Basic Skin Care for Men

You're a skin care neophyte-an old school man. In fact, you're embarrassed of even saying the word skin–care. Sounds too much like, uh, care. You're willing to get with the times and concede...partially, on your terms. This guide is for you.

Perhaps you had someone inform you that your skin is pasty looking. You shrugged off the rude commentary, but then you had to investigate, and then you notice too that your skin looks…a bit off. Perhaps it’s your age, lack of glow, or some brown spots that you’ve never noticed in the past. We’re going to keep it simple; no two hour routines, hundred dollar products, or polysyllabic words that you’d be embarrassed to know what it means. Just the bare basics.

The three pillars of skin care are cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection. There is more to skin care than just that, but we’re looking for efficiency here. There’s diminishing returns for the guy who hits the gym for 2 hours every day. The same can be said of skin care. This guide is to get the basics—and the best bang for your buck and time.


Cleansing:

Cleansing is the first baby step into the world of skin care. The fact is, you likely cleanse already, if in a slightly crude way by using a bar soap or using shampoo lather. Facial cleansers, those you see in small plastic containers, are gentler versions that are designed to remove the grime, oil, and other random pollutants that contact the face. Starting your day fresh with a facial cleanser or a cleansing water--refresh your face, and reduce the chances of acne breakouts.

After a shower, before drying off your face, lather up the facial cleanser and massage it over your face. When you’re done, rinse it off with water. Simple! If you’re not showering, wash your face with lukewarm water first. While cleansing is an important part of every man’s skin care routine, there is such a thing as over-cleansing. Over-cleansing can dry out the skin and irritate it, by removing the protective oils from your face. Cleansing just once a day in the morning or at night is sufficient.


Moisturizers:

Moisturizers help to keep the skin smooth and supple. Dry skin is not only irritating (those with eczema will definitely understand) but can lead to itching and even pain if it becomes severe enough. Moisturizers are not only for winters and for people with eczema however. Moisturizing the skin can help seal in moisture, and keep the skin looking healthy. Moisturizing can also help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and is an important part of skin care.

Drop about a quarter size amount of moisturizer on your hands. Massage it gently onto your face. Add small amounts for other dry areas of your body. Moisturizers work best immediately after a shower while the skin is still wet. Many moisturizers contain occlusive agents like mineral oil and petrolatum in their ingredients, which seal existing moisture in the skin for a double effect.


Sunscreens:

Sunscreens are supremely important for the skin—the science is clear on this---but unlike daily teeth brushing, this habit never seemed to take off.1 Still, facts are facts. Sun damage accounts for up to 80% of skin aging. Accumulated sun exposure not only increases your risk of skin cancer and pre-cancerous actinic keratosis, it causes symptoms of premature aging like wrinkles and brown spots. Don’t believe me? Just compare the outer side of your arms (the side exposed to the sun for all your life) versus the inside of your arms which are mostly hidden from the sun.

First, the basics. Choose a sunscreen product that has an SPF of 15 or more, and that provides broad spectrum protection (protection from UVA as well as UVB). Sunscreens should be used on a daily basis in the morning before you leave for work (or play). This is a skin care routine, not a one-off prophylaxis like bug spray for camping--and most dermatologists believe that this is the most important of all for anti-aging. If you only get one thing right, it should be the sunscreen.

1It is said that the sensation of mild irritation and pain from toothpaste gives the “feeling of freshness” which helps enforce the habit of brushing. The irritant is not an active ingredient—it doesn’t benefit the cleaning of teeth, but is there specifically to provide that sensation. Perhaps this type of behavioral science is what’s lacking in sunscreens—an oomph to help provide the “feeling of being beneficial.”