Thursday, October 1, 2015


There it is in the picture to the right -- that's my daily personal care armamentarium, at least as of this moment. My wife laughs at me and tells me I use more than the normal number of potions, but hey, "this" doesn't come easy. A guy has to work at it, you know. What's notable about this array of products is that it is not stable. I wish it were, but manufacturers are constantly swapping offerings in and out of their lines, and they seem to be especially reckless with men's products. Maybe they're thinking that we won't complain, but I'm here to let them know that's not the case.

Take after shave. These days, I double dog dare you to find the same after shave lotion or balm twice in a row. For example, I used to use a Neutrogena product that contained a built-in 20 SPF sunscreen, because I figured that would be a good, healthy thing. But within a short period of time, that product had disappeared, only to be replaced with a version which did not contain sunscreen. But now I see that the sunscreen version has returned to the shelves. The same thing happens all the time with all kinds of products. Of course, there are times when you discover something new and good in the process.

One afternoon in the very early 80's, I was shopping at the Old Orchard Marshall Field's in suburban Chicago, and I needed some after shave. In those days, I bought "real" after shave, the kind sold only in department stores. As I perused the offerings, a pleasant female sales associate, some years my senior, asked if she could be of assistance, and when I told her what I was looking for, she asked if I'd ever considered a balm instead of a straight lotion. When I told her I hadn't, she asked me to hold out my hand, and she would apply some Chanel Antaeus to it so that I could feel the texture. When I told her how nice it felt, she said, "Why would you shave your face, then splash it with something containing alcohol?" I replied that I had no answer for that savage male practice and that it stung immensely. She then said, "You should use a balm. It's better for your skin. Women know this." I committed this statement to memory. Needless to say, I left Field's with my first bottle of Antaeus, and it would not be my last. It's still on the market, but it's kinda pricey.

The study of shaving cream/gel/foam is something for which you could probably earn an advanced degree. As you may be able to see from the picture, I've opted lately for a cream. That's what men used to use many moons ago, and I became interested in it when I saw a man shaving with it in an old black and white movie. He was applying something to his face that I could barely see, but it seemed to work. (I don't think he was bleeding, but then again, it was a black and white movie, so it was hard to tell.) Anyway, he was using cream. Shaving gel lasts so long that you become quite tired of its fragrance after a while and want to move on to something else. I once had a can of Edge Sensitive Skin for over a year. Shaving foam, on the other hand, lasts approximately 35 seconds once it's applied to the face and has never been the same since Barbasol, which is still sold, but for something like $6.00 a can. And of course, you can never find the same shave cream twice in a row, except in the case of Cremo, which despite its odd name, smells of citrus and has such a pleasing fragrance that you don't want to ever stop shaving.

Shampoo for guys? Look out. There's an assumption that many men (and this may be true) want to use only one product for body wash, shampoo, and whatever else. The big manufacturers like Old Spice and Axe have catered to this with products which, although probably effective, often have scents which could peel the paint off walls. Other guys may not say anything when they catch a whiff of these, but I could not with a clear conscience wear them around my female friends. They would become distressed and avoid talking to me altogether. Plus, I sing in a choir, and you cannot wear stinky stuff when you sing with such a group, because that might disturb others around you, and they might start sneezing, which is not a good recipe for choral success.

I became more aware of using the "right" fragrance some years ago, when while walking into the office with my friend Swanzetta, she smiled at me and said, "Rico, what is that you're wearing? Mmm-um...ain't nothin' like a good smellin' man in the morning." I laughed, but took that statement to heart. Just as important as the right fragrance is the concept of discretion in its application. Back in the 80's, I worked in an office where one of our compadres loaded himself up every morning with Ralph Lauren Polo, the one in the green bottle with the shiny gold top. There's nothing inherently wrong with this time honored fragrance, but the amount that this fellow used was absolutely staggering. We could smell him heading our way from several aisles away. I vowed back then never to repeat that offense. I don't want to get sued by someone for respiratory damage or because they missed their solo.

So what to do? I'm thinking that maybe I should just stockpile my favorite brands, but I'm wondering if they have a shelf life. I have some eau de toilette that I've had since the 90's, and it still seems to smell okay, but I haven't field tested it, if you know what I mean. I have to be careful, being a baritone and all.