Skin Care Arsenal: Exfoliants and Masks
Exfoliation is the process of removing the first layer of dead cells from your skin. This process reveals the newer, younger skin underneath and helps keep your skin from appearing dull. Removing dead skin cells also helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles to some degree, and has also been shown to reduce pore size in some people. Toners and astringents are mildly exfoliating, and your razor blade and shaving brush are, too, so if you do a traditional shave regularly and use a toner, you may not need to use an exfoliant very often, or maybe even at all. If you don’t use a toner or choose to incorporate an exfoliating product, only use them up to a few times a week.
A facial scrub is a great tool to remove those dead skin cells and is the most controllable method of exfoliation. These products usually contain some kind of slightly rough, abrasive substance, like natural loofa or pumice stone. Scrubs usually have a very grainy texture, and literally rub the dead cells off of your face. To use, wet your face with warm water and rub a small amount of product over your entire face (except for the eye area) using your fingertips. Using just the slightest pressure, scrub in gentle, circular motions until your whole face has been treated, and then rinse off. Since scrubs are coarse by nature, it is wise to cleanse your face first in order to avoid spreading germs or scrubbing dirt into your skin. Scrubs should also not be used when active acne lesions are present, as the rough texture can spread bacteria to other areas of your face not affected by the breakout.
Other exfoliating products are more chemically based, and contain slightly acidic substances like fruit extracts and naturally occurring hydroxyl acids. These products are ideal if you have acne or don’t like the texture of a scrub. Ingredients like citric acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid are substances that penetrate the epidermis and work to slough off dead skin cells chemically. Some of these acids have also been shown to stimulate collagen production, heal sun-damaged skin, significantly reduce the severity of acne, and reduce signs of aging. These ingredients can be found individually, in certain face washes and toners, or concentrated into chemical peels. Products simply need to be applied using a cotton pad or with the pre-soaked pad that is usually provided, and, depending on the directions, left to be absorbed into the skin or rinsed off.
Scrubs should be used no more often than every other day, and depending on the intensity of their grit, can be used as seldom as once a week. More chemically based peels should only be used about once a week, unless otherwise stated on the directions. Be forewarned that attempting to use several of these products at once or using them too often will actually cause the skin to be over exfoliated; a condition where new, living tissue is beginning to be removed. Over exfoliation is closely related to razor burn: the skin is raw, red, sensitive, and noticeably irritated. A balance needs to be struck between the number, frequency, and aggressiveness of all of your products in order to avoid this issue.
When you think of the stereotypical day spa, what do you see? You picture a woman wrapped in a robe, a towel wrapped around her hair, her face covered in funny-looking green stuff, and cucumbers over her eyes. Well, that green stuff is actually quite good for your complexion, even if you’re a man.
Masks aren’t always the heavy green color of that clichéd avocado mask, and most of the ones you will find at the cosmetics counter are actually made with clays or mud. These masks deliver some simultaneous benefits. They draw out excess oil, dirt, and gunk, thereby cleansing the skin, reducing shine, controlling oil, and unclogging and shrinking pores. Plus, they are usually fortified with all kinds of nourishing ingredients like glycerin, witch hazel, vitamins, herbs, essential oils, and proteins. Basically, masks offer deep cleansing while concurrently moisturizing your face with beneficial ingredients. And since they draw out impurities naturally, clay masks can even be used as an overnight spot treatment for the occasional blemish on your forehead.
Using a mask, however, will probably be the lengthiest process in your regimen. After cleansing your skin, and either before or well after a shave (whatever may be more comfortable for you), apply a thin layer of mask over your face and let it dry for 10 to 15 minutes. Try to keep from moving your facial muscles during this time, as it may crack the mask. Afterwards, simply take it off with warm water and a washrag, and follow up with a cotton pad and some toner if desired. Then bask in the glory of having done something truly pampering for yourself, even if it did take 15 minutes of you looking silly. Fortunately for the sake of time, though, masks generally only need to be used once or twice a week for consistent benefits.
Oh, and that clichéd avocado mask I mentioned? If you don’t feel like spending the money on a clay mask from the cosmetics section, try buying some avocados at the store and making your own mask at home using one of several online recipes. Avocado oil is extremely moisturizing and healthy for your skin, and one recipe I found even includes mixing in honey and yogurt to aid in the cleansing process. Just try not to scare anyone by accidentally walking out of your bedroom with it on. And hey, if you have any left over, you can always eat it, right?
A Customized Cleanse
With all of that said, I need to explain that all of these products do not have to be purchased in order to make for a complete cleansing routine. The “manly-man” isn’t going to be interested in looking like his wife on a spa retreat and wear a mud mask for ten minutes, which is absolutely fine. The most important aspect of a cleansing routine is the actual cleanser; the rest are just enhancements. As long as you are doing the basics and using a cleanser, I suggest that you at least try to incorporate other products into a routine and find what works for your lifestyle. If you incorporate a scrub and a toner, that’s great, but if you aren’t compelled to invest in those products or don’t want to spare the time, that’s great too. I suggest that you try several products out, but ultimately you must find products that you enjoy and a routine that will work for you.
The Value of Men’s Skin Care
One last word about men’s skin care products that may interest “She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed.” Men’s skin is slightly thicker than a woman’s, so men’s skin care products tend to be more potent and highly concentrated with vitamins and active ingredients. On top of that, men’s products tend to be cheaper than a comparable women’s product, e.g. a cleanser from a men’s line is likely much cheaper than a cleanser from a women’s cosmetic line. So before your wife buys an expensive product from one of her department store brands, find a similar men’s product and tout its savings, quality, and superior ingredients. Then reap the benefits when she sees how much you care! She’ll be thinking, “He wants me to feel confident and he cares about saving me money!” Good luck, gents, and happy shaving to you.