by trevor ellestad
With age-defying skin creams, physique-enhancing surgical procedures and hair-thickening follicle strategies all at our fingertips, it's no wonder that many believe the modern man to be equally susceptible to the exaggerated advertising claims and deceptive beauty myths women have been dealing with for decades. The male beauty industry continues to boom, and along with it, come an increased selection à la carte treatments and products catered specifically to men.
So what is it that has us 21st century fellas under the tattoo gun, the botox needle and the whitening laser? What are the myths that we keep telling ourselves about what it means to be a man who keeps himself well-groomed, and how do we find the organic, cruelty-free grooming products that are right for us?
Myth #1: Male Beauty is A 21st Century Anomaly
For most young men, growing up means having to find one's identity among their peers. Unfortunately, in this digital age, this means having to do this online too. A shining personality, charm and humour are all only as good as the profile picture they hide behind, all too often swiped left, blocked and dismissed. Is it really any wonder that men are discussing grooming with their buddies, buying chemically-laden lotions with radical claims, and consuming stacks of powders, pills and potions trying to mould themselves into someone different?
Male beauty is not a 21st century anomaly, but our ideas are always shifting around what makes a man beautiful. Attaining the lean, muscular body type that's in vogue takes much more than a little extra time in front of the mirror primping and preening. Maintaining the chiseled abs and perky pecs worn by our favorite role models is a daunting task with an exhaustive list of premium supplements all claiming to get us there quicker. Take that overwhelm, throw in our smartphone cameras, the internet, social media, Tinder and Grindr, and you can see why men might be talking a little more about their appearances these days.
Myth #2: Male grooming is totally unnecessary and modern men are more shallow.
Ok, now that's just downright mean. Last time I checked, the male body responded quite well to quality, plant-based grooming products. A dab of moisturizer, a regular shave and a couple minutes with some clean, gentle soap can make a world of difference. Whether a man calls it his beauty routine or just regular maintenance, no one is complaining about a guy getting up close and personal with a razor or some body scrub every once in awhile. Sure there are shades of shallow in every gender. No one likes someone who spends their life in front of the mirror or takes endless reams of selfies, but take away our "unnecessary grooming" and many of us men would be left with only a tattered pile of smelly flannel shirts on the floor and a greasy Rip Van Winkle beard to wrap around our blackheads and thick calluses. That's a future none of us want to be a part of.
Besides, no one ever said getting clean meant you couldn't get a little dirty first. In fact mud, clay, charcoal and coffee are just a few of the messy ingredients that help some of my favorite products shine! Some men may be surprised just how much they enjoy the invigorating mint basd coffee body scrub which uses sea salt and organic coffee grounds for exfoliation, and vitamin e and sweet almond oil for some undercover hydration. Talk about how an organic cup of coffee that does all the dirty work! This one is a sure winner for the guy looking to satisfy the little boy in them wanting to roll around in the mud at the first sign of rain and the man in them who starts every morning with a premium cup of of java.
Myth #3: Men with a beauty routine lack masculinity.
The myth is simple. The modern man is weak, soft and feminine because our society lacks the masculine role models that build real men. Male stereotypes in the media are no longer defined by the same high standards of hairy, macho moustached masculinity they once were, and in turn, this has created a society of men who like to wash their faces once a day and apply moisturizer to dry, cracked skin. The evidence all supports this conclusion. I mean, when was the last time that you saw a man on television in a position of power exerting his machismo and making rash, aggressive decisions?
Saying we lack masculine stereotypes and that this has led to a decline in societal testosterone is about as near-sighted as saying boys can only grow into real men under the watchful eye of an unkempt hero who spends his time behind the wheel of a noisy, yet helpful talking car, slinging scantily clad, greasy ladies across his lap. Men in the public eye have been grooming themselves for generations.
I know exactly two men with access to talking cars. Mr. Labeouf may have had a much wider collection of verbose vehicles to choose from in Transformers, but Mr. Hasselhoff (and KITT too, for that matter) had a million times more macho male bravado on Knight Rider, not to mention those shiny chestnut locks.
The Truth About Beauty: No matter our gender, it's our conversations about beauty that are skin deep.
Men's beauty is about as new to humanity as our diversity as a species, but we're living life louder than ever before and demanding more information from our smartphones at every step of the journey. Recycled conversations about metrosexuality and the changing face of masculinity are enough to keep the internet buzzing for another decade with memes and infographics about body wash, skin peels and cryotherapy. So I don't really need to talk about that, nor do I want to. I'd rather ask some bigger questions.
What does beauty really mean to you?
I imagine my self-care routine to be just as rushed and erratic as any busy woman in my life. I do what I can, when I can. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm addicted to hot baths with Epsom salts, or that I probably don't wash my hair as often as I should. Most importantly, I see my relationship with grooming as an opportunity to be present and respectful of myself. I see my value as a man who respects his heritage, his body, and his planet and still feels masculine. Tthis means taking care of myself and choosing cruelty-free products that are kind to the earth. Considering how much time I spend traveling on dry airplanes and digging in the dirt, I’ve been relying on the invigorating mint basd body lotion, filled with organic ingredients to repair my ragged hands and dry skin with its serious badass skin hydration.
Data may suggest that our conversations are changing about gender and the roles we play in society. Most men may not face the same adversity or be burdened by the same grueling physical work that their parents and grandparents did, but it doesn't make us any less courageous or stressed. I am fortunate to feel protected from war, famine and poverty, but it doesn't mean that I lack the respect for my grandfather's sun-beaten skin, toughened from wiping sweat off his brow behind the wheel of a tank and then a tractor.
No product or procedure will ever truly make us more beautiful or transform us into better people. But maybe, this morning, there was a cream, soap, scrub or face mask that helped you leave the house feeling a little more connected, a little more courageous, a little more beautiful. We are all allowed to feel good about that.
Expose yourself, get naked, and ask yourself the questions that really matter, starting with this one: What does beauty really mean to you?
Trevor Ellestad (T’úỷtemken) is a public relations and digital marketing strategist, freelance writer and editor, herbalist and budding horticulturalist. Trevor has over a decade of experience in Influencer Marketing, Public Relations and Digital Marketing and was nominated as one of Western Canada's top social media professionals by Notable Magazine. When he’s not throwing events and chatting with the media, he's probably digging in the dirt at T’uy’t pen’emay’, his half-acre First Nations medicinal teaching garden under the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver. Trevor also writes about native plants and organic gardening at his blog, The Ardent Harvest. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.