The Ultimate Grooming Guide For Men

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The Ultimate Grooming Guide For Men

Words by Mr Ahmed Zambarakji

22 January 2015

Here are a few simple upgrades to your daily regimen the experts use to avoid looking as if they’ve gone off date.

In a warped attempt to postpone the awkwardness of puberty, many fathers simply pretend to ignore the first signs of bum fluff growing above their young son’s upper lip. Rather than teach the poor guy how to shave, most dads prefer to school their sons in other manly arts things such as contact sports, DIY and how to snake a drain. What follows is years of guesswork with a razor blade and the occasional bloodbath. In later life, the self-initiated son extends his shaving ritual to include grooming and, before you know it, there are bad habits to undo, myths to debunk and dermatological problems in want of product. 

With that in mind, we’ve broken down the essential components of a daily grooming ritual. And we’ve even included a glossary so that you never have to endure the shame of asking what’s in that £100 serum you impulse purchased.

If plaque and stains persist in spite of a rigorous brushing routine, then it might be the time you choose to polish your pearly whites that needs a rethink. Common sense suggests that brushing after meals is the best way to avoid decay but many dentists recommend doing so before eating. Specialist in orthodontics Dr Leone Giacosa of Metrodental says, “Brushing before a meal will minimise the build-up of dental plaque and reduce the acid response from oral bacteria when they metabolise your breakfast.” Dr Giacosa also recommends a quick rinse after drinking or eating anything so that you dilute the quantity of acid in your mouth and avoid rubbing it into your teeth when it’s time to brush.

Foreo’s ISSA toothbrush is made entirely from silicone (including the bristles), a design choice that not only appeals to aesthetes but also ensures that you can’t compulsively “over-brush” and scrape away enamel or irritate gums.

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Passing off soap and water as a cleansing routine won’t wash with the experts. In fact, it might be the reason your face feels tight and itchy. Standard soaps are far too alkaline for the skin on the face and will deplete it of natural moisture. Opt for a dedicated face wash or cleanser, such as Perricone’s Nutritive Cleanser, which will balance pH levels and give you a clean slate from which to start your skincare routine. Treat skin to a deeper and more thorough cleanse once a week with Malin+Goetz’s Detox Face Mask.

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While a badger brush and open razor can provide an impeccable finish, few of us have the time and patience to faff around with utensils in the bathroom. In today’s world, you can achieve a barbershop shave in half the time, provided you know what you’re doing.

Begin by taking a hot shower; the steam will open your pores and soften bristles. Dry hair is as tough as copper wire and attempting to shave without any kind of prep will invariably lead to irritation and the odd scrape. If you have a coarse beard you can even use a gentle exfoliant (Baxter of California Exfoliating Facial Scrub) to help lift the hairs in want of slicing. Dense beards will also benefit from a pre-shave oil, which is applied before your shaving cream or gel in order to increase glide and prevent any cuts.

REN’s super-slick Tamanu Oil is a great option for those on the go. Being translucent, the oil removes the risk of gliding over anything sensitive (on your face, of course) and allows you to perfect the shape of your facial hair while ensuring you’ve got every last patch.

London’s premier barber, Mr Brent Pankhurst advises shaving at a 45-degree angle while following the grain. Crisscrossed, overly repeated and disjoined strokes will only encourage irritation, he warns.

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Even a perfect shave traumatises skin at a microscopic level. Every pass of the razor wears away at the outermost layers of the skin (stratum corneum) leaving you susceptible to infection and irritation. This also explains why your face sometimes feels as if it has been set on fire after shaving. Rather than douse your face in alcohol, as was once believed to be beneficial, splash your face with cold water (to close pores) and use a cream that’s specially formulated to repair microcuts and rebuild the skin’s protective layer.

Essence 27 contains purified extracts of centella asiatica, a potent healing plant used in Ayurvedic medicine to repair skin while fighting inflammation and oxidative damage (it’s so potent a wound healer that tigers instinctively roll themselves in the stuff after getting into a scrap).

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Given that the skin surrounding your peepers is by far the thinnest on your face (0.3 to 0.5mm as opposed to 1 to 1.6mm), it should come as no surprise that signs of wear and tear show up around your eyes before they do anywhere else. The area is also lacking sebaceous glands (meaning it gets very dry, very quickly) and takes the brunt for some 10,000 unconscious blinks per day. It follows, then, that age, late nights and dehydration will inevitably culminate in dark circles, puffiness and fine lines. Use a product to address all three consequences such as Erno Laszlo’s Phormula 3-9 Eye Repair by patting it gently – with a single finger – across the bony ridge above and below the eye socket. The product will rehydrate the area, increase circulation (to lessen dark circles), deflate puffiness and offset the appearance of those wrinkles. Use an eye product from 25, the point at which cellular turnover starts to slow down and you officially start ageing (on the inside, at least).

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Many guys spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find that perfect styling product but fail to realise that their shampooing skills are what has made their hair unmanageable. A sub-par wash means there’s probably debris, product residue and grease festering away on your scalp and weighing down your hair.

Begin by checking that the temperature of the water you’re using is lukewarm. A cold shower might jump start your senses first thing in the morning but it won’t dissolve the dirt in your hair (too hot, though, and you’ll burn your scalp and dry out hair).

Use a coin-sized dollop of product. Overload your hair with shampoo and you won’t get it any cleaner – you’ll just create a lather that’s harder to rinse out. Too much product or a half-hearted rinse means you’re likely to walk around for the rest of the day with excess sebum or dried shampoo in your hair. Don’t skip a conditioner (try Aēsop Classic Conditioner) if you want smoother hair cuticles and a shiny finish.

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A man’s choice of fragrance is an exceptionally personal statement. In spite of this, it is important to understand how to select the right scent for the right season, mood or occasion. What works for summer won’t be suitable for winter; daywear does not always translate to eveningwear. Imagine the minimal cleanliness of a simple floral such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Aqua Universalis at one end of the spectrum and the dark, animalic sensuality of Tom Daxon’s Resin Sacra at the other. The former is perfectly suited to daywear in summer while the latter heats up cold winter nights. One is restrained and neutral, the other more dynamic and lively.

Perfumers suggest spraying with restraint, and if you have sensitive skin you can always scent your clothes or hair instead. “A lovely way to wear fragrance is to apply it to the lining of your jacket,” says perfumer Ms Lyn Harris. “When a gentleman takes his jacket off at a restaurant you get a wonderful waft of something tasteful and chic.”

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Decoding the technical jargon on the bottle

Anti-ageing: Products that claim to fight the ravages of time are either preventative or curative, depending on the key ingredients. A grooming regime that is preventative (ie, from age 25 onwards) is preferable, if a little neurotic. If signs of over-maturity are already visible, then an anti-ageing product containing heavyweight actives such as retinol (see below), antioxidants and collagen boosters may be necessary.

Antioxidants and free radicals: Free radicals are one of the primary causes of ageing. These charged particles of oxygen create toxic bonds in the body, causing collagen to degrade. While it would be reasonable to assume that only excessive, self-destructive behaviours would encourage these little blighters to run rampant, it turns out that pretty much anything (including good stuff such as exercise) causes free radical damage. Free radicals can be offset with products and foods containing antioxidants such as vitamin C, green tea or the highly potent superoxide dismutase (as found in BeautyWorksWest’s Youth supplement).

Organic: With no legal guidelines or definitions, the legitimacy of an organic product is up for grabs. Technically, there’s nothing to stop a toxic waste company from slapping the word “organic” on a tub of biohazardous waste and calling it a night cream. In an ideal world, an organic product should contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients and be free from harmful chemicals (DEA/ TEA, phthalates, silicone-derived emollients…), non-organic and GMO additives. They should also be produced in a manner that is ecologically friendly. To be safe, always buy products marked with the Soil Association logo in the UK or the USDA seal in North America.

Cleanser: A face wash. Cleansers can come in a variety of formats from gel to milk, balm and foam. Opt for foam if you want that fresh feeling. Ideally, a man ought to cleanse both morning and evening with a balanced cleanser – overdo it, though, and you can end up with that tight, dry feeling.

Collagen: The essential protein that supports the structure of skin (and just about everything else: organs, muscles, bones, ligaments…). In a cruel twist of fate, our natural supply of collagen declines with age. Many products aim to top up our stores with collagen from animal sources. Some brands even encourage ingesting collagen by way of supplements and “cosmetic foods”, though evidence supporting their efficacy is still scant.

Essential oil: The “essence” of a flower, this pungent liquid is obtained through the painstaking distillation of a specific plant. Used in fragrance, skincare and hair care – and more often than not in most spas (it’s the stuff they heat up over a candle).

Epidermis: The outermost layer of cells that make up skin – this is where most skincare products are targeted.

Exfoliant: A product designed to remove dead skin cells, debris and whatever else is lingering on the surface of your face. This can be achieved with a mechanical formula – as in a face scrub – or with a chemical, usually a hydroxy acid. (See salicylic acid.)

Hypoallergenic: A product that is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction due to the small amount of irritants contained in the formula. Great for sensitive skins.

Hyaluronic acid: A crucial component of connective tissue. This viscous substance holds a great deal of moisture and plumps the skin. Our natural supply dwindles with age. Products containing HA add more volume to skin and fill up creases. HA can also be injected into the face in the form of those infamous “fillers”, creating what is now commonly known as “hamster face”.

Photoageing: Changes in the skin as a result of UVA/ UVB exposure. This tends to include pigmentation and collagen degradation. Sun worshippers beware.

Retinol: A vitamin-A molecule heralded as a one of the most potent anti-ageing ingredients. Retinoic acid encourages cells to behave as they did in youth, while providing antioxidant support and bolstering the skin’s structure. While Retinol is an effective ingredient it does tend to cause irritation on sensitive skin types. That’s just the price of admission.

Salicylic acid: A beta hydroxy acid (and a derivative of Aspirin) commonly used as an exfoliant as it softens the outermost layer of skin and allows it to shed naturally. SA unclogs pores, reduces inflammation and has antimicrobial properties. Intense concentrations (not available over the counter) can even be used to burn off calluses.

Sebaceous gland: A small but wiley gland that produces oil in order to lubricate the skin and hair. Overactive glands, common in adolescence, can cause a greasy complexion and lead to skin break-outs and congestion.

Serum: A concentrated liquid, serums have a smaller molecular structure than creams, which allow them to penetrate deeper into the skin and deliver active ingredients. Ideal for targeting specific age-related issues such as fine lines or pigmentation.

T-zone: The forehead, nose and chin. An area that is particularly prone to acne due to the high concentration of sebaceous glands.

Toner: A lotion that closes pores and mattifies skin. Most people tend to skip this step in a daily routine (cleanse, tone, moisturise) but the payoffs are worth the time and effort, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

UVA/ UVB: The different frequencies of ultraviolet rays that cause photo damage to the skin. UVB causes superficial damage (read sunburn) while UVA rays fast-track the ageing process by penetrating deeper into the skin, breaking down collagen and elastin (read wrinkles).

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Illustrations by Mr Joe McKendry