I wrote about this myself at the very beginning of my career in a trade magazine called Drug and Cosmetic Industry, (March of 1986), when I said, "If women can be taught to buy their own cars, men can be induced to wash and moisturize their faces – if they are given products that neither feminize nor patronize them. To promote a skin care product, performance and not image seems more important; since it's really up to the man to decide on his image. He does need to be reminded that good skin looks better on everyone … if the product works and the advertising is non-offensive, a man will use the product, and buy it himself." This was 25 years ago.
The Language of Gender
There was a funny word we used long ago, "Unisex," to describe products that could be used by both men and women. A smattering of gender-blending terms has since come into use, such as "metrosexual," which attempts to describe men who are open to caring for their overall appearance beyond a shave. The companies that willingly serve metrosexuals, as well as everyone who is openly or privately gay, are typically boutiques or tiny divisions of monster companies like Estee Lauder. From the beginning, Lauder's natural son Aramis marketed fragrance-themed shaving creams and soothing balms to men. This has continued through her alphabet of acquired stepchildren; from Aveda on, Lauder has always made room for the boys. That said, it still seems that a group of marketing people who never leave New York keep making up profiles, and thus products, for men who also never leave New York. But it is a big country, with a whole lot of men being left in the dust. Literally.
What brought me to this whole category of manly men and their skin care concerns was actually my father's patient population. In our community, my dad served as the family doctor to a salt-of-the-earth population in rural Pennsylvania. These were farmers, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and laborers in steel factories. These guys would rather have cracks in their hands you could stand a matchbook up in than be caught dead at the department store buying skin lotions.
The skin does not know the difference between a wrinkle and a wound. It is an abnormality, recognized by the body, without distinction. We know that the body always wants to survive, and God in His wisdom built miraculous mechanisms into our bodies to defend against many outside attacks from the environment. That is why we have an immune system. We have certainly done much in our modern society to compromise these systems with stress, cigarettes, chemicals and a fascination with having tanned skin – except for those who were actually born with dark skin, who vigorously use chemicals to lighten it. Go figure.
A fascinating material landed in our lab one day and after a series of experiments, I developed a hand lotion that had no slime, no fragrance and would turn hamburger hands into human hands in 17 days. The active ingredient came from a by-product of the brewery process, an active part of the yeast cell wall that got thrown away until Dr. Pugliese determined it could do some very good things for wrinkled skin. The downside of using it in upscale facial skin care products was that the active material retained a trace of the yeasty yucky smell in formulation. The upside was that manly men loved it in a hand lotion – there are some places where smelling like old beer gets you in the door.
Small town girl that I was, I focused on my niche and did not attempt to go anywhere near the shiny cosmetics counters to try to sell a moisturizer, although it was exceptionally effective on smoothing fine lines. With Cornhuskers my only competitor, I honed my target – good men with bad hands – and I went to the source, beginning what I referred to as market research but which amounted to spending a great deal of time in bars with bloody-knuckled men. ("Really, Dad, I'm working!")
To care for a man's skin, in addition to their hands, these things must be considered of paramount importance.
Men are not covered with asbestos. Sunscreen must be worn daily in a form that is comfortable to wear and use. It is decidedly not attractive to have your ears, nose and neck carved up before your grandchildren know you because you have been driving a tractor all day or throwing bricks around in the sun.
And the Bugs
It is not manly to eschew a bug repellent and then fall off a ladder in anaphylactic shock because a bee stung you. Regardless of how you feel about DEET, there are a number of products that direct bugs away from you. Find one and use it.
This is actually one of the reasons why they say "Women get old. Men get character." Shaving exfoliates and stimulates the skin, and my father actually recommended that women shave once a month in his 1998 book Skin Sex and Longevity.
Razor burn is an unpleasant thing caused by two things: the condition of the skin under the beard, and the friction of the razor (the early disposables felt a lot like dragging a ragged clam shell over a sunburn). The early "bracer" products' response to irritated skin was to throw fragranced, mentholated alcohol on it! Be a man! Ouch!
When you know better, you do better, and here is cutting edge advice from a skin care insider. Michael Q. Pugliese, L.E., CEO of Circadia by Dr. Pugliese, recommends trying to shave without surfactants. He uses specially treated soybean oil, for two reasons. Some oil cleansers eliminate irritation caused by the use of the foamy surfactants found in shaving cream and the old soap-in-a-cup-with-a-brush. "Soybean oil gives a close, smooth finish with very little irritation. The oil has enzyme modulating peptides and alpha-reductase inhibitors," says Pugliese, "which can actually slow hair growth cycles and shaving can be done less frequently." Simply rinse the razor and dry it off between uses.
Many men struggling with early hair loss find the pre-emptive strike of total baldness to be both liberating and fashion forward, and shave their heads. The same rules apply – use a shaving product that has very low irritation potential and of course, follow with a moisturizing sunscreen to protect this newly exposed area from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays, as neither melanoma nor pigmentation spots are viewed as fashion statements.
Feet: Funk and Fungus
Men have some seriously needy feet. They are prone to wearing a favorite pair of sneakers, boots or shoes, day after day. Industrial footwear can cause the skin to peel, not from dryness but from sweating. This gets trapped and creates bacteria until they take off the boots. Cracked heels and fungus are the main concerns, and require both treatment and prevention.
Dr. Leigh Hopkins, PharmD. R.Ph. of Renu Labs, says, "Everyone is susceptible to foot fungus. In fact, over 38 million people in the United States have some form of fungal problems. The dark, moist and warm environment present in most shoes can promote fungal growth. Aside from cosmetic discoloration, if left untreated it can lead to nail deformity and pain – especially when wearing boots or shoes. Nail fungus is often a chronic, reoccurring condition; create a safe treatment regimen that incorporates many different and independent strategies."
Stinky Feet Folklore That Works
One easy, at home remedy is as follows: Fill a dishpan with hot water and add six teabags. Soak the feet for about twenty minute, every day.
I am married to a man who refuses to acknowledge pain of any kind. I know if he says to me that he has pain, he is already six exits past when I would be hollering for a morphine drip. Any kind of job which requires a repeated motion using a set of muscles all day will create stress in that area. Posture is important for everything from sitting down to running a machine, to the more vigorous activity of climbing a pole, laying bricks or pouring molten steel. Lower back pain plagues many men and a salon that offers massage can be a wonderful advantage to men.
There is a diminished concentration that comes with an accumulation of untreated pain. If you have ever had a chronic headache, you know you are not the sharpest knife in the drawer … and might just inadvertently cut yourself ON the sharpest knife in the drawer because your mind is using all its tricks to keep you from focusing on that pain. Pain is a message. Do not ignore it.
Pain medicines vary in effectiveness, from aspirin to NSAIDS, and obviously prescription narcotics are not advised in the workplace. I am a fan of topical pain relief, particularly one that has a natural source. Essential oils like capsaicin, peppermint and eucalyptus can give an immediate and sustainable effect without causing any systemic involvement.
There are a number of imaging techniques available that can help you determine the level of damage a man has from sun exposure, vascular stress or improper use of products. A thorough history, your own skills of observation, coupled with the Fitzpatrick score and an honest conversation, will help you guide a course of treatment he can live with and benefit from using.
The first thing any of us who practice aesthetics needs to understand is this: Everyone who comes through your door is there for one reason. They want to feel better when they leave. It is never too late to help someone. Your challenge, and in fact your responsibility, is to give every man and woman a reason to come through your door in an environment of safety and confidence, to provide the care and products they need, and allow them to trust you enough to come back. Metrosexuals, cowboys, bloody knuckles and all.