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These Are the Old School Grooming Rules You Should Be Breaking

One grooming writer comes clean about the rules he follows and the ones he doesn't.

March 28, 2018
These Are the Old School Grooming Rules You Should Be Breaking
Illustration by Tim Lahan
I’ve been writing about the rules of grooming for men’s retailers and magazines for nearly five years. I've tested a bajillion products. And I've written about every conceivable topic. I've interviewed countless in-the-field experts—the doctors, barbers, perfumers, and product engineers. These people have the best advice available to guys with questions about skincare, hair care, hair styling, beard maintenance, shaving regimens, fragrance selection, and more. All of which is to say, I've got a strong grasp of the generally accepted rules of grooming.

But I don’t follow all of these rules. Because, as things often go, once you know the rules, you also know how to break them. And, while some of the following things may sound surprising coming from a GQ grooming writer, I suggest you try breaking these rules too, just to see if the result works better for you. The lesson here is that the old rules are flexible and should absolutely be broken if they're not working for you.

This One's Obvious, But It Bears Repeating: You Don't Need to Shampoo Every Day!
I only shampoo when I’m testing a product, which is a couple times a month at best. The shampoo has always compromised the quality of my hair, which is the opposite of what it's supposed to do. It strips it of natural oils, makes it rigid, poofy, and unstable. I’ve tested plenty of gentler shampoos that don’t have this polarizing effect (I’m not waging a war on a very important product, so don’t get me wrong). But my preferred route is to shampoo only before a haircut, so that the barber has an accurate, cooperative canvas, or after a bird poops on my head, which has yet to happen. Fingers crossed.

Instead, I use conditioner daily. There’s a thing called co-washing that lots of people swear by, where you use conditioner as your shampoo. The idea is that it also removes excess oil without drying the hair. Conditioner strengthens hair and improves shine, and best of all, your hair remains stylable—it stays cooperative for your hair product, which is important for me. Because of this habit, I also get cozy with lots of dry shampoos or oil-absorbing stylers to further counter any grease buildup. There’s also the belief that if you start shampooing less (I suggest you try for every second or third day for the first year), you can train your scalp to create less oil since you aren’t forcing it into overdrive every time you parch the scalp with shampoo. Your scalp, in other words, adapts to your regimen, and eventually, you will have to shampoo less.

You Can Have More Than One Cologne
When wearing fragrance, guys make two big mistakes: First, they stick with one scent forever and ever and assume that having a signature scent means having only one. No. Having a signature scent means it’s the one you wear most often. Perhaps you wear it to the office every day but no place else, or just 50 percent of the time while rotating three others. There are so many other scents out there for separate occasions; a crisper one for date night, a fresher one for spring weekends. You can alter scents for your mood or for events, which shows how much more intentional you are than guys who stay loyal to one scent for a decade until it goes out of production. That woody, spicy scent isn’t doing you any favors in the height of summer, good sir.

Secondly, I’m an advocate of trying something traditionally more feminine. Namely floral scents. Plenty of perfumers make unisex scents that utilize flowers prominently but not heavily. They wear well in spring—when everything is in bloom, of course—or at the end of summer or winter, to recall or anticipate those mild, relaxing weekends. For starters, try Arquiste’s Boutonnière no. 7 or DS & Durga’s Foxglove.

Antiperspirant Is Not the Devil
Most dermatologists I speak with have dispelled the notion that antiperspirant is going to give you cancer. OK, don’t subtweet me on this, but hear me out: There are no entirely conclusive studies that confirm antiperspirants as the cause of breast cancer—this is something the dermos all repeat to me—which is the narrative we’ve come to believe.

I don’t think that putting aluminum on your body is good for you. But sometimes, as a sweaty and easily-made-stinky man, I weigh my options: Will it be in my interest to not have wet stains under my arms on this date or at this meeting, in addition to not smelling? Yes, and sometimes that wins out over aluminum cancer truthers. So I keep antiperspirants in rotation, particularly ones that won’t compromise the color of my clothing, like Degree Ultraclear Antiperspirant Deodorant.