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Healthy Men

Skin Care for Men
Secrets and miracles are skin deep

By Johnny Lucas

Shaving Man with Soap If you've surfed into this site looking for a compendium of men's skin care secrets, you're in luck. Here it is:
  • wash with soap and water
  • don't get too much sun
  • don't smoke
  • and that's it.

But, but, but, what about masculine moisturizers, men's diet supplements and special shaving creams?

Vancouver dermatologist Dr. Jason Rivers doesn't have much sympathy for any of these. "It's not bad to use moisturizers if you have dry skin," was as close to an endorsement as he would come. Can you imagine a new line of men's cosmetics claiming, "four out of five dermatologists say it's not bad to use our product"?

As for diet supplements, Dr. Rivers points out that a severe deficiency of Vitamin Bs will cause pellagra (a disease that causes dermatitis, stomach problems and nerve disorders), lack of Vitamin C will cause scurvy (spongy gums and loose teeth), but in general, a good balanced diet will feed your skin just fine. "Supplements," he says,"are a lot of marketing."

But shaving, surely a fancy shaving cream will make scraping fur off your face easier, healthier, gentler. Again, Dr. Rivers isn't impressed by what he sees. If you shave against the direction of beard growth, you may cut hair beneath the skin; this may cause a hair to become ingrown. Shave with the grain is the doctor's advice and if you still have problems, just don't shave so closely.

As well as being a practising dermatologist and Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Rivers is the Director of the Canadian Dermatology Association's Sun Awareness Programme. The link between sun exposure, skin damage and skin cancer is--or certainly should be--very well known.

Another non-secret is that smoking is not good for your health. Cigarette smoke damages the skin's elastic tissue and causes wrinkles and premature aging.

The cosmetics industry is worth billions per year, and men now account for 25 percent of it. A Net search on "men" and "skin" finds lots of exposed male skin, and even some skin care products.

One site claims that emu oil has been revered as a potent skin care product for centuries in Australia. I've been to Oz several times and have yet to see anyone using emu face cream.

Other products make nice-sounding but vague claims such as being able to "calm" your skin. Mary Kay Cosmetics (yes, that's the women in pink Cadillacs) talks about products for men which are "non-comedogenic". Does this mean they don't generate comedy and the guys won't laugh at you in the locker room for using the stuff?

A baseball player, Steve Garvey, has his own line of men's cosmetics that includes a signed baseball card. In the same cybermall, there's a shaving cream that makes shaving "a totally new experience." If that isn't enough to make you spend money, how about another product which declares itself to be an "absolute miracle"?

My pursuit of knowledge on the Net turned up the really useful bit of information that those who wrestle in mud risk skin infections, whereas those who perform the sport in Jell-O, do not.

I didn't ask Dr. Rivers for his recommendation as to which substances are best for this interesting form of athletics, but I did call him back to give him another chance to say something nice about cosmetics for men. He declined.

"People will believe what they want to believe," says Dr. Rivers. "Cosmetic companies will say that I don't know what I'm talking about. But I've been doing this a long time; I say 'Show me the data.' Until I see that, I'm a non-believer."

Health Links Button For more information on men's health and skin care visit these HealthyWay™ Health Links

Johnny Lucas is a Toronto writer who uses a skin moisturizer

illustration by Kathryn Adams

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