Is your skin sensitive?
By Aaron Krach
From Style + Tech For Men
Your birthday suit gets prickly after simple, everyday grooming procedures -- washing your face, shaving, moisturizing, etc. What gives? Face it, big guy; you have sensitive skin.
It feels hot, looks red, hurts to the touch, and itches like crazy -- the telltale signs that your skin is irritated. And you're not alone. It's a common affliction among men, especially those from light-skinned lineages. Even guys who may not begin with sensitive skin end up with irritations because they use grooming products with dyes and alcohol or unnecessarily strong cleansing ingredients.
"The primary problem is soap," says Dr. Jeff Benabio, a dermatologist in San Diego. "Soap strips the oils off your skin and disrupts its natural protection barrier. Without essential oils, any moisture in our skin evaporates, allowing the skin to dry out. When your skin is dry, it'll feel tight, prickly, irritated and itchy."
Here, we provide some advice to help stop the itch and cool your delicate epidermis.
Stop Scratching, Start Shopping
The answer to soothing sensitive skin doesn't begin and end at the drugstore, but it's the place to start. And it's important to get products that are designed specifically for men. Men and women have very different skin (men's skin is slightly oilier), so don't think the products are interchangeable. What's good for her probably isn't good for you.
Grooming products that are designed for sensitive skin have fewer synthetic chemicals, don't contain fragrances (scents can be very irritating), and don't have alcohol, which can be very drying. They contain a moisturizing ingredient or other soothers, such as aloe. And they are hypoallergenic, which means they are unlikely to cause any kind of adverse reactions.
We recommend choosing one with the fewest ingredients, since it's less likely that it contains an element that could irritate your skin.
Get It Clean
Many shampoos are too strong and heavily scented. They clean your hair but dry it out at the same time, so you need to use a conditioner.
Try a simple, gentler shampoo, such as JOHNSON'S Baby Shampoo. Get over the name and realize it's almost a perfect product. It cleans hair and nothing else. It contains no other chemicals that might irritate a baby's very sensitive skin, which means it won't irritate your scalp or skin.
Body wash is a place where you can make the most difference. A lot of men (including me) grew up using super-strong deodorant soaps. Bad move. In addition to clearing away dirt and grease, they strip all natural oils from the skin. Try a milder unscented soap that contains moisturizing ingredients, such as Dove Men+Care Sensitive Clean Body and Face Wash.
If it's your face that is most easily irritated (for many men it is), switch shaving creams. Ditch the scented foam and use a sensitive skin formula that's chemical-free and contains soothing ingredients, such as plant extracts.
Most men still can't be bothered to use a separate soap for their face. Big mistake. The skin on your face is sensitive to. begin with and it takes a beating every day when you shave. So a gentle cleanser is key. Dermatologists love to recommend Cetaphil for sensitive skin. Gillette also makes a good choice. Their Fusion ProSeries Sensitive Face Wash has only the ingredients you need and none that will irritate your face.
Taking care of your sensitive skin is not just about shopping. A man can make certain lifestyle changes too. For instance, drink more water -- not soda, juice or coffee. Take shorter showers; they're better for the environment (less water used) and better for saving the natural oils of your skin. Take warm showers -- not hot ones. When you bathe under steaming hot water, natural oils just melt away. These natural oils are your skin's best protection against irritants.
Aaron Krach, former grooming editor of Cargo magazine, is a writer and editor based in New York City. His work has appeared in InStyle, Out, and TimeOut New York, as well as on Esquire.com. Aaron is a frequent contributor to Style and Tech for Men.
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