It’s February and we are in the dead of winter; we’re at our driest, lightest, and flakiest. Of course I’m talking about skin, not pastry.
If you had a look at me right now, you would see winter woe personified: dry, papery skin, my face seems more deeply lined than it was a plump 6 months ago, there are red patches on my hands, and because of my horrendously sensitive skin, you would also see little red splotches on my cheeks caused by rosacea brought on by winter wind. I’m really quite a dish come February.
We Canadians really get the crap kicked out of us during the winter
There’s so little moisture in the air outside and dry heat inside, that we’re literally cracking. I’ve personally got split skin in my right nostril (treating it with antibacterial ointment on a Q-tip, in case the same thing is happening to you). Some people will experience painful cracked skin on their hands in the winter from the lack of moisture, and for those clean freaks out there, having your hands wet for a good deal of time will exacerbate the problem, keeping your hands raw and red.
How to make it better: Use rubber gloves to wash dishes and moisturize your hands. Some people use moisturizer every time they wash and dry their hands. If this is too much for you, see if you could get into the routine of moisturizing three times a day, before you eat, say, and if that is unrealistic for you, at least try for one time after the morning shower. (And if you won’t even do that, I’m not sure why you’re reading this blog). I don’t care if you guys think this is pansy – pansies are smart and much more comfortable in their skin during the winter and are not open to invading germs that crawl into the cracks of the broken skin – guys that care about their skin are simply keeping themselves comfortable and keeping themselves healthy – nothing wimpy about that.
You fellas will have some different issues with your skin than I have because you have more testosterone in your bodies. Testosterone makes for a thicker and oilier skin with it’s own characteristics, but no matter what your skin type, we’re all affected by winter.
Here are some tips to make things better from me and this week’s co-pilot, Brian Lao, founder of Bread and Butter Skincare for men:
Brian says that a guy’s main winter skin issues are dry skin, cracked facial skin, and chapped lips. “We need some sort of moisturizer on our face to make sure that our skin doesn’t get all dried out.”
The Bread and Butter philosophy is “to create products where nothing is put in, said or done that is without purpose”. Brian talks about commercial lip balms adding flavour and fragrance which actually encourage us to lick our lips which dries them out even further. “We take out all the flavour and scent out of our lip balm so that the temptation [to lick] isn’t there,” and allowing the balm to do what it’s supposed to to: protect your lips.
Though it seems counter-intiuitive, oily skin wants moisture, so those of you with shiny skin, reach for a water-based moisturizer without parabens – nasty liquid plastics used as preservatives that are in almost all grooming products that your skin will absorb. Parabens are usually listed at the end of the product’s ingredient lists in the form of methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butylparaben, and less common isobutyl, isopropyl, and benzylparaben, so keep your eyes out for these.
Most of the Bread and Butter products are about 95% natural; Brian doesn’t use parabens in his products as they “are one of the top 5 irritating substances to human skin. Parabens are highly toxic and have been linked to breast cancer.”
Exfoliating to remove the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin is a good move – this prepares the fresh skin below to receive moisturizer that I hope you are heavy-handed in applying as a dry-skinned person. If you skip this step, “there will be too much dead skin on the surface and these block the hair folicles, creating conditions for ingrown hair,” Brian explains.
Wash in warm or tepid – not hot – water. My research shows that our skin contains proteins and fats that help retain the natural moisture and hot water can remove this natural seal. With me, a long hot shower makes my face and body break out into red splotches and my skin feels tight – a terrible feeling!
Try a natural soap and moisturizer. Commercial soaps contain all sorts of nasty ingredients (alkalines, chemical colours and scents) that can dry out and irritate the skin. I use the lather of a natural locally-made oatmeal soap on my face, and with flakes of real oatmeal in the soap, it’s great for a gentle body exfoliation.
Be gentle on your skin. Try not to apply too much pressure as you wash and moisturize, sensitive-skinned lads. Applying pressure to the skin arouses the blood vessels near the surface of the skin and can make a flushed face – I’m so sensitive that even applying a moisturizer gives me red cheeks!
The top layer of human skin is composed of cells in the epidermis that have about a 27 day life cycle, the cells rise up from the innermost layers and later die on the surface of the skin that I understand to be 20 – 30 layers deep – that’s a lot of spent skin cells. Because of the nature of our skin, we can all benefit from an exfoliant. The sloughing wash lessens the possibility of ingrown hairs as Brian mentioned, prepares the skin to soak up the moisturizer, and it helps give a closer shave. It also makes our skin glow and look more youthful, and it feels better too.
One thing I love about the exfoliant in the Bread and Butter daily face cleanser is that the tiny exfoliating beads are made of bamboo and rice powder. Brian tells me that commercial exfoliants use plastic beads to work off the skin cells. “Why would we use products that wash plastic beads down the drain?” he wonders. B and B uses recyclable packaging and does their part to reduce materials and energy use – another reason that I like them.
If it will be helpful to you, gentlemen, I’ll do a summer skin care blog this year and ask Brian to join us again to talk about summer skin issues and solutions.
Until then, keep clean, keep smooth, and keep hydrated – the moisture of spring will find us soon enough!