Wash, rinse and repeat. Well, sort of. We have about 1.5 to 2 square meters (16.2 to 21.5 square feet) of skin to clean; as your body's biggest organ, your skin makes up about 16 percent of your total body weight [source: Eucerin]. And there's a seemingly endless array of products with which to keep that skin (and hair) squeaky clean and smelling fresh. In fact, it's estimated that the men's grooming product market will be valued at more than $33 billion by 2015 [source: Global Industry Analysts]. But even the best products can't work their magic if you're not getting all you can out of your shower.
How do you do that? Well, let's start at the top with washing your hair.
Start at the Top
On average, Americans wash their hair between four and five times a week [source: Aubrey]. While a quick wash may fix that bed-head you woke up with, shampoos are intended to clean your scalp -- they remove oils, sweat, dead skin, dirt and styling products that build up as you go about your day.
Used properly, shampoo should be massaged into the scalp to remove sebum, the oily substance our bodies produce to help keep our hair and skin hydrated and supple. Always rinse thoroughly and follow with conditioner to restore moisture that's been removed from your hair in the process.
And those two-in-one products? Go ahead and try one -- it'll do just fine if you want to combine steps.
Don't Shower in Hot Water
Although a long, hot shower or bath may sound -- and feel -- like one of life's simple pleasures, we're sad to say that all that soaking in hot water isn't doing your skin any favors.
According to dermatologists at the University of Iowa, showers and baths should be kept to 10 minutes or less, and you should only take one once a day at most [source: University of Iowa]. Why the sacrifice? Dry skin.
The outermost layer of our skin, called the stratum corneum, is our natural protective barrier against potentially dangerous bacteria and the harsh environment we're exposed to daily. This is also the layer that keeps moisture from escaping from our skin and the one that wrinkles when we take an extended soak in a bath. When the stratum corneum is compromised, such as from hot showers or harsh soaps, skin may lose natural oils and become dry, increasing risk of dermatitis, rashes and even infection.
Use the Right Soap (or Body Wash) for Your Skin Type
Sure, there was a time when a bar of soap might do the trick. But today's skin cleansers range from bar soap to liquid body wash, and which is right for you depends on your skin type. The trick is to find the gentlest cleanser for your skin.
If your skin is oily, look for body cleanser that's water-based rather than packed with oils. You should also look for one that's noncomedogenic, which means it won't clog your pores.
If you have dry skin, keep in mind that bar soap is generally a bit more alkaline than body wash. This means it's more likely to contribute to dry skin than the soap-free liquid cleansers, which often contain moisturizing ingredients. If you have dry skin, choose cleansers that are packed with hydrating elements such as natural oils and petroleum-based ingredients.
Sensitive skin sufferers should look for cleansers that are soap-free, and they should also try to avoid products that contain fragrance and preservatives because both can cause allergic reactions.
Our outermost layer of skin naturally replenishes itself, but sometimes, skin can still appear dull and flaky or feel dry and itchy. Exfoliating your body and face helps to remove dead skin cells and dry patches from the surface of your skin.
Gentle exfoliation requires nothing more than a washcloth (or loofah) and an exfoliant that contains synthetic beads -- exfoliants like ground apricot pits can have sharp edges and damage skin, while synthetic beads are rounder and gentler. Not only will exfoliation keep skin looking healthy and smooth, it can also help boost circulation and blood flow. Take note, though. A heavy hand or too-frequent exfoliation can lead to red, irritated skin. Limit the scrubbing to once or twice a week for best results, and follow with a moisturizer while skin is still damp.
Shave in the Shower
Getting a close shave without a little skin irritation can be tricky. A fresh razor blade, thick shaving gel and soft, pliable hairs are key. For the best result, try wet shaving at the end of your shower. The steam from the shower and the warm water on your face help to soften facial hair, which will help you get a close shave while reducing your risk of skin irritation such as ingrown hairs, razor burn and nicks. Follow with a splash of cool water and a hydrating aftershave lotion to help lock in moisture.
After a certain age, a lot of men start growing hair in places they don't want it — and stop growing it where they do. HOwStuffWorks looks at why.
- ABC News. Good Morning America. "The Best Face Cleansers for Your Skin Type." Aug. 24, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BeautySecrets/skin-care-face-cleansers-skin-type/story?id=11460538
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Small Changes in Skin Care Routine Can Significantly Improve Skin Affected by Acne and Rosacea." (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/small-changes-in-skin-care-routine-can-significantly-improve-skin-affected-by-acne-and-rosacea-115274019.html
- Aubrey, Allison. "When It Comes To Shampoo, Less Is More." NPR. March 19, 2009. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102062969&ft=1&f=1007
- Crawford, Holly. "The Simple Secret to Great Hair." Good Housekeeping. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/hair/secret-great-hair-oct04
- Draelos, Zoe D. "Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing." International Journal of Trichology. July 29, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.ijtrichology.com/article.asp?issn=0974-7753;year=2010;volume=2;issue=1;spage=24;epage=29;aulast=Draelos;type=3
- Eucerin. "About the Skin." (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www2.eucerin.com/skin-expertise/about-the-skin/
- Geria, Navin M. "Exfoliants play key role in achieving healthy skin." Household & Personal Products Industry. February 2008. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3042/is_2_45/ai_n29412853/
- Global Industry Analysts. "Global Men's Grooming Products Market to Exceed $33.2 Billion by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc." March 22, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.prweb.com/releases/grooming_products/toiletries_bath_shower/prweb3685224.htm
- Health.com. "Exfoliating 101: How to Let Fresh, Radiant Skin Shine Through." Feb. 22, 2008. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410841,00.html
- Hudson's. "All About Shaving." Hudson's FTM Resource Guide." (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.ftmguide.org/shaving.html
- Lawrence, Star. "Getting a Close Shave." WebMD. June 1, 2007. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://men.webmd.com/guide/getting-close-shave
- Nemours. "Shaving." October 2010. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/shaving.html
- University of Iowa. Department of Dermatology. "Winter Dry Skin." Aug. 7, 2006. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/skinhealth/winterskin.html
- U.S. Department of Energy. "Tips: Water Heating." Feb. 9, 2011. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/water_heating.cfm