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Slick Tips for Manly Mugs: Skin Care for Men

By Kate Callahan

Well, boys, it looks like your secret is out: the "tough guy" image is not even skin deep. While skin care for women generally hogs the spotlight, the truth is that your skin is just as sensitive, with its own care needs.

The daily drill

Yes, gentlemen, even you should keep one eye towards daily maintenance of your skin. Nothing complicated: for most men, just a daily face wash with a mild soap will do the trick.

Be sure to rinse thoroughly; soap residue can dry out your face. Also, certain fragrances in soaps and lotions exacerbate some very common allergies, so either opt for something unscented or test a little of it on an inconspicuous patch of skin before you buy it.

Shaving, however, is a little more involved: Most guys opt for either an electric or twin blade razor and shave against the direction of hair growth. For those who prefer facial hair, a small amount of plain Vitamin E oil rubbed in thoroughly keeps facial hair soft. It's not a bad idea for rough stubble, either.

In an ideal world, a little soap and water and a razor would keep your sweet cheeks pink, fresh, and ready for the world. However, skin care is rarely this simple, as most men will agree. Climate shifts, hormonal changes, and the occasional ingrown hair can force you to break out, dry out, and otherwise switch up your routine to accommodate to the changing needs of your skin.

Breakouts: grown-ups get pimples, too

One very common concern is adult acne. And you thought you left pimples behind in junior high school! Not so: Stress, fatigue, and dehydration are sure ways to cause a breakout, as is working out in non-absorbent clothing.

Dermatologists recommend that you hit the showers as soon as possible after a workout. Increased oil production is just one of the many factors that can bring on acne, another of which is an overgrowth of bacteria. This means you should get your hands on some antibacterial soap to combat low-grade acne.

"Frequent cleansing is the most important issue in dealing with acne," says Dr. Jon Starr, Director of Dermatologic Surgery at Stanford, who recommends that you wash often, but gently. "The biggest problem is people who overwash: too much scrubbing can cause irritation."

Stay away from the sauna, too - steam baths are a no-no if you're trying to clear your skin. And did you listen to your mother when she told you not to pick at it? You could cause scarring, and the oil on your grubby little paws will only worsen the problem.

And if you are struggling with acne on your face, you may want to change your shaving routine. "Some acne is related to shaving against the grain," says Starr, who suggests you try shaving in the direction of hair growth, instead. Using an electric razor might be worth a try, too. Though it may not get you as close a shave, it will be gentler on your skin.

Comforting chapped cheeks

Speaking of which, another major problem for men is super-sensitive skin. When you're scraping it with a razor every day, it's probably going to smart a bit, right? Some dermatologists recommend that you lather your face with your usual soap instead of high-octane shaving creams or gels.

To soothe your poor mug after the deed is done, try lanolin or aloe vera juice. Keep away from the aloe vera gel, however, as one study found it to contain some cancer-causing agents.

Since we're breaking down the tough guy stereotype here, we should mention that aftershave is by no means necessary. It's not harmful in the least - if you like it, stick with it - but if you're just not into splashing the stinging stuff on, there's certainly no need.

After you've shaved, if your skin still feels dry and tight, you may want to check into a moisturizer that's water-based, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. Some of the factors that cause dryness are completely environmental: Does the boss keep the air-conditioner on full blast at work? How about the heat at home? Man's best attempts to control his environment may keep you comfy, but they do wreak havoc on your natural moisture.

Try keeping a humidifier on along with your heat at home, and never, ever underestimate the importance of hydration. If you do have ultra-dry skin, Starr recommends a mild soap like Dove Unscented or Cetaphil. He says that "there's no need to use it over the entire body. Only use it where you need it. For everyday washing, that means use it in the armpits and the groin area."

To protect dry skin, take warm showers instead of steamy hot ones, and apply moisturizers right after you shower. According to Starr, "Vaseline petroleum jelly is the best moisturizer and it's all downhill from there."

Although he admits it's hard to convince most people to slather that goop on, his point is: the thicker the moisturizer, the better it's going to work. "Moisturizing is about an oil layer on the skin. You don't drive water into the skin, you keep skin from losing water." So greasy equals effective when it comes to creams and lotions.

Though you may not want to put them on your face, they're excellent for healing those chapped hands come winter.

Depilatory perils

Now, chances are slim that you'll get through your life as a male without an ingrown hair...or several. What to do when the inevitable strikes? Put down the razor - the best thing you can do is skip shaving.

For men with curly beards, one dermatologist's suggestion was to keep hairs from piercing back into the skin by brushing out facial hair with a toothbrush. (Make sure it's not your significant other's, or you could be sleeping on the couch for the rest of your life.)

If you absolutely can't get by without shaving, there are special types of single-blade razors available; use one of those to shave with the grain of your hair.

One last tip for an all-too-familiar scenario: you woke up late, tripped over the dog, and burned the toast, and now you're trying to shave at superhuman speed. Oops-a few nicks. Do you leave the house looking like you were mauled by the Charmin baby?

Actually, the toilet-paper-over-the-nick idea is not that far off the mark, although the ideal treatment is to hold firm pressure for a few minutes. If nicking yourself is a recurring problem, men with light facial hair can try shaving in the evening. You may wake with a bit of shadow, but your cuts will be healed and your skin won? feel nearly as raw during the day.

Saving face: skin care for the long haul

In terms of long-term skin maintenance, there are a couple of major do's and dont's. First of the do's: sunscreen. It's not just for David Hasselhoff and his Baywatch harem anymore. Forget the tan and bust out the sun protection, preferably SPF 15 or over.

Recent research shows that sunscreen is important for everyone, all the time. "It's not the tanning they're worried about, it's the cumulative sun exposure," says Starr. "The goal is to put it on every day without thinking about it. Men brush their teeth every day, comb their hair, but it takes less time to apply sunscreen. It needs to become part of your every day routine," says Starr.

He made a couple of suggestions: first, for everyday use, try Neutrogena Moisture Sunscreen. "It goes on smooth, and once it soaks in, you can hardly tell it's there. Not waterproof, however, so it's better for everyday use, not so good for exercise." For guys who exercise daily, try Hombrelle SPF 15.

"It doesn't irritate skin, it goes on dry, and it's waterproof and it's sweat-proof." If acne is a problem, seek out non-comedogenic products that won't clog your pores.

Another word to the wise: smoking damages elastic tissues in the skin. Translation? Early wrinkles and bagginess. Speaking of vices, alcohol and

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