Getting Men to Take Care of Their Skin the Right Way
Skin Care Just for Men?
While there are many product lines aimed at men, more often than not those products are poorly formulated, and that's a serious problem. It's not that products aimed at women aren't often badly formulated, but this is far more true for men's products than those packaged for women. These badly-formulated men's products can hurt skin or make skin-care concerns (red bumps, razor burn, breakouts, oily skin, dry skin and on and on) worse. There is no question looking good gives you an edge in the world, but if men really want to look their best, it means taking a closer look at the formulas behind that rugged, masculine packaging.
Is Men's Skin Different than a Woman's?
The answer is more "no" than "yes"! There are some obvious physiologic differences (such as the ability to grow a beard) between the skin of men and women plus some less obvious differences such as men having a thicker dermis (lower layer of skin) and larger oil and sweat glands. Each of these is due to hormonal differences between genders; the thing is, none of them effect basic skin care needs. (Source Gender Medicine, Volume 4, December 2007, pages 308–328).
The same product formulations that reduce or prevent wrinkles, heal dry skin, reduce pore size, lessen dark spots, minimize oily shine, and eliminate acne work for both men and women. Think of it like calorie recommendations: Men are generally advised to consume more calories than women due to their larger size and increased muscle mass—but it's not as though men need to get those calories from male-specific foods and women must obtain their calories from female-oriented foods.
What about the longstanding belief that that men's skin wrinkles less than women? False! This myth is about the social conception that men look rugged or "gain character" with wrinkles while women just look older, but neither are truisms in any way.
Why So Many Men's Skin-Care Products Are Terrible
Irritation is the short answer for the terrible state of most men's skin-care products. Many men's products seem to be designed with no other purpose but to cause irritation. Lots of men's products contain problematic ingredients like menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor, citrus, or alcohol to create the "strong smell, strong man, tingling is good and refreshing" impression that many men want because they don't know how bad it is for skin. The adage "no pain, no gain" doesn't apply to skin care!
All of those ingredients are doing nothing more than causing needless irritation, and that is a serious problem for the health of skin. Irritation is problematic for many reasons, but primarily it causes skin to become inflamed, red, and potentially more oily, or dry, all of which can make skin issues like acne or rosacea worse, and none of that is attractive. Although inflamed, red, tingling skin is often the way irritation manifests itself, that isn't always the case.
Surprising fact: Like a man hiding his emotions, skin will not always tell you when it is being irritated. When skin is irritated, the damage taking place within or underneath doesn't always show on the surface, yet problems are nonetheless taking place That means it's crucial to pay attention to what you apply to your skin, beyond issues you can see, such as redness, flaking, dullness, sensitivity, bumps, and more oil.
If men want to achieve better skin then the best advice is to look for products that are well formulated (meaning free of the irritants we just discussed). Unfortunately, many of the products in masculine-looking packaging and "manly" fragrance often hide either poor or inadequate formulas that won't help your skin. There are some great products designed for men, but the main reason to choose this over those marketed to either gender is often streamlined routines or packaging aesthetic.
What to Use Instead—and When to Use It!
So what should men use to take care of their skin? Other than shaving needs, the list isn't all that different from the one that applies for women. You can learn about each step in a skin-care routine here. Essentially, regardless of skin type, all men's skin need the following as part of their daily grooming routine:
- Step 1, AM & PM: Wash your face with a gentle, irritant- and fragrance-free water-soluble cleanser (no bar soaps or bar cleansers, as these won't help your skin)
- Step 2, AM: Shave with a gentle, irritant- and fragrance-free shave cream (unless you shave with an electric razor, in which case proceed to step 3).
- Step 3, AM & PM: Use a cotton pad or clean fingers to apply a gentle, irritant- and fragrance-free aftershave or soothing treatment loaded with antioxidants, anti-irritants, and skin-repairing ingredients. Those types of ingredients strengthen skin's surface and reduce redness from shaving.
- Step 4, AM: Apply sunscreen with broad spectrum protection and rated SPF 25 or greater. Daylight exposure is the major cause of wrinkles and dark spots. This should be applied liberally to face, neck, and other areas of exposed skin.
- Step 4, PM: After cleansing at night, apply an AHA or BHA exfoliant all over your face and neck. You can also use this product in the morning, after applying aftershave or toner but before applying your sunscreen. Experiment to see which frequency of usage works for you. This step WILL make shaving easier and work to reduce breakouts and other bumps.
- Step 5, PM: Apply a treatment product (such as a serum) loaded with more antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and soothing agents to keep skin looking smooth, healthy, and younger-looking. You can also use a well-formulated moisturizer for this step, or apply the moisturizer after the treatment product. Note: Consider applying the treatment product during the day, too. It would be applied right before your sunscreen.
All of these daily essentials are offered from a wide range of lines, most of which aren't squarely marketed to men (which is perfectly OK). We're confident any man following the routine above using products we rate highly (whether they state "for men" or not) will see drastically better results than if he were to haphazardly pick and choose products from most of the men's lines out there.
It's not that some of those lines don't have good products—it's just they tend to be few and far between, and, like women, most men don't want to spend any more time than is necessary to find the best products. Now that you know what to look for and when to use each product, the whole process becomes much easier!
Additional sources for the information above: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, August 2012, pages 431–442; International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2012, pages 307–310; British Journal of Dermatology, March 2012 Supplement 1, pages 13-16; Hormone and Metabolic Research, February 2007, pages 85–95; Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Toxicology, October 2000, pages 55–63; Archives of Dermatologic Research, November 1998, pages 615–620; and Contact Dermatitis, June 1998, pages 311–315.