by Mark Grassick
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Pop culture tends to reflect its era in one of two ways. In the case of something like The Handmaid’s Tale, it takes all that is awful and oppressive and taps into it, making the social and political climate an integral part of the experience. Alternatively, it can act as a salve, turning our heads away from everything that is painful about everyday life and offering a respite, effectively saying: “Look, there is still joy and kindness in the world.”
The most obvious examples of this at the moment are The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake-Off) and Queer Eye. We’ve just finished the second season of the rebooted Queer Eye and it’s proved to be every bit as addictive as the first. A huge part of this is down to the show’s breakout star Jonathan Van Ness, a man whose grooming expertise is just as impressive as his compassion, humour and intelligence.
He’s without a doubt the comedic highlight, but he’s also a font of advice and wisdom on the subjects of grooming and self-care. We’ve totted up some of his best advice from seasons one and two as a quick introduction to grooming, the Jonathan Van Ness way.
1. Apply cologne properly
“Spray, delay, walk away”
Jonathan can’t claim total credit for this (it was a favourite saying of Kyan from the original Queer Eye For The Straight Guy) but it’s a solid mantra for applying any kind of fragrance. Simply spray the fragrance into the air in front of you, wait a moment and then walk through the mist. Rubbing a cologne or eau de toilette can remove the top notes, so Jonathan’s method avoids this, letting the scent dry naturally on your skin.
2. Get your beard line right
“Put your thumb on your Adam's apple, and that's where your beard line should start.”
It can be hard to figure out where to trim the line of your beard around your neck. Leave it to grow where it wants and you can end up being more beard than man. Some barbers will shave in a line about halfway up your neck from your Adam’s apple, while others will shape the beard around your jaw line, both of which can look a little unnatural. Jonathan’s advice is a fool-proof way to get a natural-looking but neat line.
3. Shape your beard
“The thing with beards is that you want it nice and neat... You want it to mimic your face shape.”
It’s a common fear that a bigger beard will leave your face looking bulky and shapeless, leading some men to overdo the trimming and shaping. The best bet if you want to grow your beard out is to get a professional barber to trim the beard to mimic the shape of your face and then you just have to trim around the lines yourself at home. Go back if it’s getting too bulky, rather than trying to do it yourself. That can lead to disaster.
4. Do it yourself
Don’t worry if your budget doesn’t allow for expensive products, Jonathan is a big proponent of simple homemade tricks that genuinely work. In season one, he showed how to make your own exfoliant and lip rub, using just sugar and coconut oil for the former and two tablespoons of brown sugar, half a cup of coconut, some honey and your essential oil of choice for the latter. In season two, he makes a miraculous face mask out of just ground oats and Manuka honey.
5. No more foam
“One thing you want to avoid is sulphates”
So many shampoos and face washes contain sulphates, especially sodium lauryl sulphate, which is used as a foaming agent. It’s also in dish soap, so you can guess how bad that can be for any skin type, not just sensitive. Show your hair and scalp some love and find a shampoo that’s free from sulphates. If you’ve got a beard, a good gentle shampoo can double up as a beard shampoo, saving you the expense of buying a separate one.