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Men’s Grubbiest Grooming Habits and Why you Should Avoid Them

From picking toenails and masking bodily smells with fragrance to ‘accidentally’ forgetting to brush our teeth, we men have some pretty horrendous grooming habits – and they’re doing us no favours. Here are five of the worst and why you’d be wise to swerve them.

Not washing before bed 

We’ve all done it (or rather not done it) – especially after a night on the tiles when going to bed is replaced by falling into bed – but skipping that pre-bobos cleanse can result in more than just a grubby pillow. 

“You should always wash your face in the evening as well as the morning to help remove the build-up of bacteria, pollen, pollution and dirt from mobile phone contact and face touching that gathers throughout the day,” says Consultant Dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch. What’s more, it’s during the night that skin switches into repair mode, so it’s always best to ensure it has a clean start. “By cleansing just before bed, you reduce the likelihood of acne and breakouts, help restore healthy skin barrier function and encourage a normal skin cycle,” says Veraitch. 

She recommends using a gentle cleanser from the likes of CeraVe, especially if you live in a hard water area where water alone can leave skin feeling dry and tight. Avoid washing from a full washbasin and use fresh, running water to cleanse instead – that way you’ll avoid putting surface debris and cleansing residues back onto your face.

Being a stranger to the toothbrush 

According to one recent survey, a whopping 20% of us only brush our teeth once a day, while 22% have gone more than three – yes three – whole days without brushing at all. This was before a pandemic which, according to research by Colgate, has seen the oral health of the nation decline significantly, with over a third of us saying a lack of routine has meant we often ‘forget’ to brush our teeth. 

Cosmetic dentist and Vice President of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Dr Simon Chard reckons this is tantamount to giving plaque an all-it-can-eat, rolling buffet. “If you only brush in the morning and not again for the rest of the day then bacteria are left on the teeth for longer and that bacteria will have more of a chance to process all the food you eat throughout the day,” he says. 

“This allows it to produce acid that damages the enamel – which can lead to cavities – and for the body to produce an immune response against the bacteria which leads to gum disease.” And let’s not forget that research shows a link between gum disease and both heart disease and erectile disfunction. 

If squeezing a tube seems like too much effort (and, yes, we’re judging you if it does), try toothpaste tabs which are activated by chewing. Chard recommends PÄRLA PRO ones which containing fluoride and the ‘super ingredient’ hydroxyapatite which helps strengthen and remineralise teeth. 

The dentists in Avon Lake Ohio also recommend flossing every night to clean the gaps between your teeth.

Leaving your slap on 

Removing make-up might not have been part of a man’s nightly grooming routine twenty years ago but times have changed, with the men’s cosmetics market growing apace and a recent YouGov poll showing 1 in 20 of us now wear some form of slap, it’s an increasingly important – if neglected – part of it. 

“If you’ve rolled in at 1am from a big night out, the last thing you feel like doing is a full-blown skincare regime but, at the very least, always take your face off,” advises Danny Gray, founder of male cosmetics brand War Paint For Men, who points out that sleeping in slap can lead to blocked pores and breakouts. 

“If you want to keep your face super-fresh, before you hit the sack, use a dedicated make-up remover and a cotton pad, then follow it up with your usual cleanser.” War Paint have their own Make-up Remover, while Boots Biodegradable Micellar Cleansing Wipes are great for convenience.

Picking your toenails 

Like nail biting, toenail picking is a habit definitely worth shaking and not just because it’s a passion killer: according to the Royal Collage of Podiatry, it can lead to painful, infected ingrown toenails too. 

“Men’s grooming has improved markedly over the years, but when it comes to feet not all men have seen the light,’ admits queen of footcare Margaret Dabbs of Margaret Dabbs London, who advises cutting toenails straight across – from end to end - using toe nail scissors rather than clippers as they result in smoother edges. 

If you suffer from brittle nails or damage due to sport, you’re probably more likely to be tempted to pick at bits of nail that stick out or tear, so think about investing in a nail file and smooth out any tempting rough edges on a weekly basis. 

“Better still, think about having regular medical pedicures to ensure your feet are healthy and the nails are well groomed,” says Dabbs.

Masking smells with fragrance 

Although there’s some evidence to suggest fragrance can interact with, er, ‘man smells’ in a positive way, the general consensus is that intentionally using eau de toilette to mask body odour is never a good idea – as much as anything because its presence draws attention to the fact that you’re actually trying to hide something. It’s certainly not the kind of ‘layering’ fragrance experts talk about, that’s for sure. 

Masking apocrine sweat (the stuff produced by glands in the armpits and groin when we're stressed or excited) is particularly risky, since, unlike the stuff produced when we’re hot, it contains a heady – and stinky – cocktail of fats, proteins and other chemicals that won’t necessarily interact with your fragrance in a good way. 

“While some scents, particularly fresh ozonics and colognes exist precisely for those times when you want to freshen up a dank situation, spraying directly onto skank is not going to make you very popular,” says Neil Chapman, author of Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent, who believes fragrance works best on a blank canvas (i.e., clean skin). “After all,” he says, “you wouldn’t serve a meal you had slaved over on an unclean plate.” 

Needless to say, ‘spraying the sergeant’ with your Blue de Chanel to conceal any unpleasant smells is not a good idea. It’s never the crime but the cover up that gets a man in trouble remember.

Lee Kynaston

With over 20 years experience writing about male grooming for the likes of Men’s Health and The Telegraph, Lee is an award-winning journalist and one of the UK’s best-known and most experienced men's beauty experts.

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