If you want to be on the good self-care list this holiday season, then take it from us: there are lots of small ways you can improve your personal grooming and build new, healthy habits for the rest of your life.
These habits will give you clearer complexion, firmer skin, better hair, a healthier scalp, and so forth. That’s why we’re so happy to present ULTRA’s 2021 Grooming Advent Calendar. Consider it a test-run for a New Year’s Resolution, or an effort to be the best-groomed gent at the family Christmas feast.
Either way, these 25 tips will give you one thing a day to focus on, and can be incorporated easily into your ongoing regimen (if it even exists before now).
December 1: Wear SPF in the daytime—at least on your face
There are 365 days in the year, and skin-aging UV rays are present for all of them. You can get a good SPF30+ moisturizer to apply after washing your face in the morning. That way, you’ll never forget the UV defense on your face—the dividends of which will pay off 10-20 years down the line (watch your friends all the while; you’ll see which ones are using SPF and which ones aren’t).
December 2: Do a full shave regimen
Whether you’re shaving away the Movember ‘stache or are happy to embrace a fresh start, go all-in on this one. Start with a skin-soothing and -readying pre-shave oil, following a warm-water splash. Finish the shave with a cold-water splash and a post-shave balm to protect your pores and prevent razor burn or seasonal dryness. Enjoy the process, because that’s the point of a slowed-down shave.
December 3: Do a scalp scrub
Get in the habit of a twice-weekly scalp massage. It exfoliates your scalp and prevents dandruff by day, while also boosting circulation to the hair follicles. This in turn makes hairs stronger and thicker, and prevents them from falling so easily. (So, yeah, a little physical scrubbing can actually prevent hair fall—who knew?)
December 4: Peel your feet
This sounds a lot more daunting than it is. Get a one-off foot-peel product like Dr. Scholl’s and soak your feet for an hour. Within a week or two, you’ll notice that all of your dry, dead skin is falling away in a big way, revealing baby-smooth, soft skin all over your feet. It’s a fascinating (and semi-gross) process—but a rewarding and painless one at that.
December 5: Shampoo less
It’s Sunday, which is a great day to start a new weekly regimen. (It’ll be easy to remember it, too; you just always reset on Sundays.) Today, you’re going to officially start shampooing less. You’ll wash on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and simply rinse on the days between. Always follow a wash with a conditioner, too.
You’ll find that over time your scalp becomes less oily, and your hair becomes easier to style. After a couple months, try switching to a Sunday-Wednesday (twice-weekly) shampoo regimen. Maybe you’ll hate it, but it’s worth trying, especially if you want to “train” your scalp to produce less oil—which itself is a response to the drying-out that a daily shampoo gives it.
December 6: Nourish your hands as often as you disinfect them
Every time you wash or disinfect your mitts, you strip away their natural moisture—and the cold weather does this on its own too. For that reason, you should have a mobile hand moisturizer in your work or gym bag, on your kitchen sink ledge, and in your bathroom. Keeping your hands hydrated prevents dry skin, cracked knuckles, hangnails, and more…why wouldn’t you be hydrating them multiple times daily?
December 7: Soak in your own awesomeness
Remember baths? Why not draw one tonight, with a nice bath oil or muscle-soothing bath salts? It’s a terrific way to de-stress after a long work day or intense workout. Add a face mask or full-body scrub to the mix too, to turn your bathroom into an at-home spa. Bonus tip: rinse off in the shower before you slide into the bath (same as you would rinse off before jumping into a pool). This way, it’s less about “soaking in your own filth” and more about savoring the moment.
December 8: Switch up your hairstyle
Depending on your hair’s length and texture, you’ll need to modify this tip. Simply put though, today’s the day to try something different with it. Maybe that means using a shiny styling product instead of a matte one (you can add a couple drops of oil to your product for that). Or, maybe it means styling the hair to the opposite side by creating a new, unnatural part. Whatever it is, today’s the day to try something new, and to see how the change suits you.
December 9: Do an evening skin care treatment
Whether you’re concerned about fine lines, dark spots, adult acne, or dull skin, there’s a weekly treatment that can help prevent the problems. From face peels to LED devices to pore-cleansing masks, we want you to put your skin through it. A weekly incorporation is about all your skin can tolerate in this department, and by doing an at-home treatment in the evening, you can ensure that it recovers overnight as you sleep. Some promise next-day levity, while others play a long game against signs of aging and pervasive blemishes.
December 10: Invest in a manscaping device
Don’t use your beard trimmer to shave your balls. Better yet, don’t use something ergonomically designed for your face on your own back—those are some awkward angles, and will only result in a patchwork result. Get a dedicated manscaping device and one that suits behind-the-back, below-the-belt situations. (We’ll come right out with it: Panasonic’s is the best, by far.)
December 11: Swap out your toothbrush
When was the last time you swapped out your toothbrush? Can’t remember? That means it’s probably past due. Set a quarterly reminder to swap it out (the DA recommends every 3 months) and start with a new brush or brush head today. By swapping in a new one every 90 days, you’ll always have the most efficient, effective brushing.
December 12: Sleep with a humidifier beside you
The December air is far drier than the summer humidity, and we all suffer for it. The dry air parches skin, hair, and even our vocal cords. But if you sleep with a humidifier on, then you can pump some moisture back into the air, and in turn keep your complexion clear, bright, and smooth all winter long. Ditto for your hair and beard—heck, even the bedroom plants will appreciate a little extra moisture. As a bonus, you also significantly reduce the chances of having bad breath.
December 13: Have two different moisturizers, for both day and night
You’re already using an SPF moisturizer by day, but you certainly don’t need any pollution defense by night. Instead, add a nutrient-dense night cream to your bedtime regimen, as the final layer atop any other products you’ve applied.
This night-specific hydrator will help skin heal and restore itself as you sleep, on a cellular level. The results by morning can be much brighter, radiant skin, especially at the height of winter when you need all the moisture you can get; this product will keep it trapped inside the skin. (Imagine the defense you’ll have with this night cream and the humidifier in tip 12?)
December 14: Make a dermo + dentist appointment
You should be having professional teeth cleanings twice yearly from your dentist. And you should be getting annual skin exams from your dermatologist. But neither doctor is going to call you to book the appointment, that much is on you. So get online, or phone their offices, and book an appointment for both. Get your moles checked. Get a cavity audit. Get in the habit of routine visits.
December 15: Get a haircut now, and every 6-8 weeks
Speaking of habits and appointments, here’s another thing to schedule and maintain: having a haircut every two months, maximum. (Even if you’re growing out your hair.) Doing this will make sure you always have a style that lays naturally, styles easily, and grows not-so awkwardly. It’s also a good benchmark for maintaining a short-to-medium style that needs routine refreshing. Some guys get their fades cleaned up every two weeks; that’s impressive dedication, and suddenly 6-8 week intervals doesn’t feel like such labor.
December 16: Find a signature (or seasonal) scent
Find a fragrance, even if you’re not gonna wear it every day. Maybe you already have one you love—ok, great, then find a seasonal one that evokes some kind of warmth and coziness, and gives you a nice alternative to your year-round signature. These are new ways to explore new facets of your personality, to lean into different types of occasions or moods. Try some of these fragrances.
December 17: Trim your armpits
You don’t need a bush under there. And you don’t need to shave it, either. But find some happy medium. The recommendation tends to be this: lift your arms up, then place them both at your sides. Anything popping out of your pits at this resting point needs to get snipped away. Then, lift them up again and trim the hairs down to an inch or so.
December 18: Ditch the loofah
Remember bar soap? Toss that germ-infested loofah out, and stick to a self-cleaning, always-fresh bar soap. That’s all.
December 19: Practice proper razor hygiene
Do a shaving audit: Are any of your active razor blades more than 6 weeks or 8 shaves old? Then they’re far past their expiration date. Blades are so inexpensive these days, you can easily afford to swap them out after a few shaves or after a couple weeks of use—whichever comes first. This prevents bacterial buildup, rust, and dulling, all of which are terrible things to press into your freshly shaved pores. Bonus: how to shave with a safety razor.
December 20: Do a hair mask
Your hair gets put through the ringer, with that daily styling, plus rinsing or washing. Overly dry air or overly hot water parches it, too. Invest in a hair mask, which is an ultra-nourishing conditioner that you wear for 5-20 minutes after a shower. You’ll feel the nutrients in those strands after the fact. Do this once weekly, to maintain this buoyancy and vitality.
December 21: Do a sheet mask
On the topic of masks, add a weekly sheet mask into your skin care regimen, too. It will do the same for your skin as the hair mask did for your strands, which is imperative considering all of the stress we carry on our face—especially on the shortest, dreariest day of the year (today!).
December 22: Audit your eyebrows
Are 2 becoming 1? Are they arching a little too much at the ends? Are they caterpillaring towards your T-zone? Get a tweezer in your hand and clean up the perimeter, please. Even a few minutes of plucking will make a huge difference between looking haggard and looking intentionally groomed.
December 23: Get yourself a serum
Serums are a terrific product for anyone with measurable skin care goals: They can do everything from boosting moisture and firmness to exfoliating dead skin and keeping pores clean. Find the one(s) you want in your regimen, and apply them as directed after cleansing (and before moisturizing).
Continue use for at least 90 days to see major results and perpetually to maintain that progress. For hydration, try hyaluronic acid. For brightness, Vitamin C. For smooth skin, niacinamide or lactic and glycolic acid. For acne, salicylic acid.
December 24: Wear stockings to bed
OK, this tip is more about applying foot cream every night, and then tucking them inside your socks so that the product doesn’t leave footprints all over your floors—but, it sounds so much more Christmassy the other way around. Seriously though, a nightly foot cream application will keep your freshly peeled peds nice and smooth all year round (and might negate needing to do another peel!).
December 25: Do a hot beard treatment
Whether your beard is sprouting or is as bushy as Santa’s, today is a jolly good day for a hot beard treatment. Get some beard oil, heat them up inside their vials, and apply it to freshly cleansed skin underneath your beard (after a warm-water splash to open the pores). This will promote some serious softness and lusciousness throughout the mane, and can be incorporated into your regimen every 2 weeks. Make sure to apply room-temp beard oil on the daily, though.
Merry Christmas, you made it! And in case you still haven’t transitioned to a full winter skin care routine, here’s some more tips on how to do that.
Photo via ESPA