Lance’s Guide to Man Grooming, Part One: Facing Facts
Here’s the thingyou need to take care of your face. It’s not going to take care of itself. And another thing… your skin. What are you doing to your skin? And let’s not even get started on what a mess your hair is.
I know, you’re all aflutter about some TV gurus trying to tell you how to dress and act and decorate. Fine, do that. But when it comes time to put your trust in someone’s opinion when it really counts, who are you going to turn to? Some smarmy, egotistic television personality with a weird name who is overfond of parading in front of straight men in his sock-augmented Speedo, or me, a man over 40 who manages to look like a man in his 30’s (his early 30’s) who is not being paid by any pharmaceutical company to palm off their goopy substances just so you can look oddly plastic?
I think we both know the answer to that question, and that’s why I’m here, kiddo. I’m only thinking of you. And really, when you’re my age, would you rather look like me, or Jakob Nielsen?
A Word of Caution!
We are, after all, talking about your face, here. It’s a fairly important part of your overall look, and you don’t want it to look worse, you want it to look better, one assumes. So while I have used all of the products I’m going to detail below personally and have not experienced any unusual breakouts or redness or weird rashes, my skin is not necessarily like your skin.
The best way to tell which products will work best for you is to test them. If you visit Sephora or the Kiehl’s counter at Nordstrom or Saks, you’ll be able to sample everything and see how it affects your precious epidermous. Do not feel weird or funny or odd about going up to a sales associate (she’ll likely be a she) and asking to do just that. “Hi, I’m a guy who’s never taken care of my skin and I’m a little concerned that by the time I’m 50, I’ll look like I’m 80. Can you help me out?”
They’ll smile and pat your hand in a motherly fashion and lead you over to where all the men’s skincare products live. And there are a lot of them now. That, alone, should console you that you’re absolutely fine and there’s nothing to be scared of. Most major cosmetics companies are now producing lines specifically tailored for men’s skin. Then just settle in for a few minutes of pampering and having all sorts of weird and silly explanations about clay and moistness and pores and the T-area. You’ll be fine.
Take Care of Your Face: Moist Isn’t Just for Cakes
A Little Bit About Shaving
Most guys don’t think too much about their faces unless they’re poised inches from a mirror squeezing the white heads on their chin. You wash it, you dry it, you rub the grit from the corners of your eyes, you’re done.
I’m here to tell you that it’s about time you took a good look at yourself and understood the value of that thing on the front of your head. Sure, you’re not looking at it all the time, but we are, and we think you ought to know that it’s not looking particularly pretty of late.
But fear not, there are a few simple things you can doassuming you start immediatelyto keep your face bright, clean and beautiful for years and years and possibly years.
Cleaning your face is different from cleaning your… oh, let’s say, ass. You shouldn’t just soap it up and rinse it off. You need to know that the skin on your face is special and different and when you treat your face like your ass, no one’s happy. You need to find a facial cleanser suited to you, and every once in a while you need to scrub all the dead bits off and uncover the young man hiding underneath.
Facial cleansers are chock-a-block with all sorts of cool herbs and enzymes and botanicals that make it sound like you’re pouring salad dressing on your cheeks, but really what’s happening is that you want to avoid using anything that will dry your skin out with alcohol or other harsh junk. Soap, see, is a rather harsh detergent. It’s designed to lather up (and let’s just get it clear right now that lather does not equal cleaning power, lather equals lather) and smell nice and not-so-gently ‘clean’ your skin, and though you’ve probably never thought about it, how it works is chemicals, baby. Lye and ash and whatnot sinking into your precious flesh to make you feel literally squeaky clean.
If you want your face to squeak, stop now and go about your business.
Like everything I recommend here, I’ve personally used all the products I’m going to tell you about. Yes, they’re a bit more pricey than being Zestfully clean, but wouldn’t you rather have your face feel nice and soft instead of tight and dry?
- Zirh “Clean” – Zirh is a line of skin and hair care products designed for men. They come in manly brushed aluminum bottles so you can feel manly pulling them out of your gym bag or looking at them on your shower shelf. “Clean” is part of their whole skin care regimen (everyone has a regimen to follow, involving scrubbing, then cleaning, then moisturizing with their products, but don’t feel like mixing a cleanser from one line and a moisturizer from another will make your skin fall offchances are, it won’t) and I like it because it includes menthol and peppermint oil, so your skin gets that heated-cool feeling, and it has a clean, soft citrus scent (by soft I mean it doesn’t overpower you and make you smell like a brothel). It’s a thick, clear lotion and I use it nearly every day.
Zirh “Clean”: 8.4oz bottle $14.50
- Anthony Logistics “Algae Facial Cleanser” – Anthony Logistics is, like Zirh, formulated for men’s skin. I have no idea what the differences are between men’s skin and women’s skin, other than we tend to shave more than they do, but whatever. It’s nice to think we’re special, and that we need to pay extra for that. Anthony’s Algae Facial Cleanser is a thick, bluish-green gel that goes on smoothly and lacks Zirh’s cooling properties, but it makes up for it by allowing you to smear algae on your face. Believe it or not, algae is an excellent skin cleanser. Plus it gives you something to talk about when you’re standing at the mirror squeezing blue gunk onto your face.
Anthony Logistics “Algae Facial Cleanser”: 4oz. tube $20
- Peter Thomas Roth “Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel” – I am always suspicious of any product claiming to turn back the clock. Chances are you’re going to pay a premium for the priviledge, and they don’t really need to back up their claim by guaranteeing that you’ll look 10 years younger in 90 days. Frankly, 10 years ago I was a big, fat slob with adult acne and three chins, so I don’t necessarily want to go backwards. Peter Thomas Roth is not a line formulated for men, but it’s not just for women either, so if you’re comfortable with the off-chance that your girlfriend will spy this and exclaim “I use that too!” then give it a shot. The PTR line is uniformly excellent and this cleanser says it will “diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.”
Peter Thomas Roth “Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel”: 8oz. $30
Hopefully, you’re cleaning your face every day. And if you read (and believe) the product labels, they always recommend cleaning it morning and night. Me, I wash it in the morning, skip the evening washing (unless I’ve had a longish night and just need a refreshing feeling on my face). I think that’s plenty, but if you’re manic about cleanliness, feel free to wash it as much as you like.
What you’re probably not doing is scrubbing off the dead parts of your face. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “My face has no dead parts! It’s vibrant and alive and raw and beautiful.”
First off, it’s very important to use a facial scrub on your face. Do not use a skin or body exfoliator, it’s too rough and you’ll end up looking all red and puffy and not at all happy. We’ll cover what to do with the rest of your skin at another time, but today we’re concentrating on the skin most people will be staring at so treat it with care and love, m’kay pumpkin?
To use a face scrub, you get your face wet, put some product on your fingertips and massages it all over in small circles. Avoid the area around the eyes, because that skin is particularly sensitive and you definitely don’t want anything scrubby in your eyes. Don’t forget to do your neck as well as your face, and you should do this before you shave because it will also make shaving a hell of a lot easier.
You should exfoliate your face at least once a week, and no more than twice. I exfoliate on Sundays, because it just seems like the perfect day to take the time to do nice things for yourself.
- Body Shop “For Men Face Scrub” – We’re starting with the roughest scrub first, because I’m going to assume you’ve never actually taken the time to exfoliate the dead skin cells from your face and let’s start off with the most effective method. Body Shop’s “For Men” line is, duh, for men. Face Scrub has crushed rice (no shit) combined with almond oil and sesame oil so it’ll scrub your face but good while soothing what’s left behind.
Body Shop “For Men Face Scrub”: 3.3oz $6.00
- Anthony Logistics “Facial Scrub” – We go back to Anthony for phase two of their face regimen, accent on men, and combine the frangrance-free orange facial scub with the algae crap. Not only do these two products look fabulous together, but this scrub is far less harsh than Body Shop’s rice pudding. Anthony’s uses eensy-weensy spherical beads in a gel of Aloe Vera, Chamomile and, yes, even more algae to more gently remove your dead bits.
Anthony Logistics “Facial Scrub”: 4oz. $18.00
- Kiehl’s “Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub” – If you’re afraid of applying something like liquid sandpaper to your face, this is the product for you. While the other two contenders use scrubby bits of stuff to physically remove your dead cells, Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Scrub uses fruit enzymes (acid) along with a very gentle blend of corn cob meal and fruit bits (I’m not even making this up). What’s the downside? If you want to play, you gots to pay…
Kiehl’s “Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub”: 4oz. $28.50
A Little Bit About Shaving
What you use to shave with isn’t as important as where you shave. The only reason you use shaving cream is to keep your beard wet and soft so the blade can cut it easier. That’s all. The sooner you can shave after you shower, when your skin and beard are already soaking with water, the closer your shave and the less likely you’ll cut yourself as your skin starts to dry out and firm up.
That said, the best place to shave is in the shower. Invest in one of those shower mirrors, keep your razor next to your shampoo and after you cleanse and scrub, shave your face while it’s at it wettest. Yes, you should still use a lather or lotion or they even have shaving oils now, but the essential lesson here is: The wetter, the better.
I don’t use shave cream, I use shaving soap and a brush. I like it better because, honestly, I love ceremony. Wetting the beaver (so to speak) and twirling it in the shaving mug to capture some lather and then working the brush over my face is fun! Also, the brush can help work the lather into my beard a little better (or so I tell myself) and, well, aesthetically the shaving mug and brush looks kind of cool. I mean, what would you rather have, an ugly metal aerosol can of foul-smelling foam, or a manly, masculine, macho shaving mug and real beaver brush. I’m betting the het’s out there would love to say “I shave with beaver,” at any rate.
And another thing: Shave with the grain of your skin. Generally, that means shave down your cheeks and shave up your neck. Professional barbers who use straight-edge razors will sometimes shave across the neck to catch extra bits and if you’re careful you can do that, too. But do not shave down your neck. You’re almost guaranteed to cut and nick and bleed.
Last thing about shaving, here’s the order in which to shave your face: cheeks, neck, upper lip, chin. Start with the cheeks because the whiskers there are the least rough so they need the least ‘soak time’ in your lotion or shave cream of choice to get soft and shave-able. End with the area around your mouth because that skin is the most sensitive and therefore needs the most ‘soak time.’
Assuming you’ve done all that and are now standing at the mirror wondering, “What next?” the answer is: Tone and moisturize.
Toner & Moisturizer
This is a daily step you’re probably not even aware that you need. Moisturizing your skin has nothing to do with how oily it may be, or if you’re prone to acne, or if you sweat a lot. Moisturizing is the most essential step if you want your skin to stay supple and youthful rather than dry, wrinkly and ravaged. Everyone, and I mean everyone should moisturize.
So, what is a facial toner? It’s like aftershave without the alcohol. Alcohol is the part of aftershave that hurts. You’re splashing it on your face and suddenly everything’s squeezing shut and siezing up and stinging because you’re kind of applying whiskey to an open wound. You’ve just taken a blade to your skin and scraped a layer off. Alcohol will also dry out your skin, and you don’t want that.
- Kiehl’s “Tea Tree Oil Toner” – This is formulated for “normal” or “normal to oily” skin. Most guys can use this. It contains no alcohol, but it does have a mild astringent effect from its herbal extracts (aloe, yarrow and sage) and soothes your skin with a variety of natural oils. You’d think that ladeling oils on top of your oily skin would be a problem, but these make your skin feel smooth rather than greasy.
Kiehl’s “Tea Tree Oil Toner”: 4oz. $15.50
- Peter Thomas Roth “Conditioning Tonic” – Heading back to PTR territory, where Kiehl’s relies on a blend of natural ingredients, Pete goes for the chemical solution. This is fragrance-free, alcohol-free and dye-free, so you’d think there was nothing in it. But it has something called anti-microbial benzoic acid and salicylic acid that promises that anything your press into your pores afterwards (i.e. moisturizer) will have easier and therefore, presumably, more effective access to your skin.
Peter Thomas Roth “Conditioning Tonic”: 8oz. $30
- Jack Black “Post Shave Cooling Gel” – I’d love to tell you that this Jack Black is the same guy who starred in School of Rock but, sadly, it’s not. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was, though? Anyway, recovering from that disappointment, this is technically a toner but, being a more manly line of products, they position it specifically as a post-shave gel. But it’s a toner. It’s still alcohol free, it contains the same natural ingredients (aloe, chamomile, sage) as almost every other toner, and it comes in a gel form instead of a liquid. And, yes, it is cooling.
Jack Black “Post Shave Cooling Gel”: 3.3oz $16.00
If you don’t shave and wander around with a manly, hirsute visage, using a toner can still provide benefits to your skin. The toner can be applied all over, whereas an aftershave is generally meant only for the beard area.
Now that you’ve toned your skin, it’s ready to be moisturized. What you want to avoid is moisturizing your skin with oil, which doesn’t really moisturize so much as greasify. Your skin is probably already producing enough oil on its own, so think of moisturizing as giving your face a drink of water, rather than dousing it in salad dressing.
Again, remember to apply the product to your face and neck, but avoid the eye regions. If you have an oily forehead, don’t slick it up, and generally your nose produces plenty of oily sebum so it won’t need to be extra moist, either.
- Kiehl’s “Sodium PCA Oil-Free Moisturizer” – Yes, it’s Kiehl’s again. They offer a wide variety of moisturizers, some of which also contain SPF sunscreens to help ward off the evil rays that dry out and ruin your delicate skin. Kids, the phrase “healthy tan” is a big fib. But I prefer this light, non-greasy gel because it goes on smoothly, makes my skin feel soft and has no scent at all. A lot of times you’ll find that moisturizers have a scent that’s supposed to enhance your enjoyment of the product, but I just want it to moisturize, I don’t want it to stink.
Kiehl’s “Sodium PCA Oil-Free Moisturizer”: 4oz. $24.50
- Philosophy “Hope in a Jar” – This is a specialized (and expensive) product that performs a kind of miracle on your skin. If you’re looking particularly, well, old, and kind of pale and, you know, generally icky, Hope in a Jar contains some special ingredients used by dermatologists and was originally formulated for the medical market as a restorative skin cream. It’s not made exclusively for men, but the scent isn’t overpowering and, hey, your skin is just as screwed up as any woman’s, right? It has an almost whipped consistency and goes on very light. Recommended if you need immediate, deep-down skin help and a rosy glow.
Philosophy “Hope in a Jar”: 2oz. $35.00
- Nancy Boy “Ultramild SPF15 Face Cream” – Ok, so, yes, the line is called Nancy Boy and, yes, it’s aimed specifically at us ‘mo’s, but if you can get past that and be the self-confident man I know you are, you’ll be able to enjoy a really great facial moisturizer with built-in sun protection. The company is selling the product more as a sunscreen than a moisturizer, but it’s really both and excellent for daily use. Also, if you join their email list, you can get 15% all purchases made online. Cool?
Nancy Boy “Ultramild SPF15 Face Cream”: 2oz. $25.00
Even moreso than with toners, those with beards still need to moisturize, only not as often. The beard protects your skin from a lot of the stuff (the sun, the wind, the occasional bird dropping) that the unfurry face has to deal with, but underneath it all you have the same skin. It can be a little challenging getting the goop through the bristles, but in the long run it’ll be worth it.
You’ll have noticed if you read this entirely too-long article that I kept mentioning that most of the products above should not be applied around your eyes. Most of the time, you won’t need to do anything there, anyway. But if you have puffy eyes from too many long nights, or you’re getting wrinkles and lines at the corners that you would rather do without, or you have dark circles or discoloration, the cosmetics companies have come to your rescue once again.
Eye creams are a special cosmetic and most guys just won’t need any. It’s the type of thing, in my opinion, that’s foisted on those of us with weak constitutions and a fervent belief that the only way to achieve physical beauty is to spend a lot of money on tiny jars with pretty labels.
Most of these products tend to be rather expensive, but you’ll be using very, very small quantities for each application. Literally, a little dab’ll do ya. Apply eye creams by squeezing a tiny dot onto a finger, touch the dot with the same finger of your other hand so you have an equal amount on each fingertip, then gently pat the cream along the skin under the eye and at the corners, but definitely not on the eyelid. Don’t rub it in or smear it on the skin, you want to be as gentle as you can in this area. It’ll seem silly and weird at first, but you’ll get used to it. Just like sex.
- Anthony Logistics “Eye Cream” – This is an all-in-one eye repair kit in a tube. Contains caffeine to reduce puffiness, wheat protein and vitamin E to tighten up and reduce fine lines, and cucumber to soothe. Like all Anthony products, it’s fragrance-free and formulated for all skin types.
Anthony Logistics “Eye Cream”: .75oz $28.00
- Kiehl’s “Ultra Moisturizing Eye Stick SPF 30” – I threw this in because it’s kind of a unique product you can use daily, and it’s just so odd to use that all your boyfriends will be envious of your amazingly intricate and detailed facial regimen. The Eye Stick looks like a lipstick. It comes in a black tube and you twist it and up comes the product, all pink and girly. Rather than attempting to heal any problems, this is a daily moisturizer specifically for the eye region, but you can also apply it to your nose, ears and lips.
Kiehl’s “Ultra Moisturizing Eye Stick SPF 30”: $19.50
- N.V. Perricone M.D. “Alpha Lipoic Acid Eye Area Therapy with DMAE” – A completely ridiculous and over-the-top bottle of goo formulated by a best-selling author and doctor containing super amazing chemicals that will make all your problems disappear! (Actually, I’ve never used this product and I’m just including it here for those of you who think spending more money on something automatically makes it better.)
N.V. Perricone M.D. “Alpha Lipoic Acid Eye Area Therapy with DMAE”: .5oz. $45.00
Speaking of lips, what are you smearing on yours when they feel a little dry and chapped? Is it some weird waxy substance that goes on like a laquer and then you look like you’ve been kissing candles? Is it hard and comes in a plastic tube and it smells vaguely like motor oil?
This is not good. You have options. You want your lips kissed, I’m assuming, and lips that kiss candles will never kiss mine.
- Philosophy “Kiss Me” – I love this stuff. This is by far my favorite lip balm, because it’s not just balm, it’s “very emolliant lip balm.” It has a very light citrus scent and taste, it comes out slick and spreads across your lips easily and you instantly feel better. Plus, it comes in a squeezy-tube so you can share it with someone else as a not-so-subtle hint. I mean, think about it, what are they going to think when you offer them some lip goo and the label reads “Kiss Me?” I know this is an expensive product to continually smear on your lips, but it lasts a long time, it feels fucking great, and I’ve never met anyone yet that I offered it to who didn’t go, “Mmmmm, I love that!”
Philosophy “Kiss Me” (Clear Tube): .5oz $10.00
- Kiehl’s “Lip Balm #1” – My second favorite and the best choice for you if you don’t want any scent or taste to your lip goo. It smells vaguely chemical, but I suppose that’s the sunscreen they build in to this. Again, it’s in a soft tube instead of a hard, twisty plastic casing and you can offer it to significant others in preparation for your smooth moves. It’s about half the cost of “Kiss Me,” and works almost as well, though for me it seems to wear off a lot faster.
Kiehl’s “Lip Balm #1”: .5oz $5.50
- Burt’s Bees “Beeswax Lip Balm” – This was introduced to me by a friend from Denver and she swears by it. It’s hard to argue with her since every time I go to Denver, the atmosphere and the altitude make my lips crack like ice in a G&T. If you can’t live without a hard, twisty tube, this is the balm for you. It even has that slight tingling sensation reminiscent of Carmax, but it’s more, uh, buttery or something. It also comes in a little tin and you’ll get more for the same price.
Burt’s Bees “Beeswax Lip Balm”: .3oz tin or .15oz tube $2.50
Okay, boys, there you have it. Plenty of new unguents, gels, lotions and cremes to play with when you have nothing better to do with your mornings.
In all honesty, integrating a healthy facial regimen into your morning routine is easy and takes only a little more time than you’re already spending with yourself. Keep the cleanser and scrub in the shower next to your razor (like I told you) and wash your face before washing your body. Keep the toner and moisturizer on a shelf in your medicine cabinet and apply them daily the first thing after stepping out of the shower, when you’re freshly shaven and still a little damp. Use the eye cream only if and when you need it, and don’t worry about instituting a nightly facial regimen unless you find that you’re really into it, then crazy go nuts!
I’ll cover what to do with your hair and bod in future installments. In the meantime, here’s to a cleaner, more beautiful you!
March 4, 2004