The odor of toxic masculinity

Aidan Sheedy, Copy Editor

Illustration by (Amanda Riha)

Men, we have to do better. There’s a stigma surrounding men’s health that is troubling to me. It has become a regular occurrence that I hear generalizations like “men are gross” because, frankly, we are. But if another man says they moisturize or gets manicures, it becomes a problem for some men.

Unfortunately, it is normalized for some men to shame other men for taking care of themselves.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If we want to erase this stigma, two things need to happen. We need to stop demonizing self-care and basic hygiene by dubbing it as “gay” or “feminine,” and we need to educate ourselves on what proper hygiene is. It’s the sole responsibility of men to ensure this can happen.

Ending the Stigma

Many large hygiene product companies have attempted to address the issue of toxic masculinity, the dilemma that suppresses men from expressing emotions or maintaining an appearance of toughness. There are two companies to look at, specifically Dr. Squatch and Old Spice.

Founder and CEO of Dr. Squatch, Jack Haldrup, began his soap company in San Diego in 2013, formulating a soap that the company says “helps you smell like a man.”

This company is only exacerbating the message that men have to be tough, big and strong. Dr. Squatch’s advertisements promote models with long hair, a big beard, six-pack abs and huge bulging muscles. Not every man looks like that, and that’s certainly not changing with the scent of soap with pine needles in it.

While the backward effort of Dr. Squatch promotes toxic masculinity, beloved scent shop Old Spice is actually tackling this issue in satirical form. The P&G company has an advertisement campaign dubbed “Men Have Skin Too,” which features “Black-ish” actor Deon Cole and comedian Gabrielle Dennis as a couple.

Each commercial features a new Old Spice product, but Dennis continuously steals the product because she thinks it’s for women. At the end of every ad, the couple always ends up agreeing – men have skin too.

All in all, skin care shouldn’t be for a specific sex. As much as I’ve seen the Old Spice commercials as a beneficiary to promote men’s care, there should not be a need to urge men to buy more soap in the first place.

Product Usage

Think about the number of hygiene products you have in your bathroom right now. There are probably about 10 bottles and containers of things you need to stay clean and feel fresh. However, in my experience, men don’t have a plethora of products to use daily.

According to a 2017 Statista survey, only 37% of identifying males in the U.S. use skin-care products daily out of 1,039 responses. That is not healthy. With many of us in college worrying about our skin and acne flair-ups, why wouldn’t you make the effort to wash your face?

This again is in due part to a societal message that only women are socially permitted to have a skin-care routine. I even had someone laugh when I told them I have a nightly skin-care routine. Personally, I don’t want to break out, but the message is I should feel bad for doing something about it. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be shameful.

Improper Practice

Growing up, it was never my priority as a boy to learn how I should be washing. When I was little, I learned what soap was and why I should use it. Now as an adult, I have learned about my body and what it needs to stay healthy. Unfortunately, this is not the story for most men.

Another Statista survey from 2017 polled over 1,000 men in the U.S. 18 years and older finding that 51% of men use shampoo every day and for men ages 18-29, 35% use conditioner every day. These stats are upsetting. It may seem like washing your hair every day seems like a logical practice, but it’s actually harmful.

“Obviously every guy is different but on average I recommend washing with shampoo every three days,” Susan Bard, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology Specialists, said in a Men’s Health article.

There is also misinformation on what your hair needs. It’s a joke that so many men use a 3-in-1 in the shower. It’s become a punchline. Guys, it doesn’t take much more time out of your day to add an extra step in the shower. The lower costs of 2-in-1 are not worth damaging your hair. Two separate hair-care products exist for a reason. Healthline says that while shampoo acts as a cleansing agent, conditioner works as a barrier to protect your hair from harsh elements. When you have a bottle of 2-in-1, the key ingredients are not being used properly.


You don’t need to buy a product that has the added “for men” on the label. If someone uses moisturizer or a certain soap, it doesn’t make them any less of a man. Being manly should be about being your true self and having confidence in your body. I know we don’t like to talk about our health or our feelings with each other, but I hope this can help other men improve their personal care.