They say the road to an ugly mug is shaved with good intentions. OK, so we may have taken liberties with the idiom, but still, you may be unwittingly derailing your get-clean routine.
We consulted top grooming gurus and discovered that from your locks to your toenails, there’s a good chance you’re doing it, well, wrong. And whether you’re trying to score a first date or nail an interview, your grooming mishaps could be preventing you from putting your best foot—and face—forward.
But fear not. Hear are the 10 biggest grooming fails men make, and how to fix ‘em:
1. The Fail: Cologne overkill
“If there’s one thing guys are guilty of when it comes to fragrance, it’s applying too much,” says Barney Bishop, scent expert and founder of the men’s fragrance website FragrantMoments.net. “A quality scent will make a statement for you. You don’t need to use more to make sure she notices you.”
The Fix: Err on the side of caution. For heavier, spicier colognes, you should cap it at two sprays. For a lighter fragrance—think citrusy scents—you can get away with three. As for location, your neck and chest are solid choices, but to ensure your scent lasts, try spraying it on pulse points lower on your body—like behind your knees or your inner ankles. As your body warms up throughout the day, the heat will cause the fragrance to rise.
2. The Fail: Product overload
When it comes to hair goop, less is more. “A big dollop of gel or cream whacked onto the top of the head and then furiously worked through the hair is not the way to go,” says Nick Arrojo, owner of Arrojo Studio in New York and former stylist on TLC’s hit makeover show What Not to Wear. The result of this type of heavy-handed hairstyling: stiff, sticky locks and product flakes that resemble dandruff.
The Fix: Use only a nickel-size blob of styling product and work it through damp hair, from roots to ends. “This gives more even product distribution, and keeps your hair touchable and moveable,” says Arrojo.
3. The Fail: Balding denial
Receding hairlines are like political cheating scandals; the more you try to cover them up, the more obvious they become. Slicking your strands straight back can compensate for bald spots, but it will only highlight your retreating hairline.
The Fix: Keep your mane to a minimum. “When hair is cut short, the strands tend to sit on top of each other, which gives an illusion of fullness,” says Arrojo. Aim for about ¼ to ½ inch on top.
4. The Fail: Insufficient rinsing
Shampoo is designed to dissolve dirt and oil, but if you don’t spend enough time under the showerhead, it could have the opposite effect. “If you don’t rinse thoroughly, you’ll have leftover suds in your hair that will actually attract dirt and buildup, causing your hair to get dirtier, faster,” warns Arrojo.
The Fix: Lather, rinse, and rinse some more. And stick with a light shampoo. “Most men have short hair and don’t use harsh dyes or hot styling tools, so they’re better off with a lightweight shampoo that doesn’t leave too much weight in their hair,” says Arrojo. “This makes it easier to style.” Look for sulfate-free shampoo; sulfate is what creates the suds, and fewer suds make for a lighter product. Another simple shampoo-assessment trick: Look at the liquid itself. “The more transparent it is, the less artificial ingredients it has, and the lighter it will be,” he says.
5. The Fail: Rounded toenails
“Men often cut their toenails in a rounded shape, cutting off the corners with their clippers,” says New York City podiatrist John Brummer, D.P.M. The problem with this method: it increases your chance of developing painful ingrown toenails and nail-fold infections, which sometimes have to be surgically treated. Ouch!
The Fix: Go square, or go . . . to the podiatrist. “The best way to avoid this problem is to groom toenails straight across without digging into the corners,” says Brummer.
6. The Fail: Shaving with cold water
Cold water may feel refreshing on your skin, but it can put a serious damper on your shaving experience, says David Laureano Jr., barber manager at The Art of Shaving. Warmer water opens your pores and softens your facial hair, making for a much smoother, more comfortable shave.
The Fix: Shave in the shower or after with hot water—the steam will soften your beard—and splash your face with cold water after you shave to close your pores and fend off irritation.
7. The Fail: Going against the grain
Shaving against the direction of hair growth can irritate your skin and cause unsightly bumps and painful ingrown hairs, warns Laureano.
The Fix: For a closer and smoother shave, go with the grain with the first pass of your razor, lather up again—with a generous coating of shaving cream—and then shave against the hair growth. To further prevent irritation, Laureano recommends gently patting, not rubbing, your face dry and applying an alcohol-free aftershave balm or cream.
8. The Fail: Severe soaps
The soap aisle is not the place to assert your masculinity. “Men seem to think that they need harsh soaps to get clean,” says Jeffery Dover, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine and director of SkinCare Physicians in Boston, “but these cleansers dry out the skin, causing irritation and a less comfortable shave.”
The Fix: When shopping for body soap and facial cleansers, look for words like “gentle” or “mild” on the package, and avoid strong detergents like sodium lauryl sulphate, as well as harsh deodorant soaps like Irish Spring, which can dry out your skin, according to Dover.
9. The Fail: Forgoing moisturizer
Moisturizing may sound like a lady move, but there’s nothing attractive about flaky skin. Plus, it prevents your razor from gliding smoothly across your face, which leaves you prone to nicks and bumps.
The Fix: Simplify your post-shave routine and save cash by using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15, like Burt’s Bee’s
10. The Fail: Skimping on sunscreen
Speaking of SPF, according to a recent Skin Cancer Foundation survey, only half of men use sun-protection products on the reg—a major misstep when you consider that skin cancer is the number one cancer among men and sun damage is the leading cause of premature aging.
The Fix: For adequate protection, the Foundation recommends applying at least an ounce of sunscreen (about the size of a golf ball) to exposed skin, including your eyelids and the top of your head, as we reported in The Most Surprising Spots for Skin Cancer. And make sure you choose a sunscreen with a scent and texture you like, so you’re more likely to use it. “Make sunscreen application part of your everyday routine, like shaving and brushing your teeth,” recommends Dover.