As a healthcare provider, you talk to all your patients about the importance of skin care. But guys especially seem to have a hard time with it. You might mention sunscreen, for instance, and they just ignore you or say, “Uh huh.” It can be frustrating when a patient dismisses your suggestions.
How can you make it easy for them? Let’s talk about some simple steps men can take to care for their skin. It’s easier than they think, and there’s no need to own dozens of beauty products. Let’s get busy helping your patients have great skin and protect it from sun damage, premature aging, and the risk of skin cancer.
Step 1: Identify Their Skin Type
In layman’s terms, the main types of skin are: normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive. This may be different from how you usually think of ‘skin type.’ (Instead of Fitzpatrick Skin Types, we’ll refer to ‘skin type’ as it is used on skin care products. This is what your patients will be reading when looking for products that work for them.)
You’ll be able to help your patients determine their skin type, of course. Or they can try a test at home:
…your skin feels oily and looks shiny, you have oily skin.
…your T-zone (nose and forehead) is oily, but the rest of your face is mostly matte, you have combination skin.
…you have minimal oil, redness, or irritation, you have normal skin.
…your skin is tight or flaky, you have dry skin.
…your skin is red, itchy, or inflamed, you have sensitive skin.
Step 2: Pay Attention to Labels
As a healthcare professional, you know it’s important to read the labels. But do your patients? It’s time to bring it up. When your patients know their skin type, they can buy the right products for their face.
This is particularly important if they have sensitive skin. They’ll want to avoid products with added fragrances. In particular, they should watch out for anything called “unscented,” because fragrances can actually be added to the product to mask other scents. Instead, they should look for “fragrance free.”
They’ll also be able to buy products for specific skin types. Cleanser is often labeled as being for oily, normal, dry, or sensitive skin. They should buy one that’s right for them. Maybe you can recommend something. It’s likely they’ll need to experiment to see what works with their skin. If they’re not sure, have them try a sensitive skin product–it’s the most gentle on the pores.
Step 3: Start with a Clean Face
Is your patient using bar soap on his face? That’s no good. It’s time he buys a product that’s specifically made to clean the face. Bar soap dries out the skin, and that’s the last thing he wants.
Tell him about the men’s section in the skin care aisle. He’s sure to find something labeled with his skin type. He should avoid products containing alcohol, which dry out the skin.
You may want to instruct him on how to wash his face, as well. Here’s a script:
“When you get home, wet your face with lukewarm water. Apply a small amount of the cleanser and gently wash your face with a soft washcloth or mesh sponge. Don’t scrub; that will just irritate the skin. Finally, rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel. Use your new product first thing in the morning, after exercise, and before bed.”
Note: If he finds that a sponge or washcloth still irritates his skin, then recommend just using his fingers.
Step 4: Moisturize
Moisturizing is important, of course. There are two main reasons to moisturize. First, it adds moisture into the skin. Moisture, in short, keeps skin looking young. Dried out, flaky skin doesn’t look good. (Appealing to his ego might work. He wants to look good, right?)
Direct him to find a moisturizer that matches his skin type. Avoid colorings or perfumes, which might irritate his skin. He should also avoid ingredients that might be great for the body, but not the facial skin. These ingredients include lanolin, mineral oil, shea butter, or wax, all of which can clog pores.
The second purpose of moisturizer is to give your patient’s skin some protection against the elements. Wind and pollution can take a toll on skin, so he should protect it with a little moisturizer. Tell him to apply it after washing his face, while it’s still damp. (This locks in more moisture.)
Step 5: Recommend Sunscreen
This is the easiest step, because you recommend he buy a combination moisturizer/sunscreen product. Two steps in one! Just make sure it’s SPF 30 or above. Emphasize that he should wear it every day, rain or shine. (Damaging UV rays are always there, no matter the weather.)
The sun’s rays are a major cause of wrinkles, aging spots, and even skin cancer. So even if your patients don’t plan on using moisturizer, they should apply sunscreen daily to the face, ears, neck, and any other exposed skin. This is especially important if they’re spending time outdoors.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen, also known as mineral sunscreen, is applied to the skin and reflects the sun’s rays. The ingredients aren’t absorbed into the skin. Chemical sunscreen uses one or more chemicals that are absorbed by the skin, which then convert sunlight into non-damaging heat. Both are effective at blocking harmful UV rays.
You may want to mention this: he should avoid sunscreens or moisturizers containing the ingredient octocrylene. According to Yale Medicine, octocrylene can naturally degrade into the chemical benzophenone, a suspected carcinogen. There isn’t enough research yet to be sure it’s harmful. But if they’re concerned, he should stick to physical sunscreens.
Step 6: Exfoliate Regularly
Skin is constantly renewing itself. Dead skin cells are continually flaking off, but sometimes they don’t go away on their own. If he doesn’t exfoliate, the old skin can build up, creating rough patches or clogged pores. Regular exfoliation smooths out the skin and allows moisturizer to work more effectively.
A simple way for guys to exfoliate is to use a soft washcloth when they wash their face. If he shaves, he’s already exfoliating those areas. But he should exfoliate the other areas, too. Just tell him not to scrub and overdo it. Scrubbing isn’t necessary, and might damage the skin.
There are other methods of exfoliation as well, if your patients are interested in trying them. In general, there are two methods: physical scrubs and chemical exfoliants. They should stay away from physical scrubs; they literally rip up the skin and are very damaging. (They contain physical elements: tiny beads, crystals, or other items.)
The other option is chemical exfoliants. They work by dissolving the dead skin and any gunk that may lie beneath. It can take some time for chemical exfoliants to work, but the result can be glowing, radiant skin.
If your patient wants to try a chemical exfoliant, here is the order of operations: cleanse first with your usual cleanser. Second, exfoliate. If you shave, do that next. Last, apply moisturizer and any other products.
Just don’t exfoliate too much. Once or twice a week is plenty. He doesn’t want to damage the healthy skin underneath.
Step 7: Encourage Skin Exams
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. We talked about using sunscreen above, which can decrease the chance of getting skin cancer. That’s a great first step.
Encourage your patients to also check their skin regularly–not just the face, but all over. They should check for unusual spots or growths, and get to know moles and birthmarks. Any changes should be documented with photos and discussed with a doctor right away.
But there’s no need to be afraid. Skin cancer is common, but it’s also very treatable when caught early. Here’s a pro tip for your patients: suggest that he schedule skin exams into his calendar, just 5-10 minutes per week. It could save his life.