Spiked Skincare: One Man’s Paean for the Boozy Grooming of Yore

In the age of the space race and the IBM Selectric, firewater ruled the grooming kingdom. Alcohol was everywhere in the clean-cut company man’s medicine cabinet, from positively flammable hair tonics that softened and shined sideparts to bracing aftershaves that stung freshly shorn jawlines.

But over the past few decades, the use of hooch in grooming products has gone the way of the rotary phone. Sure, alcohol still helps with excessive sweating under your arms (even if it does contribute to pit stains), but when it comes to hair and skin care, it’s roundly recognized that an excess of the stuff will just dry you out. So we’ve moved on from splashing our faces and coifs with alcohol, but I, for one, miss it. Alcohol rates awfully high on the “feel it working” scale, even if it does come with a little sting and discomfort.

Luckily, being guys in 2013, we get to fake it. There are plenty of products on the market that channel the throwback satisfaction you get from boozy grooming aids (while delivering modern day quality, mind you—we’re not talking O’Doul’s-grade stuff here). Exhibit A: Kiehl's Facial Fuel Energizing Tonic for Men, is an alcohol-free toner that's a perfect aftershave replacement for guys who long for the splashing, slapping, and patting that came with using a viscous product like Aqua Velva. My personal favorite, amidst a sea of cut-rate whiskey-scented shave creams, is Billy Jealousy’s Sake Bomb Body Moisturizer. It takes the old-school concept and makes it totally new by giving this lotion just the scent of that irresistible fermented rice drink. It’s a delightful mash-up because it recalls a past that never really existed at all—by the time men got around to internalizing the importance of moisturizing, we’d also wised up about the skin-drying effects of alcohol. It reminds me a little of the Tampa Bay Rays’ powder blue jerseys (which I love), and the way they reference an era in the sport that never existed for them in the first place.

Photo: HBO

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