A well-groomed man takes the proper amount of time to look his best and doesn’t overlook any part of himself, including his skin. And why not – the skin is our largest organ and takes up 16% of our total body.
So, whether it’s the skin on your face, your hands, or on other parts of your body, it needs consistent care to look great and remain healthy. The focus of this post is on men’s skin care and all of its components: from washing your face, to using moisturizers, to making lifestyle choices that enhance your skin’s health.
We think that the following men’s skin care guide will help you develop a daily skincare routine that enables you to look and feel good in, well, your own skin.
Let’s get started.
From the Beginning: Skincare 101
You can basically boil skin care for men down to four components: washing your face and body, exfoliation, moisturizing, and sun protection. In our minds, two of them (washing your face and moisturizing) are mandatory if you want your skin to be its healthiest, while the other two (exfoliation and sun protection) are optional.
Nonetheless, we recommend that you utilize each of the four steps if you hope to achieve the kind of skin that’s healthy and looks and feels its best. While sun protection is “optional,” it’s also important to know that sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s most harmful UV rays – rays that can lead to a myriad of skin and health issues if you don’t use the proper safeguards.
If you’re looking for answers on to how to get clear skin, read on. We’ll dig into each of the four steps in detail and present a long list of men’s skin care tips.
You're washing all wrong
How You’ve Always Washed Your Face & Body Is Probably Wrong
Most of us grew up with parents who constantly reminded us to keep ourselves clean, such as always washing our face and hands. That was especially true at dinner time but also encompassed some other of life’s potential scenarios: “What if you had to go to the hospital when you’re dirty?”
Never mind that a trip to the hospital isn’t typically a formal occasion but, hey, they were parents and that was their job.
Things to keep in mind when washing your face
So, let’s talk a little bit about washing your face, the first step in men’s facial care. If you’re like many men, washing your face entails:
- Lathering up your facial skin with the same bar of soap you use on your body or hands, particularly if it’s the bar of soap in your shower.
- Rinsing off the soap under a stream of hot water.
- Rubbing your face dry with a towel.
That’s the tried and true method, right? Well, while it’s certainly well-tried, it’s not the “true” way to take care of the skin on your face even if, technically, it gets your face somewhat clean. Here’s why:
- A typical bar of body soap has high alkalinity. Your skin, meanwhile, is slightly acidic. The difference in pH is important because alkalinity can lead to bacteria that causes acne, among other things. The alkalinity may result in your facial skin feeling dry and irritated. Many men and adolescent males make the mistake of thinking that a “stronger” soap is their best option when a strong, high-alkalinity soap only exacerbates their facial skin issues.
- Body soaps may strip your skin of natural oils and cause it to compensate by producing more oils. Your face ends up looking greasy and you’re more prone to breakouts.
- Think for a moment about using the same soap on your face that you use on your body. Do you want to use the same soap that you used “down there” to also clean your face? And, what if you have a roommate or someone else who uses the same bar of soap? Ugh.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: there are many different types of skin, and a soap, or other skincare product, that works for another man may not work for you. If your skin feels dry and too harsh after you wash your face, then you’re probably using the wrong type of soap for your skin.
One method you can use to check if a certain soap is good for you is called a “patch test”. All it entails is leaving a small amount of the soap or cleanser on your skin (not on your face, but on your wrist or arm) and let it sit there awhile. If you develop a rash or other kind of irritation, then the soap isn’t suitable for your skin type.
Alternatives to soap
The good news is that there are plenty of options other than traditional bar soap for washing your face. Like, for instance, facial cleansers, including the Beardbrand Beard Wash for your face and beard. Facial cleansers usually come in liquid or bar form and create a nice lather when you massage them into your wet face.
Among the many reasons why you should use a facial cleanser, rather than a body soap, is that cleansers not only get rid of dirt and oil on your face, but they also leave it with a clean, not dry, feeling. That said, use a facial cleanser if you have normal to oily skin; if you have dry skin, make sure to choose the gentlest of cleansers.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is that body bar soaps are harsher and contain more detergents (which can irritate facial skin) than facial cleansers. They’ll dry out your skin and make for a less than comfortable shave, among other things. You may think a skin-irritating shave is due to bad blades or your razor, but the way you clean your face may be the actual culprit.
Choosing the right face cleanser or wash
Not all facial cleansers are created equal and it pays to know what you’re looking for when purchasing a cleanser that best suits you and your skin. Keep the following factors in mind:
- Skin type
The most important thing you need to know before buying a facial cleanser is your skin type. There are five categories of facial skin: oily, dry, sensitive, normal, and combination.
If you have oily skin, you most likely have large, visible pores and a greasy, oil sheen that develops not long after you clean your face. Choose a cleanser that regulates oil production and includes ingredients such as coconut and aloe, that will clean and keep your face hydrated while slowing down the skin’s oil production.
If you have sensitive skin that’s easily irritated by shaving or other cleansers, you need to stick with natural-based cleansers while avoiding those that contain salicylic acid. Look for cleansers with ingredients such as aloe and olive oil.
If you have combination skin, in which some areas of your face are oily and others dry, cleansers that include aloe, charcoal, and olive oil should be your top choices.
Finally, those of you with normal skin (who have an ideal balance of not too oily and not too dry), you don’t have to worry so much. You can choose any quality cleanser that isn’t targeted specifically for men with oily or dry skin.
How it’s done
We’ve established that there are a right way and a wrong way (more than a few wrong ways, come to think about it) to wash your face. It’s nothing to complicated and it goes something like this:
- Wash your face twice a day, preferably in the morning and in the evening before you go to bed. Doing so will prevent clogged pores and other skin problems.
- Don’t wash your face until you’ve washed your hands first. Dirty hands mean that you’ll rub dirt and bacteria directly into your face.
- Wet your face with warm water before applying soap or another cleanser to your skin. Make sure the water isn’t too hot.
- Rub a small amount of face wash or soap onto your face. A little goes a long way, especially with face washes, and there’s no need to waste your product unnecessarily. Apply it to your face, forehead, and under your chin. Use slow, steady, circular motions.
- Rinse your face with warm water.
- Dry your face by patting it – not rubbing it – with a clean, soft towel.
Washing Your Body
The Dos & Don’ts
There are many similarities between taking care of the skin on your face and the skin on your body. But there are also some differences, so let’s take a broader view of washing your body – particularly the do’s and don’ts.
Find the right soap for your body’s skin type (just as you should find the right soap for your facial skin). One of the tricks of the trade, so to speak, is to choose correctly among a wide range of skin cleansers, from bar soap to liquid body wash and anything else in between. These tips should help:
- If your skin is oily, pick a body cleanser that’s water-based. Also look for one that won’t clog your pores (which may be labeled “non-comedogenic”).
- Be careful when selecting a cleanser if you have dry skin. Bar soaps have more alkalinity than most body washes, and high alkalinity will dry out the skin. Many body washes and other soap-free cleansers contain moisturizers and other hydrating elements such as natural oils.
- Men with sensitive skin should also look for soap-free cleansers, as well as cleansers that don’t contain fragrance or preservatives.
- Exfoliate your skin. We’ll talk a lot of exfoliation in this post, and we’ll get into its definition shortly, but it basically involves removing dead cells from the skin. You don’t need to scrub your skin with the same force as you would while, say, washing your car, but exerting gentle force with a washcloth or loofah will get the job done. Exfoliation keeps your skin looking healthy and smooth while also boosting circulation and blood flow.
- Use a moisturizer. One sure-fire way to combat dry skin is by using a body moisturizer made for men. Why not just use your wife or girlfriend’s moisturizer? Because a man’s skin is literally thicker than a woman’s, for starters. No, we’re not talking about emotional thickness, because that’s a topic open to continual debate.
- You can take care of your skin when shaving body hair by using a shaving formula that includes aloe and glycerin. Ideally, the product should condition the skin while protecting it from shaving irritation.
- Use sunscreen. Nothing ages your skin quite like over-exposure to the sun. Sure, a nice tan always looks good (at least when it’s not overdone), but always wear sunscreen. A good sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher will protect you against sun damage that may lead to wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer.
- Stay hydrated. Soaps and body washes that contain moisturizers help to keep your skin from drying out, while drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps.
- Get plenty of sleep. Skin care experts suggest that getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night gives your skin time to recover from daily wear and tear that can lead to fine lines, wrinkles, and breakouts.
- Watch what you eat. Making sure that your diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is good for you for many reasons, including antioxidants that benefit the skin. Antioxidants also fight sun damage and reduce skin inflammation.
- Exercise. Regular exercise has many benefits, including that it’s good for skin health. Exercise increases blood flow to help nourish skin cells, while also carrying away waste products, such as free radicals, that damage skin. Plus, exercise helps to tone muscles while reducing the appearance of loose skin and stretch marks.
Don’t do this
- Get too much sun. We’ve already mentioned the importance of sunscreen but limiting your exposure to the sun is another good tactic for keeping your skin healthy.
- Take long, hot showers. There’s nothing quite like a hot shower – at least for many men – but hot water can compromise the outer layer of skin and cause it to lose its natural oils while also increasing your risk of infections, rashes, dermatitis, etc. Limit showers and baths to 10 minutes and keep the water a notch below piping hot.
- Overindulge in coffee and alcohol. Both coffee and alcohol have dehydrating effects – especially when used in excess.
- Smoke. There are too many reasons why smoking is bad for you to list them all here and you’ve probably heard most of them. One of the reasons, however, is that smoking decreases circulation and your body’s collagen production. In turn, your skin loses its natural coloring, while fine lines and other signs of premature aging often emerge.
- Get too stressed out. Long workdays, nagging bosses, traffic gridlock – all can lead to stress. And stress throws your hormone levels out of whack which, in turn, leads to damaged skin cells and may make your more prone to breakouts, wrinkles, etc. There are plenty of healthy ways to relieve stress and we urge you to find one that works for you.
What is exfoliation?
Removing the Dead to Make Your Skin New Again
Let’s start with the basics and what is meant by exfoliation. The simplest, and best, definition of exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells from the upper layer of your skin. Dead skin cells accumulate on your face and body as new cells emerge, a process that happens more regularly than you’d think.
The rate of cell turnover slows as we get older, however. A baby naturally replaces his or her skin cells every few days, which is why their skin is so soft. An adult’s skin cells get replaced at a much slower rate, which means more dead cells accumulate and cause the face to look dull, lifeless, and without its natural tone and texture.
All that said, there are several benefits of exfoliation:
- Exfoliation provides another level of cleansing beyond that of your daily cleanser. An exfoliator – or, as it’s commonly known, face scrub – reinforces daily cleansers that remove excess grime and dirt from the skin.
- It unclogs the pores of your skin and helps release natural oils that moisturize the skin.
- It makes wrinkles and fine lines less visible because the newly-exposed layer of skin reflects light better. And, hey, who doesn’t like a little extra “glow” about them?
- It helps to fade age spots caused by dead skin cells and minimizes superficial scars.
- By removing the top layer of dead (and damaged) cells, it makes for increased absorption of moisturizes, antioxidants, and serums that boost the level of collagen in your skin. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body and provides structure to hair, skin, etc.
- Exfoliation also uproots ingrown hair because of its deep-cleaning qualities.
- You’ll get a closer shave by using an exfoliator. Why? Because dead skin cells and grime clog up your razor blades and limit their overall effectiveness. Exfoliators also lift up facial hairs to make them easier for the blades to cut.
What types of exfoliates are there?
The two main types of exfoliation are physical and chemical. Here’s a closer look:
- Physical exfoliation
It’s not hard to spot a physical exfoliator on your go-to store’s shelf: they may include nutshells, peach pits, or other hard substances. These types of substances represent the “tough love” of face scrubs; they’re abrasive and meant to scrub away dead skin cells and grime with the subtlety of a punch to the gut. OK, so maybe not that harsh, but you get the picture.
The problem with those types of exfoliators is that they may be so abrasive that they cause tiny tears and abrasions on your skin. That said, they’re probably not good for those with sensitive skin. Choose accordingly.
Other exfoliators include large granules (of particles such as pumice or magnesium oxide crystals) and smaller granules (jojoba beads, ruby crystals, etc.). If you have oily skin – which means you typically have larger sebaceous glands – then larger granules will work best for you.
Men with drier, sensitive skin should use exfoliants with smaller granules because they’re less likely to irritate or cause tears on your skin.
- Chemical exfoliation
While the word chemical may imply “harsh”, chemical exfoliators are actually gentler than physical ones. For one, chemical exfoliators don’t include hard substances that can tear skin and cause abrasions. For another, chemical exfoliators tend to reach deeper into your pores for a more thorough cleansing.
Chemical exfoliators work by breaking down the bonds between your dead skin and healthy skin, which causes the dead skin cells to fall away.
The most common types of chemical exfoliators consist of alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids
Alpha-hydroxy acids are the most common exfoliators and, unlike their chemical-y name, come from natural sources such as milk, fruit, and sugar. Glycolic acid, found in many skin care products, is made from sugar while lactic acid has a milk base. Alpha-hydroxy acids work well for people with oily skin.
- Beta-hydroxy acids
BHA is a synthetic derivative that is most effective when used by people with acne-prone skin.
Another type of exfoliant has enzymes at its base. The enzymes come from natural sources, such as fruits, and work at a relatively slower pace than other exfoliators. They’re generally very safe and gentle on skin.
How to use an exfoliator
There are a few rules of the road when it comes to exfoliating your skin, i.e., it’s not simply a matter of slapping a face scrub on your skin and rubbing it in. Let’s break it down into several steps:
- When to exfoliate
The overwhelming consensus among dermatologists and other skin experts is that you should exfoliate your face no more than twice a week, three at most. You risk drying out your skin if you use a face scrub more than that. There’s nothing wrong with using a daily cleanser (not an exfoliator) – it’s recommended, in fact – in the morning and at night, if you so choose. Moreover, using a daily cleanser to remove dirt, grime, and excess oil is something you should always do before you exfoliate.
- A little scrub goes a long way
Most exfoliating scrubs require using just a small amount of product. A nickel-sized amount of scrub in the palm of your hand is, in most cases, plenty to get the job done. Rub the scrub gently between the palms of your hands before applying it to your face – doing so helps ensure a more even application.
- Applying it
Gently apply the scrub to your face while using a circular motion. Rub it into each area of the skin for five to 10 seconds before moving on to another area. Note: there’s no need to press hard but gently massage it into the skin until each part of your face is treated. You can also apply it to your neck and under your chin, if you’d like.
Which leads us to the million-dollar question: can you apply an exfoliator on your beard? The answer is a resounding yes! Dead skin cells lurk under your beard, and by massaging a scrub deeply into your fabulous facial hair, you can help get rid of that dead skin. Preferably, use a scrub that won’t dry out skin that may already be too dry. If need be, massage the exfoliator into your beard and facial skin a bit longer than you do with the non-bearded parts of your face.
Your beard may dry out your skin, so using a moisturizer after you use a scrub or facial cleanser is always a good idea.
Rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water after you’ve applied your scrub. Make sure the water isn’t too hot because it may irritate and dry out your skin.
Once you’ve rinsed the scrub from your face and beard, use a clean, soft towel to pat it dry section-by-section. Don’t rub your face with the towel because doing so may lead to skin irritation.
Applying a moisturizer to your face after you’ve used a facial scrub will keep your face properly hydrated.
A few more tips
While it’s perfectly fine to apply a facial scrub with your hands, you may also want to try tools such as a men’s face brush or exfoliating gloves to give your skin a deep cleaning. High-quality brushes and gloves are gentle on the skin.
Also, always use sun protection – especially when you also use an exfoliator because exfoliators may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, since you are taking away the top layer. We’ll talk more about sun protection a bit later.
If you prefer a more natural exfoliator, try using baking soda with a bit of natural honey (and water, if you prefer) mixed in it. Honey also has antibacterial properties that help prevent skin breakouts. Other potential natural exfoliators include oatmeal, coffee grounds, and even pulped apples (which contain alpha-hydroxy acids).
You must moisturize
Let’s take the notion of keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated and expand upon it a bit, because it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your skin (face and body) looking its best. Skin can dry out easily, even if your skin is oilier than most, so maintaining a proper skin care routine must include using moisturizers.
The first steps
We’re going to sound like a broken record, if we don’t already, because our first tip to properly moisturize your skin is – drum roll – identifying your skin type! Indeed, one could easily argue that knowing your skin type is the foundation upon which all subsequent skincare rests, as well as the path that leads to better skin. Here’s a look at skin type and it how it applies to moisturizing products.
- Dry skin – A good tactic moisturizing tactic if your skin is dry is to start with a moisturizing cleanser and follow it with a rich moisturizer. Oil-based lotions are OK as long as you don’t have acne.
- Oily skin – It sounds obvious, but definitely avoid using heavy or oil-based moisturizers if you have oily skin. Use lightweight lotions and serums instead.
- Normal/Combination skin – There are plenty of advantages to having normal skin – it’s not unlike having a full head of hair – but you still need to achieve balance in your moisturizing routine. Choose a lotion of medium weight and, particularly if you have combination skin, one that doesn’t add oil to your oily patches.
- Sensitive skin – You have to be careful what you put on sensitive skin, including your moisturizer. That said, choose a moisturizer that doesn’t have ingredients such as alcohol, fragrance, dye, and parabens that can irritate the skin. It’s OK to use a moisturizer twice a day, but only those formulated for sensitive skin.
What to look for
There are a few other things to keep in mind about moisturizers once you’ve identified your skin type:
We’ve touched on moisturizer ingredients when discussing skin types but some specific things to look for include antioxidants, retinol, alcohols, and alpha-hydroxy acids.
Antioxidants come in many forms, including green tea, pomegranate, and many vitamins, and repair damaged skin while neutralizing free radicals.
Retinol is in many skincare products and acts as an exfoliator to reduce the number of dead skin cells, while stimulating cell repair at the deepest levels of the skin. You’ll also find a variety of alcohols in skin products, but be wary of those that can irritate the skin (such as astringents). Instead, look for moisturizers that contain “fatty” alcohols, such as lanolin, that help strengthen and moisturize the skin.
Alpha-hydroxy acids work well as exfoliators to help clear away dead skin cells while smoothing the skin. Many fruit products contain AHAs.
It becomes more important to retain moisture in your skin as you age and wrinkles begin to form. You’ll have a better chance of avoiding wrinkles and fine lines if you start a moisturizing routine when you’re younger.
Where you live has a big impact on your skin health. You’ll need the proper moisturizer if you live in a warmer, dry climate, or one in which harsh weather conditions aren’t uncommon.
- Sun protection
Look for a moisturizer that includes sun protection whenever possible. That way, you can combine two steps into one.
Types of moisturizers
Moisturizers provide hydration to the skin on your face and body, protect it from wear, tear, even aging; and also can provide sun protection. But moisturizers come in a variety of forms:
- Lotion – Lotion is an effective moisturizer for most people. Most lotions are thin enough that they won’t leave your skin shiny or greasy, and won’t clog your pores.
- Cream – Cream is thicker than lotion and a good option for men with dry skin. Use a heavier cream in the winter if the climate is harsh.
- Ointment – Ointments have the highest concentration of oil of any moisturizer.
- Gel – Gels are lightweight and less greasy than most other moisturizers. They also feel cooler on the skin.
- SPF-infused moisturizers – SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is how sunscreens get rated for overall protection from UV rays. It’s always a good thing if your moisturizer also includes sunscreen.
- Anti-aging moisturizers – Nothing truly stops the steady, relentless march of aging, but anti-aging moisturizers can slow down the most obvious signs of it, such as wrinkles on your face. The anti-agers come loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and other good stuff for the skin.
Our own Carlos Costa, as he explains in this video, even uses beard oil when the skin on his face becomes too dry. He’ll rub a few drops into his beard and then apply the excess oil on his hands over dry areas of his face.
When to use a face moisturizer
Technically, you can apply a moisturizer to your face any old time you’d like, but certain times are better than others. Plus, you should apply it to a clean face and not on one that has oil, sweat, and other impurities on it. Using a quality face wash will clear your pores and remove any residue before you apply a moisturizer.
The ideal time of day to apply a moisturizer is in the morning – your face will look fresh and feel hydrated as you get started with your day – and just before you go to bed, so the natural ingredients can penetrate deeply into the skin as you sleep.
How to use a facial moisturizer
Applying moisturizer to your skin isn’t rocket science, but it’s also not a task you should take lightly. Keep the following things in mind as you moisturize your face.
- Always apply it to a clean face and not one that’s sweaty or dirty.
- Apply your moisturizer with clean hands so that you don’t transfer dirt and bacteria to your face.
- Don’t overdo it, because too much moisturizer leaves you with a shiny, greasy appearance. Less than a teaspoon is often more than enough. A good moisturizer should absorb into your skin in about 30 seconds, if not less.
- If you use an anti-aging cream, apply it before your moisturizer.
- Don’t apply a face moisturizer around your eyes because the skin is thinner and more delicate. Use an eye cream for men, instead, especially if you’re hoping to get rid of those bags under your eyes.
- Re-apply your moisturizer in the evening because the active ingredients and potency diminish during the day (after you’ve applied it in the morning). Apply a moisturizer at night even if your skin still feels soft and moisturized from your morning routine.
- Pay close attention to the “T” area of your face, which is defined by your forehead, nose, and chin. It tends to be oilier than other parts of your face and needs less – not more – moisturizer.
- If you exfoliate, you should moisturize. While a men’s face scrub used for exfoliation keeps your skin looking great, you need to counter it with the proper amount of moisture and nourishing ingredients.
Let’s start by saying that the skin on your body is different than the skin on your face. That fact may come up a lot in this article, but only because it’s important to your skincare routine.
First, the skin on your face is thinner than the skin on your body and tends to have more oil glands and hair follicles than on other parts of your body – although you fellas with the Tom Selleck batch of chest hair may disagree. Plus, the skin around your eyes is even thinner than the skin on other parts of your face.
The bottom line is that the skin on your face is often more sensitive, can have an oily or greasy sheen, and can be more prone to breakouts. Also, facial skin typically gets more sun exposure and is more susceptible to the effects of UV radiation, including its aging effects.
OK, on to body moisturizers. Like moisturizers for your face, moisturizers such as body lotion have the main function of keeping skin hydrated. It’s thicker than face – and hand – lotion, which only makes sense when you consider that your body’s skin is thicker.
Among the moisturizing ingredients you’ll find in body lotions are: butters, essential oils, and carrier oils. All serve to hydrate the skin while also helping to soothe and protect skin.
Body lotions may be scented or unscented and made with natural, organic, or synthetic ingredients.
What are the benefits of body lotion? Here’s a look at some of them:
- They protect against environmental irritants Many body lotions contain emollients that protect us against pollutants and environmental irritants exposed to us every day. The emollients create a barrier that protects the skin. Lotion also protects the skin against harsh weather conditions.
- They help slow the effects of aging While the aging process marches on regardless of how we feel about it, body lotions can slow its relentless grind and help you to regain some of the skin elasticity you naturally lose as you get older. In turn, your skin takes on a more youthful appearance.
- They reduce inflammation
Body lotion helps to alleviate inflammation of the skin caused by a variety of factors.
We’ve identified butters, such as shea butter, as well as essential and carrier oils as being key ingredients in body lotions for men. It’s worth a closer look, however.
The most important ingredients in a body lotion are their moisturizing agents. In all-natural lotions, butter (such as shea or cocoa butter) provides superior hydration, as do carrier oils. Essential oils provide additional moisture and some, such as tea tree oil, have antifungal properties that help to clear up bacterial infections. Meanwhile, peppermint oil – another essential oil – helps to increase blood flow to the skin.
You’ll find many other ingredients in body moisturizers for men, including:
Ceramides – Ceramides are lipids (or, fats) found naturally in the top layers of skin. They’re found in great abundance, too, and make up over 50% of your skin’s composition while playing a key role in how your skin looks. Aging and sun damage reduce the effectiveness of your skin’s ceramides, however, which is why you’ll find them in many skin products.
Humectants – A humectant provides hydration to the skin’s outer layer. Examples of humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and panthenol.
Occlusives – “Occlusive” is a fancier name for compounds that lock moisture into the skin, such as lanolin, mineral oil, waxes, and petrolatum.
Alpha hydroxy acids – Back to good ol’ AHAs, which act as an exfoliant to help brush away dead skin cells. They also help to smooth the skin. And don’t let the “acid” part of the name scare you off; AHAs occur naturally in fruit and don’t contain harmful chemicals.
Among the ingredients you want to avoid are parabens, although that’s often hard to do, especially if you buy products straight from your supermarket’s shelf. They’ll have names such as methylparaben and propylparaben, so read the label carefully.
Parabens are nothing new, they’ve been around since the 1950s and serve as a preservative in a vast amount of skincare and beauty products. If you wonder why a product has a long shelf life, the answer, in large part, is that it contains a boatload of parabens.
But the bottom line on parabens is that they may cause health problems; in some studies parabens are linked to breast cancer in women. The good news, however, is that A) there are plenty of paraben and synthetic-free body lotions available, B) the amount of parabens found in beauty products is generally pretty small, and C) manufacturers regularly create safe, new preservatives that give the consumer more buying options.
Can men use moisturizers designed for women?
The short answer is, sure, you can use skincare and beauty products made for women. The longer answer is actually a question – why would you when there are so many products made for men?
You also need to keep in mind that men’s skin is thicker than women’s skin, i.e., 25% thicker. Men’s skin also produces more collagen than women’s skin, and collagen provides elasticity to the skin. The difference in collagen typically makes a women’s skin look older than a man’s, although women tend to be smarter about using sun protection, so the difference isn’t always noticeable.
All that said, as a man you need a lotion/moisturizer that takes into account the difference in skin thickness and collagen between men and women. Bottom line.
How to apply body moisturizer
Like anything else, there are right and wrong ways to apply a lotion or other product meant to moisturize a man’s skin. Not that you need to enroll in a course focused on applying moisturizers, but it’s nice to have a rough idea of what you’re doing.
Like with other skincare products, never apply a body lotion when your skin is dirty, oily, sweaty, etc. Doing so means your lotion will trap the grime into your skin. Your best bet is to apply your moisturizer after you’ve showered. Don’t worry about applying moisturizer to skin that’s still damp; the key is to act quickly before the air draws a good portion of moisture from the skin.
The same premise that holds true for applying a facial moisturizer applies to body lotion: don’t overdo it. “Less is more” applies to most body lotions, especially high quality lotions. Apply a small amount at first and only add more if parts of your skin remain uncovered.
The skin on your elbows and knees tends to dry out more rapidly than the skin on many other parts of your body, especially in the winter, and if you live in harsher climates. Make sure to apply lotion to your elbows and knees as part of your morning routine, and don’t hesitate to re-apply it to those areas during the day, if needed.
No rule-etched-in-stone says you need to apply a moisturizer on a certain part of the body first. Some skin experts suggest starting at the bottom – such as at your ankles – and working your way up, although you shouldn’t do your feet until the end. Only apply enough lotion that you need on each section of your skin and gradually work your way up to your neck.
Use circular motions with your hands to rub your lotion into the skin. Take your time, unless you’re in a rush to get out the door, and make sure that you rub the lotion completely into each part of your skin.
There shouldn’t be any bicep-flexing when you apply lotion, or other skincare products for that matter. Yes, you need to apply some pressure, but we’re not talking about hand-sanding a piece of hardwood here.
Here’s where things get a bit more complicated. We all know that there are certain parts of our backs that we can’t reach with our own hands. That doesn’t stop those parts from becoming dry and itchy, however. So, what’s a man supposed to do?
Well, you can always ask someone to apply the lotion to those areas, but if that “someone” isn’t available, then you need to try some different strategies, such as:
- Squirting lotion on the tops of your forearms and backs of your hands and then applying it with a motion that closely resembles that of a windshield wiper. We wish we could get this same kind of reach!
- Using a utensil such as a rubber or plastic spatula is another method to reach those hard-to-get spaces on your back. Start at the lower back and work your way up while using a circular motion.
- Here’s another good one: tear off a long piece of plastic wrap, long enough to reach all areas of your back, that is, and then use it to apply your moisturizer.
- Then there’s this: Use a paint roller. All you have to do is cover the paint roller with lotion and use it to cover your back. You can also use different handle lengths, which is another bonus. Don’t laugh – it works.
Crow’s feet and bags under the eyes are just a couple of reasons why it’s important to include eye cream in your skincare routine. The skin around your eyes can be a marquee that announces, “Hey, I’m getting old!” if you don’t take proper care of it. There’s no reason that you have to drag that marquee around with you everyday, guys.
Eye cream is ideal for maintaining and preventing common skin issue such as wrinkles. Many skin experts suggest that men begin a daily eye cream regimen at age 21 because doing so helps delay the onset of crow's feet and other signs of aging. Getting into the habit of applying eye cream first thing in the morning helps reduce the puffiness and darkness around the eyes.
An eye cream’s ingredients are important to their effectiveness, and most include retinol, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, neuropeptides, vitamins C & E, and more. Many of them also include sunscreen, which crucial for overall skin health – not the least of which is the skin on your face (and around your eyes). But we’ll talk more about sunscreen in a bit.
Retinol’s anti-aging properties become important once you’ve reached dignified middle age (at least we hope it’s dignified), while moisturizers found in creams, as well as proteins, help your skin maintain moisture and elasticity.
Eye cream is thicker than eye serum, its close cousin, while serum has a gel-like consistency and works well in fixing skin that’s already damaged and showing signs of aging.
There’s more to applying eye cream than meets the eye (couldn’t resist) and should follow this process:
- Begin by washing your face to remove any grime, dirt, and other gunk.
- You only need to use a small amount of cream – not much more than a pea-sized drop. Excess cream won’t fully penetrate the skin.
- Apply eye cream twice a day, preferably in the morning and at bedtime.
- Apply it with your ring finger, which helps you to apply it gently. It’s always a good idea to apply it in front of a mirror because it helps ensure that you’re applying the cream in the right place.
- Don’t rub it in. You don’t need to massage eye cream into your skin as you do with lotions and creams meant for other parts of your body. Instead, pat it in until you’ve applied the correct amount to each area of the skin around your eyes.
- Don’t apply it too close to your eye because it may lead to irritation.
- Don’t forget to apply cream near the top of the eye.
- Let your skin absorb the cream before you go outside or apply any other product to your face. The absorption process shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
Let’s not forget about your hands, which have some of the most exposed skin on the body. Many men don’t give hand cream a second thought but if you’re truly committed to your grooming, your grooming kit should include hand cream.
Here’s another thing: the skin on your hands doesn’t have sebaceous glands, unlike the skin on other parts of your body, which makes it prone to drying out and becoming damaged. It also leads to cracked and peeling skin, which can be painful.
Hand lotion is different from many creams and lotions used for the skin on other areas of the body. It’s thicker, for one, typically dries quickly, and is better absorbed into the skin. The thickness of hand lotion makes it unsuitable for your face because it will clog the pores of your facial skin.
You should use hand cream at least twice a week to keep your hands soft, especially if you live in a more wintry climate, work outdoors, or wash your hands frequently. Applying it involves a simple process:
- Wash your hands and pat them dry before applying your cream. Water left on the skin will slow the cream’s absorption. Also remove any hand or wrist jewelry such as rings, bracelets, watches, etc.
- Apply the lotion and spread it evenly while also gently massaging it into your skin.
- And that’s about it, unless you want to rub any leftover lotion on your arms and legs to get the most use from it.
About Utility Balm
We talked earlier about the different types of moisturizers for your face and body but we also want to mention Utility Balm. We developed a balm here at Beardbrand, that qualifies as a “Utility” Balm because it does so many things.
For one, it’s great for your beard, but you can use it almost anywhere on your body that has hair and skin. While it works as a conditioner to keep your beard and hair soft and hydrated, it also keeps your skin (and tattoos) moisturized and healthy.
Beardbrand’s Utility Balm has a variety of natural ingredients, including mango butter, lanolin, and jojoba oil, as well as shea butter – which is rich in antioxidant vitamins and helps slow the signs of aging on your skin. Our focus in creating a Utility Balm was on long-term health, not quick fixes that fade over time. Your skin faces a lot of daily stressors, so it’s vital that you use a skin product that keeps skin hydrated, healthy, and looking its best.
One of the things we noticed when creating our Utility Balm was that so many balms available had a heavy, sticky feel that made applying it a chore. Not so with our balm, because it’s lightweight, has a creamy texture, and is easy to apply.
Slather on the sunscreen
Why You Should Never Forget Sunscreen Ever Again
While most men understand the importance of sunscreen, it turns out that not all that many use it. Never mind the Mt. Everest-like pile of information about the harmful effects of overexposure to the sun. The fact is, numerous articles state that women are way ahead of men when it comes to properly using sunscreen.
How should you use sunscreen? A helluva lot more than you probably do now, for starters – and that includes even on days when the sun isn’t beaming down from a clear blue sky. We’re going to take a long look at sunscreen because, if nothing else, it’s a major component in the quest to get the healthiest skin possible. Let’s get the ball rolling by discussing why sunscreen is so important to you and your skin.
The sun’s harmful effects on skin
Most of us love the sun. Let’s face it, most people who live in harsh winter climates don’t travel to vacation destinations in which the weather is cold and cloudy – they get enough of that at home. Instead, they choose destinations in which the sun shines relentlessly and where the first hint of warm temperatures feels like escaping from a straight jacket.
Too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing, however, including too much sun. How can the sun be harmful to your skin? And why is sunscreen important? Let us count the ways:
- The role of photons
The sun’s light reaches our skin in the form of photons, including ultraviolet light (UVA), which you’re going to hear plenty about in this section. Most UVA light gets absorbed by the skin and causes damage on a molecular level, ultimately destroying skin cells. Your body must then replace the damaged cells.
Perhaps the most evident sign of aging on a person’s body is his or her skin. The cumulative effect of sun exposure is easily one of the biggest causes of aging skin. Without protection (sunscreen), over-exposure to the sun damages the collagen and elastin of skin. Collagen and elastin provide the structure that holds the skin together and when they break down, your skin becomes lax and flat. Some studies reveal that people who use sunscreen regularly before the age of 55 showed fewer signs of aging than those who didn’t.
- Skin cancer
This is the most important point as to why you should use sunscreen. Simply put, unprotected skin is susceptible to cancer and thousands of men and women in the U.S. die each year because of melanoma. And typically, more men die of skin cancer than women.
Not using sunscreen may lead to brown spots on your skin called hyperpigmentation. Considering that the spots occur because of the skin’s melanin – its natural defense against the sun – it’s not necessarily a bad thing, except getting rid of those spots often requires laser surgery. Sunscreen takes over the heavy lifting from melanin without leaving any tell-tale signs behind.
You should always wear sunscreen but especially if you’re acne-prone. Bacteria is helped to grow by UV light gets trapped with your skin’s natural oils, which leads to acne. A sunscreen helps block the bacteria on your face; many also include ingredients that reduce inflammation which leads to acne.
OK, so saying sunscreen prevents sunburn is a Captain Obvious moment, but the threat of sunburn isn’t something to take lightly. Yes, it may hurt like hell for a while and then you must deal with the itchiness of flaking, peeling skin, but the blisters and damage caused by sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer. Moreover, frequent recurrences of sunburn put you at a higher risk of getting melanoma.
- The versatility of sunscreen
While the primary purpose of sunscreen is to protect your skin, many sunscreens today also provide a good cosmetic option by doubling as a facial or skin cream. Your skin not only looks fresh and healthy but you also have a protective barrier against the sun.
UVA rays vs. UVB rays
It’s important to understand the differences between the two types of ultraviolet radiation – UVA and UVB – to understand sun damage and how sunscreen works.
UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays and are the cause of wrinkled, sagging, and leathed skin. They also exacerbate the harmful effects of UVB rays, as well as being a primary cause of skin cancer.
UVB rays damage the skin and lead to sunburn. Any reddening of the skin caused by sun exposure is a reaction to UVB rays, but also tells you little about the extent of UVA damage you may be experiencing at the same time. Most sunscreens have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that measures how well they protect against UVB rays.
How sunscreen works
Sunscreens come in many forms – from sprays to lotions to gels waxes – with each form designed to protect skin from the sun’s most harmful rays. The inorganic and organic ingredients found in sunscreen provide the protection, including zinc oxide and titanium oxide, as well as organic chemicals such as oxybenzone and avobenzone.
The inorganic chemicals found in sunscreen reflect UV rays, while organic chemicals absorb UV radiation through their chemical bonds.
There’s plenty of other science that can explain how sunscreen protects the skin, but one of the most important factors you need to know is a sunscreen’s SPF.
Sunscreen and SPF
SPF refers to a sunscreen’s effectiveness for blocking UVB rays. SPF is important because it should help determine your sunscreen buying choices and, depending on your day-to-day sun exposure, what type of SPF is best for you.
Each SPF rating comes with a number that refers to the amount of time it takes to get a sunburn while wearing sunscreen vs. not wearing one at all. A sunscreen with a 15 SPF means you can spend 15 times longer in the sun before burning compared to not wearing one.
Not that there’s a one-size-fits-all SPF rating that works the same for everyone. The effectiveness of any sunscreen depends, in part, on your skin, your activities, and the intensity of the sun. To complicate matters further, the difference in SPF protection isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen isn’t twice as good as an SPF 15 – the numbers don’t increase in direct proportion to the number.
Also keep in mind that no sunscreen blocks the sun’s UVB rays completely. An SPF 45 will block 98% of them, but you’re not going to get much closer than that.
Broad spectrum coverage
When in doubt, choose a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” protection because it will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Note: Some bottles of sunscreen provide broad-spectrum coverage without saying so on their label. But the label should say something like, “protects against UVA and UVB rays.”
Choosing a sunscreen
Besides broad-spectrum coverage, there are other things to keep in mind when choosing a sunscreen:
- Water-resistance – Water-resistant sunscreens are a wise choice if you spend a lot of time in the water or in high-intensity activities such as running, cycling, or hiking. While no sunscreen is 100% waterproof, most of the water-resistant ones provide ample sun protection, although you may need to re-apply it every hour or more. Check the label.
- The type – As mentioned, sunscreens come in many forms, such as sprays, lotions, and more. What you choose is a matter of personal preference, but what really matters is that you can apply a thick, even coating to your skin.
- Your skin – If you have facial acne, look for sunscreens meant for your face and not the rest of your body, as well. Facial sunscreens won’t clog pores and increase breakouts, and they often have a higher SPF than other types of sunscreen.
- Patch test – Do a “patch test” with your sunscreen just as you would with any other skincare product for men. Apply a small amount on your wrist or forearm and see if you have any allergic reaction, such as itching and redness.
- Has it expired? – Expiration dates are something to consider carefully in many, many products, including sunscreen. Most sunscreens have a shelf-life of three years, but check the date carefully before you decide to buy it.
How to apply sunscreen
Like most anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to apply sunscreen:
Always apply your sunscreen before you go out into the sun. The chemicals in sunscreen need some time to bind to the skin and become protective. As a general rule, apply it 30 minutes before you go out into the sun. Also, if you apply sunscreen and immediately jump into the pool or lake or ocean, much of the protection is lost. Give it time to soak in.
- How much?
The directions that come with many skincare products advise you not to apply too much product. Not so with sunscreen, which is applied liberally while making sure you cover all areas of the skin. Don’t leave any patches of skin exposed.
- How it’s done
When using a spray sunscreen, hold the bottle upright and move it the sprayer back and forth across your skin. Keep an eye on the wind, because it can blow away a good portion of the spray before it ever reaches your skin. Take care to close or cover your mouth so that you don’t inhale the spray by accident. And always make sure the spray doesn’t get into your eyes.
The best way to apply cream or gel sunscreens is to squeeze a generous portion in your palm and then spread it evenly over your skin. Again, don’t leave any patches of skin bare and rub it in until you can’t see the cream (which is white) anymore.
Cover every inch of skin exposed to sunlight with sunscreen. That includes your ears, feet, hands, neck, the top of your head (if you’re bald or don’t have a lot of hair up there). Get someone to help you apply sunscreen to hard-to-reach areas, such as your back.
- Don’t forget your face
Always – always! – make sure that you’ve protected your face with sunscreen sufficiently. Many skin cancers occur on the face. The good news is that there are sunscreens meant for the face and most come in cream or lotion form. If it’s a spray-type sunscreen, spray some on your hands and then apply to your face.
Applying sunscreen again after your original application is similarly important. Some experts suggest that you reapply it at least every 30 minutes after you’ve gone into the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation says you should re-apply it within two hours because most people don’t use enough of it and that it tends to rub or wash off.
Sunscreen and skin type
We touched briefly on the importance of choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type but it’s worth further examination. Here are some suggestions from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Dry skin
People with dry skin should choose moisturizing sunscreens and you’ll find a variety of moisturizing ingredients, such as lanolin, oils, and silicones. Moisturizing sunscreens typically come in cream, lotion, or ointment form.
- Allergy and acne-prone skin
People with allergy and acne-prone skin, or who are prone to other skin conditions, should avoid sunscreens that contain preservatives or fragrances. While people prone to skin allergies and rosacea should also avoid products containing alcohol, people with acne may benefit from them because of alcohol’s skin-drying effects. Meanwhile, products labeled as creams are greasier and may cause acne breakouts.
- Fair skin and/or people with melasma and a history of skin cancer
People with fair skin need to be extra careful in choosing and applying sunscreen. That said, sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended while frequent reapplication is important. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ is also recommended for people with melasma – a brown, blotchy discoloration of the skin – and those who’ve had skin cancer in the past.
- Darker skin
Many people with darker skin tan easily and don’t get sunburned as often as others. But those people still need to use sunscreen regularly and should look for newer sunscreens in which the particles are small enough (micronized) to blend in and disappear into the skin. They can also choose chemical, broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher.
Additionally, older people who have mobility issues or have trouble applying sunscreen to hard-to-reach areas of the body, such as the back and legs, will benefit from sunscreen sprays rather than lotions, creams, and gels.
A few sunscreen myths
Separating fact from fiction is often important in choosing certain products, or anything for that matter, and that’s also true regarding sunscreen. Here are some of the most common sunscreen myths:
- You don’t need sunscreen when it’s cloudy or cold outside
Fact: Up to 40% of the sun’s UV rays reach the earth on a completely cloudy day. People often spend entire days outside on cloudy days with no sunscreen and experience serious sunburns.
- Sunscreen causes Vitamin D deficiency
Fact: While there’s still plenty of debate about sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency – the sun is a key source of vitamin D, after all – most dermatologists don’t believe that there’s a correlation. You can also get vitamin D in a wide variety of foods, of course.
- Children and younger people get the most sun exposure
Fact: Men over 40 who spend a lot of time outdoors get the highest annual dose of UV rays. With more people spending their leisure time outdoors, and living longer, preventing skin damage is even more crucial.
Other ways to keep your skin healthy
4 “Other” Things You Can Do
While the “Big 4” of washing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen represent the Mount Rushmore of men’s skincare, you can also improve your skin’s health through nutrition, exercise, healthy habits, etc.
The rights foods can improve your skin’s appearance, including that they prevent wrinkles and protect against sun damage. Some of the best skin-healthy foods include:
- Almonds – which are rich in vitamin E, which prevents free radical damage that may lead to dull and wrinkled skin.
- Red peppers – Red peppers contain vitamin C, which produces collagen and protects against free radicals.
- Carrots – Carrots contain beta-carotene which, among other health benefits, helps to give your skin a nice glow.
- Salmon – The omega-3s found in salmon fights inflammation that can cause rashes, blotchiness, and other skin issues. They can also lower your risk for skin cancer and are good for your heart.
- Lean beef – Lean beef contains zinc, which prevents inflammation, rashes, and rosacea. Zinc may also help prevent hair loss.
- Dark chocolate – The antioxidant compounds called flavonols found in dark chocolate can improve your skin’s complexion.
- Green tea – Green tea contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help to increase the skin’s elasticity. In turn, it also helps you avoid wrinkles.
- Whole grains – Whole grains provide a variety of health benefits and don’t damage collagen as do refined grains.
Exercise is good for you, not that you didn’t already know that. But it’s good for you in ways you may not have thought of – such as your skin health. Perhaps exercise’s main benefit for healthy skin is that it increases blood flow through your entire body. And that’s important because blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your cells, including your skin cells.
Better circulation also creates a flushing response in which your pores open up so that cellular debris and waste are flushed out and reduce inflammation throughout your body. The dilation of the pores also allows sweat to release oil and debris that lead to acne. But it’s important to cleanse your skin immediately after exercising to take advantage of this effect.
Another benefit of exercise is that it decreases your levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol. Elevated stress levels may lead to an increase in sebum, your body’s natural oil, which may cause acne.
You do need to be wary when exercising outdoors, especially at times when the risk of sunburn is higher.
We just talked about how stress and its effects on the skin, including that it increases sebum production to put people at a greater risk for skin problems such as acne. But there’s more.
For one, the human body has a lot of nerve endings connected to the skin, so stress and the emotions that come with it express themselves through the skin. The same principle applies to stress and gastrointestinal issues, for example.
Excess stress also causes your body to release chemicals that cause inflammation, including on the skin. Meanwhile, stressed-out people often take less time to take care of themselves – such as through exercise and a healthy diet – in ways that improve skin health.
The importance of getting a good night’s rest is hardly a new concept but it’s not one to take lightly. Not getting enough sleep impacts us in a variety of negative ways, including how it effects our skin.
Skin experts say that a human’s skin goes through something of a makeover while we sleep and that a lack of sleep messes with the makeover’s effectiveness. Here are some ways that sleep is good for skin health:
- Quality sleep means not facing the stress-related events that cause cortisol levels to rise on a day-to-day basis. But a lack of sleep leads to higher cortisol levels and increased skin inflammation. Those bags that show up under your eyes when you’re burning the midnight oil are there for a reason.
- Many anti-aging ingredients work the best overnight – ingredients such as retinol and glycolic acid. Also, the active ingredients in retinols break down more rapidly in sunlight and make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
- Your skin has time to rejuvenate when you sleep because there’s a much less chance of exposure to UV damage, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, weather conditions, etc.
That wraps up our men’s skin care guide and we hope that you get a great deal of benefit from it. There’s definitely a lot you can do to keep your skin looking and feeling its best and even a minimum of daily effort will improve your skin’s health and appearance.
Is there a certain skin care routine that you follow? What do you think is the most important aspect of caring for your skin? We’d love to hear from you.