Everybody loves a good ad campaign that’s not targeted to them. It gives you a little respectful distance. I’ll give Dr. Pepper some credit—when they declared their new ten-calorie option was “NOT FOR WOMEN” it was the first time since fifth grade that I wanted a Dr. Pepper. Anything advertised as for men has my attention. Like boyfriend jeans—even though they’re not exactly men’s pants, that pedigree is immediately appealing. Men’s stuff feels expansive and cozy, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time—something that lets us explore the other side.
And so many times I find myself wandering down to that back cigar room in every Sephora, away from the pink and purple color schemes, to the woodsy, black, navy, and sandalwood-heavy layouts—the promised man’s land. I always wonder if their grass is greener.
It’s a wonderful thing to see how lavishly groomed and indulgently kept the modern man lives. There are a few ways to approach the genre—you can channel a little classic menswear-aficionado, androgyne-spirit insouciance and imagine you’re Katharine Hepburn using all of Cary Grant’s grooming products while he’s away or offscreen...or dallying in Vegas; or you can go full Patrick Bateman and take it all murderously serious. Any way you lather it, exploring men’s products means you’re in for a vaguely woodsy and surprisingly luxe good time.
Half the joy is, of course, the vocabulary. Where I’m usually lulled into time-stretching lavender-laced escapist indulgence with women’s products, I found myself all of a sudden super-charged, power-washing, maximally efficient, and scrubbing at an incredibly high rate of speed exhorted by the verbiage of men’s products’ back labels. Words like “blast,” “turbo,” “maximum,” “extra-strength, “space age,” and yes, “penetrating,” This is hardly even to mention the deep and abiding entrenchment in sports metaphors. Let’s not huddle around that pitch. Or whatever.
But the one part of the routine that wasn’t a rush to the goal line was shaving. Shaving seems to be this calm oasis in men’s grooming routine. And I, too, took more time than usual. After I was finished, I half expected a beautiful woman to come up behind me and touch my neck and chin like in the Gillette commercials. Even though I was shaving my legs. Now that I’ve seen how good a leg-shave can be, I’ll never go back to running a disposable razor through off-brand conditioner again. My legs looked like first-day-shaved legs, three days later. I prepped the skin with Art of Shaving Sandalwood Pre-Shave Oil, then whipped up a lather of their Shaving Cream, also in Sandalwood. It glides over skin like liquid cashmere. For those more inclined toward wielding a tube (and enjoy the science-class thrill of seeing a clear gel foam up into a white froth), there’s Harry’s Foaming Shave Gel — the nozzle looks like Robocop.
For the face of the well-appointed modern man, there’s Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator line—the Daniel Plainview of your pores. That oil is gone, Eli. DRAIIIINAGE. I used the Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash for Men(which, true to its gentlemanly nature, didn’t strip) in alternating conjunction with Clinique Skin Supplies for Men Liquid Face Extra-Strength , with which I might mix a little tea tree oil for Ultimate Facial Invigoration. It’s also pretty fair at makeup-removal. The Kiehl's Oil Eliminator 24-hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer for Men was perfect for mattifying my sequin-shiny nose. But the real winner here is the Kiehl’s Heavy Lifting Eye Repair cream from the Facial Fuel line. Like racecar wax for dark circles (the original man-bags). Spongy-creamy and scentless, it’s ideal for a face that stays otherwise bare. It’s not so great under makeup. I can’t really fault it for this, but concealer sort of tugs across it instead of glides. So, night cream it is! And a lovely one. I was as refreshed as my Instagram page after I post a pic.
For body, there’s Jack Black’s Performance Remedyline, featuring the literal all over-winner Turbo Wash Energizing Cleanser for Hair and Body. Boy, am I a sucker for a 2-in-1, and this is the best I’ve ever had. I’ve had to restrain myself from throwing every other shower product away. It’s a great shampoo—sulfate-free!—and the smell is more botanical-researching-mountain-man than middle-school-boys’-locker-room. My hair comes out voluminous and perfectly messy. I honestly haven’t found a better shampoo. So many times if a product claims to be shampoo-cum-bodywash, it’s the shampoo function that suffers. Not so here.
You can follow up that Ultimate Cleansing Experience with the Jack Black Epic Moisture MP10 Nourishing Oil post-shower. It’s described as a men’s oil, with argan, marula, and grapeseed mixed in among other unctuous high-pedigrees. This product gave my legs a gorgeous sheen post-shave—like Miami bikini-model level of leg shine. I found it a little too synthetic-feeling to put on my face and neck, so I tossed it over to my boyfriend. The true genius of this product was shortly revealed—it’s one helluva beard oil. For a man who’s working on a full beard—and will secretly confide that he’s worried his facial hair looks too pubic—this is ambrosia of the (male) beauty gods. This oil taught me that all men’s products aren’t just women’s products wearing navy stripes and bold Helvetica. There really are products uniquely formulated for and beneficial to men. And I respect that now.
So what’s it like to be a modern man in the bathroom? It’s a luxuriously tailored experience—richly scented and deep blue all over. A beautiful place to visit with killer souvenirs. It’s almost as fun as being a woman.
Photographed by Tom Newton.