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How should men deal with dry skin?

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Hemera/Thinkstock

Dry skin can hurt. Even if you aren't worried about premature wrinkles, the results of dry skin can be more than cosmetic. Cracked, peeling and flaking skin is no joke. If the idea of having a bottle of moisturizer in the glove compartment of your truck makes you feel like a wimp, reconsider. Your face and hands are on the front lines when it comes to skin abuse. The next time you dry shave, jog into the wind or mow the lawn in the middle of summer, spare a thought for your overworked and underappreciated skin. It's the hardest working organ in your body -- and you're stuck with it for the duration. Give it the care it deserves and it'll be a nice fit; abuse it and it may start to pinch, itch and generally make your life miserable. Is dry skin always the result of user neglect? No, but operator error is often the culprit.

Let's take a look at some of the main causes of dry skin and explore a few simple but effective products for controlling the carnage. You may not be concerned about looking like a debutante until you're ready to retire, but like that black leather jacket you love so much, proper maintenance and care will make your skin look better longer. It will also feel like it's working with you instead of against you.

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There are internal as well as external factors that can cause dry skin. If you've been abusing your hide, though, you probably know it. To make sure we've covered all the bases, let's discuss a few medical conditions that can cause skin dryness:

  • Eczema - A mild form of eczema called atopic dermatitis is sometimes confused with dry skin. It usually causes redness, itching, blistering and inflammation.
  • Psoriasis - Characterized by scaly deposits on the skin, this can seem like simple dry skin at first.
  • Hypothyroidism - An underactive thyroid can lead to a decrease in the production of skin oil (called sebum), as well as reduced sweating. Sweat and sebum combine on your skin to produce a pH-controlled barrier to bacteria and a natural moisturizer that keeps skin supple.
  • Vitamin A deficiency - Rough, dry skin can be the result of vitamin A deficiency. This one may present with eye inflammation, night blindness, dry eye, respiratory infection or urinary tract infection.
  • High blood pressure - Some high blood pressure medications can contribute to dry skin, too. If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor, or read the printed insert on the medications you're taking.
  • Diabetes - Diabetics experience changes in glucose levels that affect the skin's moisture content, leading to dryness when levels are low.

While the list above may hold the reason for your dry skin, the more likely cause is the world around you. If you work outdoors, are a sun worshipper or are taking diuretics, you're a prime candidate for dry skin. Other contributing factors are diet, dehydration and even stress. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winter conditions and you don't have an indoor humidifier, you could also suffer from seasonal skin dryness when you crank up the heat over the winter months.

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You may be inadvertently causing dry skin by participating in activities that damage your skin's natural acid barrier, the layer of oil that protects it from bacteria and harsh external conditions. Some grooming and other habits that cause occasional or persistent dry skin are:

  • taking long, hot showers or baths
  • shaving
  • using harsh soaps
  • spending lots of time in the hot tub
  • coming in contact with drying materials like salt, clay or paper on a regular basis
  • spending time in areas where the air is dry, like near a heating vent or fireplace
  • smoking (Depending on the circumstances, smoking can sometimes cause oily skin, too.)

Let's take a look at some products that will replenish the moisture in your dry skin. Actually, you might be surprised at how easy and painless it is to soften those dry feet or get some relief for your razor-abused cheeks.

Even though you may not want to fuss with lots of skin care potions, there are a few handy aids that will take the sting out of shaving and keep your hands soft and smooth in winter. If your skin feels dry or tight after using skin care preparations, you're due for a change.

  • Moisturizers - There are thousands of moisturizers on the market, and most of them will help rehydrate your skin. Look for varieties that include oil-based ingredients like lanolin, grape seed oil and vitamin E. You can pay a lot for moisturizers that make fantastic claims about their vital emollients and rare rejuvenating ingredients. Your best bet is to start with a less expensive dry skin moisturizer and test it for a few weeks to see if it works for you. One good bonus ingredient in a basic daily moisturizer is built-in sunscreen. Moisturizers that contain sunscreen (SPF15 or higher) will save you the trouble of remembering to apply sun protection every time you go out.
  • Petroleum jelly - This petroleum-based product is a thick, moisturizing goo that has some surprising benefits. It may not feel as silky as an expensive moisturizer, but it's very effective at holding moisture in your skin. To treat your feet, apply petroleum jelly within a few minutes of getting out of the bath or shower, and then put on a thick pair of socks. It's like a mini spa treatment. This also works on your face (without the socks), elbows, knees and hands. If you think plain petroleum jelly is just too thick for your taste, look for a product that includes petroleum jelly as a secondary ingredient.
  • Moisturizing bar or liquid soap -New generation soap blends have moisturizers built right in. They can clean and soften your skin at the same time. If you're a man on the go, using a soap that will give you two-for-one performance is an efficient and smart option. You may still need a secondary moisturizer for your face and hands, but incorporating moisturizing agents into your soap will give your skin protection when it's warm and wet, a time when it's particularly vulnerable.
  • Shaving gel and cream - More than 90 percent of men over the age of 15 shave, and shaving can be hard on your skin. If you've ever felt the burn, you know what we mean. Put back what all that scraping takes away by using a shaving cream that replenishes your skin's moisture balance. Be sure to look for a brand that advertises that it moisturizes as it works and is formulated for dry skin -- oh, and be sure to use it consistently. Your whiskers will thank you.
  • Use no-alcohol products - Even if you think you need the refreshing hit of an alcohol-based cleanser or after shave, it's contributing to your dry skin in a big way. Change your brand. Try a no-alcohol option with the same manly fragrance -- or better yet, no fragrance at all. You may even be able to stay with the same manufacturer and just change the line of products you're using. If you've been splashing, slathering or rolling on the same grooming products since you were in your teens, it may be time for a makeover anyway.

Dry skin feels uncomfortable. Besides making you look older, it stings, sloughs off in unappealing flakes, and can actually split and bleed. Change your routine by trying a few new products specifically designed to soften and moisturize. If the idea strikes you as a bit too girlie, think of it as preventive maintenance instead of pampering. Your birthday suit has to last a lifetime, so take good care of it.

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Sources

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