It’s that special time of year when skin flakes off, cuticles are so dry they start to bleed and you find yourself slinking through Walgreens aisles looking for max-strength anti-dandruff shampoo.
The good news? Bad habits tend to be the culprit, and with a little intel, you can fix that.
So we recruited three experts from — where else? — Chicago, a city that has surviving harsh winters down to a science. Their names and C.V.s:
- Dr. Alix Charles MD, board-certified dermatologist at Dupage Medical Group
- Rob McIntosh, co-founder of Bottlecode, the new no-nonsense Chicago startup providing men’s skincare products with purpose
- Tricia Pollard, Spa Manager of Spa at Palmer House, licensed aesthetician and massage therapist
In other words, a dermatologist, a grooming impresario and spa manager walk into a bar … and all agree the game plan for winter skincare is simple: avoid irritation.
“What I primarily tell men in Chicago is we do face some harsh temperatures here, so you need to be careful with your skin in the winter,” says Dr. Charles. Moisture is under seige in the cold months, so men should focus on replenishment, and be prepared to switch up products to match the climate.
So how does one effectively moisturize and replenish? By heeding the eight tips we’ve compiled below, as told by the experts above.
Image via Bottlecode
DON’T: Use overly-scented products.
Dr. Charles says this is the number-one mistake men make. Fragrant skincare products will cause irritation, especially in the winter. Bottlecode founder Rob McIntosh agrees: “Lotions are often formulated with a high volume of fragrances that can irritate your skin.” You should especially avoid putting scents on your face. As McIntosh says, “Put simply, the skin on your face is delicate and it requires products specifically formulated for it.” So don’t poke the bear just for the sake of a favorite smell. Instead, let cologne provide the musk.
DON’T: Take super hot showers or baths.
This one’s a bummer. Turns out cranking the heat in the shower to warm yourself up after a frosty commute is the exact wrong thing to do. “Really, really hot showers and baths will strip the moisture out of your skin,” explains Dr. Charles. “Super hot showers are a no-no. If you’re showering and there’s steam everywhere, and your bathroom looks like a sci-fi movie, you should probably tone it down.”
DON’T: Soap everything.
Temperature isn’t the only thing you’re doing wrong in the shower. You’re also likely over-sudsing. Unless you need to remove oil, mud, blood or something categorically gross, Dr. Charles says concentrate on using soaps and cleansers only on the dirtiest areas of the body — that’s armpits, groin, butt and feet. Using soap when you aren’t covered in gunk will strip away any natural oils you are producing, turning skin into a desert riverbed at high noon. This could be why your arms, elbows and legs are so scaly right now. Bringing us to …
DO: Use a high-quality moisturizer.
Hydrated skin makes you look younger. Full stop.
Look for moisturizers (fancy word for hydrating lotion) with hyaluronic acid. If your masculinity was under siege by that earlier comment about your sensitive, delicate skin, this ingredient will butch things up. Hyaluronic acid can hold 1,000x its weight in water and actually draws moisture from its surroundings, like Rogue from X-Men. Best results when applied to damp skin whilst approximating your best Home Improvement grunt.
Pictured: Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer, SPF 20
DON’T: Skip sunscreen.
Despite omnipresent snow clouds, the sun’s UVA rays remain as strong in the winter as they are in the summer, and 90% of signs of aging come from those UVAs — things like wrinkles and dark spots. “You don’t have to be outside all day for the sun to affect your skin,” McIntosh warns. “Sun damage is cumulative, meaning your 15-minute commute and errands add up.” But you can keep the heavy-duty summer sunscreen capped — most daily moisturizers include SPF15, which will be enough to block 93% of damaging rays. Nab the right moisturizer and kill two birds with one stone.
DO: Exfoliate … gently.
Yes, the tips thus far have focused on being careful with an irritated epidermis, but that doesn’t mean all skin is good skin. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from the face. Pollard recommends men try an exfoliating polish or scrub every couple days: “It’s rejuvenating, and your other moisturizers will be more effective and can penetrate deeper.”
If you’re shaving, that already counts as exfoliating. Rocking a beard? Use an exfoliating polish or scrub on a washed face before the moisturizer goes on. Also, don’t forget there’s skin under that thing, and invest in a good beard oil.
Pictured: Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub
DO: Visit the dermatologist.
Rashes, redness and anything oozing would be obvious indicators to go see a professional, but if you’re looking for an expert opinion on the ideal treatment of your skin (from medical to aesthetic), pair yourself with a board-certified dermatologist to get personalized advice. “Men in general aren’t the best at going to see healthcare providers and physicians, and tend to overlook issues,” says Dr. Charles. “I think men should go see a dermatologist once in their adulthood. At least for a mole check.”
DON’T: Underestimate a good pummeling
“Massage really does help with circulation,” says Pollard. “With circulation, you bring more oxygen to the surface of the skin and it helps tighten and firm.” Facial massage benefits can also include resolution of some skin conditions and extreme relaxation.
It also gives you an excuse to visit a spa. And if there’s one thing we could all use a little more of come winter, it’s precisely that.
Main image via Home Alone / 20th Century Fox
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