Men, how often do you think about skin care?
Usually, not until it’s too late. Most men only think about skin care when there’s a problem, and often, that problem started with dry skin.
Why is dry skin so prevalent among men? Because most men forget to moisturize. And advertising doesn’t help. Skin care products for men are only recently hitting the market, while many products still target women.
But in reality, men’s and women’s skin are very similar. We’re all subject to the same potential problems and need the same basic routine. So men, let’s think about skin care for a minute. If you follow these skin care tips, dry skin shouldn’t be a problem much longer.
Why Should We Moisturize?
Guys, we think of our skin care as a cleaning process. Eliminate dirt and oil, right? Well, there’s more to it than that. Both fragranced body washes and regular bar soaps are great at removing all the dirt and oil in their path. But that means they also remove the moisture from your skin. So you need to add the moisture back.
There are two kinds of people in skin care: moisturizers and non-moisturizers. People who moisturize, do it religiously. They can’t imagine having dry skin. In fact, they get itchy just thinking about not moisturizing.
The non-moisturizers are the opposite. These people can’t imagine slathering on a daily moisturizer. Even thinking about the texture of a product smeared all over their skin makes them shiver.
Usually, it’s a sensory issue. So if they decide to moisturize, they use a lotion (which is the least effective option). They really need a cream — which means getting over the “feel” of the product for the sake of the skin.
The Skin Barrier
If you’re a non-moisturizer, why bother with the nuisance of using a product?
Think of your skin like a brick-and-mortar system. The more cracks in the mortar, the more problems arise. A moisturizer acts as a barrier to seal up those cracks. So when skin is well moisturized, it functions to repel potential problems. It’s a basic function of the immune system.
There’s a common misconception that hand washing alone keeps us healthy. Actually, the entire body is an ecosystem. Bacteria can live anywhere — hands, face, arms, legs. If the skin is sealed, the infection can’t get inside. But any cracks in the brick and mortar allow infection to take hold. If skin is open anywhere, viral infections (like warts and contagious infections) can enter.
Replenishing the skin barrier keeps you healthier. In hand washing and hand sanitizer studies, we consistently see that when washing your hands breaks down your skin too much, you’re more likely to be colonized with bacteria (which increases your risk of infection). The barrier that moisture provides keeps bacteria out. So yes, you need to wash your hands, but keeping them moisturized is equally important.
How to Treat Itchy Skin
In the winter, itchy, rashy eczema skin becomes more of a problem. No one likes to itch — and usually that itchiness begins with cracked skin. Cracked skin initiates an inflammatory response that makes the skin itch. So, if you can moisturize enough to prevent the skin from cracking, you’ll likely keep rashes and eczema away as well.
A Man’s Guide for Healthier Skin
We don’t often question our washing routine, but that’s often the source of the dry skin dilemma. Everyone just thinks the way they wash is normal. You’ve probably washed the same way for years. Maybe you even learned it from your dad. But, if you’re noticing dry skin, consider revamping that routine.
1. Don’t overly strip the oils
It’s tempting to focus on scrubbing your skin in the shower, but that can do more harm than good. Lots of people use a wash cloth and scrub harder when they see flaky skin. This depletes the oils and contributes to eczema and dermatitis. With age, the skin on the legs, arms, and back gets a little drier. If you try to scrub it off, you make the problem worse.
Instead, just use soap on the areas that need it — like the armpits and the groin. Then use it minimally on the other areas. We don’t really get that dirty on a daily basis. So there’s no need to overly cleanse.
2. Use little or no fragrance washes
If you can smell your body wash as soon as you pop the top, it’s probably too fragrant for a cleanser. These additives can irritate your skin, especially if the skin is already dry or cracked.
The best body wash for men with dry skin is a gentle cleanser with minimal added irritants. Don’t rely on your soap to make you smell good. Instead, get your fragrance from cologne. Dove, Cetaphil, and CeraVe offer great options for lightly or unscented washes that won’t irritate your skin.
3. Apply a Moisturizer
First, choose the right moisturizer. Try a CeraVe cream (or lotion if you need a lighter texture). Look for the ingredient “ceramide”. This oil packs more punch for maintaining hydration in the brick-and-mortar system compared to other oils and ointments. The skin absorbs it easily, and it replenishes the very ingredient that dry, cracked skin is missing.
So, if you’re itching to get rid of that dry skin, just focus on the basics: when you strip your skin of its barrier by washing, replace it by moisturizing.
Dr. Christopher Fuller is a board-certified dermatologist in Keller and Roanoke, TX. After three years of general practice with the Marines, Dr. Fuller found himself drawn to the highly specialized field of dermatology. He pursued a residency in dermatology and was recognized as Chief Resident during his final year of training. A member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Fuller is skilled in practicing medical, surgical, pediatric, and cosmetic dermatology.
Learn more about Dr. Fuller.