Lance’s Guide to Man Grooming, Part Three: Hair Apparent
Now that we’ve taken a good look at your face and your body, it’s time to shift our attention upwards to perhaps the one aspect of a man’s appearance to which all menstraight, gay or otherwisepay particular attention.
Hair I have noticed, for some, has an emotional attachment. Losing your hair can cause dramatic depression and all sorts of weird personality disorders, and the phrase “having a bad hair day,” resonates for anyone who’s had one. Sure, in the long run, hair is hair. But rather than try to deflect that unaccountable reaction, let’s embrace it for the next half-hour or so and pretend that, yes, your hair is the most important thing in the world.
First things first: Shampoo and conditioner. I am now going to impart some information that may rock your world to its very foundations, or you may shrug and go, “eh.”
Shampoo does not clean your hair.
In fact, you don’t really want to clean your hair. Shampoo is to clean your scalp. If you have long hair, bunching it all up on top and lathering it into a thick froth and rinsing all the bubbles away is more or less a useless and time-consuming endeavor. What you want to think about and concentrate on doing is getting the shampoo through the tangle of your locks and down to the roots, working it into the skin on your head and cleaning the excess gunk out from under.
Here’s something else you probably don’t know: If you want shiny hair, you should not rinse with hot water. Your hair is shiny when it’s oily, and hot water washes a lot of the natural oils away. If you rinse with lukewarm or, even better (and more shocking to your system) cold water, you end up with shinier hair. For me, a short-haired guy, it’s not really worth the time and energy to go to the trouble of adjusting the shower flow just to rinse out the shampoo or conditioner and have cold water splashing all over me at 7 o’clock in the morning. But I include the info in case you’re, like, manic about super-shiny hair or something.
The shampoo you use will depend on a few factors:
- Is your hair oily, dry or “normal?”
- Do you have dandruff, itchy scalp or some other physical or medical factor that might require special formulation?
- Do you need to condition, and how often?
As I mentioned, it’s the oil your head (well, scalp) makes naturally that creates a sheen on your hair. You can add more oil during the styling portion of your hair regimen to create more shine. Your conditioner’s job is to soak into your hair and put back in what shampooing and the weather and the sun and the wind takes out. Shampoo is for your scalp, conditioner is for your hair. If you have oily hair, you may not need conditioner.
So what about those shampoos with conditioner built-in? Well, when you think about it, you’re going to dump it all on your head and work it around anyway, so doing both at the same time doesn’t hurt anything. The shampoo cleans your scalp, the conditioner soaks into your hair, your scalp doesn’t care about being conditioned, your hair doesn’t care about being shampooed, all set!
But, as you have no doubt guessed, I am a man of ceremony. I like the shampoo and the conditioner to be applied separately. Call me old fashioned, call me anal, but I believe that two products means two steps.
After the cleansing, we’ll get to the grooming. Gels, mousses, pastes, waxes, lotions, oils and pomades, there’s something for everyone! It just depends on the look you’re going for and how much you want to pay out to achieve that look.
Once again, it’s not about the lather, but it is about the scent. Guys, you know how nice it is when you’re holding your main squeeze and you get a big whiff of her/his hair and it smells so good you just want to eat her/him up? Works both ways. So don’t settle for smelling like everyone else, and go find a shampoo that won’t overload your hair with chemicals and make it smell like disinfectant or Lemon Pledge.
Your shampoo should not make your hair “squeaky clean.” You need some oil in your follicles to give it that sheen that looks good in the sun, and also not get fly-away hair and split ends that make it look like you’ve baked your wig in the oven for a few hours. Healthy hair is clean, yes, but remember that you’re really cleaning your scalp and conditioning (moisturizing) your hair. If your current shampoo leaves your hair dry and brittle, you’re using the wrong shampoo.
- Lush “Rehab” – Lush is an awesome company and if you’re lucky enough to have a Lush store near you, stop reading now and go have some fun in their soapy wonderland of products. If you’re not lucky enough to have a Lush near you, you’re lucky enough to have the Internet so you can order stuff anyway. Lush products use combinations of all-natural and not-so-natural ingredients. Rehab, in case you worry about such things, is a Vegan product made with an assortment of oils, juices and assorted synthetic ingredients resulting in a shampoo that, without a doubt, makes my hair feel its softest and silkiest. Amazing, wonderful stuff. And it smells good, too! For those of you who love to have something to do in the shower, this is the only shampoo I’ve ever seen that requires that you shake it up before using it.
Lush “Rehab”: 8.4oz bottle $17.35
- Kiehl’s “Amino Acid Shampoo” – By now, you should be very familiar with Kiehl’s. I’m not sure how many of their products I’ve recommended, but the reason I keep doing so is bacause they work as indicated by Kiehl’s, they’re uniformly of high quality and they always satisfy. Their Amino Acid Shampoo is no exception. If you want to step out of the shower and feel truly clean-clean down to your roots, this shampoo will do that. It also has a nice coconut scent (because it contains coconut oil) and it’s safe for all types of hair. It won’t frizzle your dry locks, and it won’t weigh down your oily ones.
Kiehl’s “Amino Acid Shampoo”: 8.4oz bottle $16.50
- philosophy “Clearing the Hair” – What with all the lotions, shampoos, conditioners, waxes, pastes, mousses and gels one puts in one’s hair, your follicles can get weighed down by all that gunk. Enter ‘Clearing the Hair,’ a shampoo specifically designed to deep clean all that build-up out of your scalp and leave you squeaky clean. I only use this product occasionally, and you’ll note that you get twice as much of it for about the same as the other two products. Also, if you’re prone to having an oily scalp, this is the product you’ll want to reach for.
philosophy “Clearing The Hair”: 16oz bottle $18.00
Why wouldn’t you want to use Head n Shoulders or Suave on your noggin and save yourself some dough? After all, people have been using them for years and you never hear anyone complaining that they went bald because of a bad shampoo experience. What have these salon hair washers got that Herbal Essences don’t?
I think you’ll find that use of these products will leave your scalp feeling… well, feeling like it’s not there. No itching, no oiliness, less problems overall with the dreaded Bad Hair Days. The shampoos I recommend are less harsh and contain better ingredients, so the lasting effect is a more soothed and happy head. Try out one bottle of a quality shampoo and see if you can feel (and see) a difference.
A conditioner tames your unruly hair. Me, I rarely use any conditioner and certainly not on a daily basis because I don’t need to. I am fortunate to be blessed with thick, wavy hair that, unfortunately, turns into a bushy, afrotastic monster if left too long without a cutting. So for my short ‘do, I find that conditioning just makes it look flat and oily. But occasionally, I need to put back in some of the natural oils that swimming in chlorinated water or sea water, or just sweating a lot at the gym tend to wash away.
Also, if you find you’re washing your hair more than once a day (i.e. in the morning when you wake up and after you workout in the afternoon, too), you probably need to condition during one of those washings.
- philosophy “Head Trip” – Head Trip is like a thick glob of mayo you smear into your hair. This is not your average weak-ass lotion here, my friends, this is serious conditioning. I use this because I don’t condition often, and this is a deep conditioner meant for chemically treated hair or a dense, weekly treatment like I need. It comes in a jar and you dip your fingers into this thick goo and leave it on upstairs for a good 5 minutes before rinsing it out. Guaranteed you’ll know you’ve just conditioned after an application of this stuff.
philosophy “Head Trip”: 4oz jar $13.00
- Kiehl’s “Leave-In Conditioner with Panthenol Coconut & Sunscreen” – Interestingly, you won’t find many hair products with sunscreen in them. It’s interesting because your hair probably sees a lot more sun than any other part of you, and over-exposure can damage your hair just like it can damage your skin. You’ll note the “Leave-In” portion of the product name, and that’s just what you’re supposed to do with this stuff. You don’t rinse it out, you apply it after you’ve shampooed and then you just leave it in your hair and it acts as both a conditioner and a sort of very light grooming aid. You can still apply the hair product of choice over it, but this will help keep your hair very soft and shiny.
Kiehl’s “Leave-In Conditioner with Panthenol Coconut & Sunscreen”: 8oz bottle $28.00
- Lush “American Cream” – Don’t you love that name? American Cream smells like you’ve poured a vanilla shake into your hair. Seriously. It contains, in addition to real vanilla, strawberry, oranges and lavender oil so if you don’t want to eat your hair after applying American Cream to it, someone else will! Leaves hair shiny and soft and reduces static (for those of you with longer hair r in dry climates) with honey water.
Lush “American Cream”: 16.9oz bottle $18.95
Again, your hair may not need much conditioning, or it may need a lot, depending on environment, length, oiliness and so on. Keep in mind that I live in a rather damp, usually chilly environment and I have short, thick hair that’s neither oily nor dry. Your mileage may vary.
Here’s where things get sticky. Literally.
There are so many different types of hair product out there now that my head swims just thinking about all of it. Rather than try to guess what you need for your particular sexy look of the moment, I’m just going to offer up a few different kinds of hair styling products and let you figure out how much hold and shine you need.
We’ll start with the softest, barely-there product and work our way up to what’s essentially concrete for your ‘do.
Is your hair dull? Literally dull? Like, it absorbs sunlight and reflects nothing back? A black hole on top of your head? Easily remedied!
- Bumble & Bumble “Brilliantine” – Bumble & Bumble have elected to use stupid Flash so I can’t bookmark you direct to this product. Oh, well. Anyway, Brilliantine not only adds shine, it’s this Elmer’s Glue-like white stuff (you use is “very sparingly”) that’ll provide a slight disheveled-sexy bedroom thing for your hair, but still eave it soft and manageable. You can also mix this product with others in the B&B line to add shine to the others that provide more control.
Bumble & Bumble “Brilliantine”: 2oz tube $24.00
- Kiehl’s “High-Gloss Conditioning and Styling Oil for the Hair” – One thing about Kiehl’s; they’ll never steer you wrong when they title their products. I think this one pretty much tells you all you need to know. You use one or two drops (yes, drops) on your hair before you use a styling product to add extra shine to your just-cleansed follicles.
Kiehl’s “High-Gloss Conditioning and Styling Oil for the Hair”: 1.5oz bottle $20.50
- TIGI Bed Head “Shine Junkie” – If you ever need a special product for your hair, look for something from Tigi’s Bed Head line. They’re insane. You won’t believe some of the junk you can smear onto your head to make your hair do things that defy nature and gravity at the same time. Take, for example, Shine Junkie. So, in addition to the usual hair goop, they put mica flakes in this. So, yeah, you get shine, but also glitter!
Tigi Bed Head “Shine Junkie”: 2oz metal disk $16.99
- Frederic Fekkai “Smooth Hair” – A “finishing cream” for all hair types. You smear some of this into your hair after you’ve shampooed and conditioned and it helps to control your hair without adding any stiffness. If you want your hair to move and flow and be wind-blown but not look dry and limp and dull, try some of this.
Frederic Fekkai “Smooth Hair”: 4oz tube $16.50
- Bumble & Bumble “Prep” – This is a rather specialized product that isn’t really a styling aid or a grooming aid. B&B refers to it as “foundation” for your hair, and as the name implies, you spray this into your wet locks in preparation for adding even more crap, if you desire. Used by itself, it detangles and makes your hair feel, sort of, softer and it adds a nice scent. I will add that I find it weird, because when I spray it in my hair it all feels more, uh, furry. More like fur. If that makes sense. Not really fuller, but softer and more, yeah, furry.
Bumble & Bumble “Prep”: 8oz spray bottle $15.00
You’d love it if your hair behaved itself when left to its own devices, but your hair doesn’t act like it should. Still, you don’t want someone running their fingers through your hair and getting them stuck in there, either.
- Kiehl’s “Shine N’ Lite Groom” – This product defines ‘gentle hold.’ In addition to providing just a touch of control, Shine N’ Lite also has half the calories of regular beer! Kidding. Anyway, Kiehl’s again manages to do everything right, giving you both management and moisturizing so your hair looks and feels great at the same time.
Kiehl’s “Shine N’ Lite Groom”: 8oz bottle $19.00
- Anthony Logistics “Hair Cream” – Anthony does a great job on skin, and doesn’t currently have quite the range available for hair. Maybe he just thinks that all hair is the same. Who can say? But his Hair Cream is just the ticket if all you want is a bit of control with ample softness.
Anthony Logistics “Hair Cream”: 4oz tube $18.00
Moving up a step, you want to control your hair, not just manage it. You want to have some style going on, maybe a few peaks and valleys, or even that dreadful fauxhawk that looks good on 1% of the male population (who would probably look good caked in shit when it comes down to it). You want soft-looking control, but you definitely want control.
- Bumble & Bumble “Sumotech” – Back we go to B&B. Can you tell that I love their stuff? Sumotech is a paste but it contains wax, too. If you’ve ever used hair wax, you know what a trial it can be. It’s sometimes too stiff, it usually has a strange (AKA bad) scent and it lingers on your hands. Bumble & Bumble found a way to take what’s good about wax (control) and what’s good about paste (malleability) and managed to make this white, smooth, thick junk that adds lots of hold but without the sticky stiffness of wax.
Bumble & Bumble “Sumotech”: 1.5oz jar $25.99
- Kiehl’s “Solid Grooming Aid” – Again with the ‘this is what it is’ product title. Kiehl’s answer to modern pomade looks just like Sumotech, but it’s slightly lighter and easier to use, hence it also provides less hold. Think of it as Sumotech Lite. It’s also considerably cheaper.
Kiehl’s “Solid Grooming Aid”: 1.75oz disk $15.50
This is where shellac comes in handy. You want your hair to stay in place in gale-force winds. You don’t want it to so much as bend if a house fell on it. You want your hair to do exactly what you want it to do, and to stay that way all day long. Fuck anyone who tries to touch it, you’re going for fabulous and looks mean more than feel.
- Phyto Pro “Hard Spray Hold Factor 20” – Nothing, and I mean nothing is gonna budge your hair when you apply this shit. If you live in a windy or humid climate and your hair just falls apart before you even get to show it to anyone of consequence, spray this in and you’ll have that helmet-o-hair you’ve longed for. Or, if you just want everything sticking out from your head in some gravity-defying fashionpump it, baby.
Phyto Pro “Hard Spray Hold Factor 20”: 4.2oz bottle $17.00
- Kiehl’s “Extra Strength Styling Gel” – Much less hard and unyielding than the above solution, but still providing enough hold for your average guy, Kiehl’s comes through again with a little bottle of clear gel that will keep your hair neat and trim, but not quite so unyielding. Plus, they manage to do that without using alcohol, which dries out your hair and no one wants that.
Kiehl’s “Extra Strength Styling Gel”: 4oz bottle $16.00
- TIGI Bed Head “Creative Genius Sculpting Liquid” – In TIGI’s words, “shapes hair without sacrificing softness.” You can use this in wet or dry hair to achieve different effects. For example, use it in your wet hair and let it dry naturally and get super hard hold with a softer look. Or put it in and blow dry for control, control, control. Finally, scrunch it into your dry locks to make it look all, how do you say, scrunched.
TIGI Bed Head “Creative Genius Sculpting Liquid”: 4oz bottle $13.95
You have no frikkin’ clue what you want your hair to do, you just want it to look cool. How do you get control and softness and shine and drop-dead look-at-that! attention-seeking coolosity?
- TIGI Bed Head “Hard Head Hard Hold Hairspray” – You want your hair straight up in the air? You want ridiculous hold? You want spikes out the wazoo? This is what you’ve been looking for. It dries instantly, and the more you use, the harder it gets. TIGI also makes Hard Head gel designed specifically for Mohawks. You read that right, if what you want is long spikes sticking straight up in the air, they’ve got you covered.
Tigi Bed Head “Hard Head Hard Hold Hairspray”: 10oz aerosol can $12.49
- TIGI “Bed Head: A Hair Stick for Cool People” – If you want the ‘just rolled out of bed after having great sex and didn’t bother doing anything with my hair’ tousled look that lasts all day long, this is what you’re looking for. What it is, basically, is a hard stick of wax you rub into your hair. Honestly, that’s what it is. The wax is semi-soft, like a crayon, and you just rub it in circles all over your head and tangle up your hair with it, then sort of play with the resulting tangles and spikes until you get the exact bed-headedness you want.
TIGI “Bed Head: A Hair Stick for Cool People”: 2.7oz stick $18.99
Coloring Your Hair
Admit it, you’ve walked down that aisle at the drugstore with the hundreds of different brands and colors of hair dye with all those female models smiling and tossing their shiny locks around and wondered to yourself, “what would I look like as a blonde?”
Unless you’re already a blonde, let me stress as hard as I can that you’ll probably look really stupid. Fake blonde works on some guys, if you want to look like a fake blonde. But making it look natural without going to a salon and spending lots of dough to have them shade and highlight and nuance the shit out of your locks is an exercise in futility. If you want to look like Spike on “Buffy,” lose 30 pounds, get cheek implants and then bleach your hair. Otherwise, steer clear of anything too radical if you’ve never dyed before.
Second, there’s nothing to be scared of. Even permanently dyed hair will only last a few weeks of months (depending on your hair length) before it all grows out. Meanwhile, if you’ve bleached yourself, be prepared for the dreaded dark roots syndrome until you can cut it all out.
I’ve colored my hair lots of times, both professionally and using at-home products and you simply won’t know how you’ll look until you give it a go.
Having it done professionally is expensive. But you’ll be guaranteed it’ll turn out looking more natural than a home job because someone else is applying the goo. It’s kind of hard to make sure every hair is colored when you can’t see the back of your own head, and they may say you’ll end up with tints and highlights but it all comes out of the same bottle, buddy. Professionals do all this layering shit and use combs and gloves and foil and hot driers and fuck all you haven’t got the time or the patience to use on yourself.
However, the home method is inexpensive, quick and simple. You mix up a couple of bottles of fowl-smelling crap, you squeeze it onto your scalp, you smear it all around, you wait 20 or 30 minutes, take a nice shower, voila, whole new you!
If you’re thinking of taking a stroll down the haircolor path, these are the brands I recommend for the best results with the least amount of pain and suffering.
- L’Oreal Feria comes in so many colors it’ll make your head spin. Doesn’t stink as badly as some other products and the results are uniformly “as advertised,” meaning it’s more likely that the color you see on the box is the color you’ll see on your hair.
- L’Oreal Open is a new line from the same people and they’ve improved on Feria by reducing the ammonia and making this a thicker gel so it doesn’t drip as much. The only drawbacks are that there aren’t as many color options and it’s a bit harder to find.
The hair coloring products created “just for men” tend, in my opinion, to be not as good as those created for women. The colors are dull and the smell is awful. I guess they figure we need our cosmetics to stink or something.
For the Follically Challenged
After writing all this up for those of you with hair, I received some email from a member of an entire contingent of men I forgot aboutthe bald guys.
Luckily for me (and you), one Jim Parisi knows all about scraping your noggin to remove whatever hair you can do without, including the stuff on top, to whit:
For whatever it’s worth, there are those of us whose personal grooming habits now require a razor rather than shampoo. Genetics they can be a real bitch.
Gillette Mach 3 and HeadBlade’s HeadSlick shaving crème is key, and their HeadLube (I swear I’m not making this up) is good addition as well.
And for the record, HeadSlick is without question the best shaving crème I have ever tried. Ever. Seriously. If you have spent four year dragging a razor across your noggin, a good shaving cr�me is critical. I’ve tried lots from the cheap stuff to Lush to designer crap. Nothing I have ever tried ensures a closer shave with less nicks on the back of my skull than this stuff.
In the spirit of total honesty, I have not personally used the products Jim recommends above, but what the hell? His opinion is probably just as sound as mine. And for what it’s also worth, HeadBlade’s HeadSlick is for “anywhere you shave” according to the packaging, head to toe and… anywhere in between.
The (Split) End
So, we’ve covered taking care of your face, your skin and your hair. What could possibly be left?
In Part Four of my Guy Grooming Guide, I’m going to bite the bullet and actually dive into the wild and wooly world of clothes and shoes. That is, perhaps, the most landmine-filled path I can take, since what you wear is more of a reflection of who you are than any cream or lotion you could apply to your various body parts.
But there are some basic rules you may not know about, and I have some opinions I absolutely have to share with you before you open the door in the morning and face the world another day in those drab, boring, completely predictable threads you think look so good on you.
Thanks for reading.
May 20, 2004