Kiehl's Chris Salgardo on the Modern Gentleman

Written by | Grooming

We talk to the president of a prominent grooming brand about how he defines the
modern gentleman in his new book called Manmade: The Essential Skincare & Grooming Reference for Every Man.



By Jeffrey James Keyes

Kiehl's Chris Salgardo on the Modern Gentleman

Photo courtesy of Chris Salgardo

Chris Salgardo is a proud member of the LGBT community and the president of noted grooming brand Kiehl’s. He spoke with Metrosource as his first book Manmade, a skin care and grooming reference manual for men, recently hit stands.

What inspired you to write Manmade?

When I was younger,I had pretty bad acne, and going through that was challenging because there didn’t seem to be a lot of options. It really affected my confidence. I worked hard to get it under control and put my best face forward as I was entering the job market. When I got to Kiehl’s — especially when I was going to events and store openings more often — I found I was getting asked the same questions over and over.

Why specifically focus on men’s grooming now?

Women have passed down information about skin care and grooming for years, but men hadn’t — at least not in my day. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. … Men are continually more interested in knowing what’s right for them, what their routines should be, and how to protect their skin. I think the time is perfect. Men feel like they finally have permission to take care of themselves, and if I can help out a little bit, I’m thrilled.

Chapter 4 of your book focuses on the idea of “The Modern Gentleman.” What are some of the hallmarks of this kind of man?

Little things make a big difference: combing your brows. If you don’t do that I assure you they’re going to look messy. I have a beard, too. You have to comb your beard, keep up with it.
In terms of attire, when the modern gentleman wears a suit or more of a formal look, it’s essential to make sure your shoes are shined. … The modern gentleman is top to bottom. Make sure your face and skin is taken care of, but you have got to take care of everything. If you’re somebody who chews your nails or works with your hands, but you have to put that suit on — maybe you need to get a manicure. You’re going to feel great and it’s going to cost you 10 dollars. All of those things will keep you on point.

What is your favorite part of the book?

The first part, where I list out the questions that men have asked me. … I feel like it demystifies product questions men have: Why do I have to use this cream? What’s the difference between these gels? All those basics: You can’t go anywhere else until you have the basics down.

How did you get into motorcycling?

Motorcycling was a Salgardo family tradition. My father was on the California Highway Patrol and he loved motorcycles. I have a picture of him from 1966 on his motorcycle. My mom had a bike, and when I was 12 years old I was on my first little motor bike. Motorcycles have just been a part of our family dynamic, and I’ve always enjoyed them. There’s something very freeing about being on those two wheels. I’m not a daredevil, I don’t go crazy on them. I just love feeling the elements of nature on my face.

How did you get involved with AMFAR?

In 1996 I lost a friend to AIDS. It was somebody that I absolutely loved to pieces. I didn’t think he was going to die. His health would go from terrible to incredible, and I called him my Energizer bunny: He always kept going. By the time the proper medication came around, Patrick was 30 years old and unfortunately for him his body was too weak to take them. By 1996 we were burying him, and I was really grief-stricken and powerless. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have much money at the time, but thought, I’ve got to give him love, I’ve got to do something, and I’ve got to fight. I looked at three organizations: AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Angel Food and AMFAR, and I just started donating little bits of money and stuck with it. One of the things I discovered I loved when I came to Kiehl’s is that the company believes in giving back — I mean really believes in giving back. They don’t do it because it’s a great cross-marketing effort but because its part of the company’s ethos. When I became president, I was able to really get behind causes I believe in.

Our interview with Chris Salgardo originally published in our February-March 2016 issue continues here…

The launch of your book at Saks Fifth Avenue was amazing.
Thank you. I’m kind of in shock I guess. The weather was so bad and I wondered if anyone was going to come out.

Thank you for the book! I love it. I read it cover to cover.
Did you feel like it was good information?

I didn’t get the grooming gene everyone else got, so I find it useful. Sometimes people don’t know exactly how to take care of themselves, and you give us a lot of insight.
Thank you, Jeffrey. You know once I had finished it, I read it so many times, and wanted to make sure it was worth buying. I took into consideration everything I have learned in this field, all the questions I’ve been asked, and all the information I’ve come across. This book will give you a strong introduction into skincare, even just a baseline to work from.

ManmadeBookCover

Let’s talk Kiehl’s. My partner and I have a complete Kiehl’s house.
Well that’s because you guys have amazing taste. [laughs]

What products should every guy have in his medicine cabinet?
This is such a great question so I’m going to answer it in two ways: First, I’ve been a Kiehl’s user for 25 years. My hairdresser turned me on to some of their products when I lived in LA. I had never heard of this stuff before, I was like, “Kyle’s — what is this stuff?” And then I started using it and loved it. What’s interesting for Kiehl’s — and you would think that every company does this but I’m not sure that they do — is that all the products that are for men or unisex are designed for a man’s skin. We have thicker skin; we shave; we sweat; our needs are different. What I love about Oil Eliminator is that, when we were working on this, we discovered trends that men think they’re oily, but they actually just have sweatier skin. You’ve got to approach that in a different way. When you look at the market for oily skin or sweaty skin, it’s pretty small. I wanted to make sure there was something for those guys. So we created Oil Eliminator: it’s a spray toner, moisturizer, and lotion. I’m someone who had oily skin my whole life, and I have to say these products really work. What I love about this is: the market isn’t necessarily enormous but Kiehl’s is there to answer that need. Men are going to be looking for things like this more and more. Even if you get dryer in the winter time, you’re bound to get sweatier and oiler in the summertime, which is a great time for anybody to use the Oil Eliminator.

I’m an eye cream fanatic. Any recommendations?
Don’t dot it on, get your finger in there and apply it! Think about if you have a car, and you left it outside, and the sun is beating down on it, and you never Armor All that dashboard. Over time it will dull, crack and fade. The same thing happens to our faces, and the skin around our eyes is so sensitive and thin. If you don’t really moisturize, those lines are going to form and deepen. Using eye cream will really help to keep that area nice and moisturized; so it delays wrinkles and skin aging as much as you can. Eye cream is something I definitely believe in, use it day and night. I love our Heavy Lifting eye cream; it is an incredible product. It’s a lifting eye cream and it does wonders. It’s definitely my go to for everything. The other product I find for men who have beards or any kind of facial hair — and I kind of discovered this by chance — is our Midnight Recovery. I love Midnight Recovery, the nighttime serum. If you put a couple drops on your face, the next day your skin looks just amazing: smooth, soft and so clear. I noticed when I was out riding on motorcycles or in really windy environments my face would get beat up. When I was doing that I started using some midnight recovery during the day. Then I started putting it in my beard, and I’ve got to tell you my beard game was off because the botanical oil leaves my beard looking so shiny, healthy, and soft. It takes care of the skin underneath, and not all oils are the same. We have a new oil called Daily Reviving Concentrate that you use in the morning. If you put that on your beard, it would do wonders. If you put Midnight Recovery on your beard, you look like a million bucks.

How about moisturizing?
You really need to make sure you have the right moisturizer for you as an individual. It all depends on if you’re dry or oily. I love our Facial Fuel. It has caffeine in it, and it wakes your skin up plus you get the sunscreen benefits. Everybody should use a sunscreen daily. That is the least expensive way to delay aging. The sun will break down your collagen faster if you go outside without protection. The easiest way to do it is by looking for a moisturizer with sunscreen in it or put a sunscreen over it. That’s such an important tip. Also, use a quality cleanser. I have friends who use moisturizers … but they are still using the bar soap to wash their faces. And I’m like, “Dude! [laughs] put that Irish Spring away and get yourself a good cleanser! Again, if you have facial hair, you want to make sure you are cleaning your skin really well. A cleanser is going to do that for you.

How about shaving?
I have really sensitive skin , and the problem I was having was I always used an electric razor, but I wasn’t getting the close shave that I wanted; so I switched to a regular razor and I was constantly nicking myself. I didn’t realize the shaving cream I was using at the time was creating pockets of air on my face. Because of these pockets, I would nick myself. I switched to a new cream [White Eagle] and it changed everything. No more looking for tissue where I nicked myself — and I got such a clean shave.

Tell me more about your work with community charities.
There are so many great organizations out there, and yes, they all need money, but you’ve got to figure out which one is right for you. AmFAR is trying to do two things: find a cure and a vaccine for HIV and AIDS. … In 2010 I was staring at motorcycles someplace in Texas, and I thought to myself, “If I could get that bike on the road, I could create a conversation and make noise about this disease. I could raise money but also, as importantly, keep the conversation going.” Because HIV and AIDS weren’t making front-page news anymore. [Motorcycling] — which is a very macho sport if you think about it — could be disruptive and get people to talk about it. … and LifeRide was born. I’m really proud to say that this year we raised over $300,000, which will pay for two grants for amFAR. We also generated about a billion impressions in the media. Not only did we raise money, but we also raised awareness. I’m thrilled with that and will keep doing that until there is a cure or vaccine or both — and then I’ll ride for something else.

I always see you out and about during NYC Pride. Why do you feel like it’s so important for organizations like Kiehl’s to have a presence at pride events?
You know, Jeffrey, it’s two things. When I look at my own life and as somebody who grew up in the ‘80s with HIV and AIDS decimating the gay community — having next to no role models, it was a very challenging time because you had to figure things out on your own. “How do I live in this world with no tolerance for who I am? How am I going to survive or have a great life?” You don’t know these things. It’s not clear when you’re in the LGBTQ community — especially at that time. I’ve never been ashamed of who I am. I have wonderful parents who have always been supportive and always been there for me, and that helped. I came to the conclusion that I’m not going to live in the shadows. I’m not going to change my style for anybody. As I became more successful — and of course being at Kiehl’s, which is a company that celebrates inclusion and diversity so much — I really felt I needed to be seen, and I felt comfortable with that. I always say: I want LGBTQ kids — and also that fifty year old guy who may still be in the closet or uncomfortable — to see that it’s okay, that you can have a great life and give back. You can do all these things and be successful and happy.

Last modified: June 22, 2017