Like eating well or regular exercise, grooming is about all about future-proofing our physical appearance, and often all we need is the knowledge. There’s enough to fill a book, and it’s right here: Vain Glorious: A shameless guide for men who want to look their best, penned by lifestyle columnist, former editor of Esquire and former head of MR PORTER, Jeremy Langmead, with Dr David Jack. It’s a useful compendium of men’s grooming advice told through the witty lens of Langmead’s own experiences road testing the most effective ‘tweakments’ and treatments – and we thoroughly recommend it.
In celebration, we asked Jeremy Langmead, as well as a handful of our favourite experts, to weigh in with 14 tips and tricks that every man should know. We’re not pushing Swiss health clinics or luxury face creams here; most of these hacks require minimal effort or expense and they should help you spend your hard-earned cash more wisely.
So, let’s start in an obvious place, with the face…
Turn up your brow power
When it comes to making an impression, “eyebrows hold far more power over your face than you may realise,” says Langmead, “too close together and you may look furious, too thinned out and you’ll appear surprised. The right shape and density can lift, strengthen and frame your face.”
So, how do you get the best brow shape? Threading is the professional method, however it can smart more than having your nether regions waxed. No pain, no gain, as they say… but bear with it, because it does get less eye-watering.
Trim don’t pluck
If you want to take care of your brows yourself, put down the tweezers and pick up the straight nail/beard scissors instead. “Eyebrows seem to be almost as prone to trends as other facial hair, and you need to consider the long term effect of any tweaking,” advises Langmead.
“It’s better better to trim than to pluck as eyebrow hairs often don’t grow back. As you get older, your eyebrows may become uneven as they lose hair more on one side than the other, so keep an eye on this, so to speak.”
Mind the gaps
For a very natural, nobody-will-notice effect that makes a difference, fill in and enhance your brow. “A bit of colour in an eyebrow gel brush will give your eyebrows some definition and make your eyes look more prominent (try Tom Ford’s Brow Gelcomb). Or a clear brow gel, if you prefer no colour, will help shape and tame your brows and keep the strays in one direction (try BBBLondon Clear Brow Gloss).”
That’s brows done.
While contact lenses can be more liberating, “if you wear glasses, you may find (as I do) that the frames usefully disguise bags under your eyes and even minimise the appearance of crow’s feet,” says Dan Rookwood, co-founder of sustainable hair care brand alott.co.
Got perfect vision? Get the same benefits with clear or blue light lenses instead. Of course, if your eye bags are permanent and prominent, a blepharoplasty is the procedure to have them removed, and it can make a huge difference.
You need a sea salt spray in your life
When it comes to multi-functional styling products, sea salt spray can tick all the boxes. “Sea salt spray is by far the best way to give fine, thinning and normal hair some texture and stop it looking too flat, thin or lifeless,” says Langmead. “It’s better than a wax, gel or clay as it won’t weigh your hair down, is easier to apply all over the head in the right quantity, and enables you to work a short haircut into something a little more messed up and styled.”
Dan Rookwood agrees: “a salt spray is a surprisingly useful addition to your grooming essentials. It can tame just-washed hair and unruly curls, and it can also rescue dirty or greasy hair when you’re short on time.” Try alott’s, it’s good. It’s scented with bergamot and contains Halen Môn salt from Anglesey.
Your skincare routine should extend to your scalp
It’s often overlooked – even when it’s on full display – but your scalp (and by extension, your hair) will benefit from a little attention. The founder of Adam Reed London and ARKIVE Headcare, Adam Reed, tell us his mantra for scalp care:
“Exfoliate. Exfoliate. Exfoliate. Treat your scalp like your face. Use an exfoliating scalp scrub once a week to effectively remove product build-up, while combating any dryness and flakiness to restore the scalp to optimum health. The right ingredients will improve scalp moisture and hair shine and promote blood circulation improving the health of the hair follicles.”
The Crown Scalp Scrub contains baobab oil, lactic acid, caffeine and invigorating menthol to make your scalp feel tingly and your follicles feel alive.
Prebook routine barber trips
So much about looking presentable is about being organised, whether that’s packing everything you need for a trip, remembering to polish your shoes or dry-clean a suit, or managing your diary. There’s always that big meeting or event where you’re left feeling less polished than you’d like because you never got round to booking a haircut.
So, the next time you’re paying for a service, try and book the next appointment at the same time. “Get into a routine and stick to it,” says Reed. “It’s easier to notice men’s hair growing faster, because it’s shorter, so make it a habit – every three weeks for a hair and beard trim – and it will help to increase and sustain your confidence.”
Don’t cut your beard too short
It might be tempting to cut everything shorter to put off the next trim, but does it suit you? “A lot of people, especially with their beards, will go way too short and think ‘I’ll grow into it’,” explains Reed. “It really isn’t worth it and you’re much better off going for a style and length that actually works for you than to save a trip to the hairdressers.
“A way to combat this and be able to go a bit longer between trims is getting a really good razor just to keep your edges tidy and sharper for longer. Speak to your barber or stylist and see what they recommend.”
You don’t need to wash your hair as often as you think
“Hair is a bit like fabric and it doesn’t like to be over-washed,” says Jonathan Van Ness, star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, hair stylist and founder of JVN Hair. “When it’s unnecessary, over-washing is a mistake because it dries out the hair. Unless you’re getting your hair super dirty, every 2-3 days, or even longer, is fine. I also recommend a serum – not only does it have heat protection, it helps to balance the moisture in your hair from root to tip.”
The Instant Recovery Serum is a weightless formula that strengthens the hair follicles, protects from heat styling and smoothes out flyaways.
Send your hair to rehab
It’s not only the frequency, the type of shampoo you use to wash your hair is also important. Styling products, natural oils and regular shampoos can cause gunk to build up at the roots, so hair needs a regular detox to return it to ‘factory settings’.
“It’s a known fact that men produce more sebum than women, yet a lot of men still don’t realise that they need a high quality clarifying shampoo,” explains Neil Moodie, famed session stylist and founder of Neil Moodie Studio, a new destination coming soon to Spitalfields, London.
“Clarifying shampoos have the most hair and scalp cleaning power of all shampoos, and should be used once or twice a month, never as a daily shampoo. This will get rid of product residue and accumulated sebum, improving dry, flaky scalp too. Whenever your regular shampoo starts leaving the hair feeling oily, flat or dull looking, it’s time to use a clarifying shampoo.
“Leave it on for 1-2 minutes before rinsing out so it can get to work. While clarifying shampoos remove the bad from your hair, they can also remove the good, so using a conditioner afterwards helps your hair regain moisture and shine.”
If it works for Tom Ford, get onboard
“I interviewed Tom Ford once and he told me he uses Just For Men to cover up his greying stubble,” says Rookwood. “You just need to be very careful in how you apply it and how long you leave it to develop, so that it doesn’t look Rylan-obvious. My tip: apply it the night before.”
As your stubble will go grey much faster than up top, this trick can take more years off than a face lift.
Be beard wise
“Without a doubt, keep your beard clean,” says Reed (which should be obvious for something that acts like a hairy bib all day). “You can absolutely use a good traditional shampoo. However, a co-cleanse (conditioner cleanser) is amazing for cleansing and moisturising the beard in one. Finally, find a really good hair oil – grab a pump in the palm of your hands and massage it through.”
Dan Rookwood is another fan of beard oil because it’s, “often a significantly cheaper, longer-lasting and gentler alternative to its partner aftershave.”
Respect your microbiome
Our understanding of the microbiome (the collection of microbes that live on or inside us) and how to keep it happy has evolved considerably in the past five years. “Your microbiome is a wonderful defensive system for your skin that not only protects it but is also involved in everything from hydration, to skin barrier maintenance to managing sensitivity and even anti-ageing,” explains Rob Calcraft, skincare expert and founder of Cultured Biomecare.
“We now know that healthy skin needs a healthy microbiome. So, the answer is men should care for their skin microbiome if they want their skin at its healthiest, strongest, glowing best.”
How to do that? “Use a clean razor, don’t abuse your skin, get a sweat on regularly and use products that support a healthy microbiome,” says Calcraft. “Strong skin comes from being gentle. Get a decent cleanser and avoid soap because it’s alkaline which is horrible for your microbiome. Use a mask once a week – gentle exfoliation works wonders!”
The Cultured One Mask is like a re-set button for your skin, containing a tri-acid complex of succinic, lactic and malic acid to brighten and exfoliate.
Signature scent? You need a wardrobe
You wouldn’t wear black tie to lunch or a suit to the beach, and that’s how you should view fragrance. There’s a time and place and what works in one scenario can be less suitable for the next. By all means, have one that you prefer to wear most of the time, but give yourself a few more options for the evening, winter and summer.
It’s nice to have a specific holiday scent, that way, the memories are only a whiff away. With effervescent notes of pink pepper, rose, frankincense, patchouli, musk and sandalwood, Brioni Eau de Parfum Éclat is the well-cut linen suit of the season.
Pressed clothes can detract from a less-than-fresh complexion
A crease-free shirt can offset a lined face, so if you’re going out-out, iron two shirts at the same time so you’re prepped for the morning. “The art of pulling off a hangover is as much about deflection as trying to counteract the obvious signs,” advises Langmead.
“If you’re feeling worse for wear and your skin looks a little crumpled and sad, and you have no grooming products to hand, wear a crisp pale blue shirt. The crispness of the shirt will somehow lift your face, and the pale blue colour will give your skin some zing.”