Tag Archives: sensitive skin

Your skin in winter

24 Nov

Winter. The absolute worst time for our skin; a time when we’re dried out, rough, and scaly. Mmm, sounds nasty, don’t it? Dry winter air affects people with sensitive skin more than people who have normal skin, so if you suffer from sensitive skin like I do, this post is dedicated to you.

Gents, let’s keep it simple. I understand that some of you don’t pay attention to your skin in the winter (and sometimes the summer) because it may be something of a hassle, you don’t have time, or perhaps you may not be conscious of the importance of skin care. Fair enough. But knowing that skin is our largest organ that protects our internal organs and otherwise holds us together, it seems wise to take care of it. When it comes to our image, skin properly taken care of will make a better impression on people and it will also feel better to you, plus it is easier to shave over. This week, I propose three easy ways for a fella to avoid dry and possibly uncomfortable skin during the winter.

1. Avoid hot water

Though a hot shower will feel good if you’ve got a chill in your bones, it may wreak havoc on your skin. Hot water dries the skin and seems to tighten it as I well know, having what seems the most sensitive in the land. My skin is so sensitive that if I take too hot a shower in the winter, my entire body, including my face, goes red and splotchy and there isn’t anything I can do about it. This isn’t a welcome sight if I have to go out in public, so I take showers at night or early in the day to allow my skin to return to its natural colour.

The hot water concept applies to other tasks besides bathing, like doing dishes. Sensitive types especially should wear rubber gloves when washing the dishes because sensitive hands wet with hot water can make your life miserable. At the moment, I’ve got 4 scaly red patches on my knuckles that will split if I don’t take care of them. If the skin does split, I’m then open to viruses and germs, but besides the invasion of unwelcome foreign bodies, raw, red skin hurts!  If you have to wash the dishes with bare hands, dry them thoroughly and apply a hand cream afterward to combat the reaction.

2. Exfoliate

I don’t want to sound like a nag, fellas, but I want you to start exfoliating if you haven’t started yet. It will make your skin feel better and look better. For those of you who aren’t hip to the concept, to exfoliate is to slough off dead skin cells that sit on the surface of our skin, making skin feel dry (to the point of feeling papery), and depending on what colour you are, these dead skin cells, depleted of melanin, the cell protein that gives us colour, turns to a pale dust on the skin’s surface. Exfoliation may also help you to look younger as you clear away the layers of spent, grey cells that make facial lines appear deeper.

There are many types of facial exfoliators (several men’s lines carry facial washes or pre-shave scrubs with exfoliating spheres), but it’s nice to exfoliate the whole body. An easy way to lose the spent cells en masse is to wash with exfoliating gloves from a drug store or an exfoliating towel available at the Body Shop. Soap or shower gel them up and use all over your body, though you might want to avoid even a light scraping of the jewels – use with caution in this area. No need to press the material against the skin, just use with the same pressure that you would with a wash cloth and presto! your skin is fresh and smooth again! Keep your fresh skin supple with the next step in our simple program.

3. Moisturize

Some guys are not into moisturizing, I know, but it makes a huge difference in the winter. A nice (and hopefully natural) moisturizer will soothe your skin and make it less dry, less itchy, and more comfortable.

If you know me personally or perhaps you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’m not into commercial chemical personal products. This isn’t just because I’m sensitive, but because I don’t like the idea of having petrochemicals seep into my system via commercial moisturizers AND I don’t buy brands that test on animals. I don’t think anyone willingly wants a dog or a bunny injected or swabbed with potentially painful or maiming chemicals, so it’s a good idea to check behind the scenes and educate yourself – for a health, environment, and social rating of personal care products, check out the Good Guide for product ratings and decide for yourself.

I asked Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure + Simple Beauty in Toronto, and author of  Beauty, Pure and Simple, if she had anything to say about moisturizing for men.

I advocate men use natural skin care and moisturizers because they are more hydrating (no petroleum that doesn’t properly penetrate) and less pore-clogging.

Also, natural moisturizer and shaving products help prevent shaving irritation and post shave break outs because they are gentler on the skin and free of chemical irritants. I noticed a dramatic difference when my fiance began using our Pure + Simple soothing shaving cream. He never gets shaving irritation bumps anymore.

(Have a look at Kristen’s excellent and informative blog, Holistic Vanity, and check out the wonderful natural products that her spa carries especially for men here.)

Another natural line that I like, produced in Ontario, is Green Beaver. Green Beaver is organic and biodegradable and best of all, they have a great moisturizing line especially for winter!

It doesn’t actually take long to fix up and maintain your skin in winter and it doesn’t make you any less of a man.  I think that men who groom well and take care of themselves are much more appealing and nicer to be around than men who turn away from self-care. To me, taking care of one’s self and one’s skin is a reflection of our self-esteem, and gents, I know you’re worth the bother.

Pie face

17 Feb

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:

Winter skin

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.

Oily skin

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.”

Dry skin

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.

Sensitive skin

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!

Everybody’s skin

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!