It’s one of the first things a new girlfriend notices about you, and one of the most valuable tools you have when it comes to getting a job, negotiating a raise, or closing the deal with a client, according to several studies. In fact, your smile makes a bigger first impression on other people than what you say, the way you dress, or how you smell, finds a recent survey by market research firm Kelton Global. So why does giving a little TLC to your mouth, lips, teeth, and the surrounding facial skin fall at the bottom of your grooming list?
“It’s so easy for guys to take care of this area,” says renowned New York City esthetician Christine Chin. “Just do these three things: Don’t smoke, reduce your alcohol consumption, and always wear sunblock. Follow those rules and you can have thirtysomething skin all the way into your fifties.” Cigarettes and alcohol dry out your skin, she explains, leaving you more vulnerable to lines as you get older. (Not to mention the yellow-stain factor on your teeth.) And the skin-aging effects of the sun take their toll, even in the winter. Of course, there are a few more ways to make your smile a memorable one…
Gone are the days when whitening your teeth meant night trays filled with glue that turned your chompers an unreal shade of blue-white. Today’s at-home treatments are safer, more effective, and definitely more user-friendly. Since up to 75 percent of people still report mild tooth or gum irritation after applying these products due to the bleach content, if you have sensitive teeth, this is not the best option.
Try it: Auraglow’s Professional On-the-Go Teeth Whitening Pen is a 5-inch-long stick filled with a peroxide blend that you apply to your teeth through a flexible tip. The precise pen opening allows you to control exactly how much you apply, and where. The device, which fits neatly into your pocket or drawer, takes about two minutes to use. Results can be seen after just a few days. [www.myauraglow.com, $29] Another option: Colgate’s Optic White Toothbrush and Whitening Pen includes a brush to first clean your teeth, as well as a peroxide-based pen to use post-scrubbing. [walgreens.com, $14]
One third of men admit they brush their teeth just once a day, while one in 10 confess they regularly forget to brush at all, according to the Adult Dental Health Survey. That’s bad — multiple studies show that you can reduce your risk for several types of cancer with regular oral care. Among those who do brush, most scrub for less than a minute and 62 percent rinse with water after, according to a report by the Oral Health Foundation. As you’ve probably deduced, this is wrong and wrong. Dentists suggest brushing your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day, to thoroughly remove bacteria, and spit, don’t rinse with water, when you are done to allow the fluoride in the paste to linger longer on your teeth.
Try it: Multiple pastes on the market have earned high praise from the American Dental Association, but Tom’s of Maine Cavity Protection Toothpaste is one of the few to offer all-natural cleansing powers, using sodium monofluorophosphate to fight decay while calcium carbonate provides a mildly abrasive scrub. [www.tomsofmaine.com, $5]
Fine lines between your nostrils and your upper lip are an inevitable sign of aging. Easy way to slow the process? “Shave regularly,” says Chin. “Shaving acts as a natural exfoliant for the skin, removing dead cells and helping regenerate new ones. Use a moisturizer afterward to add a layer of protection.”
Try it: Christine Chin's Retinol Smoothing Fluid is made from the purest form of Vitamin A, which acts as an anti-aging compound on the skin, reducing the appearance of surface wrinkles and evening out skin tone. [www.christinechin.com, $79] Lab Series Skincare for Men Max LS Age-Less Power V Lifting Cream helps give your jaw line a firmer appearance and reduces fine lines by tightening while moisturizing the skin. [www.labseries.com, $80]
How’s your breath these days? We ask because it makes a bigger difference than you might think. A national survey found that 76 percent of people say bad breath is a deal breaker on first dates, and one in two say foul oral smells have a negative effect on current relationships (that’s more than the 33 percent who cited the negative impact of being overweight, or the 19 percent who mentioned bad skin).
Try it: Moondani Naturals Breath Mist is an organic, minty breath spray made without additives, preservatives, alcohol, or sweeteners. Instead, natural ingredients cardamom, fennel, and ginger — used for centuries around the world to freshen breath — will eliminate all evidence of your tuna sandwich. Best part? One small squirt from this pocket-size bottle lasts for several hours. [www.moondaninaturals.com, $8.50]
Winter does a number on your lips: Those puckers have only one-third the number of skin layers as other areas of your body, and contain no oil glands, so they can’t self-moisturize. That leaves them vulnerable to cracking, splitting and generally feeling like sandpaper — not exactly a turn-on. The fix is super-easy: “Get a lip balm,” says Chin. “Really, that’s all guys need and let’s be honest, all they’re really going to use anyway.”
Try it: Brickell No Shine Lip Balm for Men does exactly what it promises: It protects your lips from the harshest of wind and sun conditions without giving your lips that dewy, slippery look of some other lip balms. The organic formula contains olive oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and SPF15. [www.brickellmensproducts.com, $7.50]