I’ve been known to steal a men’s razor or a particularly intoxicating cologne from time to time, but never have I ever even considered trading my beloved blond-enhancing shampoo, sweet-smelling body wash, or (gasp!) gentle detergent-free face wash for anything with the word “men” printed on it. But as a beauty editor, I get to try all sorts of things I never thought I would. Naturally, at first I was hesitant. But then that got me thinking… What exactly was I hesitant about? Skin is skin. Hair is hair. Is my skin really that different than a guy’s? Which then got me thinking about why men’s product lines even exist—are they really necessary? Are the specific needs really that different? With all these questions in mind, I packed away my color-toning conditioner and snagged some beard oil.
Scroll through for all the dirty details on my week using only men’s grooming products!
I wasn’t super-nervous about this particular category, until I started looking at my options… This is when I first learned one of the major takeaways from my experiment: Men love two-in-ones (and three-in-ones and four-in-ones)—perhaps even more than women do. That, or they just really hate showering. Or maybe it’s not that they hate showering, but rather they’ve got showering figured out. Just find one product that does it all, and you’re in and out of there in a flash. One last theory: Men hate conditioner. Which actually makes sense. If you have short hair, there’s not as much of a need for conditioning. Clearly I’ve digressed. The moral of my story is while women’s shampoo-and-conditioner combos are plentiful, finding a men’s shampoo and conditioner is tough.
I opted out of the four-in-one body, face, hair, and shave products when I glanced at the ingredients list and found sodium laureth sulfate holding the number two spot. Instead I used I.C.O.N.’s Mr. A Shampoo. My initial reaction was “yikes, I can’t remember the last time my hair felt this squeaky clean!” I think I actually heard it squeak when I was rinsing. So I wasn’t expecting to like the results, but once my hair was dry, I didn’t hate it. It was shiny and certainly clean. For “conditioner,” I used V76 by Vaughn’s Well Groomed Ultralight Cream ($26), a styling cream that doubles as a leave-in conditioner—a phenomenon I found occurring frequently. (Apparently men like two-in-one body wash and shampoo, and two-in-one conditioner and styling products.) The styling cream was nice—not unlike others I’ve used (other than the distinctly male scent). I also used beard oil (yes, beard oil)—Beardbrand’s Blank Slate Beard Oil ($15) to be exact—for my ends. Perhaps I’m just not well groomed in the application of beard oil, but I think I overdid it, because it made my ends look a little too oily. But this was the first product I encountered that didn’t smell like “men’s product.”
I’m not what you’d call a “hair girl” (if that’s even a thing). Most days it’s wash-and-wear, and that wear is typically a bun or a ponytail. So this area wasn’t too traumatizing for me. My hair got greasier a little quicker than it usually does, which made me miss my dry shampoo, but overall I was not dissatisfied with my men’s haircare products.
Serious question: Do guys like the smell of men’s product? I guess they must. Which leads me to wonder what they think of the berry/peony/vanilla body washes lining shower walls for women everywhere. Personally I think my citrus shower gel is on the milder side of the women’s fragrance spectrum, but that’s beside the point. Neither of the men’s body washes I tried—Boots No7 Men’s Energising Hair & Body Wash ($8) and Molton Brown’s Sport 4-In-1 Sportwash ($24)—were what I’d consider mild. Regardless, they got me clean, and despite the harsher-than-I’d-prefer ingredients, they didn’t leave my skin feeling dry. There’s nothing life-changing about men’s body lotion, either. Molton Brown’s Sport Body Hydrator ($26) was exactly what I expected after using the body wash from that line. I also used Gentleman's Brand Co.’s Daily Moisturiser ($38), which is a basic lotion that smells like lotion (aka heaven at this point).
Cologne is like any fragrance. There are hundreds of women’s scents I’d never wear and a few I enjoy. The same is true of cologne. The Spadaro Noche Del Fuego ($135) that I selected is a little spicier than I’d normally choose, but it’s not overpowering—it’s actually pretty light. The combination of bergamot, patchouli, sandalwood, honey, and black pepper smells like a vacation to me. In fact, I think I’ll continue to wear this one.
Not really sure why, but I went through a phase in high school where I used men’s deodorant (Old Spice, in case you’re wondering). I don’t remember it being overly fragranced, but I can’t say the same about my experience this time around. If you look at the men’s section on Sephora, deodorant falls under the “fragrance” category, right next to cologne. Using men’s deodorant really made me miss the “original clean” scent of my Dove Advanced Care deodorant.
In the interest of editorial integrity, I even ditched my wealth of hand creams for a men’s version, Ahava’s Time to Energize Mineral Hand Cream ($20). Personally, I hate when a hand cream is too fragranced. Of all the super-fragranced products I tried, this hand cream was the one that bothered me the most, for the same reason I don’t like overly scented women’s lotions—I don’t need to get a whiff of a rose garden (or a dude) every time I tuck my hair behind my ears. That said, this hand cream is super-rich. And if you know how I feel about hand and nail care, you know that’s a good thing.
This is the part I was most worried about—skincare. Men’s products may be all about that squeaky-clean feeling, but I am not. Give me a couple of gentle, soap-free cleansers; a few serums; and a light moisturizer, and I’m a happy girl. I gave all that up for a cleanser with “oil eliminator” in the title and a few different face lotions. Apparently men aren’t into serums, so as much as it pained me, after cleansing with Jack Black Pure Clean Daily Facial Cleanser ($19) or Kiehl's Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash For Men ($22), I immediately applied my moisturizer. I used Gentleman's Brand Co. Daily Moisturiser ($38) and either Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20 ($48) or Ahava’s Time to Energize Age Control Moisturizing Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($32). Jack Black smelled less like a dude and had a slightly higher SPF, so if I had to choose, that’d be my favorite. My skin didn’t get crazily oily or break out like I expected it to, but I did miss my SkinCeuticals like crazy.
Are men’s and women’s products really that different? No. Apart from the differences in fragrance, nothing I used stuck out to me as something I wouldn’t find in a “women’s” line. If anything, it seems like men’s products are just a step behind. All of the cleansers I used for hair, body, and face used sulfates, detergents, and other harsh ingredients that were common to the majority of beauty products up until a couple of years ago. Now, it’s hard to find a women’s shampoo with sulfates, and women aren’t as apt to choose those foaming cleansers when they’ve got a number of other deep-cleaning, non-stripping options. Perhaps men’s products will catch up to the latest trends women have been embracing for the past few years, but until then, I’ll stick with my women’s beauty products.
What beauty products do you borrow from the boys?