Men taking care of their skin is just as important as getting to the gym, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep each night.
Although the beauty industry spends millions on advertising to market numerous skin care products to women, the fact is that we all have skin and we all need to take care of it, even if you have an XY chromosome.
Composed of three layers known as the hypodermis, dermis, and epidermis, our skin plays numerous roles in the health of our body.
First and foremost it acts as a protective barrier to the outside world, protecting us from mechanical impact and pressure, temperature changes, micro-organisms, radiation, and chemicals.
It also acts as a potent regulator, helping the body moderate changes in temperature through sweat as well as with the synthesis of vitamin D.
Finally, our skin is the master of sensation, with an extensive network of nerve cells that detect and relay changes in our environments.
With so many important functions it is critical to take good care of your skin, and being our barrier to the outside world, our skin is especially vulnerable. From oxidative damage and free radical formation due to sun exposure to the absorption of various chemicals and irritants in our environments, including pollution, smoking, and cleaning products, our skin is exposed to endless assaults on a daily basis. The least we can do is give it a little pampering.
As a Naturopathic Doctor my focus on health always takes a whole body approach, and when looking to nourish and take care of your skin your inside matters as much as the outside, and treatments aimed at addressing your skin health will always reflect this philosophy.
So here are my 8 top ways to care for your skin, both inside and out, that will help keep your skin in good shape for the years ahead of you.
Getting adequate water is essential to your health and if you are dehydrated your skin will let you know by becoming dry, tight and flaky, with less resilience and more prone to wrinkling. Our skin, just like all other organs of our body, is composed of millions of cells, that without water cannot function at their best. And don’t wait until you’re feeling parched to reach for your water bottle to quench your thirst, make it a habit to get adequate water daily to prevent dehydration in the first place. Check out my expert tip on how to keep your water intake up throughout the day.
Supplementation with this important anti-oxidant is an excellent way to keep your skin looking young and wrinkle free. Found in all layers of the skin, vitamin C helps to strengthen collagen, important in maintaining our skin’s elasticity ( 1, 2).
As we age, and with excessive exposure to UV light and pollutants, our skin’s vitamin C levels begin to decline, leading to a reduction in its integrity and firmness (3, 4, 5, 6). Try incorporating a high quality vitamin C supplement into your daily routine to beneficially boost your skin health by effectively increasing levels of this potent anti-oxidant in the skin (7)
Nutrition plays a critical role in the health of our skin (8, 9, 10). Ensuring that you get adequate fruit and vegetables, essential fatty acids, as well as lean sources of protein can help to maintain the skin’s barrier function, protecting you from everyday damaging exposures. Try incorporating foods such as oranges, berries, peppers, and papaya into your diet, which are great sources of vitamin C as well as other anti-oxidants. And if you’re one of the many who notice certain skin reactions (acne, eczema, hives) with the consumption of dairy or wheat products it may be beneficial to eliminate these foods from your diet to determine if you might have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to them(11, 12).
Making your own clay masks can be an great way to help draw out excess oils, clean pores and re-mineralize the skin.
- Start by washing your skin.
- Make a paste of dry bentonite clay (1 tbsp – also useful for making tooth pastes), tea tree oil (4 drops – for acne prone skin), water (1-2 tbsp) and ground oatmeal (1 tbsp).
- Apply the clay mask to your face, avoiding the eyes and mouth. Let the mask sit for 10 minutes or until the clay begins to dry. Don’t let the mask completely dry as this will dehydrate your skin.
- Wash the face completely and splash on ice cold water to help close up those pores, then use your moisturizing creams or butters.
Dry Skin Brushing and Steam
By improving circulation and lymphatic drainage, dry skin brushing, and the pore opening effects of steam, can have a positive effect on both the appearance and function of your skin.
- Place a plastic chair in your bathroom and turn on the shower to the hottest temperature.
- Have a seat outside of the shower and using a natural bristled brush, gently make small circles from your hands towards your heart. The coarse hairs should barely scratch your skin.
- Repeat the circles on both sides of the arms and up the legs.
The term exfoliation refers to the gentle removal of the dead cells on the skin’s outermost layer, and can be a great way to give your skin a fresher and smoother appearance. While there are numerous conventional exfoliants on the market, the problem with these is that many of them use microbeads, or small plastic balls, which are not filtered by water treatment facilities and are washed right back into our water supply, harming our environmental ecosystems. Using salt, or other natural coarse ingredients, to make your own exfoliants can help give your skin a healthy glow and protect our planet’s water sources.
- Get a bowl of Epsom or coarse salt and turn on the shower to a neutral temperature.
- Step into the shower to get your whole body wet and then turn off the shower.
- Cover your body with coarse salt, making the same small circles up the limbs towards the heart to exfoliate the skin.
- Be gentle on the face and other sensitive areas.
Hydrate Your Skin
Beyond preventing dehydration by drinking plenty of clean water, ensuring your skin is topically hydrated can be a wonderful addition to any skincare regime. After a warm bath or shower, apply a hydrating moisturizer to your skin. Lotions are often water-based and can dry out your skin even more. It’s best to use a combination of oils, waxes and butters such as a shea butter, coco butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or bee’s wax.
Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure
This is a no-brainer and is hopefully common-sense. We all know that avoiding excessive amounts of the sun’s rays is important to not only keeping our skin looking youthful, but also in avoiding skin cancers, including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. The very first steps you should make to avoid sun exposure is to ensure you are wearing proper clothing, including long sleeves and pants as well as a hat with a wide enough brim so as to cover your face and neck. Don’t forget your sunglasses and do your best to find some shade. Use sunscreen especially when the UV index is reported to be high and when other options for sun protection are limited or infeasible. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the best and worst sunscreens on the market based on their effectiveness and ingredient list for the current year; see how your sunscreen ranks, or find a one that will work for you.
Taking care of your skin is just as important as getting to the gym, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep each night.
However, for many guys, skin care is just not on the radar and if this is the case for you it might be time to have a good look in the mirror and pay some respect to the important bodily organ that truly keeps it altogether for you.
So grab your water, pull out the exfoliant and go ahead, give my 8 skin tips a try to keep you looking and feeling healthy, inside and out.