How should I be taking care of my skin?
August 30, 2014 10:21 PM   Subscribe

What is the ideal skincare regimen for an adult male?

I am a relatively young adult white male. My skin is mostly normal as far as I know, but it often gets quite dry. I would like to know what things I should be doing to take THE BEST POSSIBLE care of my skin, including what specific products I should be buying (I'm definitely willing to spend more if it's worth it) and how exactly I should be using them. I understand the importance of proper sleep, hydration, and regular exercise. I don't smoke and don't drink anything dehydrating. I would like to know:

- What specific moisturizer should I buy and when/how should I use it? Should I use a different one in the morning and at night?

- What specific sunblock should I buy and when/how should I use it?
- Do I always need to use sunblock on all sun-exposed parts of my body every day? What about Vitamin D?

- Is it essential to shower in cold water? I like taking long, hot showers, but I know that's supposed to dry out your skin. I guess I already know the answer to this... :(
- What specific kind of soap should I be using? Should I use different soap for my face and my body?
- Should I use some sort of implement, like a sponge, to apply soap to my face and/or body? Which specific one should I use?

- I shave every day; does my choice of products here matter with regard to the health/appearance of my skin? I currently use an electric foil razor and Barbasol shaving cream.

- Are there any good books or other resources I should read on this subject?

- Anything I've left out due to my lack of knowledge.

Thank you!
posted by Cucurbit to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You need Paula Begoun! Her website goes into detail about what products you need and, more importantly, why you need them. Her advice is science-based and reflects the latest research in skin care. Her own products are pretty great, but her product reviews make it easy to substitute products that are cheaper and locally available (as opposed to mail order). I don't work for her, I swear. :)

A few things:
- The main difference between a daytime moisturizer and a nighttime moisturizer is whether it contains sunscreen. Personally, I use the same "nighttime" moisturizer all the time because I wear makeup that contains sunscreen.
- You should at least use sunscreen on your face every day. As far as I know, the latest research shows that sunscreen doesn't interfere with your body absorbing Vitamin D.
- You don't need to shower in cold water, but if you're having trouble with dry skin, you shouldn't shower in extremely hot water. Aim for something in-between.
- For your face, you should use a facial cleanser. For your body, you should use a liquid body wash, not bar soap.
posted by neushoorn at 10:57 PM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would personally answer your question with a question. Is your skin oily, dry, combinatin, sensitive, etc?

And also re: your routine, do you have the time and wherewithal for a number of products, or are you hoping to find one or two things you can use all the time?

I happen to be sold on Lush and their site is great for listing what type(s) of skin each product is for. But of course your mileage may vary.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:15 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Shorter, cooler showers were great for my for my eczema and dry skin. I recommend seeing how far that gets you before you spend time and money figuring out the perfect products and regimen. For the record, though, I use Dr. Bronner's in the shower, and unscented lotion as needed (which is a lot less often now that I'm not desiccating myself in the shower).
posted by domnit at 12:29 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, I really appreciate them!

- Would you be able to recommend an ideal liquid body wash?

- My skin is dry and maybe sensitive. I haven't noticed irritation from scented products, but it seems to get red quite easily (not physically uncomfortable, but visually noticable).
- Yes, I definitely have time and wherewithal for a number of products. Based on how much I enjoy shaving (even though only with an electric razor and shaving cream), I think I would enjoy an elaborate skincare routine, but mainly I just want to do what works best.

- The point about seeing how far shorter, colder showers gets me is well-taken, but I'm asking this question not so much because I'm worried about the current state of my skin, but because I want it to be healthy and hold up well over time. So even if that makes my skin a lot less dry, I'd like to do as much extra as I can.
posted by Cucurbit at 12:41 AM on August 31, 2014

Any of the body washes from this list are probably good bets. You want to find something unscented, if possible.
posted by neushoorn at 12:59 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the answer to "what specific [cosmetic product] should I use?" is always and only "whatever works for you" - otherwise the market would be only a fraction of what it currently is. Two people with identical skin types can have wildly different reactions to the same face wash or lotion. For instance, Dr. Bronner's works well for domnit, but I find it much too drying for my face, and I use body wash because it feels luxurious, smells good, and doesn't get gooey like bar soap - my skin can't tell the difference.

Check out Beautypedia and the reviews at Makeup Alley for ideas, and start with the inexpensive and readily-available products first. Sometimes expensive face stuff is worth the price, but sometimes it's just gussied-up drugstore stuff.

Specific advice I do have: wash your face with warm water, use face-specific products, and consider taking a vitamin D supplement since most of us don't get enough from the sun anyway.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:49 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reddit's SkincareAddiction is legitimately fantastic and filled with info. The Beginner's Skincare Routine is especially good.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:45 AM on August 31, 2014

Seconding Reddit's SkincareAddiction. They have beginner's guide and will answer to all of your questions. (Btw, male or female doesn't really make a lot of difference in skin care.)
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:13 AM on August 31, 2014

Re: sunblock
YES, use put sunblock on all exposed parts of your body every day - face, neck, arms, hands, etc. I like the neutrogena stick stuff, but whatever you will USE is what's best. Put it on every morning no matter the weather.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:22 AM on August 31, 2014

If you want to geek out - reddit skincare addiction.

If you want to buy stuff without thinking - you will have the greatest hit rate with Paula Begoun.

The basic skincare routine is
- cleanse
- tone
- exfoliate
- moisturizer
- sunscreen (am only; or moisturizer with sunscreen)

Exfoliate - don't use a scrub but use an acid exfoliator. You don't mention pimples so just use AHA (night only) which will exfoliate your top layer of skin. This is what I use and it's pretty good.

With your dry skin - you could be over cleaning. It could be because you haven't exfoliated in a while. I had little flakes and then I tried the oil cleansing method and one treatment completely smoothed over my skin, it's incredible. All you do is massage some oil on your face for 1min, who knew.

Also skincare addiction has a good side bar on types of moisturizers.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:51 AM on August 31, 2014

DISCLAIMER: I am an independent beauty consultant. I teach skin care and cosmetic application, and sell those products for a living. I am not your independent beauty consultant. Should you need an independent beauty consultant, I will be happy to help you find one. This is not an attempt to solicit business. This comment is for informational purposes only.

First, let me second Metroid Baby - the answer to "what specific should I use" is always going to be "the one that works best for you." (Well, and also "the one that you'll use.") I mean, I'd love it if I could say that The Product Line I Sell (henceforth, TPLIS) is going to have the best for you, but if you've never tried any of TPLIS's s, then you and I both have no idea whether that statement is true or not. I'm a big advocate of the try before you buy philosophy.

Sunscreen - My childhood dentist had a sign in his office that said, "You don't have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep." Nowadays, I say about sunscreen, you don't have to put it on all your skin, just the skin you want to keep. My father and both grandfathers have had significant numbers of melanomas removed over the years; all three have attributed this to lack of sun protection when they were younger. Dad now has Vulcan ears, and has had large skin grafts done to replace cancer-riddled skin that's been removed. I'm a huge proponent of sunscreen on every inch of uncovered skin, every day.

Shower - I prefer to use implements to apply cleansers, because then, I'm exfoliating, too. I like a nylon mesh lather thingie (the poofy round things that you see everywhere) for body, and a cleansing brush for face. With TPLIS's cleansing brush, there was an independent clinical study done involving fluorescent makeup on the forehead (to show residue under UV light), where women cleaned half off by hand, and half with TPLIS's cleansing brush. Afterward, they were satisfied that they'd completely cleaned their foreheads. But UV light showed that the hand-cleaned sides were less clean than the brush-cleaned sides.

Shaving - Oh my, yes, the products you use to shave matter to your skin. I know nothing about electric foil razors, and nothing about Barbasol. I have to shave due to a hormone imbalance. I use TPLIS's shave foam and aftershave gel, and love them. You want to make sure you're not irritating your face too awful much by scraping it with metal every day, and the best way to do that is with a good shaving cream protecting your face from that metal. Then you follow up with an aftershave that both closes your pores back up, to keep ickies out of them, and soothes your skin after you've scraped it with metal.

Showering - I'm a HUGE fan of long, hot showers. Sore muscles DEFINITELY appreciate being beaten with hot water. As such, I use moisturizing body wash, and then moisturize when I get out of the shower. One hint with moisturizer that may help - goop it on when you're still damp, to get a better distribution with less product, and to feel, well, moister.

posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2014

Personally for me, I think skincare is mostly the same for men and women:

Exfoliate every couple of days. Do a mask once in a while, either commercial or something simple like mashed avocado. It's nice for your skin, and forces you to relax for twenty minutes or so, which is always good.

Use a simple moisturizer without fripperies and doodads; I use Vaseline Intensive Care for Men as an all-over moisturizer. It smells nice and is absorbed quickly without contributing to oiliness. If you have oily skin, a toner to minimize such may also be a good idea; I use Aveeno.

Sunblock is up to you; I rarely use it (and I know my skin will pay for it later) because I am concerned about the chemicals, which may be irrational. But if you're going to, you may wish to look at moisturizers that are marketed more towards women, something SPF15 or so.

Also, stay hydrated--keep a reusable bottle of water around at all times and drink whenever you feel even vaguely thirsty. And vitamin E seems to be important in skin elasticity, so ensure you're getting your RDA. If you're really concerned, you can get gelcaps of v-E at your local healthfood store. Break one open and rub gently into your skin. Side note: when putting moisturizer around your eyelids, use the ring finger of whichever hand to apply. It's the weakest finger, and will be more gentle on the most delicate skin on your face.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:08 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Regular hydration is also good for your teeth, so there's another benefit there along with all the benefits of being moist enough. Pee should be relatively clear.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2014

What specific moisturizer should I buy and when/how should I use it? Should I use a different one in the morning and at night?

I've started using Cetaphil, and love it, because it's extremely gentle and light, and have seen a pretty big difference in skin texture from virtually the first day I started using it. I started using it because it seems to be the go-to recommendation for anyone who's worried about their skin's appearance or being too harsh on their skin (and actually get it from my health insurance's pharmacy).

I use the tub of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream at night because it feels wonderful going on and I love the texture, but it doesn't have any sunscreen in it.

I've used an Aveeno lotion with SPF 15 in it in the morning for years, but am currently switching over to the Cetaphil version since I love their moisturizing cream so much. If you want a higher SPF, they also have a daily lotion with SPF 30 for about the same price, and one with SPF 50 for a (significantly higher) price.

The only reason you should use a different moisturizer in the morning versus at night is because you'll need to use sunblock in the morning but not at night. Personally, I don't have trouble with sunscreen breaking me out, but it gives my face this ridiculous sheen and is unpleasant to put on, plus I like having to go through few steps in the morning as possible, so I prefer that the sunblock be right there in the lotion, at least for my face.

For body, I personally really like Cocoa or Shae butter lotion (the brand doesn't matter much, I don't think, though I usually use Vaseline's because I like the consistency). It can be a little heavy/thick, though, so it isn't for everyone. I keep a big bottle (with a pump) of body lotion in my bedroom, right on the same shelf as all the other lotion/sunblock/hair product, etc, that I use every day. I put some on my hands, neck/upper chest, knees, and elbows every day right after my shower (mostly just because it feels good, but also because I tend toward ashiness). I would put it on everywhere (except my face, it's too heavy to use as face lotion usually), and sometimes I do, because it feels nice, but I usually skip that because I don't have time.

I also have some problems with keeping my scalp and hair hydrated/nice-looking, so in case you also have issues with that, I use coal tar shampoo -- just the CVS generic -- a couple times a week (and condition after with my regular conditioner) to keep my scalp feeling good, and shampoo and conditioner (supposedly) made with Argan oil otherwise (I work out every day and sweat a lot, so I usually have to at least rinse and condition my hair every day). For hair product, I love Argan oil. It also shouldn't irritate your skin, and you can also use it as a moisturizer for your face and body if you want.

What specific sunblock should I buy and when/how should I use it?

For your face, I would recommend using lotion with sunblock already in it.

For your body, I personally really prefer a spray-on sunblock rather than the lotion, because the spray doesn't leave that strange white tint and is quicker to put on. I just use the SPF 50 for kids (so it's water resistant and gentle and all that) that I get at my health insurance's pharmacy -- it's the generic of Coppertone, I think?

I also spray some onto my hands and smear it on my face before my run, since I don't put my facial lotion until after I've had my post-run morning shower. You can't get it in your eyes, which means it's hard to put it all that near your eyes, but I wear sunglasses whenever I'm out to protect my eyes from the sun anyway, so that's no big deal.

It's OK to use that sunscreen for your face all day, but that makes my face all shiny and it doesn't feel/look/smell great going on, so I avoid that if I can.

Do I always need to use sunblock on all sun-exposed parts of my body every day? What about Vitamin D?

You should try to use sunblock on all the exposed parts of your body every day, to protect from skin cancer. Even if you have darker skin and/or don't burn, you should do it. People with darker complexions also get skin cancer. And, if we're being vain, can also get sun damage.

If you're someone who burns easily or if you're someplace where the sun is harsh (ex: the American Southwest), please use sunscreen religiously. If you're someone who doesn't burn easily and are someplace where the sun isn't all that harsh, you might not need to be so obsessive about getting it on every exposed inch of your body every single day, but you should still put it on in the morning and at least try to get some everywhere that's going to be exposed.

Most sunblock brands seem to recommend waiting 15 minutes before putting it on and going out in the sun. A friend also recommended to me to wait 10 minutes between putting on lotion and putting on anything else (ie, sunblock), so I do that, too.

For Vitamin D, if you're worried about not getting enough, then you might want to take a supplement. I spend about an hour or two outside every day, between working out and walking to various places, etc, and I still have a Vitamin D deficiency and have to take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 every day. My doctor said it's really difficult to get to a point where you have too much Vitamin D in your system (he said you'd have to be taking something like 30,000 IU/day to even risk it), so there's not much risk in taking an OTC supplement.

If you're interested in supplements that might affect your skin, the ones that I've heard about and take personally are: zinc, fish oil, and biotin (a B vitamin). Zinc and fish oil (and Vitamin D) also are thought to combat mood issues, like depression, for what that's worth (that's mainly why I take them, though the hair-and-skin side effects are fine with me!). People sometimes recommend using Vitamin E or Vitamin A as topicals, but I'm a bit wary about that, because too much Vitamin E or A increases the risk of cancer. Though! I do use a retanoid, which is basically a Vitamin A cream, and it does give my skin a very nice texture and a kind of glow -- the only thing is it also makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so you do have to be careful with it.

Is it essential to shower in cold water? I like taking long, hot showers, but I know that's supposed to dry out your skin. I guess I already know the answer to this... :(

No, I don't think cold showers are necessary. I take cold showers after hard workouts, because otherwise I will be an overheated mess, and it seems to have absolutely no affect on how dry my skin is (though cold water closes the pores and warm water opens them, so it does have something of an affect on my looks, I guess?). If you find that showers are drying you out, your soap might be too harsh. Personally, I'd change the soap and use more moisturizer before sentencing myself to cold showers every day. And for what it's worth, I've never had a doctor recommend cold showers to me to improve my skin.

What specific kind of soap should I be using? Should I use different soap for my face and my body?

Use really, really gentle soap. REALLY gentle soap. The only purpose of soap is to mix with the dirt/extra-oil on your skin, bind with it, and then pull it along down the drain when you rinse off the soap. Since I assume you're clean-by-modern-standards, you are probably not really dirty at all when you take a shower or wash your face, so you don't need to clean off with anything harsh.

Personally, I've been using Cetaphil cleanser for my face (and looooove it) and Dove soap for my body. I used to use Dove for both my face and body, but the Cetaphil cleanser feels nicer and makes my skin look nicer. It's not as heavy as the Dove. With gentle cleansers like that, though, you do have to rinse well. The Dove especially is prone to creating soap scum.

Since you have trouble with itchiness and dryness, you also might want to look into this body wash (I use it for after the pool, since I don't want to take a bar of soap into the gym shower and since the pool chlorine is so drying).

Should I use some sort of implement, like a sponge, to apply soap to my face and/or body? Which specific one should I use?

I just use my hands. I wet my face/body, lather the soap or cleanser up on my hands, and then rub the soap/cleanser all over the part I'm cleaning, and rinse off. I used to use a washcloth, and then used a bath poof, but the washcloths were annoying to clean and the poof needed to be changed really frequently to keep me from breaking out and was over-exfoliating my face anyway once I wasn't a teenager anymore, so I'm now happy with using just my hands. I actually don't do any exfoliating, except that I use a towel to dry off and am quasi-vigorous about it (because it feels good, not for any skin-centric benefit).
posted by rue72 at 10:11 AM on August 31, 2014

I am a huge fan of Caroline Hirons' advice. Here's a link to her cheat sheet for great skin, and there are other cheat sheets, recommendations, reviews, etc...on her blog. That will cover most of your questions. I've been following the Hirons way for a little over a year and my skin has never been better.
posted by grapesaresour at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2014

Japanese washcloths are excellent. They come in two colors - pink is softer, blue is scratchier. Buy them at WholeFoods or local Japanese grocery like Mitsuwa in U.S. big cities.

Try applying oil to your face before applying shave cream. You can buy specific shaving oil but plain old Jojoba oil is cheaper. I bet Olive oil would work too.

My dermatologist recommends the Cerave line of moisturizers. Available on Amazon or at CVS pharmacies in the U.S. Not expensive but probably better than average. Use the "AM" version in the day because it has sunscreen, the PM in the evening. I also use their "Moisturizing Lotion" product on skin areas protected by clothing.

After a shower be sure to moisturize your toes, heels, knees and elbows because they dry out easily.

Experiment with not using shampoo every day. Too often will dry out your scalp causing itching and flaking. Do use a plastic hair brush in the shower as a vigorous scalp brush.

Paula Begoun's hair conditioner is the best I have ever found. Non-scented. You can use it as a leave-in conditioner after a shower instead of a styling product.
posted by conrad53 at 3:32 PM on September 1, 2014

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