Are You Over-Grooming?
As the party season looms, a few words of caution on peacock-style preening
The boom in male grooming has revolutionised the way in which men perceive themselves, but it has not come without its fair share of casualties. There are, of course, the extremists – most Major League Soccer players, many Premier League footballers and the entire male cast of Jersey Shore – who are, for the most part, a lost cause. And then there are the gents who unwittingly take a wrong turn on the road to self-improvement and somehow find themselves bolt upright in bed at three in the morning panicking about the amount of gluten in their eye cream.
There is, to put it mildly, a dangerously fine line between looking groomed and looking affected. Peacockery is preposterous, and perfection – a subjective and unattainable standard – only makes others feel uncomfortable and distant. As one curiously ageless colleague once told me, good grooming should look “invisible”.
None of this exonerates the modern man from investing time and money in his looks. The trick is in making cosmetic endeavours appear effortless, an illusion that hinges on the age-old adage that less is always more. With that in mind, we highlight the four most common grooming faux pas and explain how to prevent them, before stepping out in public.
Overstyling your hair
Attempting to emulate your barber’s styling skills by plastering your scalp with product is a rookie mistake. An abundance of wax adds excess weight, and flattens limp or fine hair in the process. Too much gel, on the other hand, turns hair crunchy. And hairspray, which contains a hefty dose of alcohol, dries out each strand. Moreover, fixing hair in place with any type of strong-hold product just looks bizarre. So, unless you’re attempting to ape Patrick Bateman’s helmet hair, acknowledge that movement is a crucial factor in a well-groomed mane.
It’s well worth thinking outside the standard gel/paste/wax box when shopping for hair products. Bumble and bumble’s salt-infused Surf Spray, for example, creates a beachy, windswept effect, and allows hair to move freely. And Aesop’s silky Violet Leaf Hair Balm contains camellia nut and lavender stem to nourish coarse or dry hair that is annoyingly difficult to style.
There is one particularly embarrassing repercussion to overwhelming your follicles with product, according to Mr Oliver Quinnell of Taylor Taylor London. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that loading on the product might make your hair look thicker,” he says. “Too much product causes hair to clump and will reveal advancing bald patches.” If thinning is a problem, understand that products containing mineral oil or petrolatum suffocate follicles and thus exacerbate hair loss.
A word of warning: your signature scent should never enter a room before you, nor should it be potent enough to asphyxiate friends and family at 50 paces. Ms Mathilde Laurent, lauded “nose” for Cartier, once told me in no uncertain terms that no fragrance, no matter how exquisite the concoction, merits more than one or two sprays. “Men should always wear fragrance in a very restrained way,” she said. “Never wear too much, even if it’s a wonderful perfume. People will hate it if it’s overpowering.”
There is a world of difference between a natural sun-kissed glow and the radioactive shade of mahogany afforded by sun beds and run-of-the-mill tanning products. The reason for the latter is DHA (dihydroxyacetone), the cloyingly sweet food colourant that was discovered to have an effect on skin tone when, in the 1950s, an absent-minded nurse accidentally spilt cough syrup containing the chemical on the face of an unsuspecting child.
It is the sugar-amino acid reaction triggered by DHA that can turn you into Mr George Hamilton overnight, and there’s little you can do to stop that process once it has started. Not only is the effect of cheap DHA far from plausible, but the streaks and white patches from shoddy application are a dead giveaway that you’re faking it.
Given the modern diet, we could all benefit from a little teeth whitening. But the prevalence of poorly administered hydrogen peroxide-based treatments (or, worse, DIY kits purchased outside Europe) has meant that many men have turned their smiles an eye-watering shade of white. Despite Hollywood’s curious sense of aesthetics, the colour of your teeth should match the whites of your eyes, rather than the exact shade of your bathroom basin.
There is an abundance of health risks associated with saturating your mouth with bleach, including irritation to soft tissue and increased sensitivity. And if you’re unlucky enough to have hydrogen peroxide make its way into an unfilled cavity, you can look forward to a whole new world of pain. A professional treatment with a qualified cosmetic dentist should help you circumnavigate all these pitfalls.
Foreo’s Issa toothbrush, which is made entirely from silicone, is a far less aggressive means of tackling superficial stains. Unlike standard brushes, which rely on nylon bristles, the nubs on the Issa won’t scour the tooth’s surface or irritate gums. They will, however, be effective enough to dislodge plaque and shift surface stains when used with a quality product such as Marvis Whitening Mint Toothpaste.