Drugstore Cowboy

11.28.2012

By Max Berlinger

In an age of overpriced designer grooming products, it's time to hunt down some old standbys.

Illustration by Michael Sanderson

With the dizzying array of self-proclaimed miracle elixirs on the market, each of which promises to enhance your glow and turn back the hands of time, the question begs to be answered: Why have certain stalwarts remained over the years, outlasting countless beauty fads?

“When it comes to our appearance, people want to see immediate results,” says Sachin Bhola, fashion and grooming editor at AskMen.com. “Guys are so tempted to opt for higher-priced products, but I always suggest starting with the basics.”

Those basics, by the way, are available in virtually any drugstore or grocer, and for a fraction of the cost of big-name competitors. Bhola’s advice: Keep yourself moisturized and use items with an organic base. These consist of everyday products -- coconut oil for your hair, oatmeal as a face scrub, baking soda as a tooth whitener, and Vaseline for chapped lips (see below). Bhola has a holistic approach: “What’s going on outside is often a reflection of what’s happening inside,” he says. “You want to look for ingredients that would make sense to eat, like vitamins and minerals.” These ingredients contain antioxidants and help your body fight free radicals. Conversely, avoid things that contain harmful agents, such as mercury or parabens, by reading the labels. “If you can’t pronounce the things on the back of the bottle, that should make you wary.”

While these products won’t necessarily erase every fine line and wrinkle, Bhola believes they’re a good starting point. “If you’re working through something more serious like acne, you may need to see a dermatologist and ultimately turn to a more costly product. But if the basic products work, why pay more?

The essentials: Five expert picks

Coconut Oil

“The most bang for your buck,” says Bhola. “Think of it as a super-conditioner that you apply to your hair and shampoo out the next morning. Your hair will be shiny, moisturized, and stronger.”

Vaseline

“This brand has been around for around 150 years and is the poster child for natural grooming products. It’s most commonly used as lip balm, but you can also apply it to your wrists to make cologne last longer.”

Vegetable Oil

“It’s the ultimate emollient. Put a teaspoon or two in your bath and it will make your skin smoother for days. Just take warm baths, because hot baths can actually close your pores.”

Oatmeal

“A cheap, DIY alternative to expensive exfoliants. Blend rolled oats and add a bit of water until it’s pasty. You can add honey or oils, too. Alternatively, St. Ives makes a great version for less than $5.”

Baking Soda

“People use it to whiten household products, and it will do the same for your teeth. Use it like toothpaste, and over time you’ll see the difference.”

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