Looking to upgrade your grooming routine? Now’s the best time to start. No, really. In the past decade, personal care products for men have soared into a multibillion-dollar industry, as brands compete year after year to create the most innovative creams, gels, and serums for your skin and hair.
That’s great news for guys (farewell to the dreary three-in-one soaps of yesteryear), but building a solid grooming routine from so many options can be overwhelming. Enter our third annual Grooming Awards. For the past four months, The Manual team has tested hundreds of grooming products from the world’s leading brands, and some upstarts. This year, we enlisted some prominent influencers, guys who’ve made their careers by keeping up their appearance, to vote on their favorite grooming essentials, and divided up our categories by skin and hair types to make sure our recommendations are inclusive.
We know you’ll love these 19 grooming products as much as we do. And, in our new shelter-in-place reality, why not use this extra time to practice some self-care? You deserve it.
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Best Face Wash
When Scotch Porter launched in 2015, it was an industry game-changer as one of the few grooming lines for men of color. We found that the brand’s newly reformulated face wash works well on just about anyone. Yes, it gently removes impurities, but the gel-based cleanser also contains some blemish-fighting benefits like hyaluronic acid, which keeps skin moisturized, and willow bark extract to keep acne at bay. Even better, it lathers easily, features minimal fragrance, and also doubles as a great beard wash. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Face Washes for Men.
If you’re going to splurge on a skincare product, invest in a serum. Much lighter than a moisturizer, think of it as a strong cocktail of active ingredients for your mug. Hands down, Clarins was the best serum we tried by far. Its proprietary formula of 21 plant extracts addresses almost any skin concern. Dealing with hyperpigmentation, premature skin aging, or redness? This serum has a fix for that. Testers who used this twice a day for at least two weeks saw a smoother complexion, fewer breakouts, and a reduction in the appearance of pores and wrinkles. As the kids say, we love to see it. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Serums for Men.
There are plenty of reasons why Lab Series consistently places in our Grooming Awards: The company makes premium moisturizers that are worth the (relatively) hefty price tag, and its Age Rescue Lotion is no exception. So many creams and gels we tried were either too light or too greasy, but this one had the best consistency. It smells like a five-star hotel and can be used all year round on almost any skin type. Influencer Leo Chan is a huge fan. “I highly recommend this,” He says. “It’s such a great brand for guys who are just starting to learn how to take care of their skin.” Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Moisturizers for Men.
Best Eye Cream
Some of the most well-manicured men have fallen head-over-heels with Skinceuticals (count influencers Moti Ankari and Joey Zauzig among them), and it’s easy to see why after trying their silky eye cream, which feels luxurious enough to put on our sensitive eye area. It also contains a combination of antioxidants and peptides to fend off the appearance of crow’s feet, puffiness, and dark circles. Zauzig puts it succinctly, “I swear by it.” Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Eye Creams for Men.
Best Face Mask
Most face masks are basically sheets dipped in serums. Typically, they’re made of cotton, but Loops’ masks are made using a thick hydrogel that retains a much larger amount of liquid and can easily cling to skin. It comes in two parts, which means you can use just the top half if you have facial hair, and it can fit almost any face shape. Caution — its super-sticky gel may make it a bit of a hassle to unpack, but we promise you the results are worth the extra effort. Loops’ Night Shift mask contains anti-aging ingredients that speed up collagen production. After wearing it before bedtime for ten minutes, we woke up to clearer, plumper skin. “It makes you feel damn good after putting on,” says influencer Brendan Fallis. Enough said. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Face Masks for Men.
Whether you’re trying to keep your mane under control, or trying to prevent losing it, we’ve got you covered.
We tried plenty of great conditioners that could turn even the most brittle strands into silk. Washing them off though was a problem: The majority of conditioners we tested were packed with skin-clogging detergents and silicones (hello, bacne!). That’s why the top honor for this category went to Seen, a vegan hair care line designed by dermatologists that’s non-comedogenic, which means it won’t cause breakouts. The conditioner’s key ingredients are Hemisqualane and Bisabolol, a one-two punch that hydrates hair and soothes your scalp and skin. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Conditioners for Men.
Our judges generally try to only wash their hair every two weeks to prevent their manes from turning brittle and looking thinner. After all, so many shampoos we tried were too strong and drying to apply regularly. That was the case until we found Kristin Ess’ shampoo, which deep cleans hair without stripping its natural oils that provide volume and shine. And because it’s vegan and contains no skin-irritating sulfates and fragrances, Kristin Ess’ shampoo is gentle enough for weekly use. This is a godsend for guys who spend a lot of time outdoors and need to regularly wash their hair from the elements. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Shampoos for Men.
Best Hair Product
Gone are the days when pomades meant slicked-back ‘dos ala John Travolta in Grease. Today’s best pomades have evolved to become one of the most versatile hair products. Case in point: Jack Henry, a clean grooming brand that grew a buzzy following for its clay pomade. Count us as one of their ardent followers. We love that it can easily shape almost any hair type and provide a soft, all-day hold without making our hair greasy or crunchy, thanks to ingredients like beeswax, bentonite clay, and essential oils. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Hair Products for Men.
Best Hair Clippers
Socially distancing from our barbers has been difficult, to say the least. If you’re going to cut your own hair at home, we highly recommend Andis’ cordless clipper, which is a favorite among professional barbers for its long battery life, sleek design, and adaptability. It’s durable enough to run through thick, coarse hair without any nicks, but can also gently trim fine hair. It’s been a lifesaver for influencer Phillip Holmes, who uses this daily to keep his lineup sharp. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s an investment that’s built to last. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Hair Clippers for Men.
Best Hair Growth Product
Hair growth supplements can be a dubious market, but Nutrafol for Men is the real deal. The brand’s secret sauce is a formula of natural ingredients that stave off DHT, the dreaded hormone that speeds up hair loss. Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank is one of many dermatologists we’ve talked to who recommend Nutrafol for guys with visibly thinning hair (which usually begins at 30). Of course, results may vary, and swallowing four capsules daily ad infinitum sounds like a hassle, but we noticed increased hair thickening after three months of use. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Hair Growth Products for Men.
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Cartridge razors are the quickest way to shave, but they’ve gotten a bad rap for causing ingrown hairs and irritation because their multiple blades tend to tug and pull at the skin. This is especially true for Black men or men with coarse facial hair, who have to use a comparatively time-consuming safety razor if they want a clean-shaven look. That’s why we have to tip our hats off to Gillette’s SkinGuard series, a time-saving option for guys with sensitive skin, thanks to a comb-like guard placed between the blades to minimize irritation while still allowing for a smooth way to remove their whiskers. Simply put, a new demographic of guys finally have access to a daily shave without having to worry about razor bumps or nicks. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Razors for Men.
Best Shave Cream
When it comes to finding the ideal shave cream, you want something that lathers easily, smells fantastic (but is not overbearing), and provides an even closer shave. Jack Black’s offering ticks off all those boxes and then some, thanks to its thick, velvety formula of essential oils that lubricate the skin without irritation (unlike some alcohol-based shave gels that can cause redness). Using this felt like a treat, and left our face feeling soft and supple. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Shaving Creams for Men.
Best Beard Product
Beard oil, beard balms, and beard conditioners … the recent explosion of styling products for your facial hair could be confusing for men who just want a simple way to shape their whiskers. We tried countless beard products, but we kept going back to Pacific Shaving Co’s 3-in-1 Everyday Beard Care, which functions like a conditioner and styling cream. It’s made with natural ingredients, features a pleasant citrusy fragrance, and just a dab of this smooths, softens, and controls even the curliest hair. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Beard Products for Men.
Best Beard Trimmer
For all-things trimming, every panelist we talked to recommended Wahl’s. What’s not to love? It’s a century-old brand known for its stable of sturdy clippers, and this trimmer is no exception. It features an impressively long battery life at 2.5 hours, includes 12 clip guards for multiple hair length options, and it’s waterproof, so guys who treat showers as a one-stop grooming-shop can add this to their caddy. We found Wahl’s Aqua Blade Trimmer shapes edges just as well as other clippers that are twice as expensive. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Beard Trimmers for Men.
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When it comes to choosing the best deodorants, we prefer ones that don’t include aluminum, which clogs pores to reduce perspiration and causes those unsightly sweat stains. But the problem with many of the natural deodorants we tested is that they don’t work as long as their aluminum counterparts. Hiki, a new sweat brand, was a welcome exception. Its deodorants last for hours even on the hottest days, are sustainably packaged, and come in three scents (though the brand’s Tangerine fragrance was by far our favorite). Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Deodorants for Men.
Best Body Wash
Think of Huron — a new no-frills skincare line — as a massive upgrade from drugstore bar soaps. All of its products are made without toxic parabens, sulfates, and aluminum, and we’re over the moon when it comes to its body wash, which easily cleans dirt and grime without drying skin at a price that can’t be beaten. Best of all, it contains eucalyptus and menthol, which together smells like millennial ambition. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Body Washes for Men.
Yes, men of color, we too need to use SPF, and Coola’s mineral sunscreen spray is without question the best UV-ray repellent for any skin type. Our love for this is multifold: First, it’s spray-based so it applies easier than cream sunscreens; second, it’s reef-safe (you’re welcome, marine life); third, it actually goes on sheer, which is a godsend for men with darker complexions; fourth, it’s fragrance-free (goodbye synthetic sunscreen odor). Simply put, this is a summer essential. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Sunscreens for Men.
Complete with shea butter, argan oil, and Vitamin E, Bevel’s lotion is the closest thing we’ve found to the perfect all-year-round lotion. It’s light enough to wear during summer, and it’s also ultra-hydrating, making it ideal for even the harshest winters. Testers reported no irritation while using it, and it really does live up to its marketing claims of providing all-day moisture. In other words: We’re sold. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Lotions for Men.
Picking the best cologne for men is a tricky business. After all, smell is so closely attuned to emotion and memory, which makes picking a favorite fragrance such a personal decision. Even so, Yves Saint Laurent’s Y Eau Fraiche was the biggest crowdpleaser among our judges. Notes of lemon, geranium, and cedarwood make this the quintessential summer scent, and it smells fresh yet understated, so you can use it for any occasion. We’re sure you’ll keep wearing this long after temps have dropped. Read more about our Grooming Awards Finalists: The Best Colognes for Men.
Video: How to Build a 4-Step Skincare Routine
Meet The Judges
Written and produced by Christian Gollayan
Copy editing by Jeremy Abrams
Photography and video by Riley Young
Art direction by Genevieve Poblano
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