It’s easy to see why so many guys get intimidated by skin care. We see how expertly our wives or girlfriends use so many different skin care lotions and potions, and we wonder how they make sense of it all without degrees in dermatology and advanced chemistry.
In the face of such daunting skin care complexity, a lot of us throw in the towel. “Soap and water are all I need for my skin,” we say gruffly with a bravado we think conveys a devil-may-care masculinity but secretly just masks a deep fear of the unknown world of skin care.
As a result, we tend to continue with the skin-destroying, wrinkle-creating practices — too many harsh soaps, not enough sunscreen, and basic neglect — we’ve been repeating because we don’t know better.
Such skin care calamities could be avoided if only more of us would man up and ask a question we probably didn’t ask our dads growing up: What mistakes am I making with my skin care?
Well, the mystery ends here. Yahoo Beauty turned to Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, who shares the seven mistakes men are making with their skin.
1. Not using any products at all
A lot of guys might say, “I don’t want to spend as much time on my skin as my wife does.” The notion of having to spend a lot of time slathering product on your skin before going out or going to bed might make some men recoil — or worse, remind them of Christian Bale’s grooming-obsessed character in American Psycho.
But skin care doesn’t have to be a medicine-cabinet-clogging ritual (nor does it make you a serial killer). “At the bare minimum, everyone, including men, can get away with just three products: a cleanser, a sunscreen, and a treatment product for whatever your [skin] problem is,” says Baumann. “That’s the bare minimum. Just put the cleanser in the shower and use it whenever you’re bathing. Put the sunscreen next to your toothbrush and slap it on in the morning. And then use your skin treatment at night. That’s not a lot of time, and you’ll get great results.”
2. Not knowing what kind of skin you have
The first step in taking care of your skin is knowing what type of skin you have. As beneficial as starting a skin care regimen can be, the wrong kind of care for your skin type might result in damage, not benefits.
“Sometimes people are really oily, so they need cleansers that help take that oil off the skin and prevent the pores from getting clogged,” says Baumann. “Other people don’t have enough oil and their skin doesn’t hold onto water properly, so they need more of a creamy cleanser that would deposit moisturizers on the skin.”
To see what kind of skin you have and what type of products you should be looking for, you may need some professional help. “Of course I’m biased,” admits Baumann, “But I think [men] should go to the dermatologist and get diagnosed what their skin type is.”
3. Washing face with just any soap
Not all soaps are created equal, especially when your face is concerned. But Baumann says many of her male patients ignore that fact.
“[Men] are not usually very interested in all the different subtleties of skin care and all the different choices,” she says. “So a lot of times they’ll just use whatever soaps they have in their shower to wash their face.”
Baumann says that’s a bad call because many popular soaps are harsh on the face. “If it’s Ivory or Irish Spring or Dial or one of those antibacterial ones that a lot of guys use, those are really drying and really irritating to your skin,” she says. (And if you’re using Lava soap, it’s a wonder you even have a face left.)
“If your skin’s dry and has inflammation, that can speed up aging and cause other issues,” Baumann continues. “Sometimes acne and things like that can be caused by using the wrong soap on your face.”
So once you identify whatever issues your facial skin may have, be sure to use the right cleanser.
“If you have acne, you need a cleanser that’s going to kill the bacteria that causes acne,” says Baumann. “If you have rosacea, which is redness, you need an anti-inflammatory cleanser. That choice of cleanser is so important. If you’re just using your shampoo or your body soap or whatever, you’re missing that opportunity to do something good for your skin.”
Suggested products: SkinMedica Facial Cleanser. “My male patients love it,” says Baumann.
4. Not using a daily SPF
For too many men, sunscreens are for occasional use only — maybe for those days at the beach or those long hikes.
That’s not good enough. To protect your skin from sun damage, Baumann recommends incorporating sunscreen into your daily ritual.
“The sunscreen should be something that goes next to your toothbrush that you put on every single day no matter what,” she says. “I suggest using a daily SPF instead of a moisturizer.”
If protection against ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer isn’t enough to get you to use sunscreen, there are plenty of other unsightly problems that a good sunscreen will guard against. “The yucky-looking brown discoloration you get on your skin — they’re called SK, or seborrheic keratosis,” Baumann says. “They’re those brown things that look like you could pick them off. People who are in the sun a lot get them. Sunscreen will prevent the SKs, the wrinkles, and, of course, skin cancer.”
How do you go about choosing the right sunscreen? “Look for a light one that is gel- or lotion-based and avoid those with dimethicone, which makes SPF feel slimy,” Baumann recommends. “If your [skin is] dry, it’s easier to find a good sunscreen because a lot of them are moisturizing. If you’re oily, it’s a little bit more challenging. You should look for a gel.”
Suggested products: Baumann says her patients’ go-to brands include SkinCeuticals Sport, EltaMD Clear and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch.
5. Not using retinoids at night
“When you see dermatologists and we have good skin, that’s why — it’s because of the retinoids,” says Baumann. “Retinoids do so many good things.”
Dermatologists may swear by retinoids (vitamin-A-based skin care products), but a lot of guys still don’t know about them. That’s unfortunate, because Baumann says they work miracles: preventing wrinkles, sagging, and dark spots.
“[Retinoids] turn on good genes and turn off bad genes,” Baumann says. “They’ll turn on genes that protect your skin from skin cancer, aging, acne, and brown spots. And they’ll turn off genes that break down cellular components like collagen that makes the skin strong.”
Retinoids themselves are sun-sensitive, which is why you should put them on at night. (They do not, however, make your skin sensitive to the sun, as popular myths contend.) If you’re going to introduce retinoids to your nightly skin care routine, it’s best to do so gradually. “You have to start really slowly, like every third night for the first couple of weeks,” Baumann says. “Then every other night after a couple weeks, then eventually every night.”
But the results, Baumann promises, are worth it. “I’ve been a doctor for 19 years,” she points out. “My patients who have used retinoids look younger than they did 19 years ago. The ones who don’t use it look 19 years older!”
Suggested products: Prescription tretinoin (Retin-A and other brands). For over-the-counter products, Baumann suggests SkinCeuticals retinol products.
6. Shaving on dry skin
Yes, you might be in a hurry. Still, shaving your skin dry is an all-around bad idea. “You end up getting nicks,” says Baumann. She recommends shaving in the shower after five minutes of warm water exposure.
“All that warm water kind of swells the skin a tiny bit,” she says. “So when you shave, you’re not getting quite as close to the roots of the hair. A shave that close can lead to ingrown hairs. Also [when your skin is wet], you get a better glide so the blade doesn’t catch on the skin cells. So you don’t end up with those little nicks.”
Suggested products: “A Clarisonic facial cleansing brush will help decrease ingrown hairs,” says Baumann.
7. Not using hand cream
Don’t think you can walk around with dry, scaly hands and women won’t notice. News flash, they do! “We don’t like it when you shake someone’s hand and their hand’s really rough,“ says Baumann. “Men never think to put on moisturizer, especially when they wash their hands a lot.”
She recommends that guys always have a moisturizer handy — in their pockets, in their bags, or in their cars — for use as needed. The result: marked improvement in your hand-to-hand contact. “Using a hand cream after washing hands can make such a difference,” she says. “As a woman, I always notice when a man has soft hands.”
And if you follow these tips, chances are the rest of your well-maintained skin won’t go unnoticed either.
Suggested products: “I like Cetaphil cream or CeraVe,” says Baumann. “Give it five minutes to soak in and it won’t feel slimy.”