Grooming

A guy’s guide to skincare – by a girl who just really, really wants to help

Posted by
Lauren O'Neill
Published

Lads, we need to talk about what you’re doing to your skin.

For too long now, I’ve been haunted by horror stories of men using hand wash on their faces, and by the sad, singular tubs of supermarket-brand moisturiser I see languishing on the shelves of guys I meet, gathering more dust than the copy of Ulysses I once bought in an attempt to feel vaguely intellectual. Because the truth is, your face needs more than a splash of water in the mornings, and a lot of the stuff you do use is actually actively bad for you.

So, I’m at the end of my rope. I cannot stand by and watch you do it to yourselves any longer. You lot need to start taking better care of your skin, and I am here to start you on the path to righteousness.

(Note: I don’t mean that to sound sneering or snobby. Often, brands fail to effectively market skincare to men – the extent of male grooming promo is pretty much just various rugby players smouldering the shit out of a Gillette advert – so it’s understandable that some dudes feel it just isn’t for them. There’s also a pervading sense in our society that taking care of yourself is vain, or feminine, but if you’re willing to challenge those boring, outdated ideas, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find making the effort to look after your skin both massively impactful on your confidence and your 2017 glo-up. Realistically, you’ll be trapped in this skin sack for the rest of your existence, so you might as well make it look and feel its best.)

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Tfw you find out something doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulfate (via iStock)

A major aspect of knowing your skincare shit is being aware of what to avoid – for example, some products offer quick fixes via ingredients like SD alcohol (which gives your skin an immediate matte feel) or sodium lauryl sulfate (the stuff that makes gel products foam up), but in the long run, they do more harm than good. Unfortunately, that means that loads of the most accessible skincare brands are out because they use these ingredients to keep costs down, but when you know what you don’t want, it narrows your options pretty helpfully.

IDENTIFY YOUR SKIN TYPE

Hans Beckert checks his T-zone dryness in Fritz Lang's classic movie 'M' (via 20th Century Fox)

There’s no catch-all solution for skin – if there was, I wouldn’t need to do this extremely pious and holy work – so you need to figure out what your skin needs, based on how it behaves. Roughly:

- If you get greasy throughout the day, your skin type is ‘oily

- If your skin routinely feels tight or flaky, it’s ‘dry

More than likely, you’ll have a bit of both going on (maybe some oiliness around the nose or forehead, with dryness on the cheeks), which gives you a ‘combination’ skin type. Lots of brands, like REN, list products by the skin type they’re designed for, and their Clarimatte face wash is an especially good starting point if, like most men, you’re on the combination or oilier side.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF ‘WOMEN’S BRANDS’

Swallow your outdated identifications of masculinity with regards to cosmetic marketing or be doomed to clogged pores forever (via iStock)

Just stop being a baby, OK? Skin, at the end of the day, is skin, and being a dude doesn’t mean that the only product you can ever use is something called Iron Hammer for Blokes or whatever, for Christ’s sake. Even if it’s not marketed that way, most skincare is completely unisex, and two of my favourite all-inclusive buys are The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid, a skin-balancing product so universally effective that it should be handed out in the streets (and which, at £5.90, proves that great skincare doesn’t have to be pricey), and Nip and Fab Glycolic Fix pads, which are both easy to use and give the best exfoliation around, leaving your skin feeling decongested – especially useful for city-dwellers constantly exposed to pollution.

That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing to use products that help with men’s skin concerns in particular (Guy Morgan Apothecary’s Salem Rose Cuticle Oil, for example, is also a solution for softer facial hair – who knew?), and if you’re still especially bothered about your skincare having ‘FOR MEN’ plastered across the bottles, the good people at Paula’s Choice have a great range, as well as lots of extra intel on what’ll work for your skin type. 

The rest, friends, is just trial and error: try new things, get into a decent morning and evening routine, moisturise amply. Soon enough you’ll rue the day you ever scrubbed your poor face with the dregs of the bathroom Carex.

(Main Image: Home Alone (1990) / 20th Century Fox)