Natural grooming for men
A good grooming routine means one that you can follow easily. For skin care, consider a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer suitable for your skin type. But what about the ingredients themselves?
A 2016 report by Environmental Defence revealed that many men’s products contain ingredients linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, reproductive concerns, and environmental damage. Fragrance, triclosan, parabens, and phthalates are just a few common ingredients of concern.
Thankfully, there’s a multitude of safer men’s grooming products available at natural health stores:
- natural toothpaste (consider powder or tablets to help reduce plastic packaging)
- skin care, such as cleanser, toner, and moisturizer
- deodorant (check out those with eco-friendly packaging)
- shampoo/conditioner (solid bars are very popular these days)
- hair styling products, such as wax or pomade
- beard oils
- shaving products, such as shaving oilsor solid soaps and brushes
- plastic-free safety razors with recyclable blades
- soap (bar or refill soap is the most sustainable)
Answered by an expert
I interviewed Michael Levine, salon owner and international educator, to gain insight into men’s grooming. Here’s what he had to say.
In general, how often should men get haircuts?
“If a man wants to maintain a look and has short hair like a fade, anywhere between two and four weeks is normal,” says Levine. “But if he’s a bit more carefree, let the look evolve, as long as it’s looking good. If he can be receptive to how the hair is changing as it grows and is happy with the look, leave it for a couple of months.”
How often should men wash their hair?
“It all depends on product use,” Levine explains. “If the hair product contains oils, waxes, silicones, and other ingredients that can clog the hair follicle, I recommend no more than two days between shampoos. And make sure to use a shampoo, not a ‘2-in-1,’ which often won’t fully cleanse the hair and scalp.”
Is conditioner necessary? What about shampoo?
“I personally don’t like to condition as I like some volume and height in my hair,” Levine says. “Conditioner can add some weight. So, for shorter hair, I recommend a good cleansing shampoo.”
According to Levine, “There are some good hair and body bars available today, but I’d rather use a shampoo and then wash my body with it than try to find a bar and use it on my hair. Easier to portion and to travel with. Just make sure to not use a mint shampoo on the body. It can be a little too ‘stimulating’ in more sensitive areas!”
Supplements to know
Certain herbs and supplements are used to help improve skin health and/or hair growth, including:
- topical peppermint oil
- hyaluronic acid
Correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies (such as vitamin C and selenium) may also help. Check with your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement or using an oil, to ensure it’s right for you.
What can be done for thinning hair?
“I believe in scalp health,” says Levine. “A man should be using quality products and cleansing his scalp regularly. Avoid tight-fitting hats, which can constrict blood flow to the scalp, and get regular exercise to increase circulation. Blood feeds the hair follicle, as well as everything else, so good circulation is essential to hair health.”
Levine suggests speaking to your stylist and health care practitioner about solutions and treatments. However, as Levine attests, “You can just accept it, cut your hair short, or shave your head and free yourself from any of this hassle.”
What do men overlook when it comes to grooming?
“Eyebrows! For the love of God, trim your eyebrows,” Levine exclaims. “A little tweezing is fine if you have a monobrow (don’t overdo it) … But trimming is essential when the brows get long. Cutting them back instantly makes a man look younger and more alive.”
How can guys shave like a pro?
“I always preferred a quality shaving oil rather than a foam. Oils add more ‘glide’ than creams and foams and make it easier to see what you’re doing,” according to Levine. He recommends warm rather than cold water and changing blades often. “But … we’re seeing stubble being acceptable in “most workplaces.”
What’s the key to a good beard shape?
“A beard should enhance or mask certain aspects of the face. If you have a wide face,” Levine advises, “don’t let the hair grow too long at the cheeks and temples, and consider going a little longer at the jaw and chin.”
Breaking down the terms
- “Natural” means derived from nature rather than manufactured in a laboratory. However, natural products don’t inherently mean safe, just as synthetic products don’t mean unsafe.
- “Organic” personal care products should be certified. An organic certification means adherence to strict rules about synthetic substances and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the growing process.
- “Cruelty free” means not tested on animals, whereas “vegan” means no animal-derived ingredients.
- “Chemical free” is a bit of a misnomer, as everything is technically a chemical. It’s more helpful to discuss specific toxins.
What do you recommend for hair styling?
“I like a good quality thickening product blow-dried in to maximize thickness and density before applying a small amount of low sheen or matte pomade or wax product,” says Levine. “Men often don’t get their hair dried first before using a finishing product, and using the right product with a blow-dryer first can make a huge difference … If you have longer hair, I recommend the exact opposite. Towel dry and put a light, cream-based product in and just let it air dry. Keep it simple.”
What about waxing?
Do men wax? Absolutely! Look up wax bars near you that offer services for men. Popular choices include the chest, back, and shoulders. Sugaring is also a wonderful alternative that is growing in popularity.
Ethical fashion, for men
Clothing production is notoriously harmful for the planet, as well as for garment workers. What are your options?
- Buy far less clothing overall.
- Choose second-hand when possible. (Specialty consignment stores for men offer excellent workwear and formal wear.)
- Choose quality products that will last you for years.
- Repair rather than replace.
- If buying new, support small businesses using eco-friendly textiles and dyes.
This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of alive Canada magazine, under the title \”Men\’s Natural Grooming Primer.\”