The body’s largest organ, our skin, shields us from harmful elements but getting into the routine of properly taking care of your skin doesn’t seem to be as valued by many men. Yet, doing so will help keep you looking healthy, youthful and will prevent many skin diseases including skin cancer. Skin care, however, is about more than just your face; many of us seem to forget about the larger proportion of our skin located below the neck. Having healthy skin on your body is just as important.
Our skin has three main functions: to protect our body by preventing the invasion of bacteria and other foreign bodies, to sense different types of stimulation including touch, pressure, heat, pain and cold and finally, to regulate our body temperature.
Taking care of your skin begins with understanding what type of skin you have. Generally speaking, there are four different skin types:
Skin Type 1 – Dry Skin:
Men who have dry skin will often notice blotchy patches of flaky skin on their face and body. The easiest way to tell whether your skin is dry is if it often feels tight after you wash it. If you do have dry skin, avoid using products that have a high level of alcohol as these will dry out your skin more. Try using cleansing milk or mild soaps as these will remove a smaller proportion of the natural oils your skin produces. The key to conquering dry skin is to moisturize!
Skin Type 2 – Oily Skin:
Some men tend to have an oily skin complexion, meaning their body has the tendency to produce larger amounts of natural oils and may also be more prone to blackheads. You can distinguish an oily skin type by touching your skin about thirty minutes after it is washed. If you notice an oily residue on your fingers, your skin has an oily complexion. This is not unhealthy nor is it something to worry about; unfortunately, however, some people with oily skin attempt to remedy the issue by completely stripping off the oils on their skin, which is harmful. You do not need to strip your skin of its natural oils if you have an oily skin type. Instead, moisturize less frequently and apply a toner after your skin has been cleansed.
Skin Type 3 – Combination Skin:
This is the most common skin type amongst men. On the face, a combination complexion means that your cheeks and forehead may be dry while your T-zone, including the brow region and nose, will be oilier. Likewise, there may be larger areas on the body that are drier than others. Treat each area independently, adjusting for the combination of different skin types.
Skin Type 4 – Sensitive Skin:
Sensitive skin is very reactive to many products used on the body and face. If you sunburn easily or your face is prone to redness, bumps and acne, take extra care when using skincare products. It’s a good idea to see a dermatologist or skin-care professional for specific questions about your skin. Products specified for sensitive skin types are formulated to be very gentle and delicate, but use caution to avoid reactions.
After you’ve distinguished your skin type, it’s time to learn the proper skincare regiment, which can easily be divided into four equally important steps.
Step 1 – Cleanse:
Cleansing the skin is important because it removes impurities on the outermost surface called the epidermis. This includes dead skin cells, dirt, pollution, excess sebum (the natural oils your skin produces) and bacteria. Use a cleanser that is specific for your skin type. It is recommended that you cleanse in the evening as opposed to the morning because the cleanser will remove all the impurities that have collected throughout the day. In the morning, all you need to do is wash your face with lukewarm water; be sure the temperature isn’t too hot or too cold as this can increase the risk of capillary breakage. When cleansing, only use a small amount of product, not a handful. if your skin feels tight and taught after you have cleansed, you’ve over-cleansed. Over-cleansing can lead to skin irritations such as rashes, acne and flaking which can make your skin more susceptible to the effects of aging and other damage. Avoid cleansing your skin more than once a day because doing so will dry out your skin, making it more prone to damage.
Step 2 – Exfoliate:
Men often tend to have more youthful looking skin on the face compared to women because we usually exfoliate our skin right before we shave. If you are not exfoliating your skin before your shave, start. The best way to exfoliate the skin is to purchase a scrub and use it once or twice a week depending on your skin type. Invest in a scrub that is gentle and made of smaller granules as opposed to larger ones because larger granules can cause skin abrasions. It’s also a good idea to invest in a loofah sponge for men who remove hair on their body as this not only rejuvenates the skin but can help with unpleasant ingrown hairs. In recent years, many specialists have begun to recommend products with retinoids. These products not only remove the top layer of epidermis but also help the skin to produce collagen. As we age, collagen is broken down giving way to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and large pores. Naturally, men tend to age better than women because our skin contains more collagen.
Toners remove all other traces of impurities including oil, skin, dirt and other pollutants but if you invest in a good cleanser and exfoliator, you won’t need to add in a toning step and most professionals don’t feel they are essential. If you do feel a toner will be beneficial in your regime, pick up something that will balance the pH of your skin as well as moisture it.
Step 3 – Moisturize:
Keeping your skin moisturized is crucial. Dry skin will become dull and lose its elasticity, quickly leading to fine lines and other unwanted conditions; keeping your skin well moisturized will prevent this. It’s best to moisture as soon as you’ve finished cleansing and exfoliating. Pat yourself down instead of rubbing your towel across your skin. This will help your skin stay moist rather than dry and irritate it with the rough sweeping motions of traditional towel drying. Even people with an oily skin type should moisturize as they will benefit from this. Be careful not to over moisturize as this can clog your pores.
Eye creams for men, like toners, are more of an accessory to your skincare products. The skin around the eye is very thin, delicate and susceptible to damage. Many eye creams target this area with special enzymes and formulas to decrease the effects of aging. However, many experts have found that using your daily moisturizer works just as well.
Step 4 – Protect:
Sun damage is the number one cause for wrinkles and skin damage, so you need to protect yourself from it. Experts say it’s crucial to use sunscreen no matter what your age or the weather conditions. If you are looking for a tan, it is recommended to use self-tanners with SPF protection rather than tanning outside or in a salon. UVB rays from the sun and UVA exposure in tanning beds will literally destroy your skin and continued exposure to these rays has been directly linked to early age skin cancer. Because of the popularity of tanning, most of the general population has forgotten what a tan actually is. A tan is the skin’s response to the damage from UV radiation. To defend itself, the skin produces a brown pigment called Melanin also known as a tan. While the idea of this coloring appeals to many, it is actually a clear indication of skin damage. A common myth amongst people is the idea of a ‘base tan’ protecting your skin from the sun. This is a myth. Wear SPF when you are outside, year round, period.
What does SPF stand for?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Different lotions have different SPF factors and it is important to know the difference between these numbers. The SPF factor tells you how long you can stay in the sun before getting burned. For example, if a person tends to burn after fifteen minutes of sun exposure, an SPF rating of 15 will enable them to stay out in the sun for 15 times longer or approximately three and a half hours. SPF protects the skin from UVB rays only; to ensure that you are protected from UVA rays, use a sunscreen that is labeled ‘Broad Spectrum’ and make sure it contains one of these ingredients:
- Avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789 or butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane)
- Titanium dioxide
- Zinc oxide
- Anthelios SX
- Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb are also used outside the United States
Remember that layering SPF products does not increase the total number or effectiveness of the products. Applying a product with an SPF of 15 and then layer it with SPF 30 won’t make the combination of the two products SPF 45.
Lifestyle and Skin
Many people look into products after the first signs of damage to their skin, or as aging starts to take its toll, but proper skin care is something that should begin early in life and is deeply influenced by a healthy lifestyle. Having a well-balanced diet rich in minerals, antioxidants and plenty of vitamins including A, B, C and E is important. Sleeping well at night, a good 7 to 8 hours, gives our skin the chance to rejuvenate itself and being physically active in the day aids skin toxin removal and boosts natural collagen production. Harmful habits, such as smoking, deprive the skin of nutrients and oxygen and contribute to wrinkles, specifically around the mouth and eyes. Mental health also plays a role and high levels of stress have been linked to thin and degenerative skin.
Proper skin care may sound tedious but it is really just a part of a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of your body is an investment you can’t afford to miss.