Society and culture do not encourage men to participate in self-care. In most instances, the mere idea is regarded as vain, wasteful, or frivolous. But if you want to feel confident, look healthy, and make good impressions in both your personal and professional life, grooming and self-care are invaluable. And there’s nobody more suited to help you navigate this world than Jonathan Van Ness, a hairdresser and TV personality most famous for his work on Netflix’s new Queer Eye series.
Brimming with enthusiasm, humor, and confidence, Jonathan (also known as JVN) beautifully helps men get on a more intentional path for modern grooming with equal parts wisdom and positivity. His expertise is simple, succinct, and ideal for those of us who need a little help understanding how to best take care of our hair and skin – because, as he puts it, “how you take care of yourself is how the world sees you.” Below are ten of Jonathan’s best tips, culled from the first two seasons of Queer Eye.
Keep Your Products Handy
Create a go-bag with your necessary daily use items, like hand sanitizer, moisturizer, sunscreen (don’t forget: SPF isn’t just for blocking the sun – it‘s crucial for keeping your skin looking good), wipes, chapstick, a comb, and mouthwash. With this kit, you will never be caught unprepared if you’re running late to work, school, or an event. Keep it in your daily work or school bag or by your front door at home, to grab on days you know you might need it. Stock your go bag with mini sizes of your favorite grooming products – the travel aisle at Target is a great resource.
Don’t Wash Your Hair Every Day
Anyone with long hair could probably have told you this before Jonathan laid it out for several men on Queer Eye, but: shampooing your hair every day is not a good idea. It will strip away natural healthy oils, split the ends, dull your shine, and serves only to make future hairstyling efforts more difficult (weakened hair is not as versatile as healthy strands).
Think of your hair like a good pair of jeans – you definitely don’t wash your best jeans every time you wear them, because that would ruin them. Your hair will look healthier and shinier if you scale your shampooing back to 1-2 times per week and switch to more natural products, like a cleansing oil shampoo.
Bonus JVN tip: don’t wash your hair just because you get a little sweaty after a workout or a day out in the sun. The sweat and oil on your scalp can add great texture and shine to your hair – just use a blow dryer and/or some dry shampoo to maximize nature’s free hair products.
Know Your Beard Boundaries
If you are a bearded man attempting to look sharp, you need to know what you’re doing. Beard length and shape can make or break whether or not your facial hair “works” – a mismanaged beard will take attention away from your face. Trimming and tapering your beard to mimic your face and accentuate your chin, jawline, and cheekbones will help you look more like a movie star (think Chris Evans or JVN himself) rather than a castaway or fictional CIA agent who fell deep undercover.
A key distinction with any beard is how far down the neck your hair should extend. Jonathan’s top tip? Put your finger on your Adam’s apple – that’s just about the absolute farthest point to which facial hair should travel down your neck. Use that mark as your guide for maintenance every few days.
See how Primer reader Shane Martin uses his beard to change the shape of his face.
Floss of the Future
We can be honest with each other: nobody wants to floss, nobody likes to floss. Plus, it’s the 21st century – shouldn’t there be a device that makes the process of getting things out from between our teeth easier? Well, there is! It’s called a water flosser (the most popular brand name is Waterpik, you may have heard of it).
While this tool is not a new invention, its popularity has exploded in recent years, for good reason – water flossers are better than regular floss, and integrating one into your daily routine is exceedingly easy and useful. Just remember to wipe down your bathroom mirror after using it.
Keep the Edges Clean
Maintaining your ear hair, nose hair, and eyebrows is not something most men have a lot of experience with – nor is it something most barbers will take care of. But it is definitely a grooming must, and it’s actually super simple to keep these areas under control.
While Jonathan regularly uses sensitive nose wax to help men tame wayward hairs, there’s a much easier option: An electronic nose/ear hair trimmer! They are affordable and painless. Think of it as the specialist that your clippers call in once or twice a month – when things get extra hairy.
Don’t Believe Labels
Companies aren’t stupid – they know how to grab your attention. They’ll use certain words and images to do that, regardless of their veracity. As Jonathan so eloquently pointed out about a shampoo that was misleadingly labeled as moisturizing: “she’s a liar”.
Labels aren’t always honest! The best ways to verify a product’s claims are to check the ingredients list and consult reviews to get an accurate idea of what the product can and cannot do. Any product that contains a sulfate (a detergent also used to clean car engines) might make you feel clean, but Jonathan compares them to an assault rifle – they’ll clear everything out, including the good stuff. Sulfates will not do your skin, hair, or body any long-term favors, especially when it comes to something like moisturizing.
Pass the Smell Test
Spraying cologne all over your neck and wrists may be what your grandfather did; it shouldn’t be what you do. When it comes to making yourself smell nice but not overpowering, Jonathan cites a longstanding Queer Eye three-step process: spray, delay, walk away. Spray the scent into the air in front of you, pause for a moment, walk through that pleasant-smelling mist, and you’re done.
From the Back to the Front
Whether you’re blow-drying with a round brush or just adding product to your hair (JVN recommends pomade most often), your hair benefits when you start from the back and work towards the front. This ensures uniformity for your look, avoiding an embarrassing “well-coiffed party up front, neglected business in the back” situation.
You Don’t Need a Ton of Time
Even for the father of six who works two jobs, Jonathan stressed that a good grooming regimen doesn’t take long at all – not if you make it second nature. In the same way that brushing your teeth is just a natural habit in the morning, moisturizing your skin after a shower or using a water flosser in the morning can very easily become part of your routine.
If you don’t believe me, time yourself trying out some new routines – you might be surprised at how non-demanding self-care can be. Also: having that grooming go-bag at the ready ensures that you can adapt to a changing schedule on any given day.
All of these tips are excellent for dealing with the physical. But when it comes to truly looking your best, you need to act like you know that you look your best. In Jonathan’s own words: “no matter how anyone is born, whatever anyone’s physical appearance is, there’s only so much you can do. But one thing you do have power over is confidence. But you have to work at it. Confidence is sexy. Knowing who you are is sexy. If you don’t make it seem like you have a lot to offer, no one else is gonna give you the time of day.”