Grooming goes mainstream for Irish men

Caomhan Keane decides it’s time to look after his skin, but he doesn’t know his serums from his scrubs. He talks to the experts

Caomhan Keane with some many grooming products available to help hydrate your skin. Picture: Dave Meehan

As a sprightly-eyed youth I was a lucky man. Freckles I had, but pimples, pucks and puss were a cross I didn’t bear, a by-product of sulking my free time away indoors with the curtains pulled.

And when my hormones made themselves known-via a personality transplant that was one part Noam Chomsky, one part ‘Leave Britney Alone”, they left my skin, for the most part, unblemished.

Throughout my twenties, I rarely graced a bright day without raising my trusty sun-brella. If the sun broke through the clouds, I broke for the shade. I worked and socialised late into the evening, restricting my access to daylight. And while my lifestyle during this period has most likely taken years off my life, it also took years off my face.

For a time.

For when aging’s paw-prints- and those ironically named laughter lines, appeared on the windows to my soul, I was in desperate need for some flesh-sanitising Windolene, to scrub away the drying, tightening and reddening of skin that highlighted the slow rot of my aging flesh.

For all my hysterical panic I didn’t think I was in a place to inject toxins in my face. Nor was I up for peeling or blasting anything. Each brand claimed to have found the elixir of youth, the miracle solvent that would make me look like David Beckham… when I really want to pass for one of his sons.

Aidan Corcoran, part of Brown Thomas’s beauty style team, thrust a dagger directly into my fragile narcissism. “In your 30s you notice the damage you did in your 20s. You loose quality and elasticity in your skin. You don’t look as fresh in the morning. It’s a downward spiral. Your 20s are about prevention. In your 30s, it’s about damage control.”

Dehydration is the most common problem men face. “Your skin is thirsty, lacking moisture, vitality.” Then there are environmental issues, like air-con at work or sun damage. The brighter your skin is, the healthier it is. “But it can often look dirty and tired, with yellows and purples blemishing the skin of people who drink too much or smoke a lot.”

But while men may be growing in confidence when it comes to the process of skin care, packaging is another thing. Products are strictly presented in boxes black, silver or chrome. “For Men” must be printed in masculine fonts across it.

“Men’s skin is thicker and oilier than women’s but the ingredients are almost exactly the same as their girlfriend’s,” laughs Aidan.

I make an appointment with the Grooming Room on Dublin’s South William Street to find out more about my own features. “75% of our clients are male,” Reelika Joesalu tells me, referring to Eve, the Grooming Room’s female sibling, which is in the same building, though men and women use separate entrances and sit in separate waiting rooms. “They come here to get an idea of what products they should be using. Or if they have a problem - such as acne, or excess oil production, and need an extra boost to help with their skins maintenance.”

Face mapping

We start with the Dermalogica Face Mapping, a complimentary skin analysis where she figures out what my skin is lacking (moisture) and what it possesses (to my horror there are quite a few blackheads).

Then we proceed to the Dermalogica Prescriptive Facial (€75). A double cleanse gets rid of every-day pollution, which opens up my pores, which are cleansed by a double exfoliation, making my skin shine like one of Naomi Campbell’s blood diamonds.

Under my face’s bonnet, dead skin and sebum are removed, as chemicals from the serum help the enzymes penetrate beneath the surface, before my face is steamed, to facilitate the removal of the black heads.

Post extraction, lotion closes my pores down- so they’re not dilated, and an oatmeal mask soothes the redness caused by extractions. Removed with a hot compress, Reelika adds moisturizer and anti-aging eye cream, and then prescribes a regime I can follow at home.

“Men wouldn’t go to the same extent as women when it comes to having too many products. If they cleanse and moisturise everyday and exfoliate once or twice a week, that would be great, taking five minutes every morning and evening to ‘feed’ your skin. During the day your skin is in ‘protect’ mode. At night it does repairs.”

Most men simply use shower gel, or baby wipes. “But, since the skin on your face is of a different texture to the rest of your body, this strips away your natural oils and dilates your pores.”

Aidan recommends instead that I use a foaming cleanser like Clinique Face Wash (€23), which takes only excess oil off and removes bacteria, that results in unsightly blemishes.

“Wet your skin with warm water to open your pores, then massage it in with a circular motion, before dabbing it off. Rubbing will cause friction damage.”

Clinique Custom Repair Serum (€57) penetrates deeper, delivering the appropriate ingredients to start correcting damage and helps the chemicals in the Bobbi Brown Hydrating Gel Cream (€52.50) hydrate my face and repair environmental damage. Being a man, the stank of a product is supposed to make me break out in macho hives, but I loved the smell of tropical grass extract so much I smothered my face in it, like that nun with a sweet tooth in Father Ted.

I equally loved wearing Tom Ford’s Anti-Fatigue Eye Treatment (€65), which was basically a triple espresso for my eyes. Enriched with caffeine it forces the capillaries beneath my eyes to open, so more blood can get through to pump up my skin. And the metal tipped applicator not only cools the skin, but the panic tightwads like myself have about whether we are squeezing too much out of these expensive products

To finish I add Tom Ford’s Hydrating Lip Balm (€25) which seals in moisture. They say a watched pot never cooks. But a watched face certainly ages.

The more I looked in the mirror over the six weeks, the more blemishes I came across.

“If you haven’t used professional products before what can happen is that they lift any impurities up to the surface, so you get break outs,” Reelika says. “It can take a few weeks for the skin to calm down.”

I inevitably got the measures wrong, using up within weeks a month’s supply.

While my skin swiped left on certain products, becoming dry and flaky, not because the products were bad, but since they weren’t suited to my skin.

But in that same period I also developed a notable softness as my skin became more hydrated.

I was on the receiving end of unsolicited comments about my appearance, specifically about how ‘healthy’ I looked. I was once even asked for ID.

As Julie Burchill points out, a pretty face is not a passport, but a visa, which runs out. At a certain point it’s not just about looking your best, but looking after your skin as you would other parts of your body

BOX OUT: FIVE OTHER PRODUCTS FOR THE BAG

NO 7 ADVANCE ANTI-AGING BUNDLE: (€74)

Retaining a youthful aura ain’t cheap, with some serums costing upwards of €600. But Boots offer this terrific pack, containing day and night moisturiser, eye cream and serum that not only not break the bank, but are considered by 2/3 of the men who use them as the best anti-aging product they’ve ever applied.

DERMALOGICA DAILY CLEAN SCRUB (€30.95)

My face is regularly adorned with what could be politely called Bum Fluff — an insult to both arses and lint. But men who shave regularly need to exfoliate the skin, to free the moisturiser and oils that are trapped screaming beneath.

DERMALOGICA CHARCOL RESCUE MASQUE (€48)

If you suffer from acne this all-in-one treatment masque detoxifies, brightens, and invigorates normal to oily skin. Brilliant for areas of excess oil production. A fast-acting, easy-to-remove formula rescues tired, lackluster skin. And if you enjoy a good sniff, this one stinks of a gin-soaked barbecue.

SUN CREAM:

Sun cream is the cheapest and most effective skin protection, bar a glass of water. High winds can result in broken capillaries, strip moisture and result in redness. Even on a cloudy, overcast day men should wear at least factor 15, ideally factor 30, though most moisturisers contain SPF now.

TOM FORD BROW GEL COMB (€44) :

For men who look more like Frida Kahlo than Freddie Ljungberg, a clear gel can be combed through the brow, to leave them looking groomed and refined. Aidan says this is particularly popular with Premiership footballers.

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