As a grooming writer I’m used to providing answers to men’s questions about haircare, skincare and fragrance but the subject they’re most curious about is manscaping. Since it became ‘a thing’ roughly ten years ago I’ve written countless pieces on the subject but nothing quite as comprehensive as the guide that is my first major piece for leading men’s fashion and lifestyle blog Ape To Gentleman. A top-to-toe guide to removing hair, wherever it may sprout, it’s an ideal resource for any man wanting to pluck, prune or depilate. So grab your wax strips/razor/hair removal cream and have a read of it here.
Like many trends in male grooming, manscaping (the removal of body hair) was a bit of a slow burner to begin with, but also like many trends in male grooming – think facial hair for example – once it took hold it rapidly became the norm. So much so, in fact, that according to one survey 64% of men are now removing hair from somewhere on their bodies. And it’s clearly a trend that will be sticking around for a while yet. For proof of this you only have to look at Nivea Men’s brand new Body Shaving range. Featuring a trio of products (a Body Shaving Gel, a Body Shaving Stick and an After Shave Lotion) it’s as much a recognition that manscaping is now part and parcel of the modern man’s grooming routine as it is an opportunity to exploit a niche few mass market skincare brands have, as yet, fully explored.
Of the three new products the most interesting is the Shaving Stick. Shaped like a solid deodorant and around the same size, you apply it to wet skin before shaving. As well as having and anti-irritation formula, it’s transparent (so you can see where you’re shaving) and, cleverest of all, it’s been designed so it won’t wash off mid-shave if you’re using it in the shower. Nivea are pioneers when it comes to ‘in-shower’ technology, owning the space with products like their In-Shower Body Moisturiser, so I guess it’s no surprise that they should extend this concept to these manscaping products. The Shaving Gel performs the same neat trick but it’s the Stick that wins my vote, partly because it’s more fun to use and you don’t get gunk all over your hands when applying, but also because its ideal for travel and for gym bags. Recommended.
Nivea Men’s Body Shaving range is available now priced £4.50 – £6.
I’ve come across some truly bonkers grooming terms in my career and am often asked what’s meant by ‘manscaping’, ‘mampering’ or ‘Brotox’ so I’ve gathered together a few of my favourite (not to mention least favourite) terms for my latest Telegraph Men column. So, if you’ve always wanted to know what ‘batwing ball’ is click on the pic below!
Apart from David Beckham I can’t think of another Brit that looks as well groomed as model David Gandy. Surprisingly, though, the man himself is remarkably low maintenance, something I discovered when I played a little word association game with him earlier today. Reassuringly, I also discovered that even although he’s as near-perfect a masculine specimen as you’ll ever find, even he’s not 100% there. In fact, there’s one physical attribute many men take for granted that he’s rather jealous of…
DG: “Ok, I’ll give it a go!”
DG: “Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue of course. The fact is, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that iconic ad with the white trunks! It’s where it all started for me and is what led me to where I am today.”
DG: “Yes! Have some! Actually my hair has a life of its own. It’s so thick and curly it can be a real nightmare. Luckily I have a guy called Larry King who looks after it for me. Everyone in America laughs when I say Larry King does my hair. I have to explain to them, no, not that Larry King!”
“I don’t. Well, I don’t wet shave anyway. Haven’t for years. I just maintain a little bit of stubble with a beard trimmer.”
DG: “Hey! That’s my word! It’s one of my favourites. You’ve got to get a bit of manscaping in there I think. Absolutely!” (note David’s always-tidy trunkline).
DG: “Organic Rosehip Oil. I mentioned this a while back in an interview and everyone’s gone wild about it ever since. A make-up artist introduced me to it and it’s absolutely fantasic for hydrating skin – especially if you’ve been on a long flight.”
DG: “Never polish them! I’m all for male grooming – and it’s important to keep your fingernails – and toenails – tidy, but highly polished fingernails on men? Noooooo.”
DG: “Jealous. You know, I really wish I could grow a beard but I can’t. I have a friend who has a great one but if I try to grow one it’s just patchy – like a badly maintained lawn! I wish there was a Miracle-Gro for beards!”
DG: “Paul Newman”
DG: “Fragrance. I think it’s essential to find something you love and that suits your personality. And something women find attractive obviously!”
David Gandy also writes for Telegraph Men
The great thing about Amazon selling beauty and grooming products is that, unlike the world of magazines – where everything is fabulous and works a treat – people pretty much tell it as it is. And here is a beautiful, if eye-watering, example of that honesty in action, brought to my attention through a tweet by Beauty Magazine for whom I provide male grooming features. So without further ado…
Britain’s top male waxing specialist Andy Rouillard knows just about everything there is to know about hair removal for men. Not only does he spend his days ensuring men’s backs, shoulders and other bits are free of unwanted hair he also teaches others how to deliver perfect treatments too. So who better to provide a glimpse into the world of the super-smooth male?
GG: More and more men seem to be waxing these days. Why do you think that is? And what are the benefits of waxing?
AR: Guys have been shaving, creaming, plucking and trimming unwanted hair for years, we just haven’t talked about it quite as openly until now. We do it because it feels cleaner, cooler and more comfortable to be hair free; because we prefer the way it looks; or because our partners have told us to get it done (I stopped counting a long time ago the number of chaps that are booked in for their first ever salon wax by a wife or girlfriend).
GG: Why the sudden boom though?
AR: As much as I hate to use the ‘media influence’ argument, there’s no denying the impact that our media’s fascination with fuzz-free celebrities has had on bringing waxing out of the closet.
Need I even mention the Golden Balls Armani ad from a few years back that whipped the media up into such a frenzy of speculation over Mr Beckham’s personal hair removal habits?
The reality is, many guys saw the fuss generated by this one story and thought to themselves: “well if it’s good enough for Becks, it’s good enough for me.”
GG: What’s the most common part of the body that men want waxing?
AR: Backs and shoulders are still the most popular areas chosen for deforestation, but an increasing number of guys are now opting for more extreme manscaping in the form of Brazilian waxing. Perhaps better known as the infamous ‘back, sac and crack’ or ‘Boyzilian’, this involves the removal of unwanted hair from the crown jewels and bum.
GG: Ouch! I always wince when I think of Boyzilains!
AR: Surprisingly, it hurts a lot less than the image it conjures would suggest, and is quickly becoming one of the most requested male waxing services at salons up and down the country (although whoever came up with the name ‘Boyzilian’ needs to be shot at dawn).
Nostril and ear waxing is also very popular, which I consider less of a job and more of a public service. Seriously, there’s no excuse for nose tendrils. There are times when I have to be physically restrained from yanking hair out of the snouts of strangers in the street. I could probably get arrested for that, right?
AR: Generally speaking, wax needs to be applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite direction. Failing to follow the patterns that Mother Nature blessed you with means that the hair simply won’t come out; wax gets stuck, the skin tugs, and you end up with all manner of heartache from bruising, broken hairs and toffee-like clumps of cold wax that won’t shift for love nor money.
GG: Are there any new developments in waxing techniques or any new treatments for men?
AR: Fortunately, waxing has come a long way since the old ‘strip’em and rip’em’ style of hair removal made (in)famous by The 40 Year Old Virgin. A new generation of low temperature peelable waxes has made hair removal a much more pleasant experience in the salon. It works by ‘shrinkwrapping’ around the hair as it dries on the skin, and is then whipped off by hand instead of being removed with a cloth strip. Also, many salons are now using oil under their wax instead of powder, which stops the product from sticking to the skin and makes things a lot more comfortable.
Check what your salon uses before making a booking. For intimate waxing in particular, if a therapist comes at your boys with anything other than a bottle of oil and peelable wax, run screaming for the hills.
GG: What advice would you give to a man that is trying waxing at home?
AR: I’m undoubtedly a little biased but I am firmly of the opinion that some things are best left to the professionals – if nothing else, it’s quicker and it hurts less. However, if you really must try this at home, the secret to success lies in your prep and aftercare.
For a few days beforehand, gently exfoliate the area you plan on pruning with a body brush or scrub. This helps to slough off any excess dead skin cells and lifts the hair for better results.
Your skin needs to be clean and dry for the wax to stick. If it’s a hot day or the thought of merrily ripping your own hair out by the root brings on a nervous sweat, dust yourself lightly with talc to absorb any excess moisture.
Trim the hair down with clippers or scissors before you start: you’ll be able to see the patterns of growth a lot easier, which prevents longer tufts from becoming tangled in the wax and will altogether hurt a lot less. About 1cm (grade 3 on electric clippers) is about right; any shorter and the hair won’t be long enough for the wax to grip.
Work in small sections, applying wax thinly in the direction of hair growth and stretching the skin as you go. Lay a fabric strip down and give it a few firm rubs with the whole of your hand to get a good bond between wax and hair. Stretch the skin as taut as you can, then pull the strip off in the opposite direction to your wax application. Keep your hand parallel to the body during removal and pull quickly and in one smooth motion (don’t hesitate or pull the strip up into the air, as this will hurt like a bitch and can cause bruising). Apply pressure with a cold flannel immediately afterwards, which will cool and calm those jangled nerve endings.
Once you’ve finished, rub a generous squirt of baby oil into the area to shift any lingering sticky bits, then take a cool shower (not hot, unless you happen to like the smell of burning flesh). Smother your freshly denuded body in tea tree body lotion or aloe vera gel to soothe and protect the skin.
You’ll look like a freshly plucked chicken and will feel a little sunburnt for a few days afterwards, so you need to treat things with a little extra TLC: avoid heat and friction (no hot showers, tanning, vigorous exercise, tight clothing, etc.), keep applying the tea tree body lotion, and the job’s a good’un.
GG: Why do you prefer waxing over other hair removal methods?
AR: Shaving and hair removal creams are great for short term results or a last minute top-up at home before a big event, but they can be time consuming and only provide smoothness for a few days before the dreaded itch of re-growth sets in. Sure, waxing has an initial ‘ouch factor’ (anyone who tells you otherwise is quite clearly a liar), but it’s relatively quick, affordable, and the results last a lot longer because hair is removed at the root, rather than being simply shorn off at skin level – this also means there’s no prickly stubble as your pelt grows back. And it gets easier with every visit, I promise!
GG: And finally, what’s your best waxing tip?
AR: Ingrown hairs are the bane of waxers worldwide and can be a blot on the smoothest of landscapes. A daily slick of moisturizer and a quick buff in the shower with an exfoliating mitt or body scrub twice a week will help keep the little blighters at bay.
Zap really stubborn spots with a product such as PFB Vanish or Anthony Logistics Ingrown Hair Treatment. The key ingredient in these is salicylic acid, which acts as a chemical exfoliant to free trapped hairs and also reduces any associated inflammation. As an added bonus, these products can be used to treat razor bumps in the beard area too.
Finally, get waxed every 4-6 weeks. It may seem like a chore to start with, but this timescale encourages the hair into similar cycles of re-growth for longer lasting smoothness. Don’t shave or tweeze between appointments, and after a few sessions you’ll soon start to see what all the fuss is about!
Few people know more about the rise of the well-groomed man than Mark Simpson. Described as ‘the world’s most perceptive writer about masculinity’ and the person credited with coining the term ‘metrosexuality’ (something that’s gained him praise and opprobrium in almost equal amounts), like me he’s lived through what amounts to a revolution in how men relate to their appearance. His lastest book Metrosexy: A 21st Century Love Story has just been released, providing me with the perfect opportunity to speak to him about how men’s interest in grooming (or beauty* as ardent Simpsonistas would have it) has burgeoned over the last twenty years as well as to take a more intimate peek into his own personal regime…
GG: You and I are pretty much contemporaries and we both saw the beginnings of the grooming boom in this country. Having written my first article on male grooming back in 1985 I feel a bit like I was there at the birth and the graduation! Can you isolate one pivotal moment when taking care of their appearance suddenly became a totally acceptable pursuit for men?
MS: Well of course the youth cults of 70s Glam Rock and early 80s New Romanticism – which I believe you were pretty part of, Mr Kynaston: I’ve seen the kabuki photographic evidence – played a big role in telling men it was OK to be Prince Charming. That ridicule, in the immortal words of Adam Ant was ‘nothing to be scared of.’
But much more globally important was… Top Gun. The Tom Cruise cold-war fly-boy movie directed by Tony Scott in the style of a pop promo which came out in 1985, the year you started writing about male grooming.
After all, it’s a block-buster movie about male hair gel. Pretty much all the men in that film look fabulous, darling – even when they take their helmets off after a long, hot, sweaty dogfight. The famous volleyball sequence and long, lingering locker-room scenes also introduced a generation of young men to the delights of working out.
Despite being quite possibly The Gayest Movie Ever, Top Gun, an all-boys’ action movie, gave a generation of young straight men permission to take care over their appearance. It presented male narcissism as traditional, Republican, and patriotic. The young Tom Cruise as an All-American glamour boy.
GG: Is the rise of male grooming/beauty simply a reflection of men’s desire to be desired? Or is the availability and acceptance of grooming/beauty products driving narcissism?
MS: There’s a feedback loop between the two. On the one hand consumerism wants men to buy product – it effectively doubles the potential market for cosmetics. On the other hand… it turns out that men don’t need much persuading. Or much permission. Their desire to be desired, especially in an increasingly visual, Facebooked, webcam culture like ours, turns out to be pretty insatiable when given half a chance. So we’ve seen a kind of exponential growth in men’s interest in products that get them noticed. I mean, just a few years ago the working class orange male poseurs of ‘Geordie Shore’ would have been unthinkable, except perhaps as gay stereotypes….
GG: What’s your favourite men’s fragrance and why?
MS: To be honest, I don’t like men’s fragrances. At least on me. I like them all for about five minutes but then I get sick of them. On other men I like old stalwarts like Acqua di Gio. Even Aramis. And Jean-Paul Gaultier. Stuff like Brut or Old Spice was crap when I was a kid and is still crap, despite big recent marketing pushes. Irony doesn’t smell so good.
MS: My Phillips SensoTouch electric razor. I’m terrified of growing, even accidentally, one of those fashionable Soho beards. Wet shaving brings me out in a rash. The SensoTouch, in addition to looking like something you’d find in Darth Vader’s bathroom cabinet, is the next closest thing to a wet-shave – but with zero irritation.
GG: Ball-shaving, hair transplants, guyliner. All were once considered rather exotic but aren’t any more. Are there any taboos left in terms of male grooming/beauty?
MS: I remember that when women started having Botox injections it was said that men would never have them. And then when men started having them it was said they’ll never have them on the forehead. And now men are having them on their forehead.
It’s pretty clear that pretty much everything – with the possible exception of vajazzling – that women have used to enhance their attractiveness will eventually be taken up by men. (There is such a thing as a Pejazzle, of course, with Vajazzle.me.uk claiming 40% of customers are men. GG)
In the meantime however you see cosmetics manufacturers going to frankly camp extremes in trying to reassure the few (mostly middle aged) men who are holding out against metrosexuality that using moisturiser or deodorant is a really, really masculine, utterly butch thing to do. And not at all gay. Which is very good news for Gerard Butler and Eric Cantona’s agents.
GG: Describe your own morning grooming/beauty routine.
MS: It’s less a grooming routine these days – more damage limitation exercise. I rise and stumble into the shower. Where I remain for as long as I possibly can. I use Nizoral shampoo because I’m balding and studies suggest it can help slow that process. I use a buff-puff even though it makes me feel vaguely ridiculous because I’ve found it best for getting rid of dead skin, which I have a lot of, and unclogging pores, which I also have a lot of. Then I shave with my electric razor. I don’t use moisturiser, because I have rosacea, which gives you a big red face unless you use a prescription gel which I apply after my shave.
MS: Probably a 9-10. I’m very Graeco-Roman in regard to body hair. Shave it off, I say. Show off the musculature – and add an inch where it counts. But also, in the words of the ‘YMCA’ song, get yourself clean. Which I don’t think you can do too easily if you’re hairy. In fact, I think they should bring back strigils, the curved metal scrapers Romans had their slaves use on them in their bath-houses.
GG: Make up for men has pretty much been a flop in commercial terms with many companies who launched products having since discontinued them. Why do you think this is when things like manscaping and even eyebrow shaping have taken off?
MS: Oh, I suspect male make-up will make a comeback in the near future. I hear it’s already been a success in the Asian market. After all, make-up is just another, more ‘in-yer-face’ form of cosmetics – and even good old Gillette shaving gel is choc full of cosmetics these days.
The problem though for men’s make-up and the reason why most men in the West are still holding out against it is that it isn’t something you can deny. Most other male cosmetics come with the alibi that no, you haven’t fake-baked you’ve just been working in the garden a lot….
The problem for men is that while they are increasingly expected to and indeed want to look good, unlike women they often feel they have to go about it semi-secretly. They need to be beautiful but they should also feel slightly ashamed about it. There’s a double standard about male beauty now. Men are expected to look fabulous, but pretend that they haven’t tried ‘too hard’. Make-up is currently defined as ‘trying too hard’.
On the other hand, Russell Brand gets away with it all the time.
GG: Many commentators complain that men are ‘becoming more like women’ with their grooming/beauty regimes. What would you say to this?
MS: I think it’s more a case of men no longer tying one hand behind their backs when it comes to the increasingly important business – both in private and public life – of looking good. Happily married Lord Sugar, for example, sometimes seems to display a weakness for an attractive, nicely turned-out male candidate. And of course, more and more bosses are female.
Instead of men becoming ‘more like women’ what we’re seeing is men being less inhibited in their behaviour by worries about what’s ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. In much the same way that women have been since the feminist revolution of the 1970s. Likewise, ‘male beauty’ is no longer a completely verboten conjugation that has to always be euphemised with ‘male grooming’.
Basically it’s the end of the Victorian division of bedroom and bathroom labour that persisted for most of the 20th Century. Men want to be beautiful and sensual too now. And no one, even bitchy commentators, is going to stop them.
GG: Finally, who are your top three best-groomed men?
MS: David Beckham (now that he has dropped that Das Boot beard). Andrej Pejic. And my dad.
metrosexy is out now on Kindle. For more info click here.
For more information on Mark go to www.marksimpson.com. You can follow Mark on Twitter @marksimpsonist
* Note: I don’t have a problem with the term ‘male beauty’ at all but do believe that had ‘male grooming’ been called ‘male beauty’ all these years the uptake would have been much, much slower. I’ve spent a decade at the coal face of the industry, encouraging men – in a very practical way – to take an interest in their appearance and whilst I know male ‘grooming’ is an artificial construct to give beauty a butch face I also know it has allowed metrosexuality to flourish in a way male ‘beauty’ never would have. It may be beauty by the back door but that’s fine by me. As long as men’s interest in their appearance continues I don’t care! GG