You read Highsnobiety, so we’ll go ahead and assume you’re interested in looking good. By that same logic, we know you don’t have time to waste reading the advertising of overpriced snake oil in GQ. You need a no-BS guide to grooming. (As we see it, this might be a first).
Which is why we sought out the most embittered man in the industry. More through happenstance than design he’s become an expert in making men handsome. It’s not to do with his looks (average) nor his personal preening (below average) so much as the inside track on the grooming industry he’s developed after being shoved into it by half of the world’s magazine editors.
As much as he’s been trying to avoid it to allow time for serious penmanship, grooming writing follows Alex Harris like a journalistic miasma. And despite wanting to do something – anything! – else, his work on the subject has been published around the world for sites such as Men’s Health, The Sunday Times and Mr Porter. So here's another one.
I’m honored. Really. Of all my grooming columns, this is...well, the latest. I avoid it for a reason: it’s mainly nonsense. Cleansers, toners, serums and all the other crap by which men are utterly bewildered, are products worth using. You know that. You just don’t really know how. But that’s not your fault. Things have gotten confused. But fret not, dear reader. Floundering somewhere, amidst the swell of marketing jargon, bad journalism and French sex talk, is common sense.
So consider this column your weekly fix of just that. Remember it during those moments you’re drowning in the numberless moisturizer options. Contemplate my words the next time you’re rubbing anti-aging cream on your elbows and waiting for handsome to happen. Things can get unnecessarily complicated. I’m going to make them simple. Someone has to.
We’ll start at the beginning. Here’s how to wash. Because you’re probably doing it wrong.
So let’s talk dirty. We have more active grease glands than women (an actual scientist told me that), which is why that face of yours likely secretes oil with as much reckless abandon as the Saudis (he didn’t say that bit). But then, depending on the biochemical clusterfuck of chance that is your unique hormone profile, you might be one of the minority prone to dry skin.
A self-test first: touch your face. Go on, do it – I don’t have all day. What do you feel? We need to find your place on the skin-oil scale. Dryer than a Bernie Sanders pep talk? Or sweatier than Donald Trump holidaying in Cancun? The former demands careful cleansing with lighter products (more on that in a moment) and next-to-no exfoliation, because you’re susceptible to irritation, you sensitive boy. The latter requires more frequent washing, as your mug is brimming with outbreak-causing oil. If you’re somewhere in the middle, find a middle ground.
Highly-scented cleansers will irritate drier skin, so opt either for something with less fragrance or that uses scents au naturel. Natural products are better and therefore generally more expensive. But you’re investing here – everyone knows washing your face properly will translate into swarms of wanton women pursuing you in perpetuity like some sort of less-shit version of The Hunger Games.
I wholeheartedly recommend Aesop’s Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser for that purpose.
While it does contain lactic acid – a gentle exfoliator – it’s milder than mild and therefore suitable for all skin types. Wash with it twice daily – a bean-sized blob is fine – upon waking and before bed. But if you find this dries-out your skin, reduce it to once a day. Be gentle while you’re at it, applying to damp skin using the first three fingers of each hand. Rub in circles and avoid the eye area – the skin is super sensitive here and excess pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels and leave you looking beat-up. So just don’t. I won’t say it twice.
For those of you with oilier skin, a more regimented wash is required. I’d still recommend only exfoliating intermittently, with very small blobs applied with barely-there pressure (tune in next week for a riveting exposé on exfoliation), as it can be like dragging your face through gravel. But you really need to cleanse twice a day. Pleasingly at the lower end of the price scale but with decent results is Clinique’s Oil Control Face Wash.
But if you’ve a little more dough to play with, Dr Sebagh’s Breakout Foaming Cleanser will simultaneously purge your face of oil and tighten pores. Apply as explained above.
Now, a final word. Face-washing in the shower is a rookie error to which many of us have become ruinously prone. The heat strips it of moisture you want to keep. Instead, create a lukewarm water bath in the sink, cleanse (try Perricone MD’s Citrus Facial Wash if you’re a dry skin kinda guy), moisturize immediately after drying.
The number one rule is less is more. Give your skin a break: smaller blobs; fewer products. Follow the above lessons for good looks and I guarantee you’ll turn your life into a cyclical prison of sex from which death is the only escape.
Results may vary.
"Hit me with your grooming questions below so I don't have to come up with column ideas myself can answer them next week." – Alex Harris