Gone are the days when a guy’s skincare regimen started and ended with his choice of aftershave. Modern men are getting smarter about taking care of their pelts, but they still get plenty wrong.
And the problems begin early. If you’re like most guys, you get a lot of your skincare advice from your girlfriend or wife (or one of the magazines she’s left lying around). But a man’s skin doesn’t act the same way as a woman’s, warns Anthony M. Rossi, MD, a dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. From hormones to hair patterns and sweat glands, you can’t follow your gal’s guide to great skin.
So we asked Rossi and Marc Glashofer, MD, a member of the American Academy of Dermatologists, about the most common myths, misconceptions and mistakes guys make when it comes to our skin. Then they set us straight so we can keep these faces of ours looking pretty (well, pretty enough).
Myth 1: You need to exfoliate your skin to clear away dead skin cells.
The truth: Aggressively kneading your skin with harsh scrubs or exfoliators leads to rashes, irritation, and acne, explains Glashofer. He says gently exfoliating no more than once a week MAY offer some minor benefits. But you’re probably much better off using a gentle cleanser once a day.
Myth 2: Antibacterial soap helps protect you from germs.
The truth: Regular soap is all you need to effectively clean your hands and body, Rossi says. Your skin harbors millions of healthy bacteria, and attacking them with harsh antibacterial soaps may actually harm your natural immunity, he explains. Also, some studies have suggested antibacterial soap raises your risk for dangerous infections.
Myth 3: Acne cleansers do their thing in a matter of seconds.
The truth: If you use a face wash formulated to combat acne with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, you need to leave the wash on your skin for at least a couple of minutes in order for it to penetrate your pores, Rossi explains. “I tell my patients to leave it on while they brush their teeth,” he adds. Rinse it off right away, and you might as well skip face cleanser altogether.
Myth 4: Popping a pimple clears out the infected puss and speeds your zit’s departure.
The truth: Bursting your pimples causes inflammation, redness, and gross-looking crusting, Glashofer says. Not only can this lead to more zits in nearby pores, but it can also cause permanent scarring or skin discoloration. As satisfying as it is to burst a big zit, you’re better off refraining, he adds.
Myth 5: You don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days.
The truth: Even though you’re not getting a tan on overcast days, the types of UV rays that age your skin and cause cancer blast through clouds as though they weren’t there, Glashofer says. Even if the skies are gray, you need to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you go outdoors, he stresses.
Myth 6: You need products formulated especially for men.
The truth: Your skin may be different than a woman’s. However, apart from their scent, women’s and men’s skincare products tend to contain all the same ingredients in the same amounts, Rossi says. So check the labels and don’t feel like you have to seek out a lotion or wash “for men.” That’s almost always marketing hype.
Myth 7: A hot shower can help rehydrate your dry skin in winter.
The truth: Bathing in high-temperature water can actually suck moisture out of your skin, especially during the dry winter months, Glashofer says. If you have dry skin, keeping your shower water just warm enough to make you comfortable is better for your dry skin than a scorching hot soak. (Bonus myth: Hot water doesn’t “open up your pores,” Rossi says.)
Myth 8: Some tanning booths are safer or healthier than unfiltered natural light.
The truth: Several studies have linked traditional tanning booths—even if you’ve only been once—to higher rates of skin cancer. And even booths that claim to filter out harmful UVB rays still expose your hide to dangerously high concentrations of skin-damaging, cancer-causing UVA rays, Glashofer warns.
Myth 9: Set aside your manhood, because a “facial” can improve the look and health of your skin.
The truth: While your girl swears by them, there’s no proven benefit when it comes to facials. If anything, they can irritate your skin and cause acne breakouts, Glashofer says.
Myth 10: Hair grows back thicker the more you shave.
The truth: This theory was thoroughly debunked years ago, but guys still think it’s true. “It’s not,” Glashofer promises.