The 2011 Esquire Men's Grooming Awards

Esquire

Every year since 2006, I've gone through hundreds of gels, creams, and even talcs — all in search of the best new products for men. Yeah, it fills my shower. But not as much as the idea of helping you fills my heart.

Old Spice Fiji
Photo: Procter & Gamble

Old Spice Fiji

Body spray is a silly thing — an invitation to wear too much cologne. But as a deodorant, Old Spice Fiji is great. The mist seems to come out lighter than most spray deodorants, so application doesn't envelop you in a cough-inducing cloud. And it smells fantastic, like falling asleep in the woods next to a stack of pears, using a dryer sheet for a blanket.

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Nivea Freeze Wash & Shave Gel
Photo: Beiersdorf

Nivea Freeze Wash & Shave Gel

When I travel, I always forget something. Usually it's my shaving cream. In the past, I've just shaved with conditioner (or, once, olive oil), which works but leaves my skin slightly irritated. Nivea's Freeze Wash & Shave Gel ($5; amazon.com) solves that problem, since it can be used as both a face wash (with invigorating menthol) and a simple shaving cream. As long as I don't forget it, too.

Lab Series Shave Cream
Photo: Lab Series

Lab Series Shave Cream

Lab Series Shave Cream ($22; labseries.com) isn't so much a cream as it is a whip. It comes in a big tub and is the consistency of soft-serve, giving it enough viscosity to stay on your face but not enough to clog your blade.

Art of Shaving Preshave Gel
Photo: Procter & Gamble

Art of Shaving Preshave Gel

Art of Shaving's Preshave Gel ($22; bloomingdales.com) is, as its name might suggest, a gel, not an oil. Which means it's lighter, suitable for more skin types than most preshave oils, and won't feel like you're spreading 10W-30 on your face. Plus, as all good things do, it smells like lavender.

Tigi Catwalk Styling Cream
Photo: TIGI

Tigi Catwalk Styling Cream

If you have short hair, Tigi Catwalk Styling Cream ($17; tigihaircare.com) creates separation and provides shape without the usual stickiness. Plus, it's soft enough to work through longer hair, almost like a grooming cream. Otherwise, in terms of value, there's nothing better than Suave Styling Paste. Although it says it's a matte finish, the oils in it give your hair just the right amount of shine.

Redken Liquid Pomade
Photo: L'Oréal Group

Redken Liquid Pomade

Redken Liquid Pomade ($16; redken.com) is much easier to apply than its Vaseline-like brethren, which makes it perfect for hair that's longer than a few inches. It's not runny or greasy, and it distributes easily and evenly to weigh down your hair and give you the slightest bit of hold.

Kérastase Homme Capital Force
Sculpting Fixing Gel
Photo: L'Oreal

Kérastase Homme Capital Force Sculpting Fixing Gel

If you want that slick gel finish (maybe you're a Baldwin), Kérastase Homme Capital Force Sculpting Fixing Gel ($30; kerastase-usa.com) will give it to you without turning your hair into a flak helmet.

L'Bel Homme Aftershave Lotion
Photo: Belcorp

L'Bel Homme Aftershave Lotion

L'Bel Homme Aftershave Lotion ($20 for 3.4 oz; lbel-usa.com) doesn't have the stickiness that bothers me in a lot of aftershaves. Instead it feels soft and soothing, almost like a regular moisturizer.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream
Photo: L'Oréal Group

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream

For an everyday moisturizer, I found nothing better than Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream ($25; kiehls.com). It's light — more of a serum than a cream — and sinks instantly into your skin. The only downside that I could find was that it doesn't have a built-in SPF, which, by this point, all moisturizers should. As an alternative, I also recommend Neutrogena Men Triple Protect Face Lotion, which has SPF 20.

Voyage d'Hermès
Photo: The Hermès Group

Voyage d'Hermès

if you can deal with the price tag, Voyage d'Hermès ($60; neimanmarcus.com) will be the best-smelling thing in your shower. Also, it's from Axe, but if you can get over the marketing, the new Cool Metal Shower Gel is quite good. And cheap. It's nice and light, lathers well, and rinses away easily. Plus, it's cooling, which may not actually do much, but feels nice.

Kyoku Fire Body Scrub
Photo:Kyoku for Men

Kyoku Fire Body Scrub

When it comes to body scrubs, I don't like large granules. They're too irritating. Which is why I love Kyoku's Fire Body Scrub ($23; kyokuformen.com). The abrasive bits are large enough to scrub effectively, but small enough that they don't draw blood. And it smells a little like crushed Red Hots, which, for me, is a good thing. If you like harsher scrubs, Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Scrub ($35; aesop.com) is thick and heavy and makes you feel really clean. Or for something very gentle, try Billy Jealousy Salad Days. The name is the only part you won't like.

Sheamoisture Three Butters
Utility Soap
Photo: Sundial Brands LLC,

Sheamoisture Three Butters Utility Soap

I'm not much for bar soap anymore, but the usefulness of something like Sheamoisture's Three Butters Utility Soap ($5; target.com) — which can be used to wash your body and hair, and to shave your face — really impressed me. If nothing else, it's something to toss in your gym bag.

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Dr. Lewinn HydraBalance
Foaming Cleanser
Photo: Kinerase

Dr. Lewinn HydraBalance Foaming Cleanser

I have no idea who Dr. Lewinn is, but he makes a great face wash ($10 for 5 oz; walgreens.com). The best I found.

Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense
Photo: Prada

Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense

I test every cologne against my all-time favorite, Creed Silver Mountain Water. It smells the way Swiss people must after they spend a weekend in the forest. The only new cologne that challenged it was Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense ($75; bloomingdales.com), with a spicy bite that makes it perfect for special occasions. Great bottle, and compared with what you'll pay for Creed, quite a deal.

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