Over the years, men and women alike have used all sorts of ingredients to moisturize their skins - body and face alike. Everything including castor and emu oil, tar, eggs, and the sticky substance found in whale skulls has been on the list.
Aren’t you grateful things have changed? After all, your skin craves moisture and it’s definitely easier to buy it in the shop or order it from Amazon than to hunt down an emu or a whale, isn’t it?
Aren’t moisturizers for women?
Yes, moisturizers have been marketed towards women more aggressively in the past, but that does not mean moisturizers are only for women. Think about it this way - you have skin too. Your skin is an organ, and just like all the other organs that comprise your body, it needs care. And, since it’s one of the few organs that you (and others) can see and touch, surely it’s one that deserves some attention.
And, there’s something important you need to know about your skin - it holds nearly 20 percent of your body’s water. More than that, 70 percent of the water in your skin is in the dermis - the top layer, the one exposed to the elements. It’s safe to say that soft, touchable skin depends on the amount of moisture it holds.
Your skin is constantly losing its water supply to the environment. Remember, you don’t operate in a bubble; the moisture in your skin is perpetually being drawn out by the air you sit in and walk through. You’ll notice it more clearly in winter or in dry climates. Those chapped lips of yours? The skin on your lips is thinner than that on the rest of your body so they’ll crack first.
So, do men need moisturizers? Yes, just as much as women do.
Male and female skin is different
We all have skin. But, there are differences between the genders and it’s more than skin deep. Generally speaking, men’s skin:
- is thicker;
- has more collagen;
- secretes more oil;
- has less fat sitting just underneath; and
- contains more pigment.
Now, the bad news is that these composition differences make men more prone to sweating (which is why deodorant is a necessity). The good news is that men are less likely to show premature signs of aging - though you’ll need to protect that lovely layer of skin and all the moisture it contains.
But, can't you just steal your girlfriend’s moisturizer?
In a pinch, any facial moisturizer is better than no moisturizer. That’s how important it is to hold the moisture in your skin. Grab your girlfriend’s moisturizer if that’s all that’s available. It’s likely to smell a little different than the products you’re used to, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Still, you should keep in mind that manufacturers know full well that men and women have different skin and they make products accordingly. Women’s facial moisturizers aren’t a long term solution, but the only reason you should feel bad about using it is that she may have spent a small fortune on her skin care products and never likes the nasty surprise of an empty container.
What about using body lotion as a men’s facial moisturizer?
As long as your face doesn’t react negatively, feel free to use a body lotion if that’s all you have in the bathroom at the moment. But, you’ll want to get yourself a facial moisturizer as soon as you can.
Body lotions aren’t as strong as facial moisturizers because they typically don’t need to be. Your body’s skin is typically less exposed (and for those summer months on the beach, you should probably up your lotion game) - and the composition of your facial skin is a little different. There are more sebaceous glands around your cheeks and eyes. These glands create moisture and help to waterproof your skin - obviously you want to protect them.
And then there is the business of shaving which can take its toll on your skin.
All in, you want something stronger for your face, yet gentle enough to avoid irritation. Men’s facial moisturizers are formulated with these considerations in mind.
Choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type
Ingredients are one thing, but your skin is unique. Some are more oily, some are more dry. Some are super sensitive. If you choose the wrong product, you will find yourself battling issues that should only be minor irritations in your life. So, it’s time to get to know your skin.
- Dry. Tight, itchy skin is a sure indicator that you have dry skin. It may also appear red or flaky. If your skin appears matte (rather than oily) several hours after you apply moisturizer, you are in the right place. You definitely need a good cleanser that helps to shed dead skin cells, followed by a moisturizer that has plenty of hydrating essential oils - unless you battle acne. If you do, then look for a deeply hydrating, but oil-free moisturizer. Either way, be sure to apply moisturizer before bed.
- Oily. Are large pores your problem? How about a shine that makes you look almost constantly sweaty? If it’s all over - cheeks and chin included - then you definitely have oily skin. Now, that doesn't mean you don't need a moisturizer; it just means you need the right one. Definitely avoid any moisturizer with natural oils. There are lightweight, mattifying moisturizers which are likely to be your best bet. Lightweight serums can be used at night to help control oil levels. And, choose your cleanser carefully; you don’t want to remove skin layers too quickly.
- Combination. If your forehead and nose are oily and have a sheen while your cheeks remain tight and flaky, you have combination skin. (If you didn’t know, that’s the T-zone you always hear women talking about.) If you can manage it, get yourself two different moisturizers - one for oily and one for dry skin. But, if that’s a serious hassle, you probably want to lean towards a moisturizer made for oily skin - though perhaps a little heavier than lightweight - as long as it doesn’t add shine.
- Normal. Lucky you! You can recognize normal skin when it’s neither tight and itchy, nor greasy. You might think that you have free range when it comes to moisturizers, but you need to be just as careful. You definitely want a medium-weight moisturizer that can maintain the moisture without making you look to shiny. Luckily, many mid-to-lower priced moisturizers fit your needs.
- Sensitive. If your skin burns or stings when you apply products, you really don’t need to question whether you have sensitive skin or not. You do. Occasionally, you may find yourself breaking out for seemingly no reason, which makes your choice of product even more difficult. You definitely want to avoid products with added alcohol, fragrance, and dye. Consider hypoallergenic formulas that are developed for sensitive skins.
Ingredients you want in a moisturizer
You’ll find a wide range of ingredients in any moisturizer; it’s not as simple as dousing your skin with olive oil and calling it a day. Since it’s your face, it’s not a bad idea to know what’s good and bad in a men’s facial moisturizer.
- Peptides. These beauties stimulate your skin’s ability to produce collagen naturally and you want that. Collagen makes your skin look young and radiant.
- Vitamins and antioxidants. Vitamins you know by their letters. Specifically, vitamins C and E serve to brighten skin and act as antioxidants. Other powerful ingredients include green tea and pomegranate extracts. Antioxidants work by freely giving electrons to skin cells that need them as they’re taken by free radicals. These are found in UV rays and environmental pollutants. Without antioxidants, your ability to maintain healthy collagen levels is reduced.
- Plant extracts. While some animal-based extracts, such as lanolin, can be beneficial for the body, plant extracts are way more efficient - though they are more expensive. Macadamia and soy oils are more easily absorbed and naturally soften skin.
- Acids. Salicicylic acid clears congested hair follicles. Hyaluronic and alpha-hydroxy acids are naturally found in many fruits. They’re great at clearing out dead skin cells to create a lovely radiance. But, they may not be great for sensitive skins.
- Allantonin or oatmeal. These relieve redness and inflammation in the skin and can be very beneficial if your face is sensitive. If you don’t need it, you may not find it important to pay more for it.
- Retinol. This is a form of vitamin A that stimulates skin repair and simultaneously increases collagen and elastin in the skin cells. These can be quit strong however - and you should use them with care as they increase skin cell turnover and are better used at the nighttime when your skin is busy growing and repairing itself.
Things to avoid in a moisturizer
You’ll probably find that you need to make a few compromises when it comes to the right moisturizer for you. Sometimes the best product for you will contain one or two things that you don’t like on the ingredient list. But, in general, you should try to avoid these additives.
- Alcohol. It’s so drying that you really want to avoid alcohol if you can. You shouldn’t need to worry too much about this in expensive products as it is a cheap ingredient. But, you should look out for it in men’s facial moisturizer.
- Added colors. Let’s be honest, these are largely unnecessary as moisturizer is absorbed into your skin. If you have sensitivities, you should avoid these altogether as they can be irritating. If not, you should just avoid them if you can.
- Added fragrance. If you’re going to compromise, this is where most men will do it. It’s always nicer to have a lovely smelling product than something that reeks of a laboratory. That said, it is possible to create nice smelling men’s facial moisturizers without synthetic fragrances. Unless you have sensitive skin, it’s up to you.
- Antibacterial agents. You probably don’t need these on your face - unless you work in a hospital. But, even in that case, we would recommend an antibacterial cleanser and a good moisturizer.
- Too many acids. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you shouldn’t start applying acids to your face. They can actually dry your skin more. That said, alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, retinoic acid, and salicylic acid are all common ingredients. If they don’t present you with problems, no worries. And, some of them can be beneficial if you don’t react negatively to them.
- Steroids. Yes, you’ll find them in moisturizers. They’re common in products designed for eczema and other skin irritations. And, while your doctor might prescribe a topical steroid cream, you shouldn’t use it for any length of time nor should you use a moisturizer with steroids unless you have a skin condition that demands it.
- Too many ingredients designed for your body. Even if body lotions aren’t as powerful as facial moisturizers, they often have ingredients that will clog pores. Waxes, butters (including shea butter), mineral oil (which is different than essential oils), and lanolin aren’t exactly harmful, but they may be thicker than you need.
Other things that make a men’s facial moisturizer worth it
Texture plays a big role in how your skin absorbs a moisturizer - and there is a range. There are serums which can take longer to absorb, and on the other side of spectrum, gel-like formulas which are faster. In the middle, you’ll find lotions which are usually the most popular. The difference is really a matter of preference. Feel free to play around until you find the consistency you like best.
Some moisturizers have caffeine or menthol to wake your skin. These can be a real bonus when your work or social calendar demands long hours. They’re beneficial to anyone, but they’re not necessary if you’re battling problematic skin or your budget doesn’t allow for these niceties.
Remember SPF is critical. Whether you opt for a moisturizer with SPF in it or you apply it separately, you will need it one way or another. Given the choice, it is easier to pick a moisturizer with SPF in it. But, if you work outdoors, you probably want to double up during the day - a strong moisturizer and a separate, strong sunscreen.
When should you use a moisturizer?
If you’ve washed your face, you should use a moisturizer. It's that simple.
But, if you only wash your face in the morning (which most men can get away with as they’re not caking their faces with makeup), you should remember how restorative sleep is. At the very least, you should dab and rub in a layer of facial moisturizer as you brush your teeth before climbing into bed.
Before bed, you can use a treatment with retinol. You may also want to consider hydroxyl, glycolic acid, or peptides that will help to rejuvenate your skin and give it a healthy glow in the morning. Sounds good, doesn’t it? This does mean that you might need to have both a daytime moisturizer with SPF and a nighttime one that has retinol (which shouldn’t be worn in the sun).
Get the most from your facial moisturizer
Once you’ve washed your face, it’s best to simply pat it dry before adding a moisturizer. But, men don’t always have it that easy. Too often, they use the morning shower to soften the hair follicles so they can get a shave in before heading to work. If you shave after your shower, you will want to splash some water on your face and then pat it dry before adding moisturizer. And, if you use a cooling aftershave treatment (especially one with alcohol), keep in mind that you want to lock in water, so you’ll also need to give your face a pat of water.
And, if you live in an area with distinct seasons, you may find yourself needing something that’s a little more lightweight during the summer months and heavier in the winter. Remember, your skin doesn’t exist in a bubble; it’s constantly interacting with the environment around it. Take note and make adjustments if you notice your moisturizer isn’t behaving as it normally does.
What else will give you glowing skin?
With all the talk about water in your skin, it shouldn’t surprise you that remaining hydrated is one of the best things you can possibly do for your skin - and your body as a whole. Facial moisturizers can only do so much - make sure you’re taking in plenty of water. And, if the moisturizer that works best for you doesn’t have any SPF, be sure to add that to your routine as well.
Facials aren’t just for women either. Give yourself a treat every now and again and you’ll soon realize why women squeal with joy when presented with a gift certificate for these salon treatments. Home hydrating masques may also help restore water to your skin while removing impurities. Not everyone needs them, but they can make a difference.
What if you experience problems with your moisturizer?
If you experience any burning or redness when you apply a moisturizer, wash it off immediately and discontinue use. This isn’t normal. Either you have sensitive skin and it demands another moisturizer - or the product itself is defective. Either way, you don’t want to take a chance on something as precious as your face.
Men that experience irritation with several products should stop trying on their own and consult a dermatologist. Really, if there’s something troubling your skin, a professional opinion and treatment is the only way to go.