Besides the moisturizers, cleansers, and such on your sink ledge, and the body washes and shampoos in your shower, there is one ‘umbrella’ category of male-identified grooming that is essential: The maintenance of hair—and we’re talking, the hair that grows anywhere and everywhere, head to toe, face to shoulders. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this collection of hair-taming tools and products your DIY men’s grooming kit—even though it may not be contained in a literal box or kit.
Still, let’s think of this hypothetical grooming kit as a toolbox. In the latter, you’ve got to have a few essential items, or your DIY home maintenance is futile: Hammer, nails, screwdrivers, wrench, level (please don’t make me go on). A men’s grooming kit should have a roster of foundational grooming products too, which will allow you to handle nearly every hirsute task at home, from beard detailing to flyaway hair taming.
Below are the products every kit should contain—though, keep in mind, yours may require specific products that cover your unique bases. For instance, we’ll include the universal hair styler, which offers benefits to everyone in some capacity. But if your hair is, say, extremely curly or extremely thinning, you should also pack your kit accordingly. We arrived at the below items with input from Darius Davie, a men’s hairdresser and the voice behind Groom Guy Agency, as well as celebrity groomer Melissa DeZarate, with clients from Michael B. Jordan to Nick Jonas to Henry Golding.
Here are the best products to have in your DIY men’s grooming kit.
A Dedicated Hair Clipper
The biggest question, when it comes to the trimmers and clippers, is: “Can I use the same device to trim my beard and buzz my hair?” The short answer is: Not really, no. But your beard trimmer can do some hair detailing.
Pick a standalone hair clipper since it will be more powerful for the dense mowing atop your head. (Believe it or not, those hairs require more oomph than the thick, bristly beard hairs.)
“Clippers that have a rotary motor can be too powerful, therefore, may not be the most ideal in beard sculpting,” Davie says. So, it is good to have dedicated hair clippers if you’re going to buzz your own head instead of tackling the task with a standard-fare beard trimmer.
A Multitasking Beard Trimmer
A good beard trimmer can do more than mind your facial hair. It's also terrific for cleanups on the perimeter of your head hair, DeZarate says, calling attention to the sideburns, area above the ears, necklines, and lineups. Yes, it would help if you had something that can mow through your whiskers, but get one with various guard lengths and types so that you can tackle those unique cleanups between haircuts, too. It'll save you $10-20 each time you do a simple tidying.
A Lightweight Beard Detailer
Then there’s this third device, a dedicated beard detailer, that DeZarate says should always be kept separate (though some beard trimmers have interchangeable heads and master the multi-grooming function quite nicely). These detailers often help maintain errant eyebrows and nose hairs or style mustaches and beards so that they won't grow naturally. (Like giving yourself a nice John Waters pencil 'stache or a marooned goatee.) “It’s a lot harder to control beard detailing when the trimmer is bulky or heavy,” she says, underscoring the importance of getting a lightweight, standalone device.
A Body Groomer (For the Rest of You)
This device has to maintain (more or less) everything else: It’s the body groomer. This device often has a strategically angled or face-guarded trimmer that can help you achieve the appearance of smoothness. Or it can leave you with a very light layer of fuzz that you can maintain every couple of weeks or month. Its blades are typically slightly more distanced from the comb/teeth to prevent nicks and cuts on saggy skin (under the arms, around the stomach, or on the groin). And speaking of your junk, lots of people prefer to trim down there with a different device than the one used on the face—if only on hygienic principle. (But to each their own!)
A (Travel) Blow Dryer
“With a blow dryer, you’re just speeding up your styling time, and with the heat from the dryer, you’re also making your hair more moldable for whatever style you’re going for,” DeZarate says. “The heat essentially is creating the style, and the cooldown time is creating the hold.” She adds that a travel blow dryer is more than enough for most guys unless they have long hair.
You also may need diffuser attachment, depending on how curly your hair is. “When using a blow dryer, a diffuser is super helpful with not overheating the hair and allows for even distribution of heat on the curls and coils,” Davie adds. If you need one, make sure the hairdryer you purchase comes with a diffuser or is fitted for the attachment (which itself can be purchased separately). And if you can, aim for a higher wattage (1600-1800 range) plus ionic drying to expedite the dry time and minimize the heat damage.
A Heat Protectant (For Blow Dryers Only)
For the blow dryers: Always apply a heat protectant spray, lotion, oil, or cream before using a blow dryer. It will coat your hair and smooth the cuticle to trap existing moisture within each strand. This way, as the hair dries on the outside, its structure isn’t compromised, and you can avoid permanent heat damage, plus frizzing, fraying, breakage, and more.
A Safety Razor, for Frequent Shavers
“For the experienced shaver, I always say go with a safety razor,” DeZarate notes. “It’s the closest and cleanest shave you can get, short of going to a trained barber. It is tricky to learn and be good at, but once you have it mastered, your skin will be smooth as can be.” As a bonus, safety blades are cheaper to buy, and since you’ll replace them more frequently, you’ll always have a clean, sharp shave.
A Cartridge Razor, for Beginners
Most of us learn how to shave with a cartridge blade, and some guys never make the change. That’s fine, but DeZarate does think they should be reserved for infrequent shavers or beginners only. “If you’re just dipping your toes into the shaving game, start with a cartridge razor. They’re lighter and smaller, but are just generally more user friendly. You likely won’t get as close of a shave, but there is less room for error.”
An Electric Razor, For Ingrown-Prone Skin or Hasty Shavers
“If you get ingrowns frequently or break out pretty regularly, look into electric razors,” DeZarate says. “They tend to have guards on them and can only glide over the skin, so there’s less chance of cutting yourself and doing too much damage.”
And Davie adds his two cents on electric shavers: “For those who often travel or frequently shave at the gym, an electric shaver can get the job done in half the time of the traditional razor.” It’s a great way to buy yourself a few extra days between shaves if you prefer not to drag a razor over your skin every second or third day.
A Protective Pre-Shave Oil
Many guys rush through their shaving regimen and then wonder why they got so many ingrown hairs or so much irritation. Take the proper time, go slow, and use the products available to you.
Start with a warm splash of water to open the pores. Then follow with pre-shave oil, which DeZarate says is imperative since it forms a tiny layer of defense on top of your bare skin. “I know it's an additional step, but that oil is protecting your skin and saving you time in the back end when you’re dealing with razor burn and additional shaving nicks.
A Sensitive-Skin Shave Agent (Cream, Gel, etc)
Pick a sensitive-skin shave cream, even if your skin is tolerant to razors. You never know when a fragrance-free formula (with its addition of soothing, cooling ingredients) will benefit your skin. Think of any sensitive-skin formula as universally good.
An Aftershave (Balm, Ideally)
Always follow with a skin-toning aftershave balm. This will help neutralize any bacteria, disinfect and balance the skin while forming a protective layer on the outside of the skin, too—unlike aftershave toners or sprays, focusing on the balance and instant disinfecting, but not on creating a shield against toxins and bacterial intrusions). You could also pair a toner or splash with a defensive moisturizer if you wanted to split that step into two parts.
Lightweight Grooming Cream
With so many hair types and textures out there—and for each guy, a different desired hairstyle—it’s difficult to pick a universal hair styling product that every guy should own. However, Davie picked two that really can benefit everyone: a grooming cream and moisture balm. They both focus on moisture, especially since moisture loss is the biggest detractor for curly and coiled hair. The big differences between the two are their weight and hold.
A grooming cream will be lightweight but heavy enough to tame the hair while looking natural upon application. It can prevent influence from the humidity or help hair recover from an overdrying shampoo. In addition, it tames flyaways and strays.
A moisture balm is more necessary for coiled hair but is terrific for styles that need a little more weight and control. They also add and lock in moisture inside each strand and double as beard-softening tamers. In addition, balms can control pesky sideburns and tamp down flyaways, and many deliver a healthy, natural shine.