Grading Guys’ Grooming on the Big and Small Screen
Presented in partnership with Oars & Alps
Think back, if you will, to your childhood.
~screen turns hazy as piano scales play with increasingly eerie speed~
Enter: sports stars, musicians, and actors on-screen wearing bad logo tees and abrasively bright windbreakers, carrying portable music players that would now resemble prehistoric artifacts…and you wanted all of it.
Beyond coveting stars’ style choices, you may have also absorbed hair and skincare habits from these same childhood idols. Personally, I learned everything I know about how to paint my nails from Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan.
While your fashion cues have probably (hopefully?) evolved over the years, there’s a good chance that your grooming techniques remained stubbornly static.
Which brings us here. With the help of Kristin Secora, director of innovation at men’s grooming company Oars + Alps, we broke down some of our favorite on-screen grooming scenes — the good, the bad, and the please never ever ever do that again.
For Father’s Day, do yourself the favor of wrestling parenting power back from TV and movies to make sure your own kid doesn’t make the same (adorable, but often painful) mistakes you did growing up.
Thank me later, papis.
1. Home Alone
SCENE: Kevin’s bathroom prep
GROOMING ELEMENTS: deodorant & aftershave
We’d be remiss if we didn’t start with what is unquestionably one of the all-time most memorable guys’ grooming scenes of our youth: Macaulay Culkin (aka Kevin McAllister) standing in front of the mirror in Home Alone, praising himself for his productive morning cleanse.
“I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices,” he says, while proceeding to spray on deodorant from an aerosol can and eventually (and here’s what haunts us) pat aftershave onto his face, screaming in pain almost immediately as his hands hit his cheeks.
Let’s break this down. We’ll start with the less traumatic image of the two, the deodorant:
Now, on the off chance that you didn’t major in deodorant in college (I majored in Communications, so…same same), there’s one real key fact to know. A lot of people use the words “deodorant” and “antiperspirant” interchangeably, but Secora says that’s a myth.
“Deodorant is a scent that masks your own, while anti-perspirant is aluminum that actually clogs your pores to prevent you from sweating.” Most products you find on the shelves are both.
In the battle between deodorant vs. antiperspirant, here’s the thing: antiperspirants aren’t great for your body. I’m not a doctor (communications major, remember?), but you don’t need an MD after your name to recognize that filling your pores with a material that can accumulate in the kidneys, brain, lungs, liver and thyroid where it competes with calcium for absorption isn’t…ideal.
On top of that, it’s actually antiperspirants that cause the yellow stains on your fav white shirts. Not sweat.
Not only that, but sweat itself doesn’t even smell. Weird, I know. It’s only once it mixes with the bacteria on your skin that it begins to become…pungent. So, what you really need is not to stop yourself from sweating, but to absorb the sweat as soon as it’s released.
That’s why the folks at Oars + Alps created a deodorant with added absorptive cornstarch to their deodorant and topped it off with a pleasant odor.
It’s a solid. While aerosol cans no longer deplete the ozone layer, spraying one still increases your carbon footprint. So not only will this version not kill you, it won’t kill the environment or ruin your favorite white shirts.
In the immortal words of Michael Scott, “Win win win.”
Now to Mac’s aftershave. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it (the burn is just from disinfecting alcohol), but it’s worth remembering that aftershave is not the only necessary part of the process. What don’t we see? Moisturizing.
When you’re shaving, you’re exfoliating, as the razor scrapes away dead skin. When you skip moisturizing, you can quickly wind up with that dry flaky skin us ladies love so much (sarcasm, so much sarcasm).
His basics need buffering. (Should’ve been a C+ but…pre-teen Macaulay was like, really cute.)
SCENE: Robert De Niro multitasks
GROOMING ELEMENT: Shaving
Let’s continue this shaving conversation while we’re at it, shall we?
First of all, if you picked up your shaving technique from this Untouchables scene, I give you a lot of credit. You were obviously a pretty badass little tyke.
We do, however, need to chat about a few things.
Aside from the fact that it must have been a rude awakening when you realized that—apart from De Niro and James Bond—most men shave their own faces, there were probably a few ways De Niro as Al Capone led you astray.
Not only was his accidental cut terrifying (see: gangster movie), but also wholly preventable with a regular skincare routine.
This means keeping your face extra smooth through daily exfoliating and moisturizing (we like O+A’s solid face wash and face and eye cream). That way, when you do shave, you’re less likely to hit any rough patches that send your razor astray. Don’t forget to moisturize after you shave as well – aftershave alone won’t cut it.
If you’re rocking facial hair, beard oil is going to be your best friend. It’ll help prevent ingrown hairs and keep your whiskers feeling extra smooth and silky. O+A even makes scruff oil specifically for all you 3-day shadow Casanovas out there.
Working on a full beard?
“As that new hair is growing in, you can also use beard oil to smooth it out and make it look shiny and nice,” says Secora. The best part? It’ll help prevent cuts next time around.
That’s called the circle of life, friends.
Practiced literally no shaving best practices aside from looking like an intimidating badass.
Takeaway: Practice good skincare (exfoliate and moisturize daily, dudes) to prevent shaving snafus. After shaving, moisturize again (see a theme here?). If you have scruff or a beard, try some oil to help prevent ingrown hairs and future cuts.
SCENE: Frasier and Niles go to the spa
GROOMING ELEMENT: Face Masks
It’s probably fair to say that you weren’t electing to watch Frasier as a kid (though, if you were, serious props and also…did we just become best friends). Because I can’t be the only kid who grew up with one TV and Frasier-obsessed parents.
If so, you’ll remember the infamous episode where Frasier and Niles spent a day at the spa—face masks, cucumbers and all.
If you (or your slightly socially awkward parents) loved NBC’s mid-90s lineup as much as mine did, you’ll know that oftentimes the actions of the Frasier crew, especially Niles, were portrayed as rather…well, feminine. And while the face masks and cucumbers here are a bit of a joke — that’s actually the biggest misconception about the grooming portrayed in this episode — that it’s a joke.
After chatting with the O+A team, it’s pretty clear that our outdated (and may I insert: repressive) gendered grooming norms are finally making way for a new, more open-minded standard of skincare.
“We’re seeing men getting involved in skincare more than ever before,” says Secora.
In fact, one of their best-selling products is actually the Wake Up Eye Stick — which believe it or not, exists outside of the “I just use bar soap & rubbing alcohol everywhere on everything including my teeth” mentality that we’ve mistakenly come to associate with “masculinity”.
Face masks, eye treatments, lip balms — there now are more inclusive and customized options (beyond cucumbers!) so that you can “treat yo self” in whatever way makes you happy.
Good execution, problematic tone
Takeaway: “Grooming” is whatever you want it to be. It’s all about customizing your techniques and products for your needs and lifestyle. There are no longer gender-limited standards, so explore.
4. Fight Club
SCENE: Brad Pitt gets crafty (creepy and terrifying SPOILER ALERT)
GROOMING ELEMENT: Soap
Speaking of bar soap, let’s talk about it.
While the soap scenes in Fight Club are less about grooming and more about, well, eerily commenting on the gluttony of American consumer culture — it’s fair to say bar soap is one of the film’s central characters.
Now, you may have grown up with the misconception that men should only use bar soap.
While bar soap is not, in fact, intrinsically better or worse than other type of soap, it’s the soap’s ingredients that matter more than its physical form.
It’s worth remembering that Brad Pitt’s disturbing recipe for human soap is imaginary (spoiler alert nineteen years later, Tyler Durden doesn’t really exist!). I mean, sure, there’s probably a serial killer out there using human fat to make decorative bars in the shape of seashells somewhere, but let’s table that scenario for now. In the meantime, let’s focus instead on a couple of ~soap truths~ to keep in mind when you’re shopping for your perfect skincare products.
First, the O+A team let me know that, unfortunately, a lot of traditional bar soaps have parabens, sulfates, glycols and other ingredients that are dangerous for the body (they’re tied to things like infertility and even cancer) and the environment (they contain petroleum which is ecologically harmful).
“The US is actually one of the only developing countries that hasn’t banned these elements yet,” says Secora. In fact, there hasn’t been a law passed to regulate the personal care industry since 1938.
To put that in context, in 1938 the minimum hourly rate was 25 cents. Can you imagine if THAT still hadn’t been updated? Sigh. Needless to say, it’s best to double check the ingredients before you buy.
Some tips for when you’re soap scoutin’? If water is one of the only ingredients, it’s likely to have a drying effect on your skin. If you prefer your soap to moisturize a bit more, aim for products with something like shea butter listed as a primary component – like O+A’s moisturizing Alps bar. It won’t turn you into Brad Pitt, but it’s a good start.
Replace human blubber with shea butter, Brad.
Takeaway: When it comes to getting clean, what’s in your soap matters more than the form it comes in. Look for ingredients like shea butter, and avoid parabens, sulfates and glycols. Also, don’t kill people and use their fat to make soap.
5. The Wonder Years
SCENE: Kevin gets a zit and…struggles. A lot.
GROOMING ELEMENT: Acne
We can all remember a moment in our childhood spent standing in front of a mirror, trying to figure out some way, any way to eradicate (or at least hide) whatever form of sebum volcano decided to take shape on our face. As Kevin from The Wonder Years, played by Fred Savage, put it: “I scrubbed, I buffed, I polished. I tried everything. And when it was all over, I had the most well-groomed pimple on the block.”
The mistake? Trying to deal with the issue after it became an issue.
The good news? Skincare science is a lot better now than it was when we were going through puberty. At the most basic level (and I’m not talking about chronic acne here – see a derm for that, please), there are a few preventative techniques to practice so that you don’t wind up trying to buff your blemish into oblivion.
Regular face washing, with products that absorb impurities — specifically those containing ingredients like clay and activated charcoal — is a good way to keep pores clean and prevent the issues that lead to pimples.
“Charcoal actually absorbs 200 times its weight in the impurities from your skin,” Secora told me. Which is….insane, right?
And don’t stop at your face — back acne is one of the biggest concerns amongst boys and men (I know you know). Extracting ingredients help there, too.
Ferris Bueller had the right idea — you’ve got to go full body when it comes to skincare — so really get your skin from all angles for maximum impact. When you’re finished, don’t forget to moisturize after using products like these to make sure they don’t end up drying out your skin.
Oh, and a note on stress. Not only is it a constant companion in adolescence and adulthood, it’s also a major cause of acne. So, while focusing on your skincare is an A+ idea, don’t forget to share your hard-won wisdom on how to beat stress with your current and/or future offspring. Exercise, meditation, therapy, breathing in and out — these are also impactful, albeit less pleasantly scented — acne solutions.
This has been a PSA from your non-doctor (but incredibly charming) author.
Prevent, don’t pulverize.
Takeaway: Preventing acne is easier (and more effective) than treating it after it’s already formed. Use cleansers that contain ingredients like clay and activated charcoal that extract impurities from the skin. Don’t stop at your face, pay attention to problem areas like your back, too.
If you come away with one lesson today, ideally it’s that you re-examine your skincare and grooming techniques as least as often as you update your iPhone. Sure, some practices are timeless, but if we’re being honest, most aren’t.
So, while I loved this walk down memory lane (and boy did I love it), I’m reminded that TV and movies aren’t stand-ins for good ol’ fashioned parenting. (Unless of course we’re talking about The Incredibles or Friday Night Lights, in which case please feel free to mimic them directly.)
Do your body, your skin, and most importantly, your bambinos a favor this Father’s Day by adding a few modern additions to your age-old traditions.
// SHOP #SGAPPROVED GROOMING //
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM TV OR MOVIES BEFORE YOU LEARNED ABOUT IT FROM A PARENT?
Presented in partnership with Oars + Alps. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Style Girlfriend possible!