I switched to men’s toiletries for a week and my poor skin will never be the same

Lynx Africa has changed my life

There is a constant to uni life rarely discussed in the open — concealed as an embarrassing secret or desperate plea in only the safest of group chats. Whether you’re staying at your partner’s three times a week or living with individuals of the opposite gender, at some point, you’ll end up using each other’s toiletries.

Toothpaste is one thing, but that Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner has seen you at your absolute lowest, using your semi-pro housemate’s anti-fungal body wash as shaving cream.

Now, there are far too many variables, and I have far too few braincells to begin any attempt at assessing which gender has better overall hygiene. Rather, I’m here to find out if all those times I used my flatmate’s shampoo for 4C textured hair — because I was too lazy to go to the shop next door and buy my own — was remotely better than the overpriced kind I normally spend my money on.

Securing the bag

With absolutely zero prior research done and minimal emotional preparation, I begin my journey at Manchester’s beloved Arndale Boots. Home of overpriced pharmaceuticals, press-on nails, and a surprisingly good selection in their meal deal range. Despite being two floors and fully stocked with an array of medicines and boutique makeup like Yves Saint Laurent, the men’s section makes up for only three aisles. A rather disheartening discovery. 

Men’s products seem to come with only one symptom in mind: Maximising masculinity. Scents range from Shea butter to tea tree oil and stop about there and the packaging is dull and monotone. If I wanted to smell like cement and radioactive sewage I’d just walk along deans gate locks for an hour. If the bottle or box isn’t explicitly catering to your sporty side it’s far too feminine.

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The Greeks: the inventors of the Olympics, trigonometry, and who could forget, hair dye

Unlike women’s products that host a significant range of scents and purposes, I was limited in my search. Moisturisers all seem to cater to anti-aging and frequent athleticism. If I know uni-boys at all, they certainly aren’t in the gym, enough to qualify using at least half of what was available seemed to aggressively market. 

Although to my relief and shock, no men’s branded toothpaste or toothbrushes could be located, and although I could have asked for help, I was far too embarrassed from taking self-timer pics in the beard shampoo section.

After accumulating a bill of well over 50 quid, it was time to return home and hit the ground running.

Shampoo, conditioner, and anti-allergy meds

Products claiming to combat sensitive, dry, and oily skin, hardly ever can. They’re a catch-all term, what really matters is the ingredients inside the product you choose, but like all other normal people on this planet, I have absolutely no idea what the chemicals in my shampoo are, and what they do.

Admittedly, starting this project on Valentine’s Day was not my best decision. I’ve got skin so sensitive and temperamental I’m even allergic to fake tan, (a truly heartbreaking revelation if you live in the North). I’ve used the same Aussie shampoo and conditioner for four years — I swear by it — and trying even one new product is daunting. I decided to try a brand new to the high street, it was a bit more expensive but hopefully worth it.

I have never been more wrong.

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In the arms of an angelll

Within 20 minutes my scalp was on fire. The desire to itch so intense I had to keep my hair in a bun to stop clawing at it. With red and puffy skin emerging around the crown of my hair, I really screwed the pooch on this one. Nevertheless, I power through.

Come the end of the week, I’ve used men’s shampoo every day and hated every minute of it. Though I have built up some resistance to the allergy, my scalp continues to burn. 

Really, what’s one allergic reaction for the bants?

Men’s razors are for faces AND genitals, shave gel is not

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Yes I’m wearing a bikini because this is FAMILY FRIENDLY CONTENT

Is it just me or is tea tree oil in everything these days? I’m familiar with the scent and certainly I recognise its holistic properties, but nothing, and I really do mean nothing, could prepare me for the overwhelming fumes of tea tree and aloe present in King of Shaves’ shave gel. On numerous occasions I almost stepped out of the bathroom mid-shower for relief. King of Shaves? More like Court Jester.

If my court jester had a bard it would be Gillette Mach 3 Razor For Men. I have never used a razor so slippery I couldn’t get a straight shave on my leg. With a respectful price of six quid and coming with two spare heads, I was sure I’d struck luck. Men’s razors are ridiculously expensive and probably where most of my money on toiletries has gone in the past. But they work like a dream (read: usually). I wish I could say the same for my most recent experience. I need about twenty blood transfusions after the amount of times I accidentally cut myself shaving.

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Loss of smell and slippery hands aside, I’ve never got such a close shave on my sideburns

Face scrub is not an alternative for makeup remover

True dedication to this project meant giving up some of the best products ever marketed for women. With no micellar cleansing water, rose water hydrating spray and toner, my face was in for a shock. With limited options and a preference for scrubs over face washes, I decided to give L’Oreal Men Expert Pure Charcoal face scrub. Surely the one thing that can be used across genders is a normal charcoal face scrub right? Wrong.

If you’ve ever had to use the bar soap found in your nan’s spare bathroom or some cheap hotel off the M1 then you know the exact feeling this scrub emulates. Standing in the shower with my face freshly scrubbed and rinsed, I feel sticky. Running my fingers over my skin, it squeaks. Actually squeaks. Like bar soap or faulty breaks, the sound and feeling leaves much to be desired. 

Of course, I’m famous for using shampoo and body scrub on my face which equally can’t be any good for my skin. Counteracting perhaps all my previous faults, Lynx Africa is certainly the best thing I’ve ever discovered. Yes, I smell like a locker room after a year 7 PE lesson. Yes, I smell like a concoction of chemicals and cleaning agents. No, the scent “Africa” makes absolutely no sense. Like a bull through a chemical plant I feel like I should have green glowing skin and emit enough radiation to require screening by a squad in hazmat suits.

But you know what, I smell damn fantastic. For all the failures previously experienced with men’s toiletries, Lynx Africa surely makes up for it.

Men’s sheet masks are the unsung hero off our generation

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Here’s a riddle: How much toxic masculinity does it take for a man to refuse to wear face masks that come in colourful packaging and use oat milk extract or pomegranate? Apparently, enough to prompt beauty brands to manufacture men’s only face masks.

We’re talking silver, black and white packaging only, terms like “anti-aging” and “intense moisture” and they come in sizes like large and XL!

Rejuvenating my skin after a freshly trimmed beard with a Barber Pro sheet mask

I’d be angrier… if Barber Pro wasn’t such a fantastic product. After a week of L’Oreal face scrub that I’m sure ripped me of healthy oils and left my skin a barren wasteland, it turns out the most masculinely-marketed product for men with thick luscious facial hair was my saviour.

My skin, is soft like a babies butt, and even my acne scars from years ago seem less obvious.

Guard yourself from potential suitors with Right Guard

Defend your home from B.O. and rotting veg

Did you know men’s deodorant can be used to ward off mosquitos and kill pesky fruit flies? Well, I didn’t, and I still don’t. But Right Guard 48-hour anti perspirant is a testament to it regardless. Leaving the familiar stain of dried white powder on my pits, it’s clear this product is meant for the frequent t-shirt and jumper wear-er and not for myself in a bandeau on a Wednesday night to Cubo.

Enemies beware, I no longer leave the house unless I waft of industrial chemicals.

More menthol than Benson and Hedge duals

Without a doubt my favourite product from this very scientific, very intense research, is my BullDog Skincare For Men lip balm. With a refreshing menthol-like smell that leaves my lips burning afterwards, my dainty lip-skin is finally protected for all the manly things I do like chopping firewood and screwing in lightbulbs.

Do I encourage others to transition to men’s shaving creams and gels? No, I absolutely will be throwing out my King of Shaves and returning to the familiarity of shampoo-y razor burns. Do I suggest using men’s shampoo and conditioner? Again, no, in fact no one ever, regardless of gender, should use men’s hair care.

I smell like 50 different chemical agents and a concoction of diesel, pinewood, and asphalt. Sure the beauty industry feeds off toxic masculinity and gender roles, but maybe, just maybe, they got a couple things right.

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