skin to get the most out of masks, scrubs and serums while helping to minimise spots and blemishes. Providing you follow all the right pre and post-shaving steps.
Five Steps For A Good Shave
- Feel the heat: Shaving after a warm bath or shower helps to soften the stubble and open the pores, resulting in a much closer shave.
- Preparation: Exfoliating or using an electronic cleansing brush makes light work for your razor by lifting the hairs, help to avoid ingrowns in the process.
- Leave tricky spots until last: Start with flat areas like the cheeks. From there move on to the upper lip, then take your time to avoid any nicks around fiddly areas like the chin and the ears.
- Cool the burn: A final splash of cold water will help close the pores, then apply a post-shave balm to nourish and cool the skin.
- Invest in the right equipment: Guilty of using a blunt razor? A razor subscription box will mean your kit will always be fresh, without having to think about it.
‘Peak beard’ (remember that daft proclamation from 2014?) never really became a thing. In fact, grooming trends have meant we’ve seen more than a few of our favourite tastemakers walking around with a carefully crafted, seventies-style moustache. That doesn’t mean your facial hair doesn’t need the occasional trim to stay looking sharp.
To get the right shape with your beard trimmers, master barber Carmelo Guastella, who cuts hair for the likes of Robert Downey Jnr, suggests avoiding strong defined lines. “This makes the beard look artificial, I taper the lines on the cheekbones and under the neck for a natural look,” he says. “Trim upper lip hairs that start creeping into the mouth and trim the lower neck hair to avoid chest hair merging with the beard.”
FashionBeans Tip: Whatever beard style you have, always trim it dry. Wet hair is longer, and when it retracts you may find you’ve trimmed too much.
So you’ve joined the ranks of bearded men. Welcome to the club, your welcome pack is in the post. But the hard work isn’t over: facial hair requires constant maintenance to look its best.
Frequent cleansing is a beard grooming basic, not just to stop it smelling like last Tuesday’s lasagne, but to prevent a build-up of oil and dirt, which can lead to beardruff and acne. Flank this with a nourishing beard oil which will condition the hair from the inside out and look after the skin beneath.
FashionBeans Tip: Regularly combing your facial hair stimulates blood flow to the follicles which promotes healthy growth and distributes any oil to the dryer ends of the beard.
Footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo have sported smooth, tanned chests for decades, but the parade of bronzed, buff, identikit men on Love Island proves everyone’s at it. This ladies and gentlemen (actually, just gentlemen) is manscaping.
Body hair removal and the method you use is a matter of preference. Shaving requires preparation and can cause irritation, especially in sensitive areas. Waxing and vegan-friendly sugaring is initially painful (less over time) and gives a longer lasting smoother look. Laser hair removal, including handheld IPL devices, is the most expensive and the only permanent solution to unwanted short and curlies.
For those who want to keep their chest rug, underarms and groin tidy, a body hair trimmer is the easiest solution. Prefer to stay as nature intended? Contrary to the popular myth, body hair is not unhygienic. You do you.
FashionBeans Tip: Before you opt for any permanent hair removal remember that trends are cyclical. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
You don’t need to have spent time looking at David Gandy in white speedos to know that most people look better when bronzed. But not all tans are equal. The first and only rule is to steer clear of sunbeds. No tan is worth the increased risk of skin cancer and extra wrinkles. Beyond that, whether you opt for a gradual or instant tan, the advice is the same.
“Avoid over-applying and re-applying, and always start on fresh, clean, exfoliated skin,” says tan expert James Read. “Always apply less to the face as this should always look more natural. Don’t wash your hands straight after you’ve tanned to avoid leaving them too white and use a straw to avoid a patch around the mouth.” (Someone should tell Donald Trump).
FashionBeans Tip: Hirsute guys should try a spray mist or clear product, which will be better at getting through the hairs before rubbing in using a mitt.
Hands & Feet
Unless you’re an in-work male gigolo, your hands and feet are likely to be the hardest working extremities on your body. They’re also often the most neglected, and as a result can pick up ailments from dermatitis and eczema to cracked heels and fungal infections.
Regularly moisturising your hands and feet and paying attention to the nails (see nail care) will improve their condition and keep certain conditions under control. However, if you don’t trust yourself with the clippers, follow countless celebrities and sports starts and book in for a manicure or pedicure.
FashionBeans Tip: Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on the backs of your hands as this is where signs of ageing including age spots and pigmentation often show up first.
The world of perfumery can seem intimidating with its fancy names and weird terminology, so here’s a quick explainer. Think of fragrance like music: different tunes can contain the same notes, but it’s the order and way they are played that creates music. The best fragrances are much the same: an accord is like a tune, and it’s made up of the top, middle and heart notes. The top notes are what you smell immediately. These evaporate first. Then the middle emerges, and the ‘dry down’ reveals the base notes. This is what you can smell for the longest on the skin.
As well being separated into different ‘families’ or categories (such as woody or floral), fragrances are offered in a variety of concentrations, which affects how long they last. The weakest is eau de cologne, then eau de toilette and the strongest (and typically most expensive) is eau de parfum.
FashionBeans Tip: Don’t overlook scents from niche brands. (Because who wants to smell the same as Dave in accounts anyway?)
Makeup For Men
On his January 2019 cover shoot for LOVE magazine, David Beckham wore a simple double-breasted suit accessorised with, wait for it, a flash of green eye shadow. Now, it’s not a look we expect to see him or the average guy popping down the shops in anytime soon, but it does show that a little artificial enhancement can go a long way.
Of course, unless you’re considering a career in drag, the aim of male makeup should be to subtly enhance your features (or hide them, in the case of eye bags). With that in mind, here are a few man-friendly products to investigate.
Plenty of men’s skincare brands now offer a BB cream as part of their lineup. Lighter than foundation, BB stands for blemish balm and works much like like a tinted moisturiser while also offering other benefits like protection against UV rays and pollution.
Don’t panic, we don’t mean whacking out a mirror and brush in the nightclub toilets. A gel-based bronzer will help to add a healthy glow instead of a real or fake tan. You can see the pigment straight away (unlike a gradual self-tan), and it washes off easily so you can correct any uneven patches immediately.
Foundation works to cover your skin and disguise everything from spots and scars to pigmentation and under eye circles while also correcting uneven skin tone or redness. Colour matching the right shade to your skin tone is important, as is using a beard brush on any facial hair to avoid tell-tale build-up.
To guys who think makeup is ‘girly’, we say this: you can walk around with that spot on your mug, or you can cover it. Your choice. The latter is a lot easier with a concealer stick, which can also be used to hide dark circles.
FashionBeans Tip: Don’t wear makeup to bed. These types of products need to be fully cleaned off at the end of the day, or you risk clogging your pores and giving yourself spots.
No one wants to kiss a pair of lips that resemble an old leather weekend bag. If yours are cracked or dry, as a result of harsh weather or dehydration, lip balm is the fix.
Some claim they are addictive, they are not (we checked, there’s no Lip Balmers Anonymous). You may get used to the feeling of lubrication, hence creating the need for lip balm.
FashionBeans Tip: An inexpensive lip balm from a chemist will suffice, but branded versions aimed specifically at men tend to be less shiny.
Nails are good for more than achieving the near-orgasmic feeling of scratching an itch. They’re also indicators of our overall health and nutrition, so need looking after.
On a basic level, you should keep your nails clean and short. This is easy enough to do with clippers, a nail brush and file at home. Or if all that sounds like too much effort, check in for a manicure or pedicure where you’ll you can expect to have your nails soaked, the cuticles and dry surrounding skin removed and moisturised, the nails cut, filed and buffed, and your hands/feet exfoliated and moisturised. The final result is weirdly pleasing. It’s also an opportunity to sit and relax for 20 minutes plus – who wouldn’t benefit from that?
FashionBeans Tip: Fungal infections are common but easily treated, so if you’ve got a thick, yellow, flaky nail somewhere get it looked at, stat.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, your teeth and gums are the gatekeepers to your health, with poor dental hygiene linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a severe lack of Tinder matches.
Dentists always have the same message for us: floss more and brush for longer. To make keeping corn kernel gnashers at bay easier, invest in a few bits of tech: chiefly an electric toothbrush, electric flosser and, the least techy of them all, mouthwash.
FashionBeans Tip: Chewing gum that contains xylitol helps to fight tooth decay by lowering plaque buildup, whitening your teeth in the process.
For guys who think it’s only the fairer sex that have to tend to their eyebrows, we have two words: bridge troll. If what’s above your eyes resembles two angry slugs, it’s time to take action.
Firstly, check you’re sober (this won’t end well otherwise.) Grab an eyebrow comb or use your moustache one to brush the hairs up. Use a small pair of scissors to trim away anything that needs mowing before going at the monobrow with some tweezers. Dare we say it? You’re now ‘on fleek’.
FashionBeans Tip: Going too tweezer happy can turn those slugs into sperms, so consider threading which puts your brows in the hands of a trained therapist.