I know most men, and many woman, would rather go to the dentists for a root canal than fuss with their appearances. Not all of us have the patience, desire, or time to enter the realm of cosmetic products and routines. There’s a minimum, though, that everyone would benefit from. It’s not just about confidence or vanity, but overall comfort and health. I can’t think of anyone who actually ENJOYS having zits, itchiness, or dry spots.
1. figure out your skin type, and skincare needs.
This will help you to decide what products will work for your skin, without spending forever trying different things. Plus, it’ll help you figure out what the stresses on your skin are.
There’s generally a few skin types. There’s some overlap. For instance, most skin types may also have sensitivities. I would classify myself as “slightly oily, some sensitivities”. My boyfriend would be “Oily, minimal sensitivities”.
Dry-You may have rough patches, dull skin, or redness. Probably not many breakouts. For this skin type, a good moisturizer is essential! You can opt for heavier moisturizers and your skin will drink it all in. Cetaphil is a fairly nice cheap one, especially if you have redness or sensitivity. Clinique also makes nice ones that don’t smell too feminine.
Oily- Your skin produces more oil than it needs. You may have swollen pores, breakouts or bumps along the skin. Regular cleansing will work wonders with this skin type. Everyone should be washing their face at least once a day, but not that many of us actually do. Try using a toner in between your showers, to remove excess dirt and oil before it causes breakouts. I generally use toner on my face in the morning, and before bed. For actual washes you can use in the shower, I like Mario Badescu’s Foaming Glycolic Cleanser, and Clean N Clear deep-clean exfoliating acne scrub(This is what I make the boyfriend use).
Normal-Lucky you! No dry patches, few consistent breakouts, generally your face DOESN’T look really shiny by the end of the day. Avoid products from the other ends of the spectrum. Heavy moisturizer will make you break out, and strong acne scrubs will dry your skin and cause irritation(sometimes). Spot treat zits, and use a lighter moisturizer. Using a stronger acne scrub once a week or so can help further with blemishes, without draining the skin.
Sensitive- Your skin may not like things about your environment, whether it’s the body soap you used in the shower to wash your face, or the coating of industrial grime that caused it to break out severely for a week afterwords. These reactions may show as redness, itchiness, increased breakouts, hives, excema, etc. Some ingredients are perceived to be best for sensitive skin-products with Aloe, Oatmeal, etc. are generally best for irritated skin. When you shower, wash your hair, rinse it, and THEN wash your face, so that all traces of harsh shampoo residue are being washed away.
This depends on your skin type, but a good moisturizer goes a LONG way for reducing breakouts, or irritation. And if you’re the type to worry about aging, it will help with that too! Either way, it’s a fairly subtle way of keeping your skin in good condition, without a lot of extra effort.
Even oily types can generally benefit from a moisturizer too. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, a lot of times our bodies mechanisms for producing oil to protect and condition our skin are vague at best. If you use a lot of drying acne products to combat the oil excess, your skin may become MORE oily because it senses the dryness and thinks it should be producing more! Opt for moisturizers using natural oils(Safflower, almond, macadamia, coconut, jojoba, shea, etc.) because they clog pores less and are better for sensitivities. So long as you are cleaning your face daily, this will help balance your skin out. IF needed, you can dilute a moisturizer that is just slightly too oily for your skin, and help prevent too much of a good thing.
3. spot treat zits
Mario Badescu Drying cream is my favorite product for shrinking blemishes. It has a faint ivory tint that blends into the skin, and can neutralize some of the redness of a fresh zit. Plus, it dries them out, and they leave faster. Other good products include ingredients like Benzoil peroxide or Salicylic acid. Just make sure to apply these ONLY on the irritation. They may dry out the skin too much if you have normal skin, and apply them all over the face.
If you have a prescription treatment from a dermatologist, make sure you DO follow the instructions. I’ve heard of a few ingredient conflicts between different types of acne products, that actually NEGATE the positive effects the individual products have.
Do you have bags under your eyes, or frequent zits? Or do people tease you when someone gave you a hickey somewhere visible? Then you should have some concealer stashed away. Green concealers counter redness in zits, hickeys, etc. Just apply some to the area, and blend it in with your finger. For blue/purple under eye bags, a concealer with coral or orange notes will help even that out. I like Bobbi Brown under eye brightener because it’s very subtle. No one will look at your eyes and say “Oh yeah. there’s SOMETHING being hidden beneath that pancake!”
You can even use a good concealer to cover up tattoos. If you need a particularly heavy, long wearing concealer, try Dermablend. It will cover tattoos, bruises, hickeys, ANYTHING. It may emphasize dryness though, so I would opt for something else for the face.
5. Learn a few tricks to avert disaster!
A few weeks back, the parking lot iced over MASSIVELY at work. It’s (for lack of better options) my job to slave outside shoveling ice-melt until it’s less slippery. From having crushed ice melt blown in my face for hours, I got home with my skin alternately itching, burning, red, and SOOO much dryer than I’ve ever seen it!
Sometimes, we can’t help particular irritants. But there’s almost always things you can do to mitigate the reaction. I cleaned my face THOROUGHLY when I got home, and applied a heavier moisturizer than I normally use, with natural oils. The redness left, with the majority of the dryness. Two days later, my skin was almost completely normal.
I’ve had reactions similar to that before, that can lead to a solid month of patchy skin, acne breakouts, extreme sensitivity to touch, peeling and itching. In most cases, simply taking extra care to keep the skin clean helps, but sometimes you need a bit more.
Natural oils are great, not just for removing grit, and conditioning the skin, but also for neutralizing a lot of reactions. Olive oil works well to remove makeup and dirt, and coconut oil makes the skin GLOW. Many cosmetics products include these in the ingredients. You CAN use the raw oil sparingly for emergency overhauls, but be sure not to use too much, or to wipe off excess before your skin can absorb it in a way that encourages more blackheads or infections.
I usually recommend applying a thin coat, massaging it into the skin for a minute, and then taking a clean cloth or paper towel, wiping the rest of it off, and rinsing the face off with warm water, and a mild cleanser. If you apply too much oil, you may end up with breakouts. But the massage helps the oil soak into the skin, and loosen the grime and sebum in pores. By removing the excess oil/dirt, and rinsing your face afterwords, you can get a great burst of moisture for dry skin, or a great cleanse for normal/oily skin. Don’t do this very often, though, unless it’s an emergency. Once a week, maybe twice for dry skin types should be plenty. During one NASTY reaction that had my entire top coat of facial skin peeling off, I used olive oil three times a day to calm the dryness and irritation. After two days, the initial reaction was gone and my skin was comfortable. I had massively swollen pores for a week after though so I really do consider that technique to be the facial equivalent of the “emergency reset” button, rather than as a daily ritual.
As we go about our business, the cells of our skin are continually dying, shedding, creating more, etc. If dead cells build up, your skin may look duller, drier, and be more prone to signs of aging, or skin irritations like acne or blackheads. While it’s not a good thing to exfoliate EVERY time you wash your face, using a scrub once a week can work wonders. Avoid scrubs with natural exfoliants, like apricot hulls. As horrible as it may seem to advocates for a more “natural” lifestyle, smooth synthetic micro-spheres don’t have sharp edges that can actually damage the living skin cells, like ground hulls, salt, etc. can.
Especially if you have a significant other, exfoliate your lips regularly! One common DIY lip exfoliant is to mix honey or olive oil and sugar. Apply, and then massage into lips, and rinse off. The sugar removes dead skin, while the oil or honey can help seal moisture in. Also, you can GENTLY use a toothbrush(even an electric one) on the lips, without toothpaste, once in a while to remove dull, dead cells. Even if you don’t notice the difference in the texture of your lips, I can guarantee that other people will! If you wear lipstick, you’ll also notice that it applies more evenly on exfoliated lips, and wears a bit better. Plus, you’ll find yourself chewing on your lips, or picking at dry spots less(if you’re like me!)
Most of these steps won’t add more than a minute or two to your routines, and require minimal touching up, or monitoring. It may not be practical to use them all every day, but even choosing the ones that target your skins problems the best will help a LOT in maintaining a face that doesn’t “need” cosmetics or to be hidden behind layers of hair to hide flaws. Plus, it’s hard to feel confident when you have obvious blemishes, or itchy, dry, sensitive skin. On some level, it really is more about health, than about any real standard of beauty.