Grooming for Guys
No matter how rugged your guy, his skin is just as sensitive as yours—perhaps even more delicate. Male hormones, such as androgen, trigger increased production of sebum, the skin’s natural oils, which encourages bacteria and fungus overgrowth. Ironically, these conditions lead to dry, irritated skin, says Cindy Angerhofer, PhD, executive director of botanical research at Aveda. Plus, many men are now paying the price for decades of poor skincare practices: Skimping on sunscreen or moisturizer, not to mention drinking alcohol and smoking, results in slack skin fibers and dried-out glands. And we’re not just talking about the skin on his face—these woes manifest on his scalp, too, and keep him from growing thick, shiny Don Draper locks.
To get his skin on track, your guy should ditch conventional moisturizers, shaving creams, aftershaves, and haircare products that claim to be “strong enough for a man.” They usually have caustic and abrasive synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers, and lubricants that wreak havoc on already-sensitive male skin. In addition, certain chemicals in conventional products can pose health problems—especially for guys. Phthalates, for instance, may disrupt his internal testosterone-estrogen balance, as well as play a role in the increasing occurrences of testicular cancer, low sperm counts, and other male reproductive disorders.
Instead, he should opt for gentle, nontoxic products geared toward guys’ unique biological makeup. Thankfully, such options have become much easier to find, as many men’s skincare lines have shifted toward botanical and organic ingredients, and some natural brands have created men-specific collections.
Ready to help launch a healthy revolution in your man’s personal care routine? Our suggestions are simple enough for even the most product-averse dudes.
Natural-skincare experts say men should moisturize their faces twice a day: Once after the morning shower, when the skin’s still wet, to lock in moisture and provide a protective barrier against daily wear and tear; and again before bed, so the nutrients can sink in and work overnight.
Rather than memorizing a list of complicated moisturizer ingredients to avoid, your man should choose products that are as simple and bare bones as possible, such as a natural oil or ointment without artificial colors or preservatives, says Alan Dattner, MD, a holistic dermatologist in New York City. He recommends almond and olive oils, as well as plant-derived antioxidants such as green tea extract. Also look for compounds like vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe skin; exotic ingredients like tamanu oil, an extract from a South Pacific tree that’s thought to help regenerate tissue; and flaxseed lignans, which can fight inflammation and keep natural oils in check.
Try: Aubrey Organics Men’s Stock Daily Moisturizer ($14, 2 oz; aubrey-organics.com); Lavera Men Care Moisturizing Face Cream ($13, 1 oz; lavera.com).
Natural shaving creams don’t feature the luxuriant foam offered by conventional brands, which puts some guys off. But the fluffy stuff is misleading: Common synthetic foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate dry out and irritate skin, says Angerhofer. And although shaving sloughs off dead skin, nixing the need for an exfoliating cleanser, the razor’s sharp edge can worsen synthetic ingredients’ negative impacts. “When you shave, you expose a deeper layer of skin that readily absorbs whatever touches it,” says Michael Smith, ND, of the Carolinas Natural Health Center in Matthews, North Carolina. “Your protection while shaving doesn’t come from foam—it should come from natural antioxidants, moisturizers, and emollients.” Look for the same skin-soothing ingredients recommended for moisturizers, says Angerhofer.
Your guy should also chuck his alcohol-based aftershaves. These post-shave “soothers” dehydrate skin tissue when it’s most raw and thirsting for moisture and protection. Replace alcohol with natural aftershaves made from emollient and nourishing olive, argan, or beetroot oils, which form a protective barrier without leaving a greasy residue.
Try: Weleda Shaving Cream ($12, 2.5 oz; usa.weleda.com); Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Care for Men Aftershave ($8, 2.5 oz; burtsbees.com).
While men’s and women’s hair is virtually the same, what goes on at the roots can be markedly different, Angerhofer says. The scalp is one of the primary places where a guy’s extra sebum production can have an impact. Malassezia, one of the many usually innocuous organisms living on human skin, feeds on excess sebum; proliferates to detrimental levels; and leads to dry, irritated, itchy scalps. “You would think that men, with more sebum, would have oily or greasy scalps,” says Angerhofer. “But the opposite happens.”
Since most men are averse to an arsenal of products, Angerhofer suggests naturally derived shampoos and conditioners that reduce the effects of excess sebum production and nourish irritated skin. Choose products with ingredients like saw palmetto, jojoba oil, and licorice extract, which inhibit sebum-churning hormones; and anti-irritants like sage, rosemary, and skullcap. Algae and seaweed are also soothing, specifically Laminaria digitata and spirulina, which are packed with free radical–fighting beta-carotene and selenium.
Still, even natural haircare products can strip the scalp’s oils if used too frequently—just as too much natural oil can cause dry scalp, too little can leave hair malnourished and brittle. Try shampooing and conditioning every other day.
Try: Depth Drench Hydrating Shampoo ($10, 10 oz; depthbody.com); Aubrey Organics Men’s Stock Ginseng Biotin Hair Repair ($16, 8 oz; aubrey-organics.com).
Joel Warner is a Denver-based writer.
Quick Nail Tips
Would your man like to spruce up his fingernails and toenails, but he won’t visit a manicurist? He can get the job done himself using all-natural ingredients, says Jaclyn Core, spa director at Syeni Day Spa for Men and Women in Apex, North Carolina. All it takes is two simple steps: Mix some very fine sea or Himalayan salt in pure olive or almond oil, and scrub nails and cuticles twice a week. Core also recommends eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water, since the constantly regenerating cells on and around nails often show the signs of an unhealthy diet before other areas of the body. For more on nail care, visit naturalsolutionsmag.com and enter “What Your Nails Know” into the search box.