Why moisturize?
May 14, 2010 5:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm a guy. Do I really need to moisturize every day, or do anything to my skin apart from wash it?

I'm highly skeptical of beauty industry pseudoscience. Do I really and truly need to put anything on my skin, or is it all just snake oil?

I use moisturiser occasionally when my hands or face get rough and flaky. Apart from that, is there anything else I really need to do to my skin? Am I really going to look older/saggier/wrinklier if I don't exfoliate, moisturise daily, use branded eye cream, pore-cleanser, toner and whatever the hell else the big cosmeticorps say I need?

(Also: if the answer is yes, it does make a difference, what's the baseline minimum I need to do?)

Especially keen on answers founded on empirical studies, but anecdata is fun too.
posted by dontjumplarry to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Look at the older males in your family - I'm assuming they don't cleanse, tone and moisturise etc. How do they look? Would you mind looking like them when you reach their age?

Personally, I've never looked at an older guy and though 'wow, I bet he wishes he moisturised when he was younger'.
posted by missmagenta at 5:43 AM on May 14, 2010

I think sunscreen will do you more good, but I'm no dermatologist. Plus, I have a beard, so half my face is already covered.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:56 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd at least use sunscreen. I started religiously wearing sunscreen a few years ago, and I look young for my peer group. 15 SPF daily application if you're going to be inside most of the day, more if you'll be outside. I like the spray on stuff because it makes it so easy to apply.
posted by emkelley at 5:56 AM on May 14, 2010

Of course you don't have to do that stuff. Women don't have to do it either. I would recommend some sunscreen under certain circumstances, though.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:57 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would say that the only thing that you (or anyone) should do is wear sunscreen. It will prevent wrinkles.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 5:59 AM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: Just re: sunscreen. I live in London and feel the sun on my face about once a month. Still necessary?
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:59 AM on May 14, 2010

Facts about suncreen. It's not just for sunny days: Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:05 AM on May 14, 2010

emkelley: "15 SPF daily application if you're going to be inside most of the day, more if you'll be outside."

Wait, what?? I know the sun can penetrate clouds, but BUILDINGS?
posted by Grither at 6:11 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I've found putting just lotion on after a shower helps a lot to rid of that ashy dry look.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:11 AM on May 14, 2010

Living in London, putting on sunscreen every day would be a hell of a lot weirder than moisturising every day.

As for the question, there aren't any rules. I always moisterise after I shave and, like you, I top up my hands and face when they are a bit dry. I will also sometimes borrow a bit of toner off my wife if my nose or forehead is unusually greasy. As missmagenta says, there are plenty of case studies of what old men look like out there.
posted by ninebelow at 6:25 AM on May 14, 2010

Skin lotion has always seemed to me to be the same kinda sham that lip balm is. I drink lots of water every day, and my skin is fine and smooth and healthy-looking. On days I don't drink lots of water, or usually the few days after a day I don't drink lots of water, I do notice dryness (especially around my face and hands). Moisturize the old-fashioned way: drink more water.
posted by carsonb at 6:26 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I live in London and feel the sun on my face about once a month. Still necessary?

I'd say so. I live in Seattle, I'm quite pale and will burn in the full sun in about ten minutes. There have been times I've gone outside without sunscreen when it's been gray and I have received a miraculous sunburn despite not actually being able to see the sun. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not hurting your skin. (Also, just a little more anecdata for you -- I've had two friends who grew up in this area who were like "It's Seattle, it's always gloomy, I never see the sun so I don't have to wear sunscreen!" One just had a basal cell carcinoma removed from his face, and the other is undergoing chemo following the removal of a melanoma on her chest.)

Wait, what?? I know the sun can penetrate clouds, but BUILDINGS?

Well, most buildings have windows... and most people have to find a way to and from a building that involves being outside for some measure of time.
posted by palomar at 6:26 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Am I really going to look older/saggier/wrinklier if I don't exfoliate, moisturise daily, use branded eye cream, pore-cleanser, toner and whatever the hell else the big cosmeticorps say I need?

The only one of those things that will keep your skin looking younger is moisturizing. Yes, with sunscreen. The rest of them are to make your skin look better aesthetically (reduce visible pores, pimples, etc.) but don't have any lasting effect.
posted by desuetude at 6:27 AM on May 14, 2010

Good luck finding good data. :)

I shave using olive oil as lube and moisturize my face when it needs it with a slightly diluted solution of vegetable glycerine. Both are so cheap they're practically free and I can be pretty sure they won't give me face cancer. I've used expensive products for both purposes before, and they either work no better or make my skin angry. I mean, the point of moisturizers is to replace the oil you've washed off. It's not rocket science. Neither is *necessary*, but makes my face happier.

I use my wife's stupid expensive SPF 15 moisturizer if I'm going to be outside during the day, since it's way less horrible smelling and feeling than anything else I've used. I'm tempted to try to find a DIY solution to sunscreen that is cheap and easy just to give one last Screw You! to the cosmetic industry.
posted by pjaust at 6:29 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the past ten years I've used aloe vera gel after shaving. I feel it strengthens and firms my skin in many ways including stopping wrinkle formation.
posted by Xurando at 6:40 AM on May 14, 2010

Just make it a part of your showering/bathing routine. Use moisturiser after lightly patting with a towel, when your skin is still a little damp. Doesn't need to be an expensive brand either. I've been regularly using Vaseline Intensive Care lotion for years. (And I think it's been worth it!) Also - avoid using those sporty-guy deodorant soaps on your face, they're very harsh and drying.
posted by mdrew at 6:47 AM on May 14, 2010

You don't need none of that crap -- just don't smoke or drink excessively and don't get sunburnt. Drink lots of water. Exfoliate with a washcloth if necessary. Your skin will be fine.
posted by emeiji at 6:49 AM on May 14, 2010

I smoke and drink. I also recently had a dermal cyst removed from my right cheek by a plastic surgeon and he said "moisturise!" as the last bit of advice he gave me after the operation.

I've used el cheapo Boots skincream and now I use (if I can afford it) a Clarins cream and my skin is pretty good.

I especially use the cream if I've been exposed to sun and wind. Obviously you milage may vary!
posted by hardcode at 6:57 AM on May 14, 2010

Real men don't moisturize, well unless they have a bout of dry skin or something. Madison Ave. will tell you otherwise so as to sell lots of expensive moisturizer. "Hey, let's double our potential market and convince young men that they need moisturizer." By the way, most women don't need regular moisturizer either. Maybe they do if they wear a lot of makeup. Using a gentle soap on your face is probably better than using regular soap and following with moisturizer.
posted by caddis at 7:04 AM on May 14, 2010

Real men don't moisturize

Real men don't generalise.

Anyway. If you shave, it wouldn't be a bad idea to moisturize - you're scraping your skin with metal and it's not great. I am female and live in London and use a face wash on my skin, because London is grimy and soap dries it out. If you're happy using soap, that's fine, it's a personal choice, but it may be worth getting a sample of something and seeing if it feels any more pleasant. Get advice from someone who doesn't have an interest in selling things to you.
posted by mippy at 7:09 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Anecdata: My husband is 38 and everyone assumes he's my age (30) or that we are both much younger. He has what he (semi-ironically) terms "a regimen." It's simple - he moisturizes in the morning with something that contains sunscreen and at night with just a very light lotion. His skin looks fantastic, even when he's tired he doesn't really look it.

Think about it this way - your skin is the largest organ in your body. If it's flaky or tight or itchy or overly oily or full of acne, it's probably Not Good. Use a light moisturizer with sunscreen - nothing fancy is required. It will help keep your skin elastic and soft, and therefore probably more attractive and touchable. It will also help fend off skin cancer, and since my dad's had it ON HIS FACE at least three times now, I feel like a slight authority when I tell you BE YE NOT SO STUPID.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:10 AM on May 14, 2010

I wash my face daily with Noxzema. Cleans the pores and exfoliates.

Other than that I don't do anything to it.

I have occasionally gone to get a facial. But I have gotten them primarily because they are relaxing, not because I believe any of the mumbo-jumbo about "firming up the skin" or "ridding the body of toxins" or whatever pseudoscientific garbage the new-agers/healers spew.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of creams, potions, chemicals, etc., that we apply to our skin have molecules that are too large to penetrate into the skin, despite the marketing claims of these companies. Skin acts as a waterproof barrier to the body; this means that a molecule larger than water (one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms) ain't getting through, unless there's a wound with no scab.
posted by dfriedman at 7:33 AM on May 14, 2010

Use of sunscreen, not smoking and good genetics are probably your best bets, from what I can tell from the literature on the subject. Topical creams seem to have a transient but no long term effect on skin quality, as far as I can tell. Sun- and smoke-damage on the other hand are important.

If you shave every day, you're already "exfoliating", scraping the top layer of skin off with the razor. Use a non-drying shaving product (ie no alcohol foams or perfumes) and you should be fine.
posted by bonehead at 7:43 AM on May 14, 2010

The bottom line is that the vast majority of creams, potions, chemicals, etc., that we apply to our skin have molecules that are too large to penetrate into the skin, despite the marketing claims of these companies. Skin acts as a waterproof barrier to the body; this means that a molecule larger than water (one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms) ain't getting through

Not true - some creams are able to penetrate the stratum corneum. Beyond that, no, they;ll do nothing.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on May 14, 2010

Sunscreen, and lotion when you feel dry, should be sufficient. The skin might be a waterproof barrier naturally, but then we wash it with soap every day and lotion helps make up for what we wash away.

And some people just have dryer, more delicate skin. Even in the most humid weather, I still need to lotion my face, arms and legs after a shower or my skin will feel too tight. In the winter I need to full body moisturize. It's a royal pain but it's necessary or my skin cracks and bleeds.
posted by quirks at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2010

If you have adult acne, you will need to give your face a little more attention to prevent semi-permanent dark marks and scars from healed pimples and cysts. This is only if your acne is pretty bad. If it is, don't over-dry your skin because that makes the scars worse in the long run, and keep on top of the daily gentle cleansing, emphasis on gentle.

No acne or other skin problems? Just cleanse if you want. Try not to use bar soap because it's drying- get something made for your face and you're set. Sunscreen couldn't hurt, and there is science that says UVA rays, which cause wrinkles, penetrate clouds and this one paper I found on Pubmed suggests that clouds actually INCREASE your UVA exposure! Their data was gathered in Australia, not London, so it may not apply at all, but don't think that just because London is constantly overcast that you aren't getting any UVA exposure.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:16 AM on May 14, 2010

Indirect benefits of moisturizing: It makes your skin feel and smell nice. This can be enjoyable for you and/or others. Moisturizing can also become part of a taking-care-of-yourself routine that involves a few minutes of the day to pay attention to your skin, notice any peculiarities, and gently touch yourself in a non-sexual way. This can be more therapeutic than you realize. We just assume it's another step in the chain of getting out the door, but it does help to slow yourself down and do something small and pleasant. It may or may not have an empirically tested medical benefit, but neither does stopping and smelling roses.

And anybody who ascribes these practices to gender categories is really missing out on a world of happy sensations found in the small moments of their existence.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:31 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're young and your skin produces enough oil to keep your skin from being dry or getting fine lines, you don't need to moisturize. Look in the mirror and smile really big. If you see lines and worry about them later becoming creases, that's the time to use some lotion.

Cheap is fine as long as you're not sensitive to it. Your face is more likely to break out or have reactions to stuff than the rest of your body, at least mine does. If cheap lotion bothers you, move on to the more expensive stuff. I'm a big fan of Eucerin calming cream but I use maybe a pea size blob and mix it with water (it's super thick) for my face. I'm allergic to way too many things and it's worked well and never bothered me.

I literally smile and scrunch my eyes and only put lotion where I see fine lines, mainly eyes and the corners of my mouth. I usually get my hands wet and water it down a bit so it goes on smoother. My sister's manager thought I was younger than him (I'm 12 years older) when we stopped by her work last night so it's worked well for me (Thanks, gay friend from high school who told me to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize). Full disclosure, I think tanning's evil so that probably helps too.

Seriously, you're right to be suspicious of cosmetic companies pushing stuff. Most people in their 20's don't need to moisturize much unless they tan a lot. 30's and 40's tend to be when people start having trouble with their skin being drier. It bugs me though to see a guy in his 40's who will make sure to use liquid leather on his jacket to keep it from cracking but let's his skin totally dry out. It'd be weird if a guy was spending more time on his skin than me but a little lotion is fine and helps keep your skin supple and in good condition. Women like guys to look nice too.
posted by stray thoughts at 9:53 AM on May 14, 2010

I'd recommend that, if you aren't having any skin problems, you just keep what you are doing now, but add sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside. Sunscreen is a MUST.

Other that that, I wouldn't sweat it. I don't think you need to buy into the expensive skincare products.
posted by misha at 10:54 AM on May 14, 2010

Wow, so much data. Ahem...

Like everyone else here, I have my own personal opinion on the matter but I'm not going to share it with you.

Instead I will repeat what some other people have pointed out as being intrinsically true:

- excessive exposure to the elements (sun, wind, rain) will not have a positive effect on your skin;
- drinking a lot of water (not juice, not Coke, not beer) will do your skin (and pretty much everything else in your body) a lot of good;
- consumption of a lot of other stuff can be bad for your skin (coffee, alcohol, cigarettes);
- getting your daily vitamin C can help lots too (it's a key component of the stuff that keeps your skin elastic and young-looking).

I believe (crap, here I go spouting an opinion just like I said I wouldn't) that if everyone paid more attention to the above stuff we wouldn't need to resort to moisturisers etc so much.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 11:09 AM on May 14, 2010

You do not need to use skin product. Your body is rad.
posted by jnnla at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2010

By the way, my wife tried to get her dermatologist to tell me (just as my wife had been telling me for years) to wear sunscreen all the time.

The dermatologist replied that "It's not necessary to wear sunscreen every day and most products on the market aren't protecting you from what you think they're protecting you from. I would much rather that you just didn't go outside for longer than a few minutes between 10am and 2pm. It's important to avoid sunburn, not sun exposure." (This was more in reference to skin cancer though, not skin youthfulness.)

Needless to say I was annoyingly smug for the rest of the day.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 11:14 AM on May 14, 2010

Ugh, I can't stand when people say "real men don't...", it just smacks of insecurity. Any ways, I highly recommend moisturizing (even if you have oily/combination skin, you just need to find the correct type of moisturizer). It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy (and, in fact, a lot of that fancy stuff has a ton of chemicals and fragrance in them--although I have to admit, I really like Clarinsmen). I would just moisturize once a day to start, after your shower so you're locking in the moisture. Depending on your age, skin type/condition, you may want to work in a nighttime moisturizer as well. Definitely use a sunscreen (that's not just an aesthetics thing, it's a health thing too) and I would recommend some type of eye cream, as the eyes are very sensitive and the skin is thin and that is the area where aging starts to show up first.
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:57 AM on May 14, 2010

I got my husband Dry Skin Defense Old Spice body wash instead of his usual Old Spice body wash and this solved his dry skin problems. Maybe just use a body wash with a moisturizer since they make manly ones now?
posted by meepmeow at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2010

I endorse Dove's new Men+Care all purpose soap. No bothering with a separate product, and just enough moisturizer to prevent dry skin without making you feel like you need another shower.
posted by fixer at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2010

Echoing meepmeow's comment. You don't have to use anything different, just versions of what you do use that do a different job. I know so many men with long hair who don't look after it properly, and all it takes is a change of shampoo or some conditioner.

Your skin is like leather, and you feed leather. Leather might be hide rather than skin, but it's still worth thinking about giving it some help from time to time.
posted by mippy at 12:56 AM on May 15, 2010

I would much rather that you just didn't go outside for longer than a few minutes between 10am and 2pm. It's important to avoid sunburn, not sun exposure."

This doesn't make sense to me from a practical standpoint. Either you're avoiding sun exposure, or you should wear sunscreen on your face while you enjoy not avoiding the sun.
posted by desuetude at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

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