When it comes to men’s skincare, less really is more, writes Rachel Marie Walsh. Men, the beauty industry wants you. Take it from women – conditioned since girlhood to believe that looks can do everything, from raising them several social strata (Cinderella) to making them invisible to society (also Cinderella) — these people want your cash and will undermine your self-confidence until they get it.
Big Beauty will express concern about aesthetic problems you’ve never considered, hint that you’re afflicted and then try to sell you solutions. What they can promise is barely regulated, reiterated from multiple platforms and — because of competition — sometimes just Cheerios of truth just drowning in exaggeration.
Shopping for a humble moisturiser can be confusing. I happen to believe many of you need far fewer products than you’re told.
The only true “skincare essentials” are cleanser and broad-spectrum UV protection. You need these for good skin health and hygiene. One very cool thing about male skin is that it continues to produce sebum at the same rate after puberty, even as your subcutaneous fat, elastane and collagen diminish. Sebum is an important part of the protective barrier that helps skin retain moisture naturally. If you have no obvious dryness, stay away from alcohol and fragrance-rich products (both dehydrate and sensitise with daily use) and if are protecting your skin daily you probably do not need a moisturiser. Your sun protection is likely a little moisturising and hopefully contains soothing antioxidants, too.
Dr David Jack is a Harley Street physician and member of the Royal College of Surgeons. There is a lot to like about his skincare line, available at SpaceNK.com and drdavidjacklondon.com, but I recommend All Day Long! Daily Tinted Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF50, about €101.48 + shipping.
This cream is water resistant and contains clinically proven AHAs, citric and lactic acid to gently increase cell turnover. It also has soothing aloe vera. It is light and easily absorbed with a subtle, skin-perfecting tint that conceals the white-ish look of UV filters and suits all complexions. Just one pump should be enough to cover the whole face.
Men have thicker skin than women as a result of greater collagen density and the thinning that female skin experience post-menopause. Women have more subcutaneous fat and this migrates with age, so companies that produce ‘plumping’ moisturisers tend to target the fairer sex.
It seems obvious but men only really need a moisturiser if their skin is dry. Dry as distinct from peeling, as peeling skin simply needs exfoliating (unless it is inflamed or broken, these complaints require medical help). Do not scrub. A facial scrub’s effects are uneven and redness-inducing.
Salicylic acid’s primary benefit is as an exfoliant, helping you to shed dead skin. Because it has the ability to penetrate into the pore lining and exfoliate inside the pore as well as on the surface of skin, it is especially effective for reducing spots and blackheads.
Salicylic acid also has soothing properties to calm red skin, can help minimise the appearance of an uneven tone and has hydrating abilities that can result in smoother skin. There are more salicylic acid washes than leave-on treatments currently available in Ireland but I favour the latter because washes expose their ingredients to skin too briefly to impart the benefits they could.
Given that this active ingredient also ups you cleanser’s price, they seem to me to waste money. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, €33 at paulaschoice-eu.com, teams exfoliating salicylic acid with reparative peptides, soothing green tea and other great ingredients.
If you’ve never tried a leave-on exfoliant before you may like to experiment with Bravura’s more affordable Salicylic Acid 2%, €10.98, at bravuralondon.com.
When a gold watch is professionally polished a thin layer of surface metal is removed in order to restore that bright, even finish. Shaving takes away that same superficial layer, baring the smoother skin below in a sudden and silently abrasive fashion.
Even if your razor and foam do not leave you red-faced (and they absolutely shouldn’t), that newly exposed skin is a little more sensitive. This is another reason why it important to choose alcohol-free products.
Non-fatty alcohols assault several substances your body produces to protect skin — e.g. ceramides and hyaluronic acid -in an attempt to get a product to absorb more quickly. If a cosmetics developer were looking over my shoulder as I type he would say that alcohol also helps active ingredients like Vitamin A and C penetrate skin’s surface quickly, to which I would reply “yes, quickly and cheaply for your employer but there are so many other ingredients that do this without causing harm that alcohol just isn’t worth our money.”
Non-fatty alcohols are listed on packaging as alcohol, denatured alcohol or SD alcohol. Fatty alcohols like cetearyl, behenyl, stearyl, etc. are used as thickeners and emollients.
They are totally harmless. Lab Series Razor Burn Relief Ultra, €29 at allbeauty.com, is my favourite post-shave moisturiser. Light and comforting with plenty of antioxidants, it keeps skin calm and soft.
Men’s skin has the natural capacity to look younger for longer, as we’ve seen. Lifestyle choices do mess with your face but UVA/UVB rays are even more likely to age you.
It’s not just that sun damage takes time for skin to repair and risks skin cancer, it also messes with processes that are keeping you looking good. It slows sebum production and the fading of post-acne marks.
It corrupts healthy collagen development and encourages rosacea and broken veins. Dark under-eye circles, while often genetic, can also be caused or exacerbated by UV damage.
To paraphrase the great Baz Luhrman, if I could offer you only one skincare tip, broad-spectrum sunscreen would be it.
Even on cloudy days. Even if you’re in the car all day. Even if you already have wrinkles and think your skin can’t be improved. Skin is an organ and has tremendous ability to self-heal. Give it the chance.