Men should be interested in taking better care of their skin, but many have no idea how to do so, or believe it's either too involved or not "manly." Here are three skin routine steps that a man can take that are not only simple and effective over the long-haul, but will also give you a better shave.

Some Background Before You Begin The 3 Essential Skin Routine Steps

To take care of your skin the best possible way with these skin routine steps you need to know your skin type. Knowing your skin type will help you buy the best type of products for your face (and not waste money in the process). There are five basic skin types:

  • Normal:the skin stays relatively oil free most of the day and doesn’t get irritated or dry easily. Acne is not common.
  • Dry/Sensitive Skin:the skin gets easily irritated and often feels dry or tight.
  • Oily Skin:the skin has a natural shine to it, and often has build up or acne.
  • Combination Skin:Imagine your face has a “T” on it. The horizontal bar of the T runs across the forehead and the vertical bar runs down to the tip of the nose. Those who have combination skin have an oily "T zone," and dry or sensitive skin on the rest of their face (usually the cheeks).
  • Aging Skin:Aging skin can be categorized as looking worn out, wrinkled and having age spots. In other words, you have spent many years neglecting your skin.

In addition, your personal "environment" may also help determine how you should care for your skin. For example, working outside a lot may mean a slightly different routine than if you work in a cubicle farm.

Once you know the circumstances of your skin, building a solid daily routine gets easier. Be sure to look on the package of a skin care product you’re about to buy to see if it’s been formulated for a specific skin type.

And speaking of formulations, skin care products often throw around buzzwords with little thought to their definition (or accuracy). The skin care industry, which mostly caters to women, has made it unnecessarily complicated. Here is some common terminology you will see:

Humectant

Humectants are ingredients used to increase the skin penetration and activity time of another ingredient. They’re also used to minimize the dehydrating effect of some other active ingredient.  Examples of humectants include glycerol, propylene glycol, sorbitol, lactic acid, and urea.

Moisturizer

Moisturizers are ingredients specially designed to increase the skin’s water content by making the external layers of the skin softer and more pliable. Moisturizers work not by putting water into the skin, but by reducing evaporation. A moisturizer is not a single ingredient but a combination of ingredients (like oils and humectants) working together

Toner Or Astringent

Toners and astringents are designed to cleanse the skin and shrink the appearance of pores. Astringents are the strongest form of toner, containing a high proportion of alcohol (20-60%). Toners are milder astringent solutions and used in the relief of minor skin irritations like superficial cuts, rash from allergies, insect bites, or fungal infections like athlete's foot. They can also help heal scars. They are commonly recommended for oily skin as they are drying, but keep in mind that the removal of oil from the skin can lead to excess oil production as the skin tries to compensate and prevent moisture loss. Topically applied astringents cause mild coagulation of skin proteins and will dry, harden, and protect the skin. Astringents are best applied only to problem areas of skin to prevent excessive drying.

Some common ingredients include alum, oatmeal, acacia, yarrow, witch hazel, and distilled vinegar. Astringent preparations include silver nitrate, potassium permanganate, zinc oxide, zinc sulfate, and of course alcohol.

Hydrosol

Hydrosols are the product of essential oils from aromatic plants , usually obtained by steam distillation. Hydrosols go by names like floral water, herbal distillates, hydrolate, herbal water, or essential water. Hydrosols are produced like essential oils but essential oils will float to the top of the distillate where they are removed, leaving behind the watery distillate.

So hydrosols contain diluted essential oils. Because hydrosols are produced at high temperatures and are somewhat acidic, they tend to inhibit bacterial growth (though they are not sterile). Hydrosols can also help the skin get back a normal pH by being more acidic (where shaving soaps and creams may be more alkaline. Traditional hydrosols most associated with shaving are rose and lavender.  Rose distillates are known to be mildly antibacterial, while lavender distillates are mildly antiseptic). By the way, it’s a good idea to keep hydrosols refrigerated, like milk. They’ll last longer, and they can feel nice in the heat of the summer.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the three simple but essential skin routine steps.

Step 1: Clean

The first--and perhaps most important--of the skin routine stepsis to wash your face twice a day (morning and evening) using warm water and a cleanser specifically made for the face. Do this before you shave.

Using a face cleanser frees the skin of oil, bacteria, and dirt but if it's done too often (like three or four times a day) it may severely dry out the skin. The dry skin will then try to protect itself by overproducing it’s natural oils to remedy the situation, leaving the skin oftentimes oily and prone to acne.

When you cleanse, start from the center of the face (nose, forehead) and work your way outward. Rinse your face with warm water then add a dollop of cleaner to your (wet) hand and rub your hands together to make some suds.  Use your fingertips and gently massage into the skin with circular motions that go "outbound." Don't forget your chin and neck.

After cleaning, rinse again with warm water to help remove any lather residue. If you're not going to shave immediately go ahead and follow up with a cool water rinse.

Then pat-dry with a clean, dry towel--do not vigorously rub the towel on your face!

Your face should feel clean but not dried out.

Step 2: Moisturize

The second of the skin routine steps is to moisturize. Often the biggest difference between healthy looking skin and tired looking skin is the degree to how hydrated their face is. Using a men’s facial moisturizer twice daily (morning and evening, after cleaning. Using an aftershave balm can substitute for a moisturizer if you shave immediately after cleaning, see the "Protect" section below)  helps keep the skin cells full of water, while preventing oil and other impurities from entering into the pores. It can also provide some anti aging benefits via nutrients and stimulating collagen production (the skin's structural protein that keeps it looking firm).

If your skin is dry, select a cream that has the densest formulation.

If your skin is oily, select a gel or skin toner. There’s a misconception that men with really oily skin don’t need to use a face moisturizer. Applying a thin layer of face moisturizer after washing your face helps prevent excess oil production and your skin looking hydrated, not oily.

If your skin is normal, try a moisturizer that is less oily and more lightweight.

For men with combination skin, you need to hit the sweet spot between the light and heavy weight moisturizers. You may want to test out a few samples of  products before settle on one.

After patting your face relatively dry from washing, apply a thin layer of face moisturizer all over, especially targeting your forehead, around the eyes and your cheeks. You'll only need a dab rubbed into wet hands and gently massaged onto the face (be extra gentle going under the eyes).

Step 3: Protect

The final part of the skin routine steps is to protect the skin. There are a couple different ways to do this.

Aftershave: Aftershaves are the products that are applied immediately after shaving to provide some combination of irritation relief,  moisturizing, and protection from the elements. They can be divided into two broad categories: balms and splashes. Balms have a thicker consistency, are heavier-feeling on the skin and typically provide more irritation relief and more moisturization to the skin (particularly in cold or dry climates). Splashes are more runny and generally contain a combination of toners, astringents, and hydrosols to cleanse and provide a degree of antiseptic or antibacterial protection to the skin. They’re more popular with those with oily skin or in hot, humid climates. Both balms and splashes often use some kind of humectant to increase the effectiveness of other ingredients.  There are also some other “cross-over” ingredients that might be used in a balm or a splash. A moisturizer is not the same as an aftershave balm: an aftershave balm contains additional ingredients. 

There are also a couple of other categories: milks and gels. An aftershave milk generally has a consistency between a balm and a splash, and usually have some specialized ingredients. An aftershave gel is (perhaps counter-intuitively) lighter-feeling than a balm as well and generally has a “weaker” ingredient strength (though this can be by no means a “bad” thing). 

Apply an aftershave in the same fashion as using a moisturizer in the previous section.

Sunscreen: A good skin care routine includes preventing the sun’s ultraviolet rays from damaging your skin (a tan is actually a warning sign that your skin has been harmed and is trying to protect itself from even more damage).

If you are going to be outside for more than 30 minutes at a time, use a sunscreen with at least SPF30 (preferably SPF50) liberally all over skin that will be exposed to the sun. If you’re sweating or in the water check the directions on the product to see when you might have to re-apply.

Tweaks To The Three Skin Routine Steps

Those are the basic skin routine steps. If you want to "up your game" there are a few additional things you might want to consider:

Exfoliation

A "subset" to the Cleaning part of the skin routine steps is the process of exfoliation. Exfoliation generally refers to removing dead skin cells, build up, and other impurities on the face.

The process of shaving is an exfoliant in itself so don't go too crazy with a separate exfoliating product. Use one maybe once every week-to-ten-days.

Anti Aging Cream

If you’re worried about Father Time consider an anti aging cream for men before you go to bed. The body has a natural restorative process as you sleep and applying the cream to the skin before bed will allow it to work with this process. A good men’s anti aging cream should allow wrinkles to develop more slowly and fill in some fine lines.

Eye Cream

Some men scoff at the idea of using a men’s eye cream but after they use it realize how helpful they can be. As you sleep, fluid builds up underneath the eyes, causing blood to push up against the skin, which in-turn causes dark circles and bags. It can take a while after you wake up for these unsightly conditions to go away and that is where an eye cream comes in. If you’re a guy who is very active, day and night (if you know what I mean...), a men’s eye cream can be your secret weapon.

Lip Balm

A lot of men are not conscious enough when it comes to lip care. Most men don’t even bother to use a good balm on their lips even though they get exposed to a lot of the sun ray's, cold weather, and harsh environments.

Since your lips don’t have any sweat or oil glands to provide moisture, you should apply a lip balm (especially during winter).

A good lip balm is one that contains moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, vitamin E, olive oil, and honey. It should be fragrance-free, too. SPF protection would be desirable as well.

 Give your lips a good but gentle scrub once or twice a week with a soft-bristle toothbrush to help buff away dead skin cells.

Reader Questions - AMA (Ask Mark Anything) Round Three:

Several readers, including Chris and Mike, have asked a similar question: how many shaves can you get from a blade before replacing it?

There are so many variables revolving around razor blades that it can be a surprisingly complex question to answer!

OneBlade suggests replacing a blade with every shave, and there is merit to that.  The Feather FHS blade is unlike a lot of blades on the market--it has a higher performance design but the trade-off is shorter life.

If you really want to wring every bit of life out of the blade you can remove it from the razor and dry it with a hair dryer.  Alternatively you can immerse the blade in some light cooking oil. Either way will slow oxidation of the blade edge. 

But even then don’t expect a significantly longer life. I can get 5 shaves at most if I maintain the blade carefully. If I don’t bother about blade life--which is most of the time--I can get two or perhaps three shaves before I have load a new blade.

Joe asks:

…Is it better to shave every other day as opposed to everyday?  I find I get a closer shave using one blade if I do not shave everyday.  I'm retired so I do not have to be clean shaven everyday.

Some people do experience a better shave by shaving every-other-day.  It depends on some variables like the speed of hair growth and even the type of shave cream or soap you’re using. But there is nothing “wrong” with not shaving every day.  What you want to avoid is waiting until your stubble is so long it causes irritation when you shave.


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