No ‘new year, new you’ mantra is complete without an audit of your grooming regimen. After all, it’s this routine (and how much you prioritize it) that dictates how the world sees you—as well as what kind of mindset and manifestation you want to contribute to that perception.
And while it’s the perfect time to upgrade a conditioner, be proactive about hair loss, or even invest in an electric toothbrush, we think there are a handful of oft-overlooked grooming-related resolutions that every guy can address. Some are more pertinent than ever in 2021, given how much time we spend in front of our devices, or how stressful the world is these days — which impacts your superficial health, too.
So, here are five grooming habits that you can build this year, in no particular order.
Minimize blue light exposure
One of the biggest skincare trends of 2020—and one that is likely here to stay — is the awareness that blue-light exposure is damaging our skin, much like some UV rays. It’s called high-energy visible light (HVL light) and it comes from computers, phones, TVs, and other screens, as well as fluorescent and LED lights. HEV light is a kind of short-wavelength light also emitted by the sun. In short, it penetrates unprotected skin and is strongly believed to increase free-radical production in the skin. This leads to premature aging, uneven skin tone, and even redness/inflammation. (Studies are still being conducted to formally assess.) This is the same kind of blue light from our devices that disrupts sleep cycles, and is why many of our phones, tablets, and computers have a "late-night" dimming function that reduces blue light from the screens.
You can activate this light-dimming function 24/7 as one preventative measure for avoiding excessive HEV light exposure. But also, you can wear antioxidant-packed moisturizer daily (with a midday touchup) in order to halt the production of free radicals due to these skin-aging waves. Many SPF-packed products also pack pollutant- and toxin-fighting ingredients.
Keep your nails trim and strong
I know you stopped biting your nails and hangnails decades ago...so hopefully, that’s not the starting point for this tip. Because 2021 is the year that your finger and toe nails will grow their strongest, and the year you’ll keep them trip exactly the right length—while minimizing hangnails, cuticle overgrowth, and the likes. The DIY manicure and pedicure are easily managed with the right devices and products: Separate clippers for fingers and toes (the latter has a larger, straight-edge top, while the former is smaller and curved). Leave a couple millimeters of white — just a sliver — at the top after clipping.
The best clippers have a built-in file (though buying a standalone one is a cheap, lasting investment), and they’ll even allow you to clean out any dirt and lift up cuticles. Then, make sure your diet contains enough Biotin (and other B vitamins) in order to grow strong, sturdy nails, and keep a lotion or repair balm close by, for nightly application across the fingers and toes. This should help keep everything nourished while you sleep, while expediting any healing hangnails (while also preventing them in the first place).
Prioritize scalp care
Scalp care is often lumped together with hair care, with the notion that shampoo and condition take care of everything up there. But that’s not the right way to approach things—including your approach to hair care. Instead, start with the scalp when picking out your hair care products. Choose ones that promise to neutralize bacteria and fungus (to mitigate dandruff) and that tone + calm the skin up there (to control oil production and prevent inflammation). Oftentimes, your hair health is directly linked to your scalp health. So, if you aren’t going to switch up your shampoo and conditioner (in favor of scalp-forward ones), then at least add a scalp scrub to your weekly regimen. This will lift dead skin cells and also tone/neutralize while stimulating circulation and nutrient delivery to the follicles. Secondly, you can add a weekly scalp treatment in order to deep-clean, nourish, and calm the scalp, in order to create the most healthy, fertile environment for your hairs—and for nothing microscopic that can throw it all out of balance. These often use neutralizing ingredients like tea tree oil, hair-strengthening keratin, or moisture-preserving ceramides.
See a dermatologist regularly
Just as you would schedule routine visits with your general practitioner, optometrist, dentist, and others... so too should you see your board-certified dermatologist once or twice yearly. Not only can this doctor give you a full-body exam (for potentially threatening moles and other irregularities), but s/he can also give you tailored advice on how to treat hair and skin conditions specific to you — while factoring in your own lifestyle habits and factors, the way no Google search could ever. Whether you’re trying to regrow some hair, prevent further loss, reverse signs of aging, reduce breakouts, and so forth, this doctor is the shortest distance between you and your superficial goals.
Get familiar with pH balance
You’ve probably seen the term ‘pH balance’ written on various skincare products, or even recall it from high school chemistry class. It’s an important thing to commit to memory, especially if you’re trying to maintain clear, calm, and healthy skin. (Aren’t we all?)
In short, pH (which standards for ‘potential hydrogen’) is a scale used to express the acidity or basicity of a water-based solution. Things with more hydrogen ions it has available, the more acidic it is. The most important thing to know, when it comes to your skin, is that on the pH scale of 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic/alkaline), skin is somewhere left of a neutral 7: it is naturally more acidic, hovering around 5-5.7.
While most moisturizers, serums, and the likes will carry a pH balance similar to your skin’s, many products will throw this balance out of whack, and it’s your job to keep skin as harmoniously balanced (near that 5-5.7 level) as possible. But how do you do this when you can’t simply gauge your skin’s (or a product’s) pH level?
Dry, flaky, dull, or rough skin is usually too basic/alkaline—it needs to be bright back down to the natural balanced level. On the other hand, acne-prone, excessively oily, and hypersensitive skin is usually too acidic and needs to be brought up to the natural levels. Often, people with excessively oily skin will use skin-parching cleansers or astringents in an effort to counter the shine. In doing so, they tip the scales so far in the alkaline/basic direction that their skin becomes patchy, irritated, and dried out. Now one problem has led to another.
This is also something your dermatologist can help you to mitigate in a bigger, planned-out approach, but one of the best products you can acquaint yourself with (if you have consistently oily/acne-prone skin or excessive dry/rough skin, is a toner. Find one with prebiotics, without alcohol, and with hydrating ingredients. Use it after cleansing to “reset” your pH level around 5-5.7, and follow with your serum and moisturizer. Witch hazel toners in particular are helpful for those with excessively oily skin, while dry- and rough-skinned individuals might benefit from exfoliating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic acid, etc).