The Grooming Journal

Six must-have products every man over 40 should have in his grooming kit

Lee Kynaston is here to guide you with the right products for men who are 40 years and above...

man over 40 staring into the distance
Words by Lee Kynaston
Mar 12, 2023 

About Lee Kynaston
Grooming Guru Lee Kynaston is one of the UK’s best-known and most knowledgeable male beauty experts, with over 20 years experience of writing about men's skincare, haircare and fragrance. 

Man over 40? Then I have some important news to whisper into your (probably slightly hairy) shell-like: it’s never, repeat never, too late to salvage your looks. You just need the right products. Here are some of my favourite midlife must-haves…

1. A face cream containing retinol

A wrinkle-buster par excellence, retinol is the one anti-ageing ingredient that genuinely lives up to the hype. “A good quality retinoid will really help with signs of ageing,” says award-winning aesthetician Dr Ahmed El Muntasar. A derivative of vitamin A, it’s incorporated into serums and moisturisers for its ability to exfoliate the skin, stimulate collagen and elastin production, fade age spots and revitalise the skin, making wrinkles appear less obvious.

High-strength retinoids can leave skin dry and irritated (which is why it’s a good idea to build up to higher strengths gradually), but according to Dr El Muntasar this is less of a problem with men.

“Men's skin is thicker than women's which means it can often handle the ingredient better and doesn’t leave the kind of redness or dry skin that women often see,” he says.

Since retinol can increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, though, make sure you pair it with a daily moisturiser featuring an SPF.

Speaking of which…

2. An SPF moisturiser

It’s tempting to think, when you’re in your fourth or fifth decade (or beyond), that it’s too late to protect yourself from sun damage. After all, some studies suggest that between up to 50% of your lifetime’s expose to UV rays occurs total occurs before the age of 20.

But photodamage to skin is cumulative so, in reality, it’s never too late to start protecting yourself, even if you BBQ’d yourself in your youth.

“Even minimal sun exposure is enough to contribute to photo-ageing and UVA rays (which weaken the skin’s support network and are the main cause of wrinkling) are constant all year round,” points out dermatologist and Skin Secrets author Dr Nicholas Lowe, who recommends wearing an SPF cream every day, even in midlife. “You can still give your skin a chance of repairing itself by using at least SPF15 daily – it will help slow down the formation of wrinkles, age spots and also benign solar keratoses,” he says.

For maximum protection, look for a daily moisturiser offering ‘broad spectrum’ protection, which will help guard against both UVA and UVB rays. Since skin tends to become drier as we age, and dry skin can age faster, that moisturiser will also minimise the ageing process by keeping skin adequately hydrated.

3. An electric toothbrush

You might not realise it, but an electric toothbrush may be one of the most important wrinkle-busters you can own. Why?

Well, it’s because teeth are a bit like scaffolding for the face. “Once you start losing your teeth the surrounding bone shrinks and with no substructure to hold things in place skin will start to sag and look wrinkly,” says Dr Uchenna Okoye, Clinical Director of the London Smiling Dental Group.

Another benefit of an electric toothbrush? Well, according to an 11-year study (the longest of its kind) people who use an electric toothbrush tend to have healthier gums, less tooth decay and also hang on to their teeth for longer than those who clean their teeth with a traditional toothbrush. “Using a manual one is a bit like sweeping the carpet with a pan and brush instead of a Hoover,” says Dr Okoye.

4. An ear, nose and eyebrow hair trimmer

Like admitting you need reading glasses or no longer suit skinny jeans, accepting you’re in need of a nasal hair trimmer is never easy, but once you get one, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without this essential piece of hair maintenance kit.

“It’s widely believed that the increase in ear hair is due to the hair follicles becoming more sensitive to androgens (male hormones) as we age,” explains Consultant Trichologist Eva Proudman. It’s the same for nose and ear hair, though according to Proudman, eyebrow hair grows for around 30 days before shedding and regrowing, so it’s less of a problem.

“Trimming is the safest and easiest way to manage unwanted nose, ear and eyebrow with many grooming kits including scissors with rounded tips and electric clippers often featuring a nose hair trimmer head,” she says.

5. A thickening shampoo

If your thatch isn’t quite as thick as it used to be, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s thought that 40% of men will experience some hair loss by the time they’re 40, and the percentage increases steadily as we age. And while a cure for male pattern baldness (the most common form of baldness in men) may one day be available, it’s still a few years – and a lot of gene therapy – off.

Thankfully, in the meantime, there’s plenty you can do if your hair is thinning though. Products containing Finasteride or Minoxidil are widely recognised as your best bet for slowing down hair loss itself, but if you just want to make the most of what you have, then grab yourself a thickening shampoo containing panthenol.

“Panthenol is used in haircare products because it has humectant-like properties that promote moisture absorption,” says Dr Stephen Antczak, author of Cosmetics Unmasked. This moisture-attracting ability helps condition and plump up individual hair shafts, making them look fuller and thicker (think of a penis pump but for your barnet). The effect is subtle and temporary but it does work, giving hair volume and your entire head of hair the illusion of much-needed thickness.

6. A concealer

In the same way a pair of leather shoes gather scuffs the more you wear them, skin accumulates numerous imperfections as you age. Sun damage takes its toll, leaving small ‘age spots’, while small spider veins, caused by tiny capillaries near the skin’s surface that breaking, appear around the nose, cheeks and chin. The delicate skin around the eyes, meanwhile, can thin as we age, leaving dark circles looking more pronounced.

For an instant (and I mean instant) fix, camouflage these age-related imperfections with a concealer – one of my favourite midlife rescue remedies.

To apply, add a little to the tip of your ring finger and pat onto skin, gently blending the concealer into the surrounding area. (Avoid rubbing or it’ll just come off.) “For best results, always moisturise skin first,” suggests make-up artist Luke Stephens.

Just think of it as touching up an old master.

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