An unscientific survey: take a quick gander at the contents of your bathroom cupboard – I’ll wait – and report back on what percentage is ‘his’ and what percentage belongs to ‘her’. If it’s anything like my household’s en-suite, it’s distinctively unbalanced, with about seven-eighths of space dedicated to my 14 nightly skincare steps (yes, I need all of those serums), countless tubs of body scrub, and a graveyard of half-full fragrance bottles. My husband’s ‘half’, on the other hand, proudly boasts a few disembodied razors, a sad little nugget of Dove soap that I’m pretty sure was there when we moved in, and a container of Q-tips. Yet, every night he’s jostling my elbow to borrow a pump of night cream and a lick of lip balm. And I know that someone has been nicking my oil-absorbing clay cleanser. While he’s loathe to fess up to his beauty secrets, it turns out that there’s plenty of men who are embracing a regular beauty routine, with the market for male-specific grooming products now the biggest it’s ever been. And that’s not including all the cleansers sneakily borrowed from their wives.
While our fathers may have not been too keen on primping and preening (my own dad swears by a dab of Vaseline and a slosh of Brut to solve any of his beauty dilemmas), the same can’t be said of our own children’s fathers, with figures from 2016 showing that men aged between 18-39 are the main contributors to a significant increase in male grooming sales boom. The market segment has been predicted by Euromonitor to reach Dh222.7 billion globally by 2020. Matthieu Guinard, CEO of beauty subscription box service GlamBox, says that he’s not surprised by an increasing interest in male grooming, suggesting that it’s men living in the Gulf that are particularly coming around to the joys of looking their best. ‘The male grooming industry across the GCC region is growing, and the demand for male grooming products increases year after year,’ says Matthieu, highlighting the ‘hipster beard’ trend as an example of men becoming more meticulous with how they look. ‘Key to the growth of the grooming market for men in the Middle East is the high proportion of young people, who are increasingly interested in taking care of their appearance,’ he says, noting that social taboos, which once implied men who took pride in their appearance were less masculine, are diminishing. Guinard says that, on the contrary, a guy liking a bit of facial serum is now seen as a positive. ‘I feel as a man, you invest more in your hair, and then your skincare routine also as a witness of your social standard.’ His company, GlamBox is putting its money where its mouth is, last month launching its first male-focused box – the GlamBox For Him, which features a curation of products ranging from beard oils to face scrubs (they have been doing the box for women for several years).
Since the late 2000s introduction of the ‘metrosexual’, there’s been less of a stigma placed on men’s grooming, with blokes equally as likely to borrow a dab of eye cream in the locker room as they are to rib their mate for using it (or so we’ve been heard). With men’s beauty routines becoming more, well, routine, there’s been a rush of dude-attuned products, treatments, and salons, each customised to be just what a guy wants. Launched in late 2016, the ‘gentleman’s parlour’ in Harvey Nichols Dubai is nestled in a corner of the menswear department. Neighboured by racks of denim and hoodies, it’s perhaps a tad less intimidating than having to battle past rows of lipstick testers and perfume salespersons just to pick up a facial toner. Stocked with everything catering from beard care, to pore-shrinking masques, the space even includes chairs for bored wives to sink into while their husbands browse from brands including Kiehl’s, Jack Black, ESPA and Clarins.
The cut-and-go mentality of male salons is also seeing an overhaul, with those in the game now seeking to return the art of the short back and sides to a more luxurious encounter. The Emirates Towers gentleman’s barbershop and salon 1847 is one of those in the region that is harking back to the days when a shave was treated as an occasion. Hamza Javed, the spot’s barber, says that men are more willing to try new things, while still being discerning about what they use on their face. ‘They are more aware about what they apply to their skin, often opting for more natural based products,’ he says. The barber notes that clients now pop in for more than just a shave or cut, opting to add on a nail care service, beard-shaping or targeted facial to maximise their time spent primping. ‘Our detox facials with natural ingredients are a must-try for removal of blackheads as well as removal of excess oil and impurities,’ says Hamza of one of 1847’s most popular treatments for his clients. ‘[They know] when you look good, you feel good!’
New to the whole she-bang (he-bang?), but interested in ramping up your grooming? It’s fine to take your time to introduce new products. Hamza acknowledges that for fresh starters, it’s all about taking baby steps to work up to a fully-fledged routine, and being encouraged by the results. ‘Start off small, invest in a face wash and moisturiser first and include it in your morning and evening routine,’ he recommends, suggesting that you store your arsenal of products in a visible corner of the shower so you remember to use them. ‘You will definitely feel and see the results, and after you’ve seen results, you will be more motivated to start using the facial scrub, eye gels, and so on.’ Matthieu agrees, pointing out that looking better is one of the easiest ways to give yourself a little lift – something your female counterparts have already caught on to (all those manicures aren’t just for our nails’ benefit!). ‘Being well-groomed is definitely a confidence booster any man should try,’ says Matthieu. ‘It’s never too late to start, and once you do, you won’t look back!’
Boys’ bare essentials
Meet the bathroom cupboard must-haves chosen by our team of male grooming experts that will keep every man looking like the best version of themselves. While products don’t have to be specifically designed for men in order to be effective, advances in research do mean that many male-branded buys will directly address common concerns experienced by men such as oily skin, enlarged pores, and having a beard. Plus, perhaps you’ll start using your own skincare instead of digging into your wife’s very expensive pot of cream, won’t you, babe?
The cleanser: Ultra Facial Oil Free Cleanser, Kiehl’s, Dh71
‘Investing in a good daily cleanser is definitely a must and should be every men’s daily grooming routine stepping stone,’ says Matthieu. ‘A deep cleanser will have a noticeable impact over time, especially knowing the dusty weather in this region.’ This cleanser will remove excess oil, without stripping the skin.
The moisturiser: SPF 30+ Face Moisturiser, Natio For Men, Dh41
Be hydrated and protected with this lightweight day cream. It absorbs super fast, helps mattify the skin, and doesn’t leave a hint of white residue on facial hair. The broad-spectrum sunscreen rating nixes the need for an extra layer of sunblock.
The face oil: Jojoba Oil, Oil Garden, Dh77
Use a natural hydrator like cold-pressed jojoba at night to replenish the skin and avoid excess oil production. Unlike traditional night creams, this lipid can also be used on beards to moisturise both the skin underneath and the hair follicles. It also works a shaving rash soother in a pinch.
The scrub: Rub Rub Rub Scrub, Lush, Dh185
While showering, work a sea salt scrub into limbs, torso and feet to slough off dead skin. It can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment on the scalp to loosen the remains of styling products, skin flakes and sweat, with a massaging touch also encouraging new hair growth. Avoid using physical scrubs like this on your face – the particles can be too tough on complexions.
The peel: Dr. LeWinn’s Reversaderm Micro-Cellular Age Correcting Peel, Dh137
Formulated with a 15 per cent GLM acid complex, this weekly peel from the good doctor is your stand-in for a facial scrub. The combination of glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids encourage deep micro-cellular exfoliation within the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while evening out skin tone.. Leave on clean skin for ten minutes, rinse off, and look noticeably refreshed in two to three days.
The styling cream: Goldwell Dualsenses Men Dry Styling Wax, Dh70
A teeny slick of a styling cream will make all the difference for a polished head of hair. Bin your hard-setting gels and opt for a natural hold cream or clay that will keep your preferred style in place, while still feeling soft to the touch. Just a small dab is needed – the buildable formula means you can always add more if needed.
The tweezers: Gear for Men Black Slant Tweezers, Tweezerman, Dh148
A little clean-up around the brows can work wonders, without making you look too ‘done’. Pluck stray hairs trailing around the temples and upper cheeks, and make sure to keep that sneaky monobrow in check. And when in doubt – ask your wife for a hand.
The fragrance: Tom Ford Noir EDP, Dh457
Top off the fresh look with a new signature scent. Upgrade from the basic sports cologne that you’ve used since you were 15 for something like Mr Ford’s sophisticated take on wood and citrus. More sensual than a bottle of Polo, but with a touch more tact than your older brother’s Drakkor Noir, Tom Ford Noir blends spicy nutmeg and caraway seed with zingy Italian bergamot and lush Bulgarian rose.