Freshen Your Face Faster
Wash your face anywhere but the shower and you’re wasting time—the steam-rich environment opens your pores for a deeper cleaning. Begin with an exfoliating face scrub, using soft, circular motions to spread the sandlike grains over your mug. Exfoliation frees ingrown hairs and wipes away dead skin cells that would otherwise prevent your facial cleanser (or soap) from reaching the layers below, says Paul Frank, M.D., author of Turn Back the Clock without Losing Time. Dab your face halfway dry when you leave the shower, then put on moisturizer. “When you exfoliate, you’re stripping good oils as well as dead skin, so it’s important to hydrate right away,” says Denise Vitiello, director of the fitness center and spa at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City.
Moisturize Now, Age Later
Applying moisturizer in response to dry skin treats the symptom but not the disease. The skin’s internal scaffolding—a network of elastin and collagen fibers—has already started to loosen and unravel, and letting your skin dry out worsens the decline, causing the lipid-secreting glands of the face to atrophy and robbing your mug of its natural lubrication. The result: premature wrinkling. Moisturizing every day, however, can delay wrinkles for years. “Apply it after you leave the shower in the morning, midway through your day, and after you hit the gym,” suggests Vitiello. Look for nutritive compounds in the lotion—like the biopeptides in Biotherm Homme’s Age Refirm lotion—that can perk up your besieged oil glands and collagen networks.
Send Your Bags Packing
Those fleshy pillows under your eyes are part of your genetic blueprint, says Rhoda Narins, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University school of medicine and coauthor of Turn Back the Clock without Losing Time. And aging wears away the skin around your eye sockets, which, at 0.00079 inch, is already the thinnest on your body. Eventually, the blood vessels beneath show through, and the waterlogged fat sponges around your eyes start to sag, causing dark circles and bags.
A pearl-sized dollop of eye cream or serum, dabbed under each eye before bed, can take years off your peepers. Most creams contain topical anti-inflammatories—chemicals like caffeine that dehydrate tissue, tightening the skin into a taut, dense layer to hide the dark circles. Serums add antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, to reverse cellular damage from the sun. Both also moisturize the skin to minimize existing crinkles.
Bad behavior can make the bags bigger: Smoking stalls the microcirculation in your skin, causing connective tissue underneath to sag; too much sodium can cause your body to flood with water, fattening the pouches; and sleeping without proper head elevation can cause fluids to pool. So be good, add a pillow, and for particularly bad bags, apply a caffeine-based eye gel like MD Skincare Continuous Eye Hydration ($45, to tighten skin.
But if you regularly notice blue circles, see your doctor—it could be a sign of iron deficiency.
Manage Your Oil Reserves
Start by using oil-free moisturizers—about half of all lotions fit the bill. If you still end up shiny only moments after you towel off, try a soap that contains salicylic acid, which will dry out your skin a bit more, says Howard Sobel, M.D., director of the Skin and Spa Cosmetic Surgery Center in New York City. People still calling you Slick? Move to an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide cream, like Fostex (available at pharmacies). Finally, if you have a real gusher, bring out the big gun—a leave-on mattifier that soaks up oil like a sponge.
You should also try a weekly facial mask to combat blackheads. Masks pull embedded grime from your pores, then tighten them. But first, you need to coax your pores to release their gunk. Prepare a bowl of hot, steaming water and set it on a flat surface. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl so that the edges of the towel fall just outside the lip. Let the steam dilate your pores for at least 5 minutes, then apply the mask. “Do it right and your skin will look brighter and feel smoother,” says Eric Ruimy, owner and founder of Nickel Spa SF for Men. Bonus: Unlike harsh astringents, clay masks don’t interfere with the moisture-producing glands that naturally lubricate your skin.
Lock Down Your Breakouts
Stop obsessing over pimples. Harvard researchers found that washing with a mild cleanser twice a day reduced acne count, while washing more (four times) or less (once daily) did not. “The more irritation, the more acne,” says Kenneth Bielinski, M.D., a dermatologist in Orland Park, Illinois. Battle breakouts by preventing them in the first place. Keep oil and grit away from your mug. Wash pillowcases and wipe phones often, and avoid resting your face on your hands.
When you have a problem, address it at the source. “A blackhead is sebum, or oil, that’s trapped in the pore and turns black as a result of oxidation,” says Dr. Sobel. “You have to remove that blockage.” Glycolic skin pads and at-home peels will help by chemically and mechanically cleaning out the gunk. Follow with a toner that contains witch hazel to remove traces of soap.
Peel Away Grime
Facial peels work like paint thinner, chemically dissolving the adhesive bonds between cells to strip away blemished, blotchy, or uneven skin and reveal the virgin layers below. One hurdle: “If you use the wrong peel, it can throw off the chemical balance of your face,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a dermatologist at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.
Dry skin responds best to peels containing lactic or glycolic acids, which also act as humectants, grabbing moisture from the air and depositing it a tenth of an inch below the skin’s surface. Trichloracetic and salicylic acid peels, however—like the Bullie Refinement mask—strip away moisture, making them best for oily complexions.
Most at-home peels contain only 2 to 3 percent acid, compared with the 20 percent-and-up formulas used by dermatologists, but it’s best to avoid shaving and other forms of exfoliation on the same day.
Bare-Bones Skin Care
Skin experts, perhaps not understanding the scope of the average guy’s sloth, recommend that you apply six products each morning—cleanser (regular soap can irritate your face), preshave oil (to bring your follicles to attention), shaving gel, aftershave, face serum (to moisturize and rejuvenate), and a lotion-sunscreen combination. All are good products, so use as many as you can as often as you can. But when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with just the bookends: cleanser and lotion.