A Natural Man
Natural options flourish as men pay more attention to enhanced grooming.
By Michele Wojciechowski
Men’s grooming has typically been simple: Shower, shave your face and comb your hair. Done.
Now, though, many men have developed more involved ways of looking good. “It’s important for men to be educated in the products and ingredients they choose for their grooming regimens,” says Michelle Ornstein, president and founder of Enessa Organic Skincare of Los Angeles.
“There is a saying that goes, ‘Your body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.’ Many of us associate that saying with treating our bodies right through diet, but our bodies also include our eyes, our hair and our skin,” says Michael Silvestri, 24, of Hillsborough, New Jersey. “I wanted to treat my outer body equal to my inner body. I looked into everything: products, lines, reviews—you name it.”
Every man wants a healthy head of hair, but beware. “Commercial shampoos are little more than dish detergent that strips your hair of natural oils and pits the hair shafts,” says Gary Austin, founder and head of product research and development at SallyeAnder, Inc., a personal care company in Beacon, New York.
Austin suggests using a couple of drops of safflower, castor or grapeseed oil: Place between your hands, rub vigorously through the hair and work into the scalp. He also recommends a mix of three parts water to one part apple cider vinegar as a conditioner (rinse thoroughly). “This may sound like salad dressing, but the oil replenishes what is lost by shampooing and makes your hair more manageable,” he says. “Cider vinegar closely mimics the natural acid pH of your scalp.”
Ornstein suggests that men use a detoxifying scalp treatment. “Look for products that contain various essential oils such as rosemary and lavender,” she advises. “They help with microcirculation and contain antiseptic properties. Hair grows stronger when the scalp is stimulated and not clogged.”
Men should cleanse their faces morning and night, says Ornstein. “The type of cleanser is a function of what skin type a man has—whether it is oily, dry or sensitive.” She adds that it’s important to cleanse before shaving because it opens up the pores and tends to reduce any potential for acne or bacterial infections that may occur.
Austin says many commercial cleansing products are too abrasive and can cause micro-scratches. At night, he says, it’s better to use facial scrubs to remove the day’s grime and help hydrate the skin.
“Use naturally based scrubs that have micronized coffee, tea, oatmeal or rice bran flour,” says Austin. “They are far less abrasive, yet very effective and rich in transdermal antioxidants.”
Whether you shave or not, you can do a lot to care for your skin or beard. “Shaving soap was the norm until canned aerosol foam shaving cream was developed. Convenience won out over the health of skin,” Austin explains. “Natural soap is still the best because it has 10% glycerin, which for most people helps hydrate skin and provides a measure of protection from drying the skin out.”
Silvestri uses a sandalwood oil-based product before shaving; it promotes razor glide and reduces the chance for post-shave irritation. An added benefit? “It smells amazing!” he says. For shaving itself, Silvestri uses a product containing coconut acids and natural oils, such as olive, coconut or avocado oil. It forms a rich lather that softens the hair and skin for a closer, more comfortable shave.
Be sure your hands are clean before shaving. “You don’t want to introduce bacteria from your own hands,” Ornstein says. “Remember that a shaving experience is like an attack on the skin, and damage should be minimized by using a sharp, clean blade.”
A post-shave regimen should involve a moisturizer that won’t shock the skin, but rather provide soothing, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, says Ornstein.
“Ingredients to look for after shaving are aloe vera, cooling peppermint essential oil and lavender essential oil for antiseptic properties,” Ornstein notes. “Extracts such as seaweed are excellent for their moisturizing properties and antioxidants, as well as their anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Do you have a beard? Austin says it’s important to keep your facial hair under control. Washing, combing or brushing and conditioning are essential.
“It is important to keep the skin underneath and the whiskers themselves clean to avoid breakouts. Since facial hair tends to be oily, it attracts dust, dirt, and—if you’re like me—the occasional food particle,” says Austin. “For grooming use a small amount of a shea or cocoa butter product that will not dry the hair shafts out and will keep them more manageable and less scratchy.”