In years past, a man's skin-care regimen generally consisted of aftershave and a mild sunburn. With our increasing longevity and continued research and development into skin care, many of us now see the sense in caring for the protective suits we arrived in.
The skin you're walking around in is actually your body's largest organ. It's useful and resilient: It holds water in, it keeps bacteria and viruses out, and you can even spill drinks on it without it staining.
But if you have excessively dry skin -- and many, many people do -- your skin's function is compromised. Not only will it feel tight, itchy and uncomfortable, but skin that's scaly or cracked also offers vulnerable points-of-entry to dangerous pathogens.
So how should men care for their dry skin? See the next page to find out.
Your skin has its own natural moisturizer, or at least it should. The surface of your skin produces a mix of lipids, oils and dead skin cells that come together to form a handy, protective layer. Most people need to wash this layer off, lest it continue building up into an oily mess that wreaks havoc on their pores, not to mention their dating success.
Various health conditions (such as diabetes or kidney problems) can cause excessively dry skin, but more often genetics is to blame. Not everyone's skin produces lots of protective oil, and daily washing strips off what oil there is in the first place.
Moisturizer isn't terribly manly, but neither is complaining about dry skin. While some men only dampen their faces with tears of joy when watching the stirring finale of a monster-truck rally, moisturizer really can go a long way in giving the skin a healthier appearance. And when it comes to preventing dry, cracked skin, it's your first line of defense.
When it comes to moisturizer, some products are watery, some are oily and there's practically no limit to what ingredients they may contain. Try a few out to find one that works for you. Start with something simple and greasy, with a short list of ingredients. Through trial and error, you'll find one that keeps the itching and discomfort at bay.
Wet, then Moisturize
Dry skin usually appears on the abdomen, arms, legs, hands or feet, but it's also common on the face, where it creates a sensation of tightness. While dry skin shouldn't be any reason for alarm, it can cause a minor revolution among your skin cells if it's left unchecked. Dry skin occurs when skin cells that are near or past the end of their cellular lives clump together, creating tiny scales. The rest of your skin doesn't like this, especially since these scales leave spaces between them that can easily be breached by allergens, bacteria or viruses. The rest of the skin may suffer, either from contact with an allergen or from an immune-system response to the excessively dry skin. The immune-system response may lead to swelling and inflammation. This is dermatitis.
As we mentioned earlier, you can prevent dry skin by using moisturizer. However, moisturizer can actually cause problems if you don't wet your face first. Many moisturizers are occlusive, meaning they form a layer on your skin that keeps moisture from getting out. But if there's little moisture in the skin to begin with, you're just trapping in the dryness, so to speak. Always splash a little water on your face so the moisturizer will have something to seal in.
If you leave a trail of skin flakes wherever you go, you may want to limit your exposure to cigarette smoke. If you're a smoker and you need another reason to quit, here it is: Smoking is not only going to prematurely age your skin, it's also likely worsening or even outright causing its dryness.
When you're a smoker, your face spends a lot of time in contact with smoke. Just like the inside of a chimney darkens in due time, your face is going to begin showing signs of the near-constant presence of tobacco smoke, as will your hands. Smoking damages and dries out the skin. In addition to the dryness caused by the smoke, particles and pollutants in the smoke will settle on your skin and form a residue. In time, this residue will result in blocked pores, discoloration and generally unhealthy-looking skin. We don't need to cover all the reasons smoking's bad for you, but if your dry skin's driving you crazy -- or if you just want to look your best -- that's all the reason you need to kick the habit for good.
Avoid Winter Woes
Even people with oily skin may have to deal with dryness during winter, especially if they spend much time outdoors. When temperatures plunge and winter winds whip up, skin -- and its ability to retain moisture -- takes a beating.
During the winter months, the air is less humid than during other times of the year. In this way, the world is literally sucking the moisture out of your skin. Stopping that is no easy feat.
However, there are steps you can take to maintain healthy skin in the winter:
- Stay hydrated. Give your skin its own chance to replace moisture lost to evaporation.
- Avoid being out in the elements when possible. When outside, protect your face, hands and any other exposed skin from the cold weather.
- Gently wash and moisturize your face once a day, and remoisturize later in the day. Look for an oil-based moisturizer that helps your skin seal in its existing moisture.
These simple steps will help give your skin relief until spring rolls back around.
No Dozing in the Shower
Most people start -- or end -- the day with a nice, long shower, or even a bath if there's time. It's a great way to relax, and it washes grease and grime off your body. But as you strip away those oils, you also remove a very important protective layer that helps prevent moisture from escaping through your skin.
If you can cut out tub baths entirely, doing so will improve your dry skin. You can also help improve your skin's condition by shortening your showers to just a few minutes and cutting back on the hot water. And be aware that soap dries out your skin. Try to avoid using soap unnecessary, such as soaping and scrubbing the backs of your calves after spending a leisurely winter's day inside reading. If you haven't broken a sweat since the last time you bathed, you can skip the shower entirely.
Another way to help your skin is to look for mild cleansers without any perfumes, and skip the heavy-duty soaps and strong antibacterial rinses. The stronger soaps are for people with more skin oil than they know what to do with, and you're not one of them. By following these tips, your skin can become what you most want it to be -- something you never have to think about.
See the next page for lots more information on taking care of dry skin.
Women aren't the only ones who battle oily skin. Get skin care advice for men with oily skin.
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Moisturizing and Cleansing Key to Treating Atopic Dermatitis." March 2, 2006. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/moisturizing_cleansing.html
- Griffin, R. Morgan. "What's Causing Your Dry Skin Problem?" Aug. 23, 2010. (Jan. 3, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/whats-causing-your-dry-skin-problem
- Lodén, Marie and Howard I. Maibach. "Dry Skin and Moisturizers: Chemistry and Function." CRC Press. 2000.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Dermatitis." Dec. 8, 2009. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dermatitis-eczema/DS00339
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Moisturizers: Options for softer skin." Dec. 16, 2010. (Jan. 3, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042
- New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/W. "How To Stop Winter From Weathering Your Skin." ScienceDaily. Nov. 5, 2008. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081031161836.htm
- University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. "Oil And Water Mix For Skin Care Treatment In Winter Season." ScienceDaily. Oct. 30, 2007. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071027100558.htm