Sep 27, 2014

Dad's tips on male grooming

This post is an oldie but a goodie that I wrote some time ago.  I am moving it over to this site not only for posterity, but because the methods listed herein still hold up and work very well for me.  I hope these tips serve others as well as they've served me through the years.

Disclaimer: My sincerest apologies to my lovely and loyal female readers for the amount of testosterone ridden content which follows..

A male guide to grooming by a 20th century Dad

As many young men, I learned most of what I know about grooming from my old man. In fact.. practically everything grooming wise that I learned from him, I still utilize to this day. In the midst of my grooming regimen yesterday, I decided it's time to impart some of my wisdom upon the young men of generation "Y".

Since many basics of grooming and style seem to have fallen by the wayside, I felt it my duty to share what I know, in order to help young men who may just be getting familiar with daily rituals such as shaving and hygiene. Who knows.. I may even teach a couple of old dogs a trick or two along the way. Some of my methods, techniques, and products I use may be what some consider to be "old school", but hey.. that's how I roll.

No two people are the same. A method or product that works for myself may cause irritation for someone else. Therefore, it's up to you to find what product works best for your skin type, hair type, etc. I'm happy to share exactly what kinds of products I personally use in my grooming regimen, in case you want to check them out for yourself.


Hygiene transcends all social barriers. I don't care who you are, or what situation you happen to be in, no one wants to be around someone who smells unpleasant.

I'm an old school type of guy, and have used Irish Spring for decades. It's a strong deodorant soap that does the trick, and will tame the toughest of male odors. It works so good however, that I've known people who can't use it because it's too harsh on their skin. Fortunately there's more men's soap and body washes on the market than ever before, making it very easy to find one that's compatible with virtually any skin type. Irish Spring also makes an incredible body wash I occasionally use that smells nothing like their bar soaps.

Something men need to be aware of, is that a single quick lather up is not always enough to get you smelling clean. Most of your body like your legs, chest, back, and arms will do just fine with a quick lather and rinse. The areas of your body that produce the most sweat, get the least amount of air, and stay the least dry are your target areas you want to spend more time on. These odors are more resilient and need special attention, therefore its quite possible that you may need to lather, scrub and rinse yourself completely more than once in these areas. A lather, scrub, and rinse three times in a row, should completely eradicate tough body odor in these areas.

I'm really hoping that every male over the age of 12 knows that using deodorant is absolutely necessary. To maximize effectiveness, and minimize the chance for developing a rash, don't apply deodorant until the area under your arms are completely dry or at least close to it. On this topic however, I don't really feel comfortable recommending any specific type or brand for a few reasons.

There is inconclusive evidence that suggests deodorant products containing aluminum could lead to a higher risk of certain neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. It's also been said that it can be linked to breast cancer as well. Then there's the school of thought that antiperspirants are unhealthy for you, because they are preventing your sweat glands from doing their job. I recommend that people do a little research before choosing a deodorant product. This way, they can make an educated decision they are comfortable with, as well as finding a product that works well for them.

For years I never really cared much about the type of shampoo I used. As I got older and my hair started to thin however, I started taking better care of what I still had. I use a blow drier, hairspray and hair gel which can really do a number not only your hair, but your scalp as well. In fact, clogging of pores on your scalp can actually cause poor circulation, and can lead to hair loss. It's crucial to find a shampoo that removes any buildup of gunk that may accumulate on your scalp.

I at one time started using Axe Intense De-Glue Shampoo, and love shampoo's such as these. There are actually little rock crystals that will exfoliate your scalp and slowly disintegrate by the time you rinse your hair. The shampoo's are beefy enough to knock out all of the buildup on your scalp, but gentle enough for every day use.

Washing your hair daily can take a toll on your scalp and hair as well. Some people can wash their hair daily and be just fine, while others will start developing a flaky scalp or unhealthy and brittle hair. To avoid this, apply a moisturizer that you can leave in your hair for several minutes after you shampoo. There are also some great shampoos on the market that have moisturizer in them as well.

Brushing your teeth and flossing daily are crucial for good oral hygiene. I'm sure there are toothpastes on the market that are superior to others, but the mere act of brushing your teeth and gums and flossing is more important to your dentist than whether you're using Crest or Aquafresh. Plaque and bacteria are two main causes for bad breath. To stave off bad breath, make sure to brush not only your teeth, but your gums and tongue as well. Some people actually scrape their tongue with a tongue scraper to help with fresh breath. Flossing will help to remove pieces of food which bacteria thrive off of and further add to bad breath.

I personally like to finish off by using Listerine mouthwash. I still think the old school original Listerine works the best. I remember using this as a small boy and challenging myself to see how long I could actually keep it in my mouth before having to spit it out. Heck.. who am I kidding? I still do that.. it's a manly thing to do!  Listerine does a great job at killing bacteria that may be lurking about in your mouth, and you won't believe how clean your mouth will feel after using it.

To maintain fresh breath throughout the day, chew sugarless gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva, which will neutralize acids caused by bacteria. My favorite is Extra Spearmint flavored gum. The flavor lasts for hours on end, and it does an excellent job of keeping bad breath at bay. Extra also has gained The American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance, and has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of cavities, strengthen teeth and reduce harmful plaque acids.

There have been some incredible advancements in the world of shaving products, like the Gillette five blade fusion razor that I love so much. Who'd of thought you needed five blades for a clean safe shave? However.. there's much more to getting a close, irritation free shave than just buying a ten dollar razor.

For the most part, I only shave my face in the shower. The hot water and steam from the shower softens your beard and opens up the pores on your face making for an extremely close shave. This coupled with the fact that my bride can no longer complain about stubble being left in the sink makes it a win-win.

Shower and wash your hair, and then shave last. This gives adequate time for the heat and steam from the shower to open your pores and soften your stubble. Make sure to liberally coat your face with hot water from the shower, and then apply a thin coat of shaving cream. The key is to make sure the surface under the shaving cream is wet so the razor can slide easier.

Any shaving cream will do when you're shaving in the shower. I use the same kind of shaving cream that my old man used when I was a kid, a ninety nine cent can of Barbasol. It works just fine as long as my face is nice and wet before applying it.

While you give the shaving cream a minute or so to further soften your beard, take a handheld mirror and liberally cover it with either hand soap or shaving cream. This will serve as wax so the water can bead up and run off of the mirror. Rinsing the mirror under the hot shower water until its clean, will raise the temperature of the glass higher than the air in the bathroom which will keep it from fogging up on you. If you wear glasses, use this same technique on your spectacles so you can see what you're doing. (Always a good idea when there's a razor near your neck).

When shaving, you want your razor to be as clean as possible at all times. After one swipe of the razor, immediately hold it up to the shower head to blast the buildup of stubble and shaving cream from the blades. Shave only in a downward direction with the grain of the stubble. Some people like to shave a second time against the grain, to get as close of a shave as possible. I personally can't do this because I'll tend to get ingrown hairs, irritation, rashes, or all of the above.

Shaving is a strenuous process. You're basically dragging a thin razor over your face which not only removes hair, but microscopic and sometimes not so microscopic layers of skin. As soon as you're done shaving, it's a good idea to splash on some aftershave. Aftershave closes your pores and will prevent further irritation. The burn you feel after applying it comes from alcohol that closes your pores, and antiseptic that prevents infection from cuts. I recently began using Old Spice aftershave for the first time in twenty years, and have become quite fond of it. The smell is subtle and pleasant, and the product works extremely well. I guess it would have to be, seeing as it's been on store shelves since 1938!!

The alcohol from aftershave dries out your skin very quickly and there's a reason for that. This drying process actually helps to prevent razor burn. Therefore, it's a good idea to get some moisture back into your skin. I like using Nivea replenishing post shave balm. It cools and hydrates your skin and is neither overpowering or strong smelling.

If you have a problem with small cuts from nicking pimples etc, you can stop bleeding very quickly by using a styptic pencil. Styptic pencils are usually appropriate for all skin types, and are a must for any man that shaves on a daily basis. A styptic pencil contains Alum, and its antiseptic properties help with razor burn, and helps to stop bleeding. You can find them in the shaving section of any drugstore.

Back in the day, practically every male owned a grooming kit. I can't begin to count how many grooming kits I received as gifts from friends, and family over the years. These kits contain things like scissors, fingernail clippers, tweezers, etc. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these, or at the very least assemble one for yourself.

With most of us, and for some sooner than others.. hair will start to grow uncontrollably in places that it didn't used to. Take for instance nose hair. Everyone has it, and for some.. it can grow quite fast. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had liberal amounts of nose hair protruding from their nose? It looks like little spider legs lashing out at you with every nasal exhale. Unruly nose hair also has the possibility of holding onto "ornaments" if you catch my drift.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you're never that guy. They make nose hair trimmers that are quite affordable these days, but even if you don't want to go that route, a few snips with your grooming scissors right after you shave will help to insure you don't embarrass yourself during the day.

The wise old owl look might work for grandpa. Heck.. it may even be endearing or add character, but I think it's safe to say most of us don't have any use for unruly eyebrows. Trimming eyebrows is very easy, and only takes a few seconds to do. Barber shops of years past used to offer this service for free as part of a standard haircut. I used to see my old man perform this service for many of his customers in his own barber shop, which is where I learned how to trim my own.

To trim your eyebrows, take a small brush or comb, and brush your eyebrows straight up. Then, take your grooming scissors and trim all of the brow hair that is sitting above the top of your brow line. If your eyebrows grow slowly, you can ask your barber to do this for you when you go to get your hair cut.

As far as stray eyebrow hairs that may grow farther away from the brows, or even between the brows, simply use your tweezers to pluck them. Tweezing removes the hair root and all, and it will take considerably longer for the hair to grow back. Tweezing hairs from the same spot over and over will eventually keep the hair from coming back at all.

I'm an old fashioned guy who could care less about my cuticles or how shiny my nails are, but they are always clean and presentable. Keep your fingernails clean and free from dirt, and for heaven sake don't trim them with your teeth. This is what fingernail clippers and files are for. If a fingernail clipper isn't handy, a small Swiss army knife with scissors and a fingernail file can work miracles.

Neck hair can take away from a good looking haircut. At the minimum, make sure to take a peek at your neck with a hand held mirror once a week to see if it needs shaved. Stand with your back to the bathroom mirror and use a hand held mirror to see what you're doing. If you find that your neck needs attention, rub in a little shaving cream to the stubble, and with a razor, shave vertically up to the neckline of your hair. You can also use a handheld electric razor to do this.  After years of experience, you will find that you'll be able to shave your neck stubble without even having to look at what you're doing in the mirror. The back of your neck can get quite sensitive if you're not used to shaving it, so make sure to apply some aftershave lotion once you're finished.

So you're squeaky clean, not a hair out of place, and you feel like a million bucks. This is the point where many fellas choose to polish themselves off with a touch of cologne or some other type of scent. The older I get, the less I care for strong smelling colognes and sprays. In fact.. over the last year, I've found myself being drawn more towards unique and subtle scents.

Enter Clubman Talc by Pinaud. This great men's talc has been around since 1810, and you can find it in practically every barber shop in the United States. Now that's some serious staying power! I got turned on to Clubman talc at a very young age, because my old man used to stock it in his barber shop. I remember him liberally dusting the neck of every client with Clubman talc. That talc "dust down" was actually my favorite part of my haircuts when I was a kid.

After drying yourself off with a towel is the best time to apply talc to your body. Talc helps to control moisture as well as dry and itchy skin. Years before deodorant and antiperspirants were developed, talc was used in its place. To this day it still remains popular in geographical areas where humidity is more prevalent. A tiny bit of talc will also tame a shiny face, and hide nicks and blemishes quite well.

Body sprays are all the rage right now, and many guys I know prefer them over colognes. I have nothing against body sprays, but like colognes, they should be used in moderation. It's pretty easy to overdue it with an aerosol body spray, and there is something to be said for subtlety.

In this day and age, many people don't feel proper grooming (or style for that matter) is a priority. Who knows.. maybe some just lack proper knowledge on the topic. You don't have to be stylish and looking in tip top shape every day of the week.. (Lord knows I don't). But at the very least, I personally feel like one should always be clean and presentable. That being said, I hope there were at least a couple of tips you could glean from Dad's guide to men's grooming.

1 comment:

  1. Blow drier, hairspray and hair gel may cause damage that we’ll soon notice as we get older. Good read.


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