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50 things you must know about grooming

An essential guide...

50 things you must know about grooming
05 October 2011

A wet shave and a wash with soap and water may have sufficed for your dad but nowadays splashing on a bit of Old Spice is no longer considered an acceptable grooming ritual.

While many of us have invested time and money into pots and potions, what do we really know about our bodies? What's the difference between an ingrown hair and a spot? Who has more sweat glands men or women? What makes it a cologne or an eau de toilette?

If any of those questions has got you reaching for Google - don’t. Our grooming expert Ahmed Zambarakji has debunked 50 grooming myths so you don’t have to.

Ahmed Zambarakji is the Grooming Editor of Shortlist MODE and also blogs at

Delicate skin

The skin on your lips and surrounding your eyes is four times thinner than the stuff that covers the rest of your face. Always treat it gently and with a specialised product.

Sweat glands

Women have more sweat glands than men. And yet men tend to sweat twice as much as ladies.

Judging on appearances

Most psychologists concur that it takes less than one second to judge someone by their appearance. Just saying.

Does sweat smell?

Sweat itself doesn’t actually smell of anything. It’s only when it comes into contact with the bacteria on your skin that your unique brand of man smell becomes apparent.

How much water do you lose?

The average guy can lose two and a half litres of water while working up a sweat at the gym. You might want to keep a bottle of water handy.

An almighty beard is easier than you might think

Facial hair grows at a rate of 1.3 cm per month. That Gandalf beard is not as impossible to achieve as you might think.

The dandruff curse

Dandruff can appear anywhere there’s hair. Anywhere. If you’ve noticed a snowstorm on your shoulders, check to see if you’ve got flakes in your eyebrows or other hairy bits.

Why do us men groom?

Let go of the stigma associated with grooming. Unlike women, 70 per cent of men don’t groom out of sheer vanity. They do it first and foremost to boost their self-esteem.

The cause of dandruff

Dandruff isn’t caused by a dry, flaky scalp. A dry scalp is actually very rare. The white flakes are the visible result of skin cells reproducing too quickly and shedding to make way for new ones.

Your skin and shaving

Forty per cent of guys shave every single day. Which doesn’t give their skin much time to recover. Give your beard a break every now and then.

Against the grain, or with it?

Shaving against the grain is fine. So long as you’ve shaved with it on the first pass and then re-lathered.

Self-tanning explained

Self-tanning products usually contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a derivative of fructose, commonly used as a food colourant. It was discovered to have an effect on skin colour when a nurse accidentally spilt cough syrup containing the chemical onto an unwitting child and ended up staining the little tyke.

Sensitive skin

Most men misdiagnose themselves with sensitive skin. Chances are it’s a shoddy shave and the wrong product that’s causing any redness or irritation.

Why you need a good night's sleep

Skin will respond better to a product during the night because it isn’t busy defending itself from all the smoke, pollution and other aggressors it encounters during the day. Invest in a night time recovery product to work through the wee hours.

Looking younger means living longer

Age isn’t a state of mind. Recent research by Danish scientists has shown that those who look younger, tend to live longer. A study of 387 twins aged seventy to ninety-nine, showed that a person’s perceived age is linked to how long they’ll live. Those who looked younger had longer telomeres, key pieces of DNA which indicate the ability of cells to replicate.

Blackheads uncovered

Blackheads aren’t black in colour because of dirt clogging up the pores. The colour is due to the oxidized sebum stuck in there. Whiteheads, conversely, stay white because they’re stuck under the surface of the skin where no oxygen can get in and discolour the sebum.

Your career depends on your looks

Forty-five per cent of high-flying execs admit their appearance has helped fast track their career.

When acne isn't acne

Sometimes what looks like acne isn’t really acne. Folliculitis – an inflammation of the hair follicle – is caused by shoddy shaving. Bacteria enters and infects the follicle, causing nasty a red bump that looks a lot like a nasty zit. Don’t be fooled.

Be good to your pores

To achieve a clean, rash-free man wax or body shave, abstain from hot water, chlorinated pools or exercise. Your pores will be open and more prone to irritation for around 24 hours following depilation.

Always be prepared

A close shave isn’t just about using fancy products or a high-tech blade. It’s all in the preparation: a hot towel, a good scrub and enough shaving product will upgrade your shave dramatically.

Sweaty feet

Most of your sweat glands are on your feet, not under your arms.

When to start a fresh blade

Most modern blades should last an average of one week but this will vary depending on how often you shave and how thick your beard is. If the lubricating strip has faded or you notice even the slightest bit of drag at the beginning of your shave, bin it and start again with a fresh blade.

Why cologne is bad for your skin

Most guys have learned to douse their faces in alcohol-based products (like a fragrance) when they’re finished shaving. The burning sensation might feel like it’s doing good (or even ‘disinfecting’ the area) but it’s actually drying out your skin even further. Use a post-shave balm to soothe the skin instead.

The source of oily skin

If you have oily skin, resist the temptation to strip it dry with a harsh cleansing product. Doing so forces the oil-producing sebaceous glands into overdrive, which will leave you worse off than you were to begin with.

Apply sunscreen correctly

Don’t wait until you’ve found your spot on the beach before you slap on the sunscreen. Always apply sunscreen at least half an hour before you go outside – it needs time to react with your skin in order for it to work.

Start your damage control now

Bad news: The ageing process starts in your mid-20s, when cell regeneration beings to slow down. Even though the outward signs of age might not be visible yet, it’s worth putting some damage control in place by investing in an anti-ageing product.

The difference between men and women is skin deep

Not all skin is created equally. Men’s skin is oilier than women’s, 20 per cent thicker and has 22 per cent more collagen. All the more reason to invest in your own products, rather than swiping the girlfriend’s pots and potions.

Avoid the Ooopa Loompa look

Faking that jet-set hue isn’t as simple as rubbing yourself down with a tanning product. Avoid looking like you’ve been Tango’d by exfoliating the day before you apply any kind of self-tanner. A skin cuticle that is flat and smooth will allow for a more even, longer-lasting tan.

Men shave a lot

The average guy will shave around 20,000 times in his lifetime. It might be worth learning how to do it properly.

Why some men go bald

Anything from iron deficiencies and thyroid issues to scalp infections can provoke the onset of hair loss. ‘Male pattern baldness’, however, is a hereditary condition that involves excess levels of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that causes hair follicles to weaken and eventually stop working altogether. It’s always best to see your GP and figure out the underlying issue before you start looking at different forms of treatment.

The secret of a close shave

Pressing harder with your razor, and increasing resistance, isn’t going to get you a closer shave, it’ll get you more redness and irritation. Use long, soft strokes, not interrupted, aggressive ones.

Why it's important to choose the right scent

There are some 40 million sensory receptors stuck up your nose. They’re designed to carry information directly to the brain and can have a profound impact on your physiological and emotional state. Calming or invigorating scents can therefore have a profound impact on your wellbeing.

How to make the most of thinning hair

If your hair is starting to thin, avoid using a hair dryer as heat styling fries the cuticle, causing irreversible damage. Always towel-dry your barnet instead.

How often do you reapply sunscreen?

An SPF 50 isn’t ‘stronger’ than an SPF 30. The number simply indicates how long a product will stay put for. To be on the safe side, avoid the midday sun, and reapply every two hours.

The grey escape

Many men believe that stress or shock has turned them grey. Studies have shown that the ‘overnight’ appearance of grey hairs is typically due to Alopecia Areata, when thicker, darker hairs suddenly shed, leaving only the grey behind.

Get rid of spots

Toothpaste won’t ‘dry out’ zits or make them disappear. The best products for spots contain glycolic or salicylic acid and / or benzoyl peroxide.

Don't pull out grey hairs

Plucking the odd grey hair won’t cause another four to appear in its place. It will, however, mess up the roots and potentially cause scarring.

Don't use soap and water

Using soap and water to wash your face isn’t a good idea. Soap has a higher pH level than skin and the alkaline environment will cause breakouts and irritation, not to mention dry out your skin.

Banish dandruff for good

Just because you can’t see white flakes, that doesn’t mean your dandruff is gone for good. The fungus responsible for dandruff can still be present on your scalp, patiently waiting for the next inopportune moment to cause a snowstorm. All the more reason to continue using an anti-dandruff shampoo long after the more obvious signs of the condition have gone.

The difference between deodorants and antiperspirants

Antiperspirants are not more dangerous than deodorants because they plug up sweat glands. Your underarms constitute just one per cent of your total body area, so there will always be other places where the body can sweat out toxins and maintain a cooler temperature.

Dry shaving v wet shaving

Dry shaving won’t get you a closer shave than a wet shave. It’s just more convenient. Twenty-five per cent of guys prefer it for just that reason. Whichever method you chose, stick to it and avoid chopping and changing – your skin needs time to adapt to a new shaving method and will probably react in the process.

The science behind bad breath

The average gob contains somewhere between 500-600 different kinds of bacteria. Bad breath is more often down to these little blighters rather than what you had for lunch.

Eau de toilette and cologne

The difference between an eau de toilette and a cologne is in the alcohol content. Beware, though, most American companies tend to use cologne as a generic term for any kind of men’s fragrance.

Where can you find antioxidants?

Antioxidants actively help fight the free radical damage that causes signs of ageing. One of the most effective antioxidants comes in the form of Resveratrol, which can be found in gastro staples including red wine and dark chocolate.

Athletes foot

Athlete’s foot can be found in locker rooms everywhere. The problem is usually caused by moisture in your sneakers or too much friction. Keep your gym shoes for the gym and invest in another pair of sneakers for normal everyday use.

Why you should avoid a hot shower

Enjoying a hot shower or setting the heating on full blast might seem like a good idea during the British winter, but the high temperature actually zaps your skin of that all-important moisture and causes further dehydration.

Shed your dead cells

Exfoliating helps shed layers of dead skin to reveal a smoother surface – much like sanding down a plank of wood. Aim to exfoliate twice a week for a fresher, brighter complexion and less shaving-related problems

Moisturiser is important. Take note

A body moisturiser really shouldn’t be used on your face. The skin on your face is a lot more sensitive and requires a specialised product.

The importance of eating right

Grooming isn’t just about what you stick on your face, it’s about what you put inside your body too. If you’ve got dry skin or are prone to eczema, gorge yourself on oily fish. The omega oils they contain help nourish skin at a cellular level.

Wash your sheets

Changing your pillowcase regularly is a good idea if you suffer from breakouts on your face. Also avoid using a fabric conditioner in your wash as many of the ingredients are comedogenic (blackhead-producing).