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The older I get, the more I see a trend of young men being aware of their self care. My male students don’t just want to look good; they want to smell good, be clean, iron their clothes (seriously), and convey an intentionality in their overall aesthetic. Frankly, I’ve been waiting years for this to catch on, and I do my best to encourage it when I can. Just last week I talked to all of my students about being at that age when a stick of deodorant becomes a necessity, and there’s no shame in the midday reapplication (Maybe just don’t do it during class).
Summer is an especially difficult time for grooming because everything is so damn hot, and depending on where you live, the humidity is just criminal (my hair would never survive in the South). Luckily, summer is winding down, and with any season change there are a few tweaks to our hygienic routines. We’ve talked before about grooming and self-care lessons that men are seldom taught, and with the coming of fall, here are a few more to add to the list.
It’s only the second week of school, and already a kid has asked me, “Hey Mr. Henson, do all of your shoes just reek? I never see you wear socks.” Don’t worry, Jimmy, no offense taken. And the short answer is no, my shoes are doing just fine. It’s not because I don’t sweat; it’s because I’m aware of how to keep my sweating feet from affecting my shoes. Ok, let’s break it down.
- Wash your feet. We’ve already talked about the importance of nail care (and that includes using that little pick in your clippers to remove dirt from under your nails), but the fact is that simply letting the soapy water run down over your feet isn’t enough to call them clean. Get a foot-dedicated loofah, slosh it with soap, and scrub your feet.
- Wear no-show socks. You may have to try a few different styles to find what works best for you, but in the summer, if I’m wearing sneakers, loafers, or even oxfords, I’m wearing no-shows. You get all the sweat absorption without the awkward aesthetic. Pro-tip: Wash your no-shows in a laundry bag, or you’re going to lose them. As we’re coming into fall, you’ll be wearing regular socks more (especially if you’re rocking boots). Obviously you know the rule with socks is one-wear-one-wash, but here’s something else to keep in mind: Socks are cheap, so when the heels or toes start to wear so thinly that you can see your skin through them, don’t wait to replace them.
- If you’re wearing driving shoes, throw a little powder on your feet before you head out. The powder will curb the sweat and keep odor under control. If you’re wearing sneakers, sprinkle a little powder right onto the insole before you put them on.
- For whatever reason, guys have come to assume that shoe trees are just for dress shoes. No sir, shoe trees are for shoes. And the best part, you really only need one pair. Whatever shoes you wore that day (even your sneakers), pop in some cedar shoe trees when you take them off. The cedar will absorb sweat, control odor, and help the shoes keep their shape (sweat can warp leather insoles over time).
- If powder and shoe trees aren’t enough to keep your sneakers from stinking, take out the insoles and throw them in the wash. Be sure to let them air dry.
I brush my teeth thrice a day: When I wake up, a quick brush after lunch, and when I go to bed. Mouthwash, tongue scraper, floss, I go all in. But the truth is that if your toothbrush game is lacking, you’re asking for bad breath and decay. In the last twenty years, we’ve seen how the sonic toothbrush is the best at-home tool for keeping your teeth clean. Unlike toothbrush heads that rotate, sonic brush heads vibrate at up to 50,000 vibrations per minute.
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Ollie’s SmartClean toothbrush has five different brushing modes and a two-minute timer so you know you’re actually following the dentist’s orders. The best part? The brush heads are reasonably priced (dare I say cheap?), and Ollie will send you a new set every 90 days for about $13. With the automatic subscription, you don’t need to think about how often to change brush heads, and so long as you maintain the subscription, your toothbrush has a lifetime warranty. So yes, this can literally be the last electric toothbrush you ever buy.
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The root of B.O. is bacteria, which is able to grow in dark, moist environments….like your pits, your crotch, your crack – hey, it happens to everyone. The trick with body odor is to get ahead of it. If you don’t sweat much, you can probably get away with simple deodorant. Deodorant doesn’t stop your sweat, it simply masks the smell of the bacteria…it’s armpit cologne.
If that doesn’t cut it for you, switch to an antiperspirant, which will effectively close your pores, so you don’t sweat. Is this dangerous? Well, if you put the antiperspirant on your entire body, yes. If you only put it under your arms (and maybe down the top of your crack), you’ll still be able to sweat from all of your other pores.
If store-bought antiperspirant still isn’t up to snuff for you, talk to your doctor about getting something prescription strength. In the meantime, don’t underestimate the power of a decent trimmer. There’s nothing wrong with rocking a chest sweater, but the hair in your pits, around your crotch, and between your cheeks isn’t doing you any favors. No need for a full-on shave, but a light trim will keep that hair from holding so much moisture.
Less moisture = less bacteria = less smell.
My dad has said more than a few times I wish I had cared about my skin when I was your age. We’ve told you before about the importance of skincare, but I want to reiterate that sunscreen is a necessity…all the time. Believe me, I get it: There’s nothing I like enjoy more than getting rid of that winter pastiness, but the answer isn’t to hit the beach without at least an SPF15 on your face (and body).
No one wants to ask their wife Can you do my back? when you’re simply heading into work, but at the very least, you should use a face lotion that has sunblock in it. I like this one from CeraVe because it’s SPF 30, it doesn’t feel greasy (I already have oily skin as it is), and it’s comedogenic (meaning it will not clog your pores). Keep some in your car, in your desk at work, seriously; you’ll thank yourself when you’re fifty and your skin is still evenly toned and taut.
In short, don’t go nuts. Use a good pair of tweezers to keep your unibrow at bay. Occasionally run your fingers up your brows to reveal any especially long hairs that need plucking, and keep an eye on those random strays that grow on the underside of the brow. And seriously, that’s it. If you’re worried about the shape of your brows, talk to your barber; he can tell you if they need any kind of shaping (but they probably won’t).
I don’t know why, but our society has made dandruff some sort of cardinal sin. If you have dandruff or just an itchy scalp, it’s ok. An itchy scalp can be caused by seasonal allergies, the climate (think dry, winter air), or dry skin. If it’s really affecting your life (and the backs of your sport coats) talk to your doctor. But for the most part, you can keep an itchy scalp at bay.
We’ve said before that you really don’t need to shampoo your hair every day. For me, every other day is a healthy starting point. You may be able to get away with two days or more, depending on your hair. Before you reach for a dandruff shampoo, try this anti-itch spray from Head and Shoulders which uses the same ingredients but won’t dry your hair out as much as their shampoo.
It's Ok to Say No
I’m sure you’ve seen this new trend on TikTok called Quiet Quitting. It’s even made its way into the mainstream news. Millennials are prioritizing their mental health and their relationships outside of work by refusing to check their work email at 8pm, refusing to work long, unpaid hours, and refusing to take on more than what is reasonable for one person to complete. To be honest, I hate the name Quiet Quitting because to me, this just sounds like trying to maintain a balance that the generations before us struggled to maintain.
No one is saying you shouldn’t work hard. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted…like…struggle to keep my eyes open while I drive home exhausted. But once I’m home, I’m home. Work emails can wait; I’ll grade that stack of papers during my planning period, and if I’m asked to do something extra, it’s ok if I say no. To be clear, this doesn’t mean your default answer should simply become no; there’s nothing wrong with going the extra mile when you can. It’s about recognizing that saying no doesn’t mean you’re any less of a team player.
Keep a Food Journal
I know this sounds laborious, but there’s no great mystery here: Our food affects the way we feel. Open a note on your phone, get a food tracking app, or literally write it down in a Moleskin notebook. What did you eat today, and how did you physically feel? You’d be amazed at how quickly you see patterns emerging. When I eat dairy, I feel like this. When I eat less sugar, I feel like this. This vegetable and fruit combo gives me energy, but this one makes me feel bloated.
Some years ago my wife and I tried keto (ultimately we found it too expensive to maintain). What amazed me was the whanging headaches I got from cutting out sugar. I mean…holy hell, I was living on coffee and tylenol…and bacon. The point is, until I stepped away from sugar, I’d had no idea just how addicted to it my body really was.
I’m not telling you to start a diet, or that you need to lose weight. I’m just saying, look more closely at what you eat, and then look at how what you eat makes you feel. You’ll be amazed at the correlation.
Keep a Pad and Pen on Your Nightstand
I’m an anxious guy, and I find that the older I get, the more it calms my brain if I write stuff down. I’m not talking about journaling (though you should be doing that too); I’m talking about stuff that I don’t want to forget. I need to pack a lunch tomorrow for work. I have to stop at the store because we’re out of milk. Don’t forget to call the pediatrician tomorrow to make that appointment for Everly. These are important thoughts, but they’re not the thoughts that should be putting me to sleep.
The simple answer is to jot these things down before I go to sleep, and now I don’t have to remember them when I wake up in the morning. Before I leave, I take that sheet of paper from the pad, and now I have my to-do list for the day. If you want to keep it positive before you go to bed, write down a few things that went well that day too. Had a picnic with my wife. Had a great meeting with the boss. Got X project done at work. It’s a great way to feel like you’re accomplishing your goals, and it’s a refreshing way to start the day when you look at that list.