Men are different from women. (Insert “No shit, Sherlock”, “Keep digging, Watson” joke here.) On a biological level, the main difference between genders is the sex hormones. Ladies have more estrogen, while guys have more testosterone. In addition to making each of the sexes act crazy at different times (we kid, we kid), those hormones also have a big impact on men and women’s skin.
Testosterone is the reason why men grow more body hair. It’s also what causes men to sweat more, which in turn makes their skin more oily. Guys also have thicker skin. That isn’t a metaphor, the skin is measurably thicker.
That’s why you men and women need different skin care products. As tempting as it is to dip into your girlfriend’s medicine cabinet and poach a dab of her moisturizer because it smells nice, you should resist. The lotion that your lady raves about is likely going to feel greasy and gross on your skin. Also, you’re a dude, you shouldn’t smell like flowers.
But you shouldn’t just cover your body head to toe in Ivory soap like a prison inmate. That isn’t doing your skin any favors either. We spoke with Dr. Terrence Keaney, who is a board certified dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. Keaney, a Dove Men+Care expert, helped found a practice that caters specifically to men, with products curated just for guys and an all-male staff to remove some of the hang-ups that guys have about talking about their skin.
Dr. Keaney understands that most guys don’t want to endure a 47-step process before walking out the door in the morning, but he also knows that guys want to look good and that doesn’t come without a little effort. So he offered up some easy-to-follow tips for a skincare routine you can actually keep up with.
LET THE PRODUCTS DO THE WORK
Whether you are using a bar soap, a body wash, or a facial cleanser, the goal of the product is to remove dirt from the surface. But it also removes natural oils and lipids that provide your skin’s natural moisture. The problem Dr. Keaney sees is that most men want to be “active participants” in the cleaning process, so they over aggressively apply the soap. “Men come in and feel like they need to see a red glow before they’re clean,” he says. That is actually doing more damage to your skin. All you need to do is gently rub the cleanser in and trust that it’s working because if you wait until you get tactile feedback (i.e. your skin is red and irritated) you’ve gone too far.
TREAT YOUR BODY AND FACE DIFFERENT
If you’re using the same product to treat your face and body, just stop it. The skin on your face is a more oily surface than the skin on your body. So you want to use a separate cleanser for your face and body to take those differences into account. Dr. Keaney suggests the Dove Men+Care Hydration Balance body wash and the Deep Clean face scrub.
CLEAN, THEN SHAVE
Over the course of the day, guys produce oil and dead skin cells that can trap your facial hair and lead to pseudofolliculitis, which is a fancy way of saying “ingrown hair.” By cleaning your face with a cleanser that has an exfoliant in it, you can remove all that crud. After your shower, pat your skin dry and try to shave within five minutes so that the facial hairs are soft and easier to cut. Dr. Keaney cautions that “a closer shave is not necessarily a better shave,” because you are at a higher risk for irritation and nicking yourself from the razor. So leave those razors with a gazillion blades alone.
LAY OFF THE BOOZE
Don’t worry, we aren’t telling you not to have a cocktail. But you do want to ditch the alcohol-based aftershave balms. Originally developed in the 1800s to fight off infection, they have become obsolete in this age of disposable razors. Men tend to like the sting of the alcohol-based aftershaves because it feels like it’s “doing something.” But the reality is that all it’s doing is drying out your skin, which is even worse in the fall and winter when there is less humidity.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
Instead of using an aftershave, what you really need to do after you shave, according to Dr. Keaney, is “apply a moisturizer, particularly in the winter months, because you have to replace all those things that you’ve done to your skin.” When he recommends moisturizers, he stays away from the thicker ones, which even though they can be fancier and more expensive, make guys feel too oily. A cream that is more water-based is a better route to go.
SCREEN THE SUN
“Men are twice as likely to die of melanoma and twice as likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer than women,” says Dr. Keaney. A lot of that risk is attributed to an accumulation of exposure to the sun. So it’s not just about putting on sunscreen during the obvious times like summer. By applying it every day, it becomes part of your routine and you won’t have to think about it. You’ll just do it, and your skin will thank you later.
REPAIR AT NIGHT
Your skin care routine shouldn’t end when you leave the bathroom in the morning. Dr. Keaney understands that guys are reluctant to have a ton of elaborate steps. “You have to start out slow,” he says. But while your morning regimen is targeted toward prevention, a considered nighttime routine can help your skin repair from the damage it endured during the day. “Often I recommend a class of medication called retinoids. They are Vitamin A derivatives that have been scientifically proven to increase collagen production,” Keaney says. The downside is that they dry the skin and irritate, so apply a thin layer of the retinoid and then put on a heavier moisturizer on top of it.
SEE A DOCTOR
If all of this seems overwhelming or if you see products designed for sensitive skin, oily skin, and combo skin and have no idea what kind of skin you have, the best of course of action is to see a dermatologist. “It’s tough for a person to [identify their skin type] on their own,” says Dr. Keaney. “There’s a million different skincare products out there and a lot of them make claims and don’t live up to them.” A dermatologist can help sift through what’s real and what’s bullshit.