man and woman making eye contact

Here’s How to Use Eye Contact to Flirt Without Being Creepy

If you’ve ever watched a romantic movie, you can probably tell that there’s a relationship between eye contact and attraction.

Two main characters will stare at each other. One of them will seductively wink at the other — a gesture that only works if both of them are staring into each other’s eyes — or the one with the crush will constantly be looking anywhere but at the object of their affections. That’s because maintaining sustained eye contact with someone you’re attracted to can be nerve-wracking … but why is that?

We seem to instinctively understand eye contact’s role in attraction, but rarely do we seem to know why it’s important.

In order to stare the problem in the face, AskMen spoke with a handful of dating experts and therapists who know a thing or two on the topic. Here’s what they had to say:

Does Eye Contact Always Mean Attraction?

Eye contact is a powerful connection between two human beings. Being able to recognize and respond to it, whether verbally or in terms of understanding what it means, is a big part of human interaction.

That manifests itself in factoids like “liars have difficulty maintaining eye contact” or “people blink when they’re lying” — the notion being that eye contact represents a kind of honest version of the self, and if you need to distort that, you’re going to struggle to return someone’s gaze.

As a result, it’s no surprise that to some people, like Connell Barrett, a dating coach for The League and the founder of DatingTransformation.com, eye contact conveys confidence.

“Holding someone’s gaze tells them, ‘I’m interested in you, and I’m worthy of you,’” says Barrett. “It also makes a person feel ‘seen.’ As the saying goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul, and part of attraction is feeling that the other person sees the real you.”

That feeling of seeing and being seen is what begins the courtship process, says Dr. Chris Donaghue, sex and intimacy expert for SKYN Condoms.

“It’s a clear symbol of interest and openness to further engagement,” he notes. “It can be an automatic and unconscious response, as no thought process is utilized, but instead just an honest and immediate expression of attraction or disinterest. Getting a potential partner’s attention is exclusively about getting them to notice you and to see if they engage your gaze.”

Types of Eye Contact Attraction

Yes, eye contact can mean attraction, but it can also mean a simple, non-romantic or non-sexual curiosity. Someone could look your way because they’re trying to figure something out about you, or it can even indicate a negative fixation — that is, they’re looking because they don’t like what they see.

And even within attraction, eye contact can convey different things. To break that down, here are three different ways attraction can manifest itself in terms of eye contact.

1. Staring

This Could Mean: Attracted to you, totally unafraid to admit it

It Could Also Mean: Downright creepy fixation on you, no manners

At some point in your life, you’ve probably noticed someone staring at you. Whether you thought they were attractive will vary, but there’s a good chance you didn’t love the feeling of being intently focused on. That’s because for most people, staring can feel like an invasive act, particularly when it’s done by a stranger.

One potential reason for that? On some level, we do recognize that staring is a sign of deep attraction, and it can be unsettling to have that stated, even non-verbally when you’re not expecting it. As well, staring can often imply that someone is objectifying you by looking at just your body, rather than your true self.

“Someone who’s confident but not attracted to you will keep their eyes on your eyes and your face,” says Barrett. Someone with less pure interests, however, “tends to let their eyes drop to your chest or torso. They’re taking in the ‘whole package.’”

2. Furtive Glances

This Could Mean: Attracted to you, but shy about it

It Could Also Mean: Trying to figure out who you remind them of

If you take a peek at your crush and you don’t see them staring at you, there could be two explanations: a lack of interest, sure, or they may be taking furtive glances at you, just long enough to register you before looking away.

According to Barrett, the quick, furtive glance is actually a pretty common sign of eye-contact attraction.

“A clear sign someone is attracted to you is making eye contact, briefly averting their eyes and then returning their gaze to you,” he explains. “They know they shouldn’t stare, so they look away, but can’t help but bring their focus back to you. It’s a natural push-pull.”

It may not sound very romantic, but meeting each other’s eyes for just a second can make for a very intimate shared experience, one that seems all the more powerful and meaningful because of, rather than in spite of, its brevity.

3. Total Avoidance

This Could Mean: Extremely nervous with a big secret crush

It Could Also Mean: Genuinely don’t know who you are/a case of social anxiety

Less common (but no less real) is the reality that sometimes, someone who’s deeply attracted to you will completely avert their gaze, doing their utmost not to look at you.

While some people are willing to stare at someone they’re into to their heart’s content, others are much more shy about it. This is the ‘push’ part of the ‘push-pull’ dynamic Barrett describes — avoiding eye contact can be a sign that someone is attracted to you, but is too shy and anxious about that attraction to give in to it.

However, this is typically only the case for people who spend a fair amount of time together platonically, where admitting to a crush might be inappropriate. If you think someone you’ve just met is avoiding looking at you, there’s a good chance it’s not a case of secret attraction.

How to Attract Your Crush With Eye Contact

A few good moments of eye contact can open a person up to seeing you as a potential romantic interest without so much as a word.

However, that doesn’t mean you can just start seducing people with your gaze left, right and center. It only really works when a few other pre-conditions are met: how attractive they find you, whether they’re the person who develops attractions easily or frequently, what context you’re exchanging glances in, and so forth.

To help you out, we say you should…

1. Be Subtle About It

Perhaps the most important rule of attraction through eye contact, as you may have gleaned earlier, is that too much of it can be creepy. Since you probably don’t know the person you’re looking at that well, you should be extra cautious not to overdo it.

Women in particular are often used to unwanted attention from men, and staring too long and hard at a woman can signify that you might be a threat rather than a potential candidate for romance.

Don’t stare at them for hours (or even minutes) on end, particularly in a space where they may not feel super safe, like on public transit or in a store. Instead, limit your looking to a few brief glances.

2. Follow Their Lead

If you do manage to achieve eye contact, don’t hold it for too long — try to be the first one to look away. However, a moment of eye contact, particularly if they don’t immediately look away, may signal that they’re open for more.

If you sense that they’ve started looking back at you, now’s your chance to establish a little more prolonged eye contact, and potentially work in a smile to acknowledge what’s happening.

However, if they look away immediately and go back to ignoring you, don’t try to force it. It’s easy for a staring guy to seem creepy, and rather than setting yourself up for a nice conversation, you could be putting them in a cold, panicky sweat. Eye contact can be magical, but part of that magic is the spontaneity and realness — it can’t be forced.

3. Talk to Them (About Something Else)

If you get into a little routine of exchanging glances and smiles, that’s a good opportunity to try to start a conversation with them. One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is discuss the eye contact that just happened.

“Consider the gaze an invitation to approach and break the ice,” says Barrett. “Don’t talk about the eye contact itself. Discussing the signs of interest is too meta, and can sap the moment of its ‘it just happened’ feeling.”

Donaghue also agrees, noting that it’s best to “use the communication to build confidence and motivation to engage and flirt with the interested person.”

“Go talk to them and ask them out,” he suggests. “But if they do not respond to your eye contact, or your other attempts to flirt, have the integrity to leave them alone.”

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Still Shaving With a Straight Razor? It’s Time for a Change

The AskMen editorial team thoroughly researches & reviews the best gear, services and staples for life. AskMen may get paid if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service.

Product photos from retailer sites.

Back in the day, men reached into the medicine cabinet for a razor and standard can of shaving foam to achieve a smooth face. Now, the male grooming climate has evolved, and a new crop of electric shavers has entered the fold, becoming an essential shaving tool for the modern man.

Not only can these mechanical face clippers shave time and money off your grooming routine (adios, expensive blade refills!), but they are also delivering clean-cut trims that feel as good as a standard razor.

No one said shopping for a shaver was a cake walk through the pharmacy aisle. In fact, it can get quite overwhelming, especially when each machine claims it’s the “best shave ever.” Our guide gives you insight on what you should look for when shopping the endless list of electric razors available today.

Are Electric Shavers Better?

Skeptical that an electric shaver can meet your needs? Or that you even need one at all? We’ll allow that a certain amount of subjectivity is involved in grooming preferences, and that some men really enjoy the lengthy routine of using a traditional straight razor to tame their daily facial hair growth, but electric shavers deserve your consideration.

Here are some of the perks of switching to electric:

  • Faster: You’ll save precious time every morning by grooming with an electric shaver
  • Reduce skin irritation: Do you regularly suffer from ingrown hairs, cuts or nicks when you shave? Good news: electric shavers have a foil, that greatly reduces the chances of these facial disasters
  • Mobility: With a traditional razor, you’re stuck near your shaving cream and running water, but with an electric razor, you’re free to move around, or shave away from your bathroom
  • Style your stubble: Traditional razors don’t offer you any control when it comes to your stubble. You’re either hairy or clean-shaven. But electric shavers come with adjustable blade lengths, meaning you can engineer the stubble length you desire
  • Cheaper (in the long run): The upfront cost of an electric razor is nothing to sneeze at, and often deters people from taking the plunge, but the truth is, over the long run, electric razors are cheaper: you’ll save on shaving cream and replacement blades, meaning the electric razor will pay for itself in no time

Does this make electric shavers "better" than traditional blades? That’s up to you, but the benefits are undeniable.

What to Look For

  • Closeness: There is difference between using a beard trimmer to shave, and a proper electric razor. If you are looking for a clean shave, you won’t be satisfied with something designed to take a beard down.
  • Comfort and convenience: You’re buying this product to make life easier, not add time to your daily routine. Note the difference in lower priced models and their higher priced counterparts as well as traditional foil shavers versus rotary models.
  • Technology: Today’s crop of shavers are loaded with more hi-tech features than they used to be. Multifoil blades and more powerful motors are great upgrades, but come at a price.
  • Speed: Look for CPM (cycles per minute). The faster the cycles, the quicker the shave.
  • Battery life: You shouldn’t settle for less than 50 to 60 minutes of power with cordless models.
  • Durability: Increased lifespan justifies a higher price.

Foil vs. Rotary

Foil

A foil design hosts oscillating blades within a thin layer of foil to lift hair away from the face, making for gentler shaves. The foil even lends itself to larger skin surfaces such as the top of the head. Many come in three- or four-blade options.

Pros:

  • Faster cutting speeds
  • Closer shaves
  • More precise execution
  • Better skin protection

Cons:

  • Not as adaptable to facial contours
  • Works best when used in straight lines

Rotary

These models typically rely on flexible heads with spinning razors that work best for making tight turns across the face. They also work well for daily maintenance of a clean-shaven look. Such features also come with certain shaving compromises.

Pros:

  • Eliminates hair in difficult areas more easily
  • Considered a better overall performer by experts
  • Offers more flexibility with minimal pressure
  • Suitable for shaving every other day
  • Quieter performance

Cons:

  • More prone to cause irritation
  • Not designed for trimming and edging

In response to the growing trend of electric shavers, the market has seen an influx of models from some of the industry’s biggest players including Braun, Panasonic, Remington, and Philips Norelco, each sharing their own unique features. Some come equipped with rotary heads or multi-directional blades for precision cutting, others support dry and wet shaving. Then there are hybrid models that have features of both beard trimmers and standard electric razors.

If this all seems like a lot to handle, keep reading for our guide of the best electric razors you can buy right now.

Best All-Purpose Electric Shavers

Best Overall Electric Shaver

Philips Norelco OneBlade Face + Body

Is it a razor? Shaver? Trimmer? Try all three. The OneBlade achieves the grooming trifecta (at a killer value) with an all-purpose design that allows users to edge, shave, and trim any length of hair. Philips has integrated a dynamic cutting head that operates at 200 passes per second with a dual-protection system that dices through longer strands without pulling the skin. The grip handle is impressive yet lightweight for the power it packs, with sturdy support to give users more confidence when shaving and a 45 minute life following a full charge.

Promising Review: "I’ve been wanting to buy this for years now! Always been hesitant, because I’ve tried over 5 different electric shavers. Nothing came close to a razor, until I finally pulled the plug on this. Seriously, this is not like any other electric shaver!!! It works wonders, especially when used as directed!!! I cannot stress this enough. If you been hesitant about buying it. Now, it’s your time. I liked it so much that I got one for my Dad. He loves it too!!!" — Amazon Customer
$49.79 at Amazon.com

Best Tried and True Electric Shaver

Braun Series 9

Almost 100 years ago, German mechanical engineer Max Braun founded his eponymous brand. Braun has taken design and engineering very seriously ever since. This Series 9 9290cc is a marvelous piece of electric shaving machinery, highlighted by its immaculate craftsmanship, ergonomic design, and phenomenal performance. It won both our Readers’ Choice Award for Best Electric Razor and our AskMen Grooming Award for the same title.

Patented SyncroSonic Technology carries serious horsepower, generating 40,000 “cross-cutting actions per minute” to achieve a complete shave without lathering up. The four-way shear system conquers three-day stubble with finesse, and included in the price is the cleaning system and travel case with a cleaning brush. If you need any more convincing, read our full-length review on the Series 9.

Promising Review: "I never thought an electric razor could handle my face and head until I purchased this razor. My facial hair is very coarse and what’s left of the hair on my head is about the same. It powered through with a total shave time of 15-20min max. I have the wet/dry model and have used it dry. I have yet to see any excessive bumping or irritation. I’ve been using a regular razor my whole life so I’m sure my skin has a certain tolerance. My regular razor would cause bumps all the time! I HIGHLY recommend this razor it’s worth the cost after the first use!" — Amazon Customer
$299.94 at Amazon.com

Best Electric Foil Razor Runner Up

Panasonic Arc3 3-Blade Electric Shaver

If the more premium Arc5 is out of your price range, rest easy knowing you can get similar quality results from its bargain brethren. This update is driven by a high-speed 10,000 CPM linear motor capable of slicing through stubble for consistent shaving at numerous angles and an attached trimmer for detailing. Its biggest selling point remains the active shave sensor technology that detects and adjusts power levels to match hair densities on the face, neck, and chin. A lightweight feel, quick charge (one hour) and strong battery life (45 minutes) add to its value. Not bad for the low-end Arc option.

Promising Review: "You can’t go wrong with this electric shaver. It is very ergonomic so it makes it easy to maneuver around your face. The shave is nice and close almost like using a blade. I highly recommend this product!" — Joseph
$69.99 at Amazon.com

Best Rotary Electric Razor

Philips Norelco 9000 Prestige Electric Shaver

The latest electric shaver to hit store shelves is a hi-tech special sensor built into the device to gauge hair density and adjust the blade to shave strands properly. No nicks, no tugs. Its three shaving heads come equipped with NanoTech precision blades (literally covered in nanoparticles to keep blades sharper longer), ensuring a super-close cut, even up to seven-day stubble. SkinComfort rings also surround each one and boast anti-friction coating that increases gliding. Philips throws in a click-on trimmer for beard and ‘stache styling, along with a plush travel case that complements the shaver’s executive look.

Promising Review: "This is the best Norelco I have ever owned. Close shave at only one week. Can’t wait to see how it goes once face gets used to it. Over 20 years in the military and wish I had a razor like this the entire time. I hate shaving with blade razors and will never use one again thanks to this." — John
$279.95 at Amazon.com

Best Budget Electric Foil Shaver

Braun Series 3 ProSkin

A mid-tier shaver with high-end performance, the wet/dry Series 3 ProSkin is a dependable option made for faster shaving and skin comfort and is perfect for electric razor newbies. Its signature head and MicroComb technology guide whiskers into the cutters for a more swift outcome. Pressure-sensitive blades allow for smoother strokes and protect skin from any chafing or irritation. The precision trimmer built into the back complements facial styling by accurately shaping your ‘stache and sideburns. Battery life is comparable to more expensive shavers, with a 45-minute battery life from a full charge or a full shave from just five minutes.

Promising Review: "For blood thinner patients check this shaver out! My father really loves it. He was in the hospital for 11 days. He had a tough beard going on. This Braun wet/dry shaver just did its job. A nice close shave. We even did the old credit card trick from the 1970s." — Szizzy
$70 at Amazon.com

Best Budget Rotary Electric Razor

Philips Norelco Shaver 5750

Instant shaving is a quality most men want in their electrical groomer. Philips’ budget-friendly shaver accomplishes it easily with a Turbo mode that gives a 20 percent power boost to mow through dense parts of your beard. Using its singular MultiPrecision blade system to tackle facial fuzz, working alongside five-direction flex heads to lift hair, then cut long and short strands with swift execution. Those preferring a dry shave can benefit from the machine’s Aquatec Wet and Dry technology without slapping water on their face. The accompanying smart clean system sweetens the deal by cleaning, lubricating, and charging the shaver for a solid hour of use.

Promising Review: "Norelco has a winner on this shaver. The numerous features and flexibility. Battery seems to last forever before needing a charge. It can be set for your beard and skin. I was amazed at the ability to shave in the shower and shaved well it did. I recommend this to everyone who likes electric shavers or those who want their first. Affordable and easy to use and easy to clean." — Chuck
$99.99 at Amazon.com

Best Electric Shaver for Beards

Remington F5-5800 Foil Shaver

Getting a clean, smooth shave doesn’t always require the most expensive machinery. Remington’s popular foil shaver is proof that you can attain professional shaves at a budget value. The device lasts a full hour on a single quick charge and features an intercept trimmer that sits between the two foils and seizes longer hairs in fewer passes. That along with an integrated pop-up trimmer for shape-ups, and patented Pivot and Flex technology that moves with your grooves, make it impossible to overlook this oscillating facial hair remover.

Promising Review: "This is not my first electric shaver, however it is my first Remington electric. After reading the negative reviews I decided to ignore them and order it anyway because some people just can’t be pleased, or they don’t really know what to expect from an electric shaver. Used properly this Remington gives as good a shave as any other brand electric shaver. It arrived fully charged and after a dozen shaves it’s still at 80 percent charge. It is very easy to use and clean, and gives consistently nice close shaves. I’ve experienced no ‘razor burn,’ no pulling or pinching of the skin or any other uncomfortable issues. I’ve even used it on my scalp. I’m pleased with this purchase…good electric shaver at a reasonable price….and if it lasts, the replacement heads are much less expensive than the other brands I’ve used." — Anonymous
$46.99 at Amazon.com

Best Electric Shaver for Black Men

Panasonic ARC5

Black men have unique grooming needs, owing to differences in hair texture, coarseness and diameter. For these reasons, we recommend black men opt for foil designs, rather than rotary ones, as these can deal with curly, coarse hair more efficiently, reducing the risks of skin irritation. Here are a few of our favorite models:

High price and high performance, Panasonic’s flagship shaver model receives a prime upgrade highlighted by an automatic charging and cleaning dock and stronger five-blade system. The ultra-thin nanotech blades are built from superior Japanese stainless steel, keeping durability and precision in mind, while preserving build quality. Expect 14,000 CPM action that maintains peak execution no matter the battery life — a full 45 minutes after only one hour of charging. It’s a great shower companion that can be immersed in water for effective wet shaves. A trimmer and a sensor are also built in for shaping your face based on thickness.

Promising Review: "This is *absolutely* the best shaver OR razor I have ever used, and I have used many. Set aside your Norelco, your Braun… your Harry or Razor of Month club, and even the Viking uber-razor equipment. This shaver will give you and incredibly close shave, whether you have one-days worth of stubble or three-days worth or even five days (use the trimmer on rear for five to seven+ days worth). The charger and cleaning system, all-in-one, is superb. But back to the shaver… amazingly close and smooth shave with no nicks—which is much harder with a double-edge razor, no mater how good you are." — Ezra_NYC
$149.99 at Amazon.com

Best Barber-Approved Brand Electric Shaver

Wahl LifeProof Foil Shaver

Wahl’s built a credible reputation over the years with its barber-favored hair clippers, and the company’s line of electric shavers is quite impressive. The LifeProof 7061-100 is a hot seller that packs high-quality features into a budget-friendly value. It’s made for dry and wet shaving with a shock- and waterproof design built for longevity. The dual floating heads adapt to the contours of your face and neckline, leaving no stray hair behind. You can get 90 minutes of run time on a full charge and a full shave after just charging for one minute, thanks to its fast-charging capabilities. Personalize your grooming collection by choosing from four different colors: gray, green, orange, or yellow.

Promising Review: "I like how the shaver contours to the skin on my face. It cuts the hair follicles on the first try. It leaves me with a clean and close shave with no irritation. It is a shaver that is extremely portable to use in the shower, in your car, take with you when traveling. It holds a good charge and it is sold at a very reasonable price. A great shaver. A great shave at a low price." — Anonymous
$59.99 at Amazon.com

Best Portable Electric Shaver

Braun M90 Mobile Shaver

The M90 remains a staple for well-groomed travelers, thanks to unique design features from the integrated pop-up trimmer to its solid build quality. Two AA batteries power the machine and generate up to an hour of shaving time, which is quite good for one of the market’s older models. It offers impressive close shaves and snatches short hairs adequately, although completing a full shave does take a bit more time since it only features a single foil. Speaking of which, the foil and cutter can each be removed for faster rinsing. We suggest opting for a more advanced model for daily shaving, but toss this sucker in your dopp kit when hitting the road and you’re golden.

Promising Review: "The Braun travel shaver is a light weight, simple shaver that is easily packed in a bag. Normally, I travel with a AA flashlight, so I can transfer the batteries to the shaver and save on weight. Seems easier to travel with this battery razor than a disposable razor and shaving cream. Since it is a single band of blades, it may take a few repeated strokes for a reasonable shave, but that’s not really a problem if you can take the shaver in a car or touch up while you are watching television. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the travel shaver. My only wish is that Braun would sell a set of replacement blades, which would make it much better for the environment." — Ronald
$14.99 at Amazon.com

Electric razors used to be for dads who had to cut through stubble fast — and dry. Now, there are some option available that give just as good a shave as a razor blade, can be used wet or dry, and don’t use up a bunch of plastic every time you have to buy a pack of cartridge.

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Shedding That Mask Means It’s Time to Shape Up that Beard

The AskMen editorial team thoroughly researches & reviews the best gear, services and staples for life. AskMen may get paid if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service.

Product photos from retailer site.

This past year will forever be remembered for the facial hair trends it encouraged. Men essentially gave up on the daily chore of shaving and instead covered up wherever was growing with a mask and called it a day. Quarantine times and new Zoom reality gave men the excuse and opportunity to retire the razor blade — at least for a while.

After months of putting up with beard itch and staving off neckbeards, and with the weather warming up, men have started to opt in to shaving off one again. Regardless of the prickly path that lies ahead for your facial hair, we have all the products you’ll need to get anything from a smooth shave to a well-maintained beard with our picks for the best shave and beard care products of the 2021.

Table of Contents

2021 Expert Panel

These pros gave us expert insight into what they believe to be important in their expertises. Look out for what they said throughout the awards.

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, Dermatologist and Founder, Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery
Dr. Matt Nejad, DDS, Cosmetic and Biomimetic Dentist
Ian Michael Crumm, Hair, Skin, and Makeup Content Creator
Cassandra Bankson, Medical Esthetician, Skincare, Beauty, and Lifestyle Expert
Siqi Mou, CEO and Co-Founder, HelloAva
David Petrillo, Cosmetic Chemist and Founder, Perfect Image

Trying New Products

“When trying out anything new, make sure you only do one product at a time and give it AT LEAST two weeks before adding [more],” says board-certified dermatologist, researcher, and laser surgeon Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali of Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery. “You usually need four weeks to start seeing results, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a bit of time.”

“Take before and after photos,” says medical aesthetician, and science-based skin care expert YouTube influencer Cassandra Bankson. “It’s hard to see changes when we rely on looking at our reflection every day. Try not to switch things up too dramatically more than once a month, and give yourself two-to-three [months] to really see results from active ingredients or treatment products.”

“When trying out new products, especially ones that contain harsh actives like [alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids] and retinal, you always want to start slow, one night a week, and do a patch test first,” adds Siqi Mous, founder and CEO of A.I.-powered personalized skin care site HelloAva.com.

It’s not just skin or hair care products you need to be careful with when experimenting with the latest seen in your social feeds.

“Many oral care products are unsafe and ineffective,” Dr. Matt Nejad, biomimetic and esthetic dentist and Fellow of the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry tells us. “Even worse, many products and techniques that are hyped are dangerous and damaging to your teeth.”

Just like we did here (or not just like we did here), if you are going to be trying anything new you aren’t sure of, talk to a reputable and respected dermatologist or dentist.

Ingredients and Innovations We Love

If you’re not a skin care nerd like us, you could really be missing out on some great new ingredients and updated formulations of the classics.

“We are bringing it back to the basics,” says influencer, esthetician, and content creator Ian Michael Crumm. “[I love] zinc in mineral sunscreen because protecting the skin from the sun is the best anti-aging treatment.”

Another ingredient favored by our experts? Niacinamide. “I like more anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric and niacinamide,” says Bhanusali while Mou adds “niacinamide — also known as vitamin B3 — has become very popular for its many benefits including protecting the skin from environmental aggressors, it’s the ability to treat acne, improve texture, and its brightening abilities.”

“[Niacinamide] is amazing to help with decreasing redness in the skin (a great choice after shaving), provide hydration, prevent excessive pigmentation, and even strengthen your skin barrier by stimulating the production of ceramides, amazing substances your skin naturally makes,” Bankson adds.

Speaking of brightening, there is nothing better than vitamin C when it comes to brightening skin’s appearance. “Vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant which protects the skin cells from free radicals from UV exposure that can prematurely age our skin,” Mou says. “[I use] vitamin C to fade dark spots and discoloration while stimulating collagen production,” Crumm adds.

We would be remiss not to include what Bankson calls the “gold standard” in dermatology: retinoids.

“Retinoids are really an umbrella term, they include everything from retinol that you may see in your partner’s cabinet, to retinoic acid, a powerful prescription only a doctor can prescribe.,” she says of the potent and powerful vitamin A derivative.

“Retinoids were developed to help with acne, but can also help resurface scars in skin, plump up wrinkles, and help your skin build new blood vessels which lead to better skin structure due to increased collagen. It’s one of the most trusted, well studied ingredients in medical skincare.”

Know Why Before You Buy

If you have signed into Amazon or skimmed your favorite website (AskMen, obviously) you know that some skin care products can come with a hefty price tag while others can cost next to nothing. What makes the price jump? It boils down to this: ingredients and marketing.

“Turn and learn your ingredients,” Bankson advises. “The front is all marketing, but the ingredients list (and actives) reveals what’s actually in a product.”

“Most skincare is marketing and it is important to make sure products are working,” adds Bhanusali. “I generally like things that are lower in price but certain ingredients CAN be expensive and price reflects that. Again, it is important to separate marketing from quality.”

“Some ingredients do cost a lot more to source than others, so not all the high price tag products are marketing tactics,” Mou agrees. “We think this is a very personal decision based on your budget and your willingness to spend.”

Bankson has her strong convictions on how to get the best bang for your buck. “The medical side and marketing side of skincare can be different, but as with everything there really is no ‘always right’ or ‘always wrong,’ just gray space on a spectrum in the middle,” she says. “Unless the product has little elves that jump out of the box and will extract my blackheads, it’s not worth [more than $100]. I know that marketing in the skincare industry wants you to believe that spending $400 on a product will give you the best skin in the world, but that’s simply not the truth.”

She continues: “I personally love Indie skincare brands. Yes, corporations can offer great research and expensive products, but does it come at the exploitation of people, animals, or resources?”

Once again, Nejad weighs in on the oral care side of science as well. “Many small, independent brands sacrifice adequate research and development … More times than not, products from small brands are less effective or potentially damaging to teeth. This is not a rule, but merely an observation which means that you need to be especially careful in researching and reviewing products from small, independent brands.”

So which is it? Mega brand or mom and pop? The answer is both. Savvy consumers today require more from brands than a pretty package and a high price tag. We want to know about sustainability and where our ingredients come from. In fact, we deserve to know. And if a brand does a good job communicating its values and morals to us, we are more likely to not only buy, but be loyal.

That’s where our 2021 Grooming Awards come in. We combed through over 1,000 new products from the past 12 months and picked which ones we thought deserved some time in the spotlight.

Methodology

Formula: Is it made from quality ingredients? Is it pleasant to use? Does it do what it claims?

Packaging: How easy is it to use? How does it hold up over time? Is it reusable, recyclable, or eco-friendly?

Value: Measured against comparable products, is it worth the investment?

Brand: What does it stand for? Is it BIPOC-, AAPI-, LGBTQ-, or women-owned? Is it a small business? Does it give back?

Featured attributes:

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-Free
  • U.S.A. Made
  • Eco-Friendly
  • BIPOC-Owned
  • AAPI-Owned
  • LGBTQ-Owned
  • Woman-Owned

Testing: Review over 1,000 new 2021 products and pick only the best based on first hand experience, expert-panel advice, and the above criteria.

Best Shaving and Beard Products of 2021

Best Brand Reinvention

Gillette Planet KIND Product Line

Why it’s our winner: All Planet KIND packaging is recyclable and made with 85% recycled paper, 85% recycled plastic, or infinitely recyclable aluminum. The lineup also includes a razor handle made with 60% recycled plastic. The brand has partnered with Plastic Bank to give consumers even more reason to feel good about choosing Planet KIND. In partnership with Plastic Bank, every Planet KIND product purchased will prevent 10 plastic bottles from entering the ocean.

The Planet KIND lineup includes a razor and blades, moisturizer, face wash, and shave cream. Trust us when we say, Gillette did not skimp on quality to make this better for the Earth. The blades provide the close shave you’d expect from Gillette and a cartridge is good for up to one month of shaves. Then there is the shave cream … Oh the shave cream. It’s luxurious and can be used with or without a (vegan) brush. The face wash is refreshing and the moisturizer keeps your face feeling good all day.

Best Aftershave

Lumin Cooling Aftershave

Why it’s our winner: A safe, mild post-shave solution meant to soothe and calm your skin. It’s sheer, lightweight, and anything but greasy. This no-alcohol formulation starts reducing the appearance of ingrowns and redness immediately.

Best Beard Oil

Olivina Men 2-in-1 Shave Prep and Beard Oil

Why it’s our winner: Made with cedar and bergamot, this dual action oil prepares and softens your beard for shaving before you add your shaving cream. It can also work as a beard oil to moisturize your beard, if you decide to grow it back out before the bottle is all gone.

Best Razor

Bulldog Skincare Sensitive Bamboo Razor

Why it’s our winner: This pivoting design razor handle broke the mold when it was released thanks to the sustainable bamboo and replaceable blades. Now, Bulldog made it even better by creating a blade with sensitive skin in mind. Five tempered steel blades, plus a precision trimmer keep stubble down while the lubricated guard strip enriched with baobab oil protects and soothes sensitive skin.

Best Electric Razor

Braun Series 6 6020s Electric Razor

Why it’s our winner: Braun upgraded its new Series 6 100% waterproof electric shaver with SensoFlex. The dermatologically tested swivel head adapts to minimize skin pressure for sensitive skin while the SensoFoil blades are specifically designed for closeness and skin comfort.

Best Multi-Purpose Grooming Tool

Remington UltraStyle Rechargeable Total Grooming Kit

Why it’s our winner: Use this reliable grooming tool with the advanced rechargeable battery and get up to 70 minutes of powerful, cordless runtime. The full-size trimmer features steel blades and advanced blade geometry for maximum efficiency. The adjustable comb features 10 length settings so you can find the length you want, and three fixed-length combs are great for maintaining facial hair.

Best Shaving Gel

Dollar Shave Club Shave Gel

Why it’s our winner: This superior shave gel serves up foamy lather that was designed for supreme moisture and glide for wet and dry skinned shavers. It contains shea butter and aloe for optimal moisture and glide, plus long lasting lubrication during shaving and doesn’t cause shaving irritation.

Best Trimmer

Andis Company Slimline Pro GTX Trimmer

Why it’s our winner: Sleek and streamlined, the Slimline Pro GTX trimmer has an easy to grip body with a wide blade, using a deep-tooth pattern to allow more hair to feed faster without sacrificing precision and can also be zero gapped. The lithium-ion battery delivers up to two hours of run time on a single charge and the kit includes four attachment combs.

$82 at Amazon.com

Best Makeup Beard Pencil

CALI HNDSME MVP Beard Pencil

Why it’s our winner: The MVP Beard Pencil is designed to give that fresh cut look feeling whenever you want it. Not just for patchy beards, this most valuable pencil fill in and line up your hairline and edges between barbershop visits. This plant-based wax pencil is waterproof, smudge-resistant, and will not come off during your normal gym session.

Best Beard Conditioner

Scotch Porter Beard & Hair Conditioning Spray

Why it’s our winner: Soften even the roughest beard with this power-packed weightless conditioning leave-in formula featuring eight super-hydrating oils including argan, marula, avocado, coconut, and kukui. It’s a great addition when you just want to add a bit of hydration during the day, or days you don’t shower.

Grooming Awards Ingredient Glossary

There is a lot of information up there, so we asked Cosmetic Chemist David Petrillo to help us dissect some of the most talked about skin care ingredients. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about what’s in your favorite product.

Aloe: Known for its medicinal properties such as burn and wound healing, because it contains hundreds of active components. Aloe is a succulent (xerophyte), plants which are accustomed to living in very dry and harsh conditions with minimal water, so naturally they retain and store a significant amount of water in their tissues. Additionally, it contains phyto components with biological properties that can promote healthier skin. The aloe vera plant improves skin’s hydration and stimulates proliferation of cells, while providing a mix of natural vitamins, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties to soothe, repair, and nourish the skin.

Glycerin: This mimics the skin’s natural moisturizing properties and works to draw water into the skin, which helps to hydrate and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. By helping ease dryness and prevent loss of hydration, glycerin is important to use for its potential to keep skin younger, smoother, and more supple.

Retinol: A vitamin A derivative with collagen boosting and wrinkle reducing properties. Vitamin A penetrates the outer keratinocytes (an epidermal cell which produces keratin) of the epidermis, causing a reaction to remove the dead superficial cells sitting on the surface, increases the blood flow in the skin, leading to new cell replication and organization in the dermis. Retinoids have also been proven effective in helping with blemishes such as pigmentation and scarring, plus reducing fine lines and improving skin texture. Additionally, vitamin A has been shown to improve skin elasticity and slow the breakdown of collagen. If you are using stronger exfoliators then you need to discontinue those before using retinol, as it can increase the sensitivity of your skin significantly.

Niacinamide: This is one of the two major forms of vitamin B3 that has been used to address a host of skin concerns, such as rosacea, acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It has been shown to contribute to a healthier lipid layer which increases moisture retention. It has soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits, along with the ability to strengthen cell bonds within skin. This helps to prevent breakouts, smooth skin appearance, and increase skin radiance.

Malic Acid: An alpha hydroxy acid found naturally in many unripe fruits and vegetables, this promotes cell renewal, fights wrinkles while exfoliating, and moisturizes. It also evens skin tone, reduces signs of age spots and freckles, tightens pores, and can decrease appearance of melasma and rosacea. Malic also has the ability to adjust the pH or acid-base balance of products. Products work best when they are a specific pH, and the addition of malic acid makes it much easier to adjust a product to an optimal pH.

Salicylic Acid: This is a beta hydroxy acid and outstanding deep cleanser most commonly used to treat comedonal or non-inflamed acne. Acne originates by an excess secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands in conjunction with dead skin cells (corneocytes) which block the follicle of the hair. These oil secretions build up underneath the blocked pore, creating a perfect environment for bacteria. Salicylic’s larger molecular size, allows it to generate less irritation than the alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc.), permitting the structure to cling to the surface for longer periods of time, which results in a more efficient cleansing of the pores. Salicylic also destroys the bacteria below the surface, helping to unclog the pores through exfoliation, creating better breathing passages for the skin.

Green Tea Extract: More formally known as camellia sinensis leaf extract, contains a catechin (antioxidant), known as epigallocatechin (EGCG) which exhibits antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea will help reduce inflammation in the skin and fight off free radicals that cause damage to the cells and tissues in the body. Green tea’s antibacterial properties are capable of also killing the propionibacterium acnes responsible for acne.

Tocopherol Acetate: A form of vitamin E, this is a powerful antioxidant and nutrient found in many skincare products thanks to its ability to fight against free radicals and environmental damages. Vitamin E treats wrinkles by boosting collagen production, a tissue which keeps the skin elastic. It also speeds up cell growth and regeneration, while rehydrating and smoothing the skin’s outer surface.

Shea Butter: An emollient and occlusive agent, these are larger in molecular size, so they do not penetrate the skin very well, which allows them to remain surface level, and create a protective layer that prevents water from evaporation.

Hyaluronic Acid: A naturally occurring sugar which plays an extremely important role in the health, appearance, and function of your skin. The connective tissue matrix within the dermis is made up of collagen and elastin. Hyaluronic acid (HA) increases absorption and maintains water within the extracellular matrix, promoting hydration, increased volume and density. HA holds more than 1000 mL of water per gram, a key factor in its ability to retain water, provide hydration, and a healthy transport of essential nutrients to viable cells. As hyaluronic penetrates into the dermis, it helps boost elasticity while creating a protective breathable layer on the skin which locks in moisture, promoting a more youthful appearance of the skin.

Vitamin C: This is a powerful antioxidant and essential to healthy skin. Some studies suggest that vitamin C may prevent and treat UV induced photodamage. Aging causes a decline in our body’s natural vitamin C content within the epidermis and dermis, so it is important to replenish this as vitamin C as it helps to tone, revitalize, and boost hydration. In addition it serves as a tyrosinase inhibitor, so it helps reduce melanin production and encourage skin lightening or brightening. Additionally, it’s been shown to aid in the skin’s natural regeneration process and speed up recovery by boosting collagen and elastin production.

Argan Oil: This is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins A, E, and F, essential fatty acids including Omega 6 and Omega 9. Often referred to as “liquid gold” it is produced from kernels of the ancient Moroccan argan tree. It also contains squalene, phenolic oils, and phytosterol compounds which support healthy skin. This oil is considered a “superfood” for the skin due to its healing, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties

Lactic Acid: An AHA that is best for dealing with pigmentation issues. It’s also a powerful humectant that pulls moisture into the skin and improves overall hydration and absorption of other topical products. Derived from milk, lactic acid is a gentler exfoliator used to even and lighten skin tone, and improve overall skin texture.

Glycolic Acid: This is a deeply penetrating acid best for cellular renewal and collagen stimulation. It is the smallest of the AHAs, which allows it to pass through the skin more easily than other acids and target deeper issues. It helps improve tone, texture, and smoothness by increasing collagen and elastin.

Ceramides: Part of the lipid family, along with fatty acids and cholesterol, make up the lipid bilayer that holds our skin cells together. Ceramides are also important because they maintain stratum corneum function, and studies have suggested that there is an important relationship between lip roughness and specific ceramides, as it affects the stratum corneum levels. Product packaging will typically tell you if ceramics ingredients are present.

Avocado Oil: May be one to try as it can mildly penetrate layers of the skin to moisturize, and also serve as a protective layer to lock in the moisture. Aside from its ability to moisturize, it contains antioxidants that have inflammatory and healing benefits.

Zinc Oxide: This is a mineral sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen filters tend to be safer since they do not absorb into the skin, and reflect the UV rays by forming a protective barrier on the skin. Since the active ingredients in most chemical sunscreens are being absorbed into the skin to convert the rays into heat, they can cause inflammation, irritation, possible skin reactions, and discomfort for more sensitive skin types. Studies have shown that sunscreen formulated with “non-nano” zinc oxide are safer for reefs than those with nano zinc oxide. Non-nano means the particle size needs to be above 100 nanometers in size so as to not be ingested by coral. Always check the labels and ingredients for what type of zinc oxide the sunscreen is formulated with. Zinc oxide is still a better option than oxybenzone due to the damage it causes on coral reefs but non-nano is going to be the safest option for the health of the ocean.

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