Anyone who thinks skincare is light work hasn’t been inside The Manual when approaching our fourth annual Grooming Awards. For the 2021 edition, we tapped four of our most experienced writers and six grooming influencers. For more than six months, they squeezed, daubed, and scrubbed their way through a cornucopia of more than 700 products. Any wobble in quality or mediocre results when tested? Into the rubbish bin of editorial excess. With picks in hand, these grooming experts entered into a March Madness-like playoff bracket, wheedling their picks against others in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all struggle for inclusion. But in the end, just 18 products survived, rounding out this year’s list of what editors and contributors feel are the best-of-the-best skincare, hair care, and body care products that got us through a long, hard year.
All of our Grooming Award-winning products are effective, of course, but they also share a certain economy (because if 13 months of coronavirus lockdown taught us anything, it’s that money sure doesn’t grow inside the house). They’re also relatively accessible through Nordstrom and elsewhere, and none of them require you to charter a jet to Paris. So, if you’ve neglected your appearance over the last year and need a reset, or just want to see what’s latest and greatest in grooming, The Manual’s got you covered. With Covid-19 restrictions loosening, vaccinations rolling out, and both domestic and international travel already looking promising, it’s time to get out there and shine. Our carefully selected products will help you do it brighter.
Best Face Products
- Best Face Wash
- Paula’s Choice Hydrating Cleanser
- Best Serum
- Dr. Dennis Gross Super Serum
- Best Eye Cream
- Freck So Jelly Eye Jelly
- Best Moisturizer
- Versed Dew Point Gel-Cream
- Best Face Mask
- Lumin Repair Face Mask
Best Whiskers Products
- Best Razor
- Schick Hydro Stubble Eraser
- Best Beard Product
- Olivina Shave Prep & Beard Oil
- Best Beard Trimmer
- Beard Club PT45 Beard
- Best Shaving Cream
- Dollar Shave Club Shave Butter
Best Hair Products
- Best Shampoo
- Odele Clarifying Shampoo
- Best Conditioner
- Hanz De Fuko Natural Conditioner
- Best Hair Product
- STMNT Grooming Goods Dry Clay
- Best Hair Clippers
- Conair Metal Series Clipper
The Best Face Products
We’ll say it: Even if you’ve got the driest abs in the world or 21-inch biceps, the face is still the benchmark on which every man is judged. So elevate it, scrubbing off the drab remnants of 2020 and entering 2021 with a fresh glow.
Paula's Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser
Cleansers that try to do too much represent a major skincare flaw. They only need one job: to clean. The Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser from Paula’s Choice does just that. It’s gentle, hydrating, and doesn’t leave your face feeling tight or dry. The skin-restoring ingredients leave your skin feeling silky smooth after washing, and fit the bill for a no-frills cleanser that feels luxurious but is actually affordable.
Dr. Dennis Gross B3 Adaptive SuperFoods Stress Rescue Super Serum
If there’s such a thing as a do-it-all ingredient in skincare, it’s niacinamide. This powerhouse brightening ingredient can help fight off acne, rosacea, dark spots, and wrinkles. Maskne is no match against niacinamide – it reduces redness, calms inflammation, and zaps cystic acne spots fast. If you’re going to splurge on any step of your skincare routine, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this multi-corrective serum.
Freck So Jelly Eye Jelly
Your eyes are one of the first areas of your face to show visible signs of aging. The skin around your eyes is thin, which is why a concentrated eye cream is important to depuff dark circles and fill in fine lines. This soothing eye cream is packed with plant collagen to plump wrinkles, vitamin K to brighten and fade dark circles, and olive oil for hydration. You can’t turn back time, but with this eye cream, at the very least you’ll trick people into thinking you got a full eight hours of sleep the night before.
Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream
Most men would agree that the last thing they want their moisturizer to be is greasy. This lightweight gel cream is the perfect texture — hydrating without feeling super heavy on top of your skin. It soaks in instantly while providing lasting moisture, leaving your skin super refreshed and balanced. With soothing green tea extract and aloe leaf juice, this moisturizer calms redness and is safe for sensitive skin. Whether your skin is dry and tight or oily and acne-prone, this gel cream delivers the perfect amount of non-sticky moisture.
Lumin Repair Face Mask
Let’s be honest: you’re probably not drinking enough water during the day. When your body is dehydrated, your skin shows it. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body is going to pull water away from your skin and direct it to your vital organs, leaving your face feeling and looking dry, dull, and lifeless. This hydrating mask provides an intense boost of moisture to parched skin in as little as 10 minutes. We love a multitasker, and this mask not only hydrates with the help of replenishing hyaluronic acid, but it also contains niacinamide to reduces inflammation, as well as ginger extract to fight free radicals and even out your skin tone. Slap on this sheet mask and quench thirsty skin instantly.
The Best Whiskers Products
Gone are the days when you had to pick a lane for facial hair and stick to it. For every facial hair discipline, there’s a season, and these products will help you transition through them gracefully.
Schick Hydro Skin Comfort Stubble Eraser Razor
Schick has taken personalized shaving to a whole new place with the launch of its Hydro Skin Comfort product line. Got a shaving challenge? There’s a razor for that. We particularly liked the stubble eraser version: a proprietary stubble comb is complemented with gel pools carrying green tea for a smooth shave that doesn’t cause nicks or irritation. The best feature is that the head of the razor moves in an almost robotic way, allowing it to hug the face’s curves as if it were preprogrammed. More from The Manual: Schick Essentials for Under $20
Olivina Men Organic Shave Prep & Beard Oil
As anybody with a crowded bathroom knows, 2-in-1’s are always a plus to help save space — and they’re great for travel. We gave extra points to Olivina for this Shave Prep & Beard Oil because if you have some facial hair but still shave, or if you alternate between a clean-shaven and a bearded look, this product is perfect. The soothing cedar and bergamot fragrance is just part of the product’s blend of organic oils.
Beard Club PT45 Beard
Designed for beards by beards, this trimmer offers the ultimate precision beard management with up to 45 unique lengths. Eight color-coded guide combs set the standard, with fine-tuning available from a five-blade setting on the razor itself. The clean, modern design is complemented with a minimalistic charging stand that has an LED charging display. With a 7,000 RPM motor, the unit offers a digital power indicator that tells how much of the three-hour battery remains.
Dollar Shave Club Shave Butter
There are a lot of shaving products out there, but we appreciate how Dollar Shave Club’s Shave Butter goes on with a smooth, practically invisible layer. It doesn’t feel “gloppy” or viscid like some creams, making it a surprisingly light, easy shave. The shave butter’s transparency also makes it easy to trim around the edges of a mustache or other facial hair.
The Best Hair Products
Whether you’re a close-cropped Josh Hartnett circa Black Hawk Down, a barbarian-relaxed Jason Mamoa, or somewhere in between, your hair only communicates when you care for it. So ditch the ball cap; a routine to bring out your best follicles doesn’t have to take all week — or an entire paycheck.
Odele Clarifying Shampoo
Odele is a women-owned, Minneapolis-based, haircare brand that focuses on creating a quality formula suitable for everyone. After trying several shampoos, we noticed Odele was one that despite using multiple times a week, didn’t leave hair brittle and dry. With cruelty-free vegan ingredients, Odele restores and refreshes the hair to a neutral version. Here’s a great, wallet-friendly addition to kick off your hair care routine.
Hanz De Fuko Natural Conditioner
Conditioners protect the scalp from dryness by holding in moisture and leaving the scalp refreshed. Hanz De Fuko Natural Conditioner achieves this and more with its botanical and herb-based formula. Their ingredients help improve the smoothness of hair while enhancing the appearance of noticeably thicker locks over time. Hanz De Fuko is a remarkable conditioner option for those bad hair days that require quick improvement. The formula also can be used as a natural alternative to shaving cream for a clean 2-in-1 duo.
STMNT Grooming Goods Dry Clay
Newly launched gender-neutral grooming brand, STMNT, brings upscale grooming products that honor the art of barbering by upgrading trusted formulas. We tested dozens on hair clays and pomades — and this dry clay is by far one of the best in terms of hold, application, and scent. Whether you have curly or straight hair, this clay adds texture and provides a sleek matte finished look. All you need is a penny size amount of product to style with.
Conair High Performance Metal Series Professional Clipper
This past year has been difficult in terms of keeping manes tamed — nonetheless, we all adapted. Some of us opted to let it all grow out, while others took to the internet to teach themselves how to cut hair all on their own. That being said, there’s been no better time to buy hair clippers. The Conair Metal Clippers were the best we found. Nostalgic in look but made with high-grade materials — think professional grade Japanese steel blades — these clippers are an excellent option that will make it look like you just left the salon.
The Best Body Products
Say goodbye to that stifling studio apartment and the relaxed sweats of the work-from-home life. This year is about fresh air and close proximity. Refine your skin’s life and scent for a hot-vax summer.
Native Men's Unscented Body Wash
Safe and effective ingredients are a top priority for this natural skincare brand. Native wants you to invest in yourself by taking care of your body. Not only do we love the mission of this company, but we love their products. The Native Unscented Body Wash is made with coconut-derived cleansers that leave your skin feeling soft, healthy, and new.
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray-Fragrance Free
The key to aging gracefully is found in SPF protection. SPF shields your skin from harmful UV radiation causes wrinkles, unsightly liver spots, and certain types of skin cancer. Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Spray gives you powerful SPF protection from the sun while also keeping your skin moisturized. This broad-spectrum sunscreen is also mineral based and hypoallergenic — which makes it great for those with sensitive skin.
Alo Yoga Super Fruit Lotion
Alo Yoga is the true definition of versatility in the wellness industry. What initially started out as yoga wear has evolved into a one-stop shop for all your self-care needs. Their recently launched skincare line incorporates Indian Ayurvedic ingredients in a contemporary package. Alo Yoga’s Superfruit Moisturizing Body Lotion is formulated with potent Arnica, and nature’s most powerful antioxidant, alma. This lotion not only moisturizes your skin for a healthy glow, but it will also protect from environmental pollutants and de-stress your muscles after a long day of work.
Necessaire The Deodorant
Launched in 2018 by beauty industry veterans, Necessaire stepped onto the scene with a mission to provide personal body care that is clean, effective, and sustainable. While natural deodorants have gained massive popularity within recent years, they’ve all had one little setback: the clean ingredients never offered much protection. Necessaire’s deodorant solved that problem. Lactic Acid, Silica, and Kaolin Clay are just some of the ingredients that make this formula a gentle but effective solution that comfortably deodorizes and protects.
Henry Rose Jake's House
Did you know that many of your favorite conventional fragrances contain hormone-disrupting ingredients? With Jake’s House, you’re going to smell like a champion thanks to clean, non-toxic fragrances. The Henry Rose fragrance is the perfect daytime cologne for the spring and summer seasons. Filled with the scents of citrus, honey, and musk, we’re sure you’re going to love this fragrance as much as we do.
Meet the Judges
Brendan Fallis first made waves as a professional skier who competed with Team Canada. Now, he’s a trending DJ and creative entrepreneur, and has been featured in marketing campaigns by Revlon, Adidas, Stuart Weitzman, and more. He and his wife, fellow social media star Hannah Bronfman, live in New York City. More from The Manual: Brendan Fallis’ Grooming Journals
Moti Ankari cut his teeth as a fashion assistant at GQ, and has gone on to create his own menswear blog, The Metro Man, co-founded shoe line Ankari Floruss, and has become a fashion and lifestyle tastemaker in his own right. More from The Manual: Moti Ankari’s Grooming Journals
A former professional surfer, Luke DiTella’s career spans, acting, modeling, and most recently, has been a brand ambassador for brands like Jo Malone, Stranahans, and Boss. More from The Manual: Luke DiTella’s Grooming Journals
DJ Crespo is the official tour DJ for Jaden Smith, and has worked with brands from Nike to Netflix and Google. When he’s not on the decks at your favorite Miami hotspot, Crespo is busy mentoring emerging artists at his premier music production school, Wired Sound Academy. More from The Manual: DJ Crespo’s Grooming Journals
Fitness entrepreneur Devon Levesque is the founder of DML Holdings — a portfolio of wellness brands like 1 Hotels, Gymshark, and PromixNutrition. Most recently, he bear crawled the New York City marathon to raise money for FitOps, an organization that helps veterans find careers in fitness. More from The Manual: Devon Levesque’s Grooming Journals
Anthony originally started his fashion blog Oh Antonio as a creative complement to his work as a structural engineer. A decade later his project has become one of the leading male voices in the industry. More from The Manual: Anthony Urbano’s Grooming Journals
John is a Jersey City-based writer who enjoys covering design in all its forms, from fashion to architecture, interiors, and textiles. When he’s not herding cats with his husband, he’s training for his next Tough Mudder or hanging out in St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city.
Cristina Montemayor is a freelance beauty editor and writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in Very Good Light, BRIDES, HelloGiggles, Slate, and more. Offline, she’s also a working makeup artist for weddings and commercials.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Ty launched his fashion and grooming career at Paper. Since then, his writing and styling work has been featured in V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and L’Officiel USA, interviewing and collaborating with numerous fashion icons like Bella Hadid, Solange Franklin, Rihanna, and Virgil Abloh.
Wasani is a Digital Marketing professional and freelance writer with a passion for men’s grooming and self-care. Based in Los Angeles, Wasani has worked in the entertainment tech space for the past 5 years for Amazon and Penske Media.
- Written and Produced By
- Christian Gollayan
- Copy Editing By
- Jeremy Abrams
- Design Team
- Seth Terpstra
- Genevieve Poblano
- Will Hawkins
- Greg Mombert
- Chris DeGraw
- Taylor Frint
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