Everyone’s had an older gentleman in their life, at some point or another, sporting a remarkable crop of whiskers in each nostril. These elders seem ignorant, or possibly just accepting, of their nasal manes, which is kinda dumbfounding: Why would someone ignore the unsightly, easy-to-remove bushes growing from the literal center of their face?
“Most of them are clueless,” says Melanie Mari, owner and trained manscaper at Bare Skin Studio. “Generally, once they’re made aware, they do something about it.” Mari adds that she’s been told several times that men become somewhat blind to their looks — including their stringy nose hairs — as they grow older. It’s a conclusion that’s easy enough to find repeated in various research: Men are simply oblivious to their appearance, unlike women, who have a deep understanding of their every flaw. (One thing’s for sure — Society is much kinder to hairy men than women.)
But considering the number of men actively maintaining elaborate grooming regimens these days, I can’t help thinking this stereotype is getting somewhat out of date. There must, surely, be more to this nose hair dilemma than simply, “men don’t give a fuck about their bodies.” It’s true that some studies suggest men are slightly less affected by the consequences that come with having a negative body image, but the fact of the matter is, more than 90 percent of men struggle in some way with negative thoughts toward their own bodies. You would have to assume that this includes older men, who would no doubt notice (and probably feel bad about) the unattractive hairs sprouting from their nostrils.
Unfortunately, while men can suffer from body dissatisfaction in many of the same ways that women can, research also shows that they tend to seek treatment, counseling or positive solutions less frequently, due to the shame and embarrassment they feel about it. As with healthcare, it’s not so much men not caring about their flaws, then, as being made to feel it’s unacceptable to ask for help in fixing them.
As for why men aren’t whacking their nose-weeds specifically, a prominent psychologist who specializes in aging theorizes that it may have something to do with age-induced despair. “Getting older requires us to manage many hits to our self-esteem,” they explain, adding that grooming becomes more and more difficult with age. “We’ll never look as good as we did when we were 25, but that’s the image most of us compare ourselves to. Obviously, it’s an unfair standard, but our culture values youth.”
It’s a standard that gets more unrealistic the older you become, and one that can be extremely difficult for some people to handle. “I don’t think people generally care less about their appearance as they get older, but depending on their idea of attractiveness, someone could ‘give up’ because they don’t feel that they meet their internal ideal of what attractive is,” the psychologist tells me. “There are some people who just feel like, ‘Well, why should I try? I’m just gonna die anyway.’”
For these wild-snouted geezers, allowing their nose hairs to run rampant may be one of the many ways they express this particular form of despair. It’s a cry for help — a message that you feel like so far past your prime that your appearance isn’t even worth your time to maintain anymore.
So if you care about that old guy — and his quivering proboscis wool — maybe gently tell him how good he still looks… and hey, if you trimmed those nose hairs, you’d take 10 years off, easy. It’s also worth reminding them that a shower and a shave (nose hair trimming, included) really can make you feel better about yourself.
Finally, if you have any doubts about looking as good as you once did, consider the fact that silver foxes are a very real thing — just sayin’.