So you thought only women agonized over pimples and gray hairs? Think again. Men don't have to be obsessed metrosexuals to care about roughened cuticles, regular hair trims and a moisturizer.
While they might not swap testimonials as often as women do, a growing number of men are beginning to search out fountain of youth down the beauty aisle.
Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail marketing and retail consulting firm in New York, predicted such almost a decade ago.
"In a speech in 1996 to retailers, I said that the new trend in beauty care is going to be men. The main reason being an aging population and that men are going to find that women have the clues to looking young. If they want to compete in business, they'll need to look great," she told the group.
The national "How America Shops" 2004 survey that Liebmann's firm conducted found that 73 percent of all men purchase haircare products (97 percent of women do), 55 percent plunk down money for skincare needs (88 percent of women do) and 53 percent purchase fragrance (whereas 82 percent of women do).
She says it's not a special kind of man who grooms. It's a generation of men. "Those men under 30 grew up in a different grooming environment than their fathers and grandfathers," she says. "There's a willingness to go beyond." They're getting facials, haircolor and regular manicures.
Others agree. "Looking your best is more important today in our image-conscious world, and men are starting to realize that it's more than just a good shave," adds Nordstrom national beauty director Debbi Hartley-Triesch.
Here are a few pointers for the rookie groomer:
Hartley-Triesch says today's grooming regimen begins with good, basic skin care that goes beyond soap.
Here, she outlines a few key essentials:
1. Add a face scrub to your regimen (twice a week), which will help to slough off oil, dirt and dead skin cells. "They're easy to use in the shower, and it will improve the way you look and give you a closer shave," she says. "Automatically, you're going to look better."
2. Hydrate your skin with a moisturizer. "Even the man who thinks he has oily skin should use one," Hartley-Triesch says. "Everyone needs hydration, but especially men because they shave every day and a moisturizer adds comfort to the face after shaving."
3. Invest in an eye cream. Understandably a step often skipped by most men, Hartley-Triesch says it's probably the most important. "It might feel uncomfortable. But a great eye cream will hydrate the skin around the eyes, reduce puffiness and minimize the signs of wrinkles," she says, "which is the first step to prevention." And don't worry about cutesy packaging or fragrances, either, she says, because most eye creams marketed for men are unscented gels and liquid creams that come in discreet tubes.
But why fall for the hype? Can't a guy simply use his girlfriend or wife's stuff? Hartley-Triesch says no. "A man's skin is different from a woman's," she says. "And they have the element of shaving every day. They need products that speak to that."
The No. 1 skin issue for most men is shaving.
Overwhelmingly, it's the concern that male patients broach with St. Peters dermatologist Guadalupe Sanchez.
Generally, she says, men tend to have thicker skin and more oil on the face than women, which is one of the reasons they "don't tend to age as much."
But fellows with sensitive skin, acne and ingrown hairs from improper shaving, she says, often find the ritual of daily shaving a hassle.
1. Shave after a shower so that the skin is hydrated and the beard is softened. And stow away the razor in a dry place (not the shower) to keep bacteria at bay.
2. If you have acne, put a warm compress against your face first, and then shave with the grain of the hair and "try not to stretch the skin when you shave."
3. Apply a sunscreen, which will double as a moisturizer.
4. Those with acne may need to use a benzoyl peroxide when they wash their face.
5. Men with really sensitive skin might require a mild cortizone cream following a shave to soothe razor burn.
6. Men with flaking around the nose and brows might mistakenly think that they have dry skin and need a moisturizer, but Sanchez says that condition is often caused by inflamed oil glands and a moisturizer can aggravate the situation.
Her main advice: "Be gentle and as clean as possible."
"More and more men are interested in how their hair looks, and that it looks good," says Kim MacKenzie, salon manager of Trade Secret at the St. Louis (Mo.) Galleria.
Getting serious about haircare for the first time? MacKenzie says develop a system you can live with. Invest in a good shampoo, conditioner and styling product, MacKenzie suggests, making sure to steer clear of products that contain hair-stripping negative alcohols like SD-40 or ethyl alcohol.
MacKenzie says hair only really needs to be washed every other day with a moisturizing shampoo. (Men who use hard gels for spiky looks might try a clarifying shampoo once a week.)
And figure in a regular hair trim at least once every four to six weeks, she says, to get rid of dead ends.
When it comes to head-to-toe grooming, nail care can become a biting issue. For some men, it's just not the macho thing to do. But for others, its a secret obsession.
"Men who are in business fields should care about it. You don't want dirt under your nails when you're being exposed to the public," says Dawn Huffman, salon director of BeautyFirst in Chesterfield, Mo. She recommends a basic nail trim at least once a month.
The average guy, she says, has only had one manicure in his lifetime: right before his wedding day. "Most would rather scrub them at home with a nail brush and soap."
Want to get started? Soak your hands in warm water for five minutes. Use an orange wood stick to push back the cuticles. Then take a nail brush and scrub the fingertips to get dirt from underneath the nails.
Now, you're ready to clip. Huffman says start on an angle to trim the side of the nails, then cut across. "Don't just clip one area and rip it off," she says.
Afterward, follow the nail trim with a bit of filing to smooth the nail's edge.