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Lookin’ Good: A Man's Guide

What to look for in male grooming products, from skin and hair care to shaving and razor burn.

Men’s skin care products continued...

Once skin is clean, moisturizing creams and lotions add moisture back, which plumps up skin cells and smoothes out the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. (Another way to keep skin hydrated is simply to drink plenty of water.) Moisturizers may be particularly helpful for African-American men, who complain about their skin appearing ashen if it gets too dry. Dee Anna Glaser, MD, professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and laser surgery at St. Louis University, favors moisturizers that contain alpha hydroxy acids as well as antioxidants.

But do men really need to moisturize? Yes, Glaser says, if they want to slow down aging: “We know that oxidation from free radicals can cause aging of cells. It makes sense that using a skin lotion with antioxidants may help prevent some of that damage.” Even more important is wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen added. “Most of the damage we associate with aging is really UV damage from too much sun exposure,” says Glaser. Her advice: Choose a moisturizer that contains SPF 15 sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection for everyday protection. If you are spending the afternoon in the sun at a ball game or the beach, choose SPF 30 or higher and don a hat for more serious protection.

Men’s shampoo and hair-styling products

Despite the proliferation of men’s shampoos and conditioners, there is little difference between the sexes when it comes to hair. Shampoos are designed to remove oil and dirt from hair, regardless of your gender. “Most of these products distinguish themselves with a manly-looking bottle and a manly-smelling fragrance,” Glaser says. “My husband has his own shampoo and conditioner, for instance, but mostly because he doesn’t want to use a girly-smelling pink shampoo and pink soap.”

Conditioners contain ingredients that coat individual hairs so they look thicker and don’t tangle as easily, making hair easier to comb or brush, Glaser says. Some conditioners contain emollients that are absorbed into the scalp, which can help prevent drying and flaking. The best choice of shampoo and conditioner depends on the type of hair. A few rules of thumb can help:

  • Dry or thin hair: Use a creamy shampoo, which will clean and restore moisture to hair. Using a conditioner is especially important if your hair is dry or thin.
  • Oily hair: Use a clear shampoo, the best choice for washing out excess oil. You may not even need a conditioner unless you wear your hair long. Then a conditioner can help keep it from tangling.
  • Coarse or kinky hair: Use a creamy shampoo. The curlier your hair, the drier it is likely to be. So a shampoo that also restores moisture and oils is the best choice.
  • Dry, flaky scalp: Try a “medicated” dandruff shampoo. A wide variety are available over the counter. Because different products contain different active ingredients, experiment .until you find one that works. Excessive dandruff may be a sign of eczema or psoriasis. So if standard dandruff shampoos are not enough to stop the flurry, talk to your doctor.

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