I’ve always been the kind of person who believed that shampoo and conditioner could coexist in the same bottle; who believed soap should come in a bar, not a bottle, and be called soap, not shower gel; and who thought luffa sponges belonged in aquarium exhibits, not shower stalls. In other words, I’m a guy (as if my beard didn’t already give me away).
But more and more, guys are starting to consider “product” for our hair and skin. We don’t even need “queer eyes” or superstar status to motivate us. Perhaps we’re becoming more self-conscious, or maybe we’re jealous of all the attention some women lavish on themselves and their bodies. Or maybe we just want a reason to take more medicine cabinet space. Regardless, it was clear I needed some expert insight if I was to effectively investigate this phenomenon. After all, I’ve been using the same enormous bottle of K-Mart shampoo since 1995. With holiday season around the corner, it might also be time to start thinking creatively about gifts for men that don’t require batteries or “some assembly.”
Enter Illyne Anidjar, owner of beautylounge in Summit, New Jersey. If anyone can give me a beauty realization makeover, she can. A former executive manager with Frederic Fekkai in New York City, Anidjar opened her store in October and has clearly forgotten more about beauty than I’ll ever know.
Anidjar tells me that modern men, particularly in their 30’s and 40’s, are extremely interested in taking care of themselves. “These days it’s considered okay for a man to express an interest in grooming – almost cool to be versed in different types of products,” she said. Men who come into her store, she told me, are not afraid to ask for what they want, be it anti-wrinkle cream, something for thinning hair, or something that can help them smell differently than the inside of their cars.
Among the most popular men’s grooming items at Beauty Lounge are “anti-oxidant skin moisturizers with age inhibitor complex,” “eye moisturizers with rice bran protein,” “thickening shampoos,” and “fragrances like Rum Tonic or Lotus Root”. It’s important to keep all these names straight, because you won’t impress anyone by saying you enjoy rice bran, smell like rum, and have a thickening age complex.
As for philosophy, Anidjar said “I believe in prevention. The earlier you take care of your skin, the longer it will hold out. Men usually don’t realize this until they see the first line and then panic.” She dispelled the myth that all shampoos are the same, and told me “a man that smells good is a man to have around.”
Some might think such grooming is a pointless exercise in narcissism. “Joel, you’re so vain,” you might say. “I bet you think this column is all about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?” To you I say, you’re listening to too much soft rock. Also, there’s nothing wrong with being indulgent from time to time. If you can do something that makes you both feel good and look good, not to mention smell good, then more power to you.
So no more all-in-one shampoos or dry soaps for me. I also take back many of the bad things I’ve said about luffa sponges (they’re very sensitive you know). I’m going to start being the kind of man “to have around.” At least until my next K-Mart run.