Men look after their skin about as well as they take pictures of themselves which is to say terribly. I’ve seen male friends use cocoa butter on their faces and then wonder why their skin is oily. I’ve seen them wash delicate cheeks using Original Source Mint and Tea Tree shower gel and wonder why they’re mottled with red scratchy patches. I’ve seen them squirt out and rinse off handfuls of their Mum’s Dermalogica face wash without even waiting for it to work into a lather, literally £5 swirling down the drain. Meanwhile, women are panic-reading the r/SkincareAddiction subreddit, scrolling through threads that explain how microbeads clog up the insides of fish and cause micro-tears in the skin, subsequently forcing pores to overproduce sebum (exfoliating with beads is over, FYI).
But things are changing. Well, Frank Ocean’s skincare routine implies as much. In his recent GQ cover story, he discussed it with the same languid poeticism he applies to songs about novocaine and crying at taxi drivers. See his description of nourishing himself with night creams: “You can't have the retinol in your creams in the day because it makes you more sun-sensitive, so you wanna throw that on at night.”, Or take his desire to know, in detail, how to have skin as perfect as Pharrell’s: “Pharrell still hasn't given us the keys yet. He just says ‘exfoliate,’ but it's not just ‘exfoliate:’ We need more keys.” To find out whether men are applying tingling under eye creams and detoxifying clay masks, I asked a bunch of them about their skincare routines.
“In the shower, I lather hair conditioner over my facial hair and let it sit”
Noisey: What did you think of Frank’s routine?
Kieran Bedford, chef, 24: He’s pretty amateur compared to those girls on YouTube. They’re always getting out these different acids like lactic and hyaluronic – it’s mental. It’s cool that he’s got a routine though, rather than just being like “drink water and good thoughts :-)”.
Can you explain your own?
When I get in the shower I lather hair conditioner over my facial hair and let it sit while I wash the rest of my body (to soften the hairs), then I shave my face in the shower and put on a light moisturiser. I only do this every other day though, and I don’t do anything else.
You shower every other day?
Right. Has this always been your skincare routine?
When I was younger my skin used to be super acne-prone and I remember using Freederm and anti-spot stuff but it just made it worse.
How much have your parents mum had an impact on how you treat your skin?
My mum is always putting on day cream, night cream, eye cream and all the anti-ageing stuff. It’s hard for women because makeup is expected but so is clear skin and they don’t always go together. Boys have more lactic acid in their sweat so it cleans their skin more, how unfair is that? I remember Dad used to use this ‘coal soap’ or something that came in an orange wrapper. It stank like old men.
If you could have someone’s skin whose would it be?
I’m not that envious of anyone else’s – people always say they want mine *flips hair*. But if I had to pick, it’d probably be Jorja Smith’s, but I know she uses a grapefruit scrub or some shit which isn’t that good for you apparently.
What’s the worst thing guys do to their skin?
When men use 3-in-1 body/face/hair wash I’m like, 'what are you doing??!!!! Please love yourself!!!!' If it works on my hair why would I want it on my body? It makes no sense. Also, those combo washed always smell of limes and pepper like #LADS and it’s so sad.
“I feel like men’s skincare peaked in 2008 when ‘the metrosexual’ was a thing and Beckham was in his sarong”
Noisey: Hi Scott, describe your skin care routine to me.
Scott Pope, TV executive, 23: The closest thing I have to a skincare routine is noticing I have dry skin at about 3PM each afternoon when I go to the loo. I look at myself in the mirror and think, ‘I’m going to sort this out, I’m going to fucking glow’. Then I go back to work and forgot all about it until 3PM the next day. What are your thoughts on Frank Ocean's routine?
He’s a very beautiful man with great skin, but I can’t say I care very much about his skin routine. I just want him to be happy and to make great art.
What is the most misguided thing you have ever seen a man do to his skin?
In secondary school, I’m pretty sure I knew someone who rubbed olive oil on his skin to make his spots get bigger. (Or maybe I imagined it) (or maybe it was me and I’ve disassociated the memory from my past).
Do you reckon men are getting better at skincare?
I feel like men’s skincare peaked in 2008 when metrosexual was a thing and David Beckham photographed in that sarong. But then there was too much criticism, men were like ‘you might as well grow a pussy if you have a skin care routine lol’ and then it got bad again. Like when guys say it’s gay to put on lip balm on it’s like: sorry I don’t want to appropriate straight lad culture by having chapped lips you freak. It’s not gay to have moisturised lips, Keith, I’m sure your ‘missus’ would be thankful not to kiss your sandpaper mouth.
Have you ever put on a face mask?
Is it still a face mask if it’s a scrub that you apply and leave on? I’m a bit unsure. But if it’s the kind where it’s an actual mask that you lay on your face then here’s my deep cut: First off I don’t like that I have to keep my face still, it’s weird. I don’t feel like I move my face excessively on a day to day basis, but with a mask on it just feels restricted, I don’t like it. And secondly, I think they make you look like you’re in recovery from a chemical peel/third-degree burns. I’d give face masks another go to try the Hannibal Lecter tongue thing, but that’s about the extent of my interest.
Okay, Scott: is 2019 the year for great skin?
If/when I get a girlfriend I will definitely lock myself in her bathroom and get to business before stepping out in a plume of steam with a towel wrapped around my head. My face will smell of lavender and my arse will smell of coconut. Until then, though, probably just the occasional semi-vigorous face rub in the shower (ooh matron).
“I used to smother everything I ate in butter and cheese – no wonder I had spots”
Noisey: Can you describe your skincare to me, Max?
Max Cussons, golf course marshall, 23: I wash my face twice a day with soap and try not to eat too much dairy. I used to smother everything in butter and cheese and drink a pint of milk before bed – no wonder I had spots. I think the food you consume really plays an understated role in how you take care of your skin as well as your all-round health – even mentally, avoiding stress and hanging out with people who care about you. Diet overcomes any kind of medicine and/or products.
What brand of soap is it? Is it the same bar you use after you have been on the toilet?
Just standard Dove. Preferably, I have a bar at the sink, for washing my hands and one for the shower. There's an episode of Friends where Chandler yells at Joey that soap is self-cleaning, so I don't worry about the germs crossing over from after the toilet to on my face or anything.
What sort of finish does your soap wash give you? Does your skin not feel super tight and dry without moisturiser after you washed it?
I don't look in the mirror a whole lot, so I think someone else would have to tell me how the finish is.
What are your thoughts on Frank Ocean's routine?
He's a very beautiful gentleman, so I can see why skin might be the main thing on his mind when it comes to his appearance. When I feel ugly I never really think about my skin; it just tends to be the shapes of parts that I gravitate towards.
He talks about retinol a lot, do you know what that is?
I don't have a clue. He says not to have it on in the day, so maybe it's some kind of sun-block type chemical that doesn't mix well with skin? I got a C at GCSE Science, so I'm really not the person to ask.
"I've got no fucking idea what retinol is, fam – sounds like a cream for your retina"
Noisey: Hi Santino, walk me through your skincare routine, please.
Santino Browne, musician, 24: You can never beat the Dove unscented bar of soap for the face in the morning. That is literally everything I do. Wok, OK. What are your thoughts on Frank Ocean's skin routine, then?
I mean, it clearly works for him but who has the time for that every night? I just get horizontal, wank and sleep. Although my hair routine is pretty hefty and that takes its toll on my forehead grease.
What do you do to your hair?
It’s afro hair so I have to keep it moisturised or it’s gonna look like hay. I use Aussie products cause they’re just ten times better than anything else. First I shampoo, then I double condition, dry that shit, and while it’s still damp I use this really thick curl activator jelly and boom – that’s day one. I can’t wash it every night or I’ll lose the moisture, so the next day it’s Aussie leave-in conditioner and boom, next day it’s the same curl activator but the spray version. Sometimes I’ll mix that with the Aussie leave-in spray, then rinse and repeat so that’s often two to three nights I’m letting all that product drip onto my face.
Frank talks about retinol a lot, do you know what that is?
No fucking idea fam, it sounds like a moisturising cream for your retina. Mmm creamy eyes. Not quite – it’s a form of vitamin A that can help your skin look plumper. In relation to that, what are your thoughts on exfoliation? Some people say it's really good for your skin, other's think it’s the worst thing you can do.
Exfoliation is actually the key – on the odd occasion I feel productive I’m not opposed to a bit of salt rub on the face. I think it’s more the feeling of looking good and it gives you the confidence to strut the next day, ya feel me.
“Frank Ocean’s skincare routine is beyond comprehension to me, tbh”
Noisey: Hi Will, What are your thoughts on Frank Ocean's skin routine?
Will Babbington, student, 24: Beyond comprehension tbh.
How does your routine compare?
I am both poor and vain, and while I aspire toward a beauty regime suitable for a Bret-Easton Ellis character, my overdraft will not permit it. Hopefully, 2019 will bring me untold riches, but until then I wash my face with water and moisturise twice a day.
What are you most guilty of doing to your face that's definitely bad for it?
I smoke and don’t intend to quit. The wrinkles are already setting in.
Who is your skincare icon?
Samuel Beckett, the playwright. I like men whose faces reflect their excessive drinking habits.
What is the most misguided thing you’ve ever seen a man do to his skin?
An old classmate once proudly confessed that he used that same razor blades for his face as he did for his pubic region. It was more economical, apparently.
You can find Annie thinking about moisturised retinas on Twitter.