Manly Grooming Process & Products
Men don’t talk about their latest facials, manicures, moisturizers, and so on, but they should. Not only is this stuff good for you, it’s good to share good ideas so other men both see what’s normal, and learn from it.
So, in the spirit of sharing, here is my routine and related products. I hope you find it useful. I’m also including some of the lessons or learnings I’ve found along the way.
By way of background, I’m a 50-something white technology guy, who grew up in the lovely Maine countryside, eventually ending up in Silicon Valley and Shanghai.
I did exactly zero of any of this until in my 20s, when a model girlfriend really introduced me to good practices and basic products. I’ve been using them ever since.
Fortunately, I have very good genes, for my 80-year-old dad grew up on a farm and has worked outside most of his life. He may be aware of facial soap, sunscreen, and moisturizers but I’m not aware he’s ever used any of them. And his wrinkles and skin age are modest at best, so hopefully by doing good things for my skin I can also be healthy into much later life. You can, too.
It’s all in the face. At least good skin and good looks usually start there, for men and women. Take care of your face and it’ll take care of you, as they say.
That mean washing it twice a day with a decent facial wash. This varies by skin type, though. I have fairly oily skin so I need more washing than dryer skin types, BUT do not over clean it.
Strong soaps and cleaners will take away all the oil, bad and good, leaving the skin clean, but bare, then requiring serious moisturizers to try to build it back up again. Try to find the balance of a mild cleanser and light moisturizer that works for you, as many are just too harsh.
I use Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear Face Scrub with non-plastic Exfoliating Beads (save the ocean!). I’ve used this for 20 years, and a single tube lasts many months as you only need a very little, less than pea-size, each time.
I think it’s very important to use a moisturizer, and I’ve been using Oil of Olay with SPF15 sunscreen for 25 years. It’s not too heavy, comes in good multi-month bottles, and is inexpensive.
I include sunscreen in my moisturizer because, while I’m not outside a lot, it’s good protection for the daily walks, biking, etc. And sun exposure adds up over time, so protecting it early & often, even in basic SPF moisturizer kind-of-ways, can make a difference.
I don’t use a separate sunscreen unless I’m going to the beach, sailing, or other sun-intense activity. But if you are outside often, you should probably include something, either as a well-applied moisturizer or secondary sunscreen. It need not be very heavy or super strong as long as you are not burning.
For the rest of my skin, I just shower once a day or so using Tone brand soap, which has built-in cocoa butter moisturizer. It’s worked great for 25+ years, and I’ve never had skin issues nor dryness.
Note Tone is a mild soap, so it might not be strong enough for folks getting really dirty, or having things like grease to deal with, but especially in the age when we try not to strip off all the skins oils, etc. it seems a good balance.
I used the Mennen Speed Stick from high school up until about five years ago when I stopped using any deodorant at all. I don’t sweat much and it seems without much odor, plus the sticks were really starting to irritate my skin.
In addition, the aluminum and other ingredients in it have worrisome toxicology effects and I figured I can generally do without it, though your mileage may vary.
If you use a deodorant product, I suggest something light & natural and only when you need it, going for the minimum you & society can get away with.
I have oily hair, and over the years have had seborrheic dermatitis, which looks like dandruff but is really just sensitive skin reactions. That’s best treated with coal tar shampoo like the Neutrogena T/Gel I’ve used for 20+ years.
I generally use a little shampoo as I need to, as, like the skin, you don’t need to fully or deeply clean your hair, as stripping the oils out just damages and dries your hair.
Thus the goal is getting it just clean enough to look nice. That’s it, and no more. So a mild shampoo as natural as you can find (no scents or too much other junk) is probably what you looking for. Consider baby shampoo as it’s mild and missing all the gunk you don’t need.
A scalp or head massage from time-to-time (easily done here in China, at most hair or massage places) also helps stimulate blood flow and reduce head & scalp muscle stress, etc. Highly-recommended (and was helpful in getting of topical scalp steroids).
I experimented with no shampoo at all for a couple of months, and it was a positive experience. I just washed my hair in water every day, nothing else.
It did feel more oily when I washed it, but this got better over time, as it took a couple of weeks for the oils to stabilize and automatically reduce, as I wasn’t washing them away daily. Then it still looked okay, not oily; not much different from when using shampoos.
I finally gave it up when I was on my way to my hair guy, as I was embarrassed to try to explain it all, and he’d wash it anyway for a hair cut, so that ended the experiment. But I urge you to try it, especially if you have short hair. But you have to stay with it and let things stabilize over a week or two.
As I get older, the gray is creeping in, so I opt to add a bit of ‘natural’ coloring. I’m fortunate to have one of the best color men in Asia, who leads a top award-winning salon in Hong Kong, and I follow his advice and color-mixing so it blends well, mixes of various colors, etc.
We only add color every 2–3 months, as he says once you go monthly with every haircut, it’s hard to get away from. Start simple and only increase frequency as you really need to. Which is good, as it costs about $150 and two hours every time we do the process.
I’m a simple shaver, using my Braun electric for a decent shave. I used to use pre-electric shaving prep to dry the skin, then a post-shave cream, both from Menen, but have gotten away from them. I’m not sure they matter much, but they probably help if you have skin irritation.
I’ve recently started taking occasional advantage of all the new barber shops springing up in Shanghai to get a real barber shave. Neither fast nor cheap, these are a luxurious experience once in a while, say on a Sunday morning.
Don’t forget your lips, including and especially sun protection. I’ve used Blistex Lip Balm with sunscreen for 20+ years, and one small container lasts many months. Twice a day, it keeps your lips soft for the girls and keeps them from getting dry in winter. Plus the mild sunscreen protects things over time.
I’ve recently started doing manicures every so often, mostly because as I get older it seems my nails grow faster and faster. To the point where I’m trimming them nearly every day or else they annoy me or catch on things. Plus my cuticles are messy, encroaching on the nails, etc.
So the shop on the corner will do a 15-minute nail job for men for $7.50, which is quite a bargain and leaves me with clean, cut, and professional-looking nails. And I rarely have to cut or adjust them between visits.
Separately, I use a hand moisturizer in the mornings in dry winter months when needed. Otherwise, my fingers and skin can crack in unpleasant ways.
Finally, facials. These may not seem very manly, but I think they are a good investment. They improve your skin’s health and will keep you handsome longer. And while you should not be stripping all the oils off or deeply cleaning your face on a daily basis, this is the purpose of an occasional facial.
Especially to clean all those nose pores that are filled with dark ugly stuff; more so in summer or at sweaty times. We all either ignore them or squeeze them out with our fingers, though the latter tends to lead to pimples from the bacteria we pushed down into the skin.
A simple facial of skin and pore cleaning is very easy, pretty quick, and relaxing. It can often include a facial massage, which is good for stress and the underlying muscles, too.
That’s it. That’s what I do, along with some advice I picked up along the way.
Below is a list of the few products I use, if you find them useful.
Soap — Tone
Shampoo — Neutrogena T/Gel
Face Cleaner — Clean & Clear with Natural Exfoliating Beads Face Scrub
Moisturizer — Oil of Olay
Lip Balm — Blistex