Men are born to solve problems, not forecast them
Give us an engine rattle and we’ll just step on the gas. But show us an oil pan full of troubled transmission parts and we’ll spring into action–if not by hoisting a ratchet, then at least by lifting the hood on the yellow pages. We’re no different in front of a medicine cabinet. In fact, if women didn’t insist that we make ourselves presentable, we’d probably all walk around looking like Cro-Magnons. Clearly, motivation matters. That’s why we asked a few ladies to write about the powerful impact of great scruff, skin, and scent to anchor Men’s Health’s fourth annual grooming awards. Their words, plus this year’s crop of best new products and cutting-edge tips, will help you look your best. Read on and reap the rewards.
“Old” is all in the eyes
Wrinkles, bags, and dark circles in the delicate skin around your eyes increase your “apparent age” more than changes in other facial features do, according to new research from France. “As the skin loses collagen and elasticity, repetitive contractions like squinting can etch deep lines,” says Rhoda Narins, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU’s school of medicine. Here’s how to turn back the clock.
Keep your chin up
Gravity pulls fluid downhill as you sleep. The result? Puffy bags. Reduce them by slipping an extra pillow under your head.
Cover your assets
Wide-frame sunglasses or UV-protective prescription glasses can curb squinting and shield skin from the sun.
Freeze out lumps
Placing chilled spoons or cotton balls dipped in a 50/50 mix of cold water and milk over your eyes in the morning for 5 minutes can reduce swelling.
Can’t wait for clear skin?
Skip the soap. Instead, wash twice a day with Zirh Wash facial cleanser ($14, zirh.com). Harvard researchers found that washing any less increased the incidence of acne lesions by up to 30 percent. Any more dries out your skin’s delicate oil balance, says Kenneth Beer M.D., a dermatologist based in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Your lips require protective custody
Your lips can have as few as 10 layers of skin, compared with 20 or more elsewhere on your body. “Men are less likely to wear glosses and lipsticks, so their risk of lip cancer is three times higher,” says Vilma Cokkinides, director of risk-factor surveillance at the American Cancer Society. Use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply it at least every 2 hours if you’re in the sun. You should also add a protective swipe in the morning and at night before bed to stop splits and rehydrate the skin.
A menu can be a mirror
Your waistline isn’t the only thing affected by what you cram in your belly. Some foods and ingredients can change your appearance in other ways.
People with diets rich in vitamin C decreased their odds of having fine lines and dryness by up to 11 percent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To boost your C intake, eat papayas.
In the same study, a diet rich in linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid found in nuts, olive oil, and eggs) also showed age-preventive effects. What’s more, Korean researchers found that skin treated with eicosapentaenoic acid (an omega-3 in fish oil) had 79 percent fewer collagen-destroying proteins after exposure to UV rays. Drizzle olive oil over cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) for a boost of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Increasing your daily intake of carbohydrates by 50 grams (a medium order of McDonald’s fries) or fat by just 17 grams boosts your odds of having wrinkles by up to 36 percent—independent of both age and sun exposure–according to a British study. But you’ve already sworn off those deep-fried death sticks, right?
Adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of flaxseed to your diet could save your hair. Taiwanese researchers found that 50 milligrams a day of lignans, the disease-fighting compounds in flaxseed, slowed hair loss in 9 out of 10 participants in 6 months.
Sharp objects can be good for your skin
Dragging a blade across your face may seem like a daily act of violence, but shaving actually helps keep your skin fresh. “The low-grade friction from shaving stimulates collagen production and smoothes the skin. That’s one of the reasons men typically have far fewer wrinkles than women do,” says Dr. Beer. The key qualifier: low-grade friction. Researchers have found that as little as a quarter of shaving debris can be hair; the remainder is sloughed-off skin cells. A rough cut removes cells that aren’t ready for eviction, causing irritation, says Dr. Beer. Your job is to ensure a smooth transaction. Here’s how.
A pre-shave oil does more than just help the blade glide across the skin. The lube helps plump up dead skin cells with moisture, pushing them away from the face and leaving them exposed for cutting. Prepping with a hot washcloth on your face can further prepare your skin and hair. More tips:
Help the blade glide, not grind
A 2007 study in the Journal of Materials Science revealed that moistened hairs require 30 percent less blade force to cut than dry ones do. Minutes matter here: Stubble (and the skin beneath it) needs at least 3 to 4 minutes to absorb moisture. Less pressure means less pulling, which can reduce agitation of the hair follicle and create a cleaner cut along the middle of the hair. That translates to fewer ingrown hairs.
Close up shop
Finish with a hydrating post-shave cream to protect pores and provide a more nurturing environment for the rebuilding process beneath. Think of it as greasing the union contractors. Our favorite finishing touch? Clarins -Men Skin Difference ($36, clarins.com).
30,000 Average number of hairs on a man’s face
0.3 Daily increase in length (in millimeters) of facial hair
27.5 Average length, in feet, of facial hair a man will shave during his 55 years of adulthood
Source: Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps
Your skin can lead your nose
Your skin type determines which natural oils will mix with a fragrance, so it can be a useful starting point for finding the right scent. Teresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, suggests these templates.
Your skin tone: light to medium
Fairer skin is often drier, so it won’t retain subtle scents as long as other skin types will. Choose a crisp, accented fragrance that lasts, like the fresh citrus bouquet of Dolce and Gabbana Pour Homme Light Blue ($55, www.dolce gabbanalightblue.com) or the (manly) floral scents in Armani Code ($55, giorgioarmani cosmetics.com). These intense notes won’t fade as fast as more understated ones will.
Your skin tone: medium to dark
Medium-to-dark skin pumps out more natural oils, giving scents longevity and enhancing fragrances. More nuanced scents, such as amber, will linger longer, while bolder notes, such as the tobacco and wood scents found in Tom Ford for Men ($60, tomford.com), can create unique combinations with your natural musk. The darker your complexion, the bolder you can go.
Scents are seasonal
Use less cologne in spring and summer. “As your body heat builds up, the fragrance intensifies,” says Molnar. “Sweating adds to the effect.”
A fragrance can improve your sex life
All smells are not created equal. In a study by the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, women were turned on by wafts of licorice, cucumber, and banana-nut bread, while cherries and charcoal-barbecue meat were big turnoffs. Your best bet to set an olfactory lure? Seek out colognes with cucumber, such as Polo Blue ($50, ralphlauren.com), or anise, such as Cereus No. 11 ($125, cereusdevelopment.com). When in doubt, sprinkle on some baby powder, says Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., of the foundation. “It makes women feel secure.”
A smell should grow on you
“Genes, diet, hygiene, and skin type can all determine how a fragrance will smell on you,” says Molnar. “The biggest mistake men make is buying a cologne based on a quick sniff at the store and not giving it time to mix with their body.” It’ll take 10 minutes for the alcohol to evaporate and the scent to mingle with your own chemistry, so hold your fire on the credit card until it does. And limit yourself to testing three scents a day. The nose is overwhelmed by any more, says Molnar. You may also want to rethink that tandoori lunch: Certain foods, especially garlic, olive oil, onions, and curry, can transmit their smells through your sweat and oil glands and may change your cologne scent, says Wilma Bergfeld, M.D., head of dermatological research at the Cleveland Clinic.
64: Percentage of your “smell” that comes from a fragrance, as opposed to your natural scent
Source: Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Scent: The single most decisive physical factor (more influential than looks) for determining a woman’s sexual attraction to a man
Source: Rachel Herz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Brown University and the author of The Scent of Desire
1: Percentage of genes in the body that govern scent