Well-Groomed Man

Exfoliating shows that you really care:
The personal care supplies every guy needs to look and feel his very best.

By Karyn Maier

July / August 2005

It’s no surprise to hear that men don’t put as much time, money or thought into their personal grooming as women do. But it might surprise you to know that men do spend $9.5 billion a year (about $35 billion less than women) on personal care products, so they have to be buying more than futuristic looking multi-blade razors. And, while it may seem that women spend more time at the vanity, the truth is that men spend only three minutes less on their vanity—and they don’t have to struggle with pantyhose, lip liner or curling irons.

But when was the last time you saw a magazine ad or television commercial pitching fancy facial moisturizers to men? With so much marketing of personal care products being targeted to women, most guys have little idea of the full array of grooming products made just for them.

Since we know men are about as likely to ask for advice on sprucing up as they would be asking for directions, and since we can bet skin care strategy won’t be a discussion topic at the next poker game, Energy Times offers these masculine makeover tips for keeping the face, hair, hands and feet healthy and well-groomed. (Men, we’ve kept this short and sweet just in case you don’t want any of your buddies catching you reading it.)

Facial Focus

For most men, finding out that they shouldn’t use soap in the shower is like a cold slap in the face. The problem with most bath soaps, especially deodorant soaps, is that their harshness can strip skin of its natural oils, leaving a dry, tight feeling. You don’t want to drag your high-tech razor blade over that, do you?

Instead, use a chemical- and fragrance-free facial cleanser to remove impurities. If you’re ambitious, use your cleanser before sleeping as well as before shaving.

You should also add exfoliation to those things you do once a week. When you exfoliate, you remove your skin’s superficial layer of dead cells and encourage new cell growth. (However, if you tend to break out easily, or have very sensitive skin, then reserve this treatment for once a month.) Get a fine-grain exfoliating scrub that is nonabrasive. The side benefits? Exfoliation helps prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn, and makes the shaving experience more pleasant.

Blade Runner

Men do more than cut corners when they give short shrift to shaving—they can also cut those lovable mugs. Shaving isn’t just about slapping some water on your face before you shave and tossing on some aftershave when you’re done. The most facial-friendly strategy is to give yourself a slow shave during or right after a warm shower. The heat and moisture softens your beard and opens the hair follicles, allowing for a smoother removal of stubble. While your face is still warm, coat it with a moisturizing shaving cream or gel containing botanical extracts and nut oils that will further soften your beard. The goal is to reduce the friction between your face and the blade, which can lead to unsightly (and painful) nicks, cuts and rashes.

Speaking of shaving mishaps, you definitely want to avoid pseudofolliculitis barbae. No, it’s not the scientific name for an exotic insect. It’s a condition that results from sprouting facial hairs that curl over and burrow into nearby skin, causing a foreign-body reaction and a tender bump. In effect, it’s an ingrown hair that can make shaving a very unpleasant experience, even leading to infection and scarring. That’s why it’s important that you properly care for your skin before and after shaving to reduce this risk. This is especially true if you are African-American or if your natural hair is very curly.

After shaving, apply a toner with a cotton ball to remove any residual cream, firm the skin and tighten pores. Allow the toner to air dry completely before moving on to moisturizing, which will not only soften and condition the texture of your skin but your beard as well.  But don’t reach for her moisturizer. Men have larger pores than women and secrete up to 15% more oil from the skin. Using a heavy moisturizer will only add to the oil, trap more dirt and eventually clog your pores. In your case, less is more.

All’s Fair in Hair Care

When it comes to their hair, men can be pretty lazy in the grooming department until they start losing said hair, at which point they whine, panic and race for the nearest miracle hair grower. We could talk about “product,” the catch-all term for those gels, creams and sprays the more grooming-conscious men use for their hair. But before you get there, you should focus on the basics, i.e., choosing a shampoo that’s formulated for your hair type—dry, oily or normal—and making sure you use a conditioner.

For many men, dandruff is a concern so look for ingredients such as silicic acid (raw aspirin), willow bark extract and selenium, which help control itching and flaking. Other botanical extracts often used in controlling dandruff include horsetail, nettle and rosemary.

No matter what your hair type you must use a conditioner after shampooing to ensure your hair stays healthy looking and strong. Natural conditioners utilize amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which are absorbed by the body to help build keratin, the main protein in hair. Other natural ingredients added to conditioners include panthenol, tocopherol (vitamin E) and herbs like aloe vera, lavender and moss.

If you can just comb-and-go after showering, fine. But, if you decide to use a blow dryer (which can be tough on hair), look for styling products that contain natural extracts that protect hair from heat damage. Yucca, quince seed, flax seed, balsam and yarrow are often added to natural styling gels, mousse and hair sprays for their conditioning qualities.

Real Men Get Manicures

There are few things less attractive than cracked, ragged-edged fingernails on a set of rough hands. If you were a member of the fairer sex, would you want meat hooks like that caressing your tender skin?

If your mitts are like sandpaper, the same scrub used to exfoliate facial skin will work wonders on your hands, too. Make it a habit to use a hand moisturizer twice a day. Be sure to trim fingernails regularly and smooth out any rough edges with an emery board. When using a nail file, take care to file gently straight across the nail and not side-to-side; the latter can lead to breakage. Also take some time to nourish and moisturize the nails with a natural nail butter. If your fingernails are in a massive state of disrepair, then visit a nail salon. The technician, likely to be female, won’t pass out if you ask for a manicure, especially if you bat your eyes.

If you do visit a salon (and these days, many salons are unisex and offer everything from haircuts to body massage) you might want to consider a pedicure, especially if your toenails resemble a dragon’s talons. A full tootsie treatment from a professional might also eradicate swamp foot odor and motivate your significant other into giving you a foot massage at home when you return from the salon.

So there’s a lot more you could be doing in your daily grooming than just hitting the shower and cutting a few whiskers. Using quality, natural personal care products rich in natural oils and botanicals on a regular basis can help you maintain the good looks you were born with, and maybe even improve on them.  You may not elicit any whistles from the ladies at the local supermarket or laundromat, but you’re bound to turn a few heads. You might even get away with lying about your age.

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