There's nothing "girly" about having sensitive skin. Both men's and women's skins are the first line of defense against harsh weather, strong sun and countless environmental irritants, leaving even the toughest of tough guys susceptible to outbreaks of flaky, red, itchy, even painful skin. Dermatologists report that 50 percent of their patients complain of sensitive skin -- and that more and more of them are men [sources: AAD and WebMD]. In fact, a 2001 study of adults in the United Kingdom showed that as many as 40 percent of men have the condition [source: Berardesca et al].
In the past, there were almost no skin care products designed specifically for men with sensitive skin, but that's changing. Brand-name skin care companies like Nivea, Neutrogena and AHAVA all have men's product lines -- face washes, shaving balms and moisturizers -- marketed to customers with sensitive skin.
But what does it mean, exactly, to have sensitive skin? The closest thing to a formal definition is skin that irritates easily and reacts strongly to products that most people tolerate just fine [source: Kam]. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has found that most people who identify themselves as having sensitive skin suffer from one or more underlying conditions:
- Acne -- Oily skin with high levels of certain bacteria
- Rosacea -- Ruddy complexion frequently marked by broken blood vessels and pimples
- Stinging -- A burning or "pins and needles" reaction to certain common ingredients (often acids) in skin care products and cosmetics
- Contact dermatitis -- Irritation or allergic reaction triggered by any number of natural or chemical ingredients such as fragrances, preservatives, detergents, oils and extracts [source: AAD].
Before you rush out to buy a moisturizer labeled for men with sensitive skin, it's important to see a dermatologist to figure out exactly what sensitive skin condition you have. Why? Because products designed for sensitive skin don't treat all skin conditions equally. Moisturizers are technically cosmetics, not drugs, and aren't tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they hit the shelves. Likewise, the FDA doesn't require manufacturers to submit any scientific proof that their products are hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested or non-irritating [source: Lewis].
To find the best moisturizer for your sensitive skin condition, you need to look beyond the marketing language and read the actual ingredients. On the next page, we'll discuss the major types of sensitive skin moisturizers for men and target the ingredients that could cause more harm than good.