Here’s the thing. Men are not designed to be pretty. They have been trained to affect an unreserved, casual state of neglect that simmers along and is handed down from father to son, celebrated brother to brother and lived out man to man.
Any male who so much as hastily coats a light cream is, therefore, a metrosexual. Male grooming is a seriously underestimated enterprise. At least right up until a handful of years back before the genius of Vaseline, Nivea and L’Oreal invoked a slew of male grooming products — what women call beauty products.
With a packaging that is distinctly masculine, evoking a sense of leather, wood and cigar smoke, the world of male grooming desires to initiate half the world’s population, enticing them to spend time and money on themselves as opposed to toys, women and entertainment, otherwise known as beer.
Like most women, my introduction to the world of male grooming happened through my father — his Brylcreem was unmistakable in its red and white tub. There was no moisturiser.
It irked me and as an 8-year-old, I once sat him down and massaged my mother’s lotion into his ashy hands, appointing myself his official hand inspector henceforth.
The male grooming market share is tiny compared to the behemoth that the female beauty industry has become. Now, however, male products look, well, manly, and smell woodsy, outdoorsy, like the ocean breeze and vaguely of citrus fruit.
But, men still hesitate to buy them. Which is curious because men were the original dandies. Egyptian males wore eyeliner, spent hours doing their hair and reaffirming the transparency of their royal linen.
The average 20th century man had powdered skin, bleached hair, wore tights and high heels (what I wouldn’t give to see that).
A man can be well groomed without having to be a fop. You just need to figure out how.
1. Shop online: A US survey by BeautyCollection.com reveals that 20 per cent of men shop online but account for only 5 per cent of actual physical clientele. “Men buy beauty products to make them look sexier and cover up imperfections — they just don’t want people to know about it,” says another beauty company founder in New York.
Curiously, while avoiding any place where they have to reveal their interest in grooming, men will go online and go wild, outshopping women by 11 per cent. What they most bought was the Clarisonic brush, a favourite even with women, as well as hair dye and even make-up. Public shopping is reserved for sunscreen and shaving cream.
2. Go green: As a man, it can’t be easy making a statement such as, “I think I have sensitive skin” with a straight face. And, while Vaseline is a great head-to-toer, the needs of your hair, face, hands and body vary.
Hands are drier and need sunblock, hair should be petrolatum-free and faces require something less comedogenic, which allows your pores to breathe.
Cleansing bars are an excellent option if squeezing cleanser off a tube doesn’t appeal to your male sensibilities. Organic products are also more palatable to purchase, allowing you freedom to experiment.
3. Keep to the basics: Get over a fear of dandiness by avoiding the full-blown cosmetic counter in your home.
As a rule, your products should not outnumber the fingers on one hand. Buy a cleanser — ditch that plain old bathroom soap — and two moisturisers, one for day, one for night.
Why? Day creams now come with inbuilt sunscreen. Night cream treats whatever ails your skin. But, the industry is growing, so don’t be shocked if a few years down the line your counter begins to heave.
4. Be specific: Know, and target, your skin and hair type. Anti-ageing, problem-skin treatments and you-related needs are the next step in male grooming. This includes face masks, usable at least twice monthly, a serum if you need something to reach deep into your skin, something to care for razor burn and natural-looking hair dye. To help narrow this down, have a discreet, face-to-face consultation with a skin or hair specialist. It can be a minefield. Don’t wing it.
5. Get familiar with the word ‘spa’: Yes, there are men who savour professional manicures, pedicures and facials. If the idea of being accosted with a nail clipper, buffer and pimple-popper sounds ugly, invest. Go beyond anti-fungal foot powder into a handful of non-metallic nail files/emery boards, a loofah (because I know nothing will make you buy that jar of apricot body scrub) and a body butter. Shea and/or olive butter are unscented.
Rather than wait for your nails to set a new world record, file them across regularly and smooth over your pumice-stone efforts with a foot gel.
6. Leave room for extras: Don’t use toothpaste on zits. It does not make them go away. Men have thicker skin than women do, produce more sebum, hence have oilier skin. It makes you prone to acne and breakouts. Use a soap/cream/gel/wash with salicyclic acid to take care of that, and spot treatment. Your face is the first thing anyone sees.