There were never very many women in my family.

My mom died when I was a preteen, leaving behind the small nuclear family of my younger brother, my dad, and myself. My dad’s two brothers have both been divorced for as long as I can remember, one with two sons, the other with no children at all.

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While my dad is a wonderful man who pretty much raised my brother and me single-handedly, he’s also the type of person who has two t-shirts from a work retreat he got in 1997 and buys his jeans at Costco. When it came to products, skincare, learning how to dress, what have you, it was on me to figure it out for myself, and for the most part, I didn’t.

Once when I was 15, in preparation for a swim meet, I decided to shave my legs. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone that this is something I wanted to try, and even if I wasn’t, there was no one I knew who I could have asked for help, so I hacked at my legs with an old razor in the bathtub for over three hours, using soap as a lather after I ran out of shaving cream.

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I didn’t really know what conditioner was until I was about 17, and I certainly didn’t dream of using it—despite having hair down to my shoulders—until after I went to college.

Anything more advanced than just basic body maintenance scared me, and it showed. My hair was fried and frizzy, my skin was terrible, and my clothes mostly consisted of puka-shell necklaces (I know that that last bit has nothing to do with “products,” but the point is still the same: I was fucking up!).

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Pictured: A bunch of stuff that is mostly not mine

As I got older, I eventually ditched the puka-shell necklace, but I still didn’t really know how to stop my skin from getting pimply or get my hair to do what I wanted it to do consistently. I slowly learned more and more as to what worked for me, but it wasn’t until I moved in with my now-fiancé Sarah, who is a facemask wizard and overall much healthier person than I am, that I finally got an inkling as to what I need to do to make myself look and feel good. As I enter my 30th year (gulp), I recognize that if I want to keep my boyish looks and stave off so much of the damage I’ve already done, I’ll have to actually start taking care of myself.

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So here goes.


Three alarms go off at 6:30, 6:33, and 6:36 a.m. in order for me to be able to pry my eyes open by 7. After staring at my phone for about 20 minutes, I start my day with Morning Yoga with Jason Crandell, a one-day-old tradition that I’m sure will carry me far into the new year and beyond. After finishing yoga and staring at my phone for another 10 minutes or so, I drag myself into the bathroom and start the process of making myself look like a functioning human who can be sent out into the real world.

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Pre-everything.

Before showering, I trim my face stubble with a Wahl All-in-One Rechargeable Trimmer. It’s not the best face trimmer I’ve ever owned—it takes too long to charge and the battery will sometimes crap out on me even when I leave it plugged in while shaving—but it gets the job done and I’m certainly never going to bring myself to buy a new one while it still works. I originally grew the stubble to hide the acne scars on my chin and to stop the irritation that came with using a razor every day, but I’ve had it for so long now that I feel like I look both too old and too young at the same time without it. I don’t trim every day, but Sarah and I both got horribly sick over the weekend and this will be the first time I’m leaving the house in a few days to do more than buy groceries, so it’s time to freshen up before my beard starts to venture into rabbinical territory.

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In the shower, I use Aussie Mega Moist shampoo and Aussie Total Miracle conditioner, both of which are totally fine and do the job of washing my hair and making it feel smooth. For soap, I’m currently using Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus, which I like, but not as much as the mint. Last time I was at the grocery store they were out of the mint, so the eucalyptus is what we’re using.

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I’ve had horrible acne on my back since the time I hit puberty, but I’ve recently brought it under control using a combination of PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash and a once-monthly cupping treatment that I’ve been getting for three months now. I first got it after going to an acupuncturist for something completely unrelated, but I kept going after just one session helped clear up my back faster than any other treatment I’ve tried, and short of Accutane, I’ve tried them all.

After I leave the shower, I trim the edges of my face with a Gillette 3-blade Mach3 Razor (anything more than three blades irritates my skin and also kind of freaks me out), then I brush my teeth using Crest Pro-Health toothpaste. I’m not really attached to any particular type of toothpaste, but Tom’s isn’t minty enough for me to actually feel like my mouth is clean in the mornings, and Colgate contains triclosan, which is a hormone-disruptor and will fuck both you and your children up, so Crest it is.

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After brushing my teeth, I put on some clothes, spray some John Varvatos Vintage cologne, then go to deal with my face and hair. Years of skin that was simultaneously dry and greasy at the same time had me buying all sorts of different scrubs and face washes until I eventually realized that the best method for keeping my face looking and feeling clean was not washing it at all. I have no idea whether my face actually gets clean solely from letting water fall on it while I’m in the shower, but it feels clean to me, and most importantly, it looks clean.

The face stuff is good.

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The only product I’ll use on my face in the mornings is Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer All Day Moisture Defense Lotion SPF 30, which I settled on after using a few different face lotions because it’s nice and light, and it stops my face from drying out while not over-greasing it. Plus, after spending many summers working as a lifeguard and making it a point of pride that I didn’t wear sunscreen (yes, I’m a dumbass), I can use all the protection from the sun that I can get.

As for the hair… almost everyone I’ve ever told laughs at me for saying this, but it’s true: The best hair product I’ve ever used is AXE Whatever Messy Look Paste. I’ve been wrestling with a frizzy jew-fro for over 15 years. My hair grows up and out rather than down, and the only thing I’ve found that is strong enough to stop it from floofing into a bowl cut while also not flaking into a gel crust is AXE Whatever Messy Look Paste. Plus, it goes for like $8. Make fun all you want, but I’ll keep buying it for as long as I have hair on my head.

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Post-everything.

After heading to work, I grab a mug of free office coffee and a bowl of oatmeal with a banana for breakfast, and sit down at my desk.

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During the workday I don’t really use any “products” worth paying attention to, however, there are two that I’d feel remiss if I didn’t bring up: A big-ass Nalgene and regular-ass hand lotion. You are probably not drinking enough water during the day, and since it’s January, your hands are probably dry and cracked, as mine were for many, many years. The easiest way to fix these problems is: Keep a big-ass Nalgene at your desk, and refill it at the moment when you finish drinking; keep a bottle of lotion at your desk, and use it every time you come back from washing your hands. The lotion I have right now is Curel Fragrance-Free, but it doesn’t really matter! Any old regular-ass lotion will do.

A big-ass nalgene.

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After a long day at work staring at feeds and screens, I’ll leave the office and hop on the subway back to my apartment to make dinner and then, uh, stare at more feeds and screens usually. If I do go out, I’m certainly not going to go home first, and even if I did, there’s not any sort of “freshening up” that I would bother to do before going out anyway.

Before bed, I’ll brush and floss my teeth (unless I’m drunk, in which case I’ll probably decide not to floss). Sarah and I also split a jar of Kiehl’s Ultra Face Cream to use as a night cream, which I would say I remember to put on about 30 percent of the time. Then it’s off to sleep, with the alarms set for 6:30 a.m. once again. It’s just past 1 a.m. right now as I write this sentence and finish up this product diary, so I probably won’t wake up in time to do anything more than turn over a few times before having to get in the shower, but I’ll certainly try.