MANual of Style

Lesson One: Skincare by Shreyas
8 December, 2009, 3:15 am
Filed under: Basic Concepts | Tags: , , ,

So, you want to learn to dress. But you’re a smart guy, and you want to have the tools to make your own good clothing decisions, instead of being blindly pointed at the latest fad. Am I right?

Then you’re in the right place.

Let’s start with the fundamentals—what fashion is about. At the ultimate root of it, most fashion is about making you look like you are these four things: healthy, strong, thin, and tall. If not those things precisely, then you shoot for looking closer to them than you actually are. (Let me go right out and let you know I’m not writing from a place of privilege here, because I am neither tall nor thin.)

The first and most important one of these is health, and it’s one you can’t really fake. Unfortunately, it’s easy for it to go the other way, for otherwise healthy guys to have small problems that make them look less healthy. Skin problems.

Lesson One: Skin

How to Have Good Skin

Good skin comes from several different factors: lifestyle, history, genetics, nutrition, and grooming. Not everyone can have Takeshi Kaneshiro’s perfect complexion, but you can go a long way to improving yours in a few simple ways.


Wash your face at least once a day, when you bathe. Use some kind of gentle cleanser. You don’t need to invest in special devices or costly unguents; just get something labelled ‘facial’ and use your fingers or a soft washcloth.

Also wash your face after any strenuous activity that makes you sweaty or dirty. If you don’t have your cleanser at hand, or you’ve washed your face a couple times already, just use cool water. (Washing your face more than two or three times a day will dry out or irritate your skin.)

Moisturizer is also extremely important for the health and long-term well-being of your skin. Many guys, especially ones with oily or “problem” skin, think that moisturizer will make their skin break out. Bad moisturizer might, so don’t buy bad moisturizer. Look for oil-free moisturizer with sunscreen. It will probably be more expensive than the cleanser you picked up. That’s fine. (If you’re looking for something cheaper, get this aloe vera moisturizing cream from jason organics and mix it with a little sunscreen from wherever.)

With moisturizer, a little goes a long way. Put a small amount of moisturizer, maybe the size of a dime, onto the tip of one of your fingers. Using an upward motion, massage it into your skin from the jawline up– never press downward. (Elizabeth says: Pulling your skin downward speeds up the formation of wrinkles. Every women’s magazine I have ever read, and every cosmetologist I have ever spoken to, confirms this. No one ever tells men, because men aren’t supposed to care about wrinkles.) Be extremely gentle underneath your eyes, for the same reason. If the moisturizer gets absorbed before you make it up to your hairline (which might happen the first couple of times you moisturize), go for another dime-sized dollop. Your skin will thank you.

You can also help your skin out from under the surface by drinking lots of water. This helps your system flush out dirt, waste, and bacteria internally, which reduces breakouts and speeds up the healing of any that already exist. It also keeps you hydrated, which makes your skin look more even-toned and gently smooths out minor surface irregularities, scars, and so on.

Advanced option: try not to touch your face during the day. Don’t put your chin on your fist, don’t facepalm, don’t stroke your chin thoughtfully. When you do, you’re transferring the stuff on the part of your body which touches the most things to a part of your body which has extremely sensitive skin. It’s nigh-impossible to never touch your face, but it’s good to keep in mind what’s happening every time you put your head in your hands.


If your face is itchy, your skin feels too tight, or you have white flakes, then your skin is dry. Moisturize more often in the spots where the problem is the worst, and if you’re washing your face multiple times a day, cut down to just water except in the morning. Definitely use a washcloth to help dislodge and carry away those flakes of dead skin. (And have I mentioned drinking water is good for your skin? It helps with skin hydration too, believe it or not.)

If your face is shiny or greasy, you have oily skin. Use a non-alcohol based toner before you moisturize, and be sure your moisturizer is made for oily skin. Do not skimp on the moisturizer, or your skin will make more oil! Keep blotting paper in your pocket to soak up shine in the middle of the day.

If your face has dry skin in some places and oily skin in others, you have “combination” skin, which is the cosmetic way of saying “complicated”. Sorry, dude. Follow the instructions for dry skin on the dry patches, and use a non-alcohol based toner before you moisturize the oily areas.


Breakouts suck. Don’t squeeze the blemishes, for God’s sake, or your face will be covered with scars. Try not to touch them at all, and wash your face a little more often. If you have a big date coming up, sometimes you can draw a zit to the surface with a warm, wet washcloth– this will speed up the natural healing process, but it’s not a last-minute solution, because it will look worse before it gets better. If acne is a recurring problem for you, drinking a lot of water combined with medicated cleansers works wonders. But remember: nothing, no matter what it claims, can make all of your acne go away overnight. We’ll talk about concealing in a later post.

On Thursday we’ll talk about shaving.


12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks again!

Comment by Alex F

BTW my dry skin improved a lot, a lot, since I started using fatty, rich natural, non-detergent soap. This is an easy win in my book.

Comment by Alex F

Nice post, food for thought. To pick up on something Sarah said in her also informative comment, I heard from my soap school teacher that pH levels are actually a red herring, as the skin regulates pH quickly and effortlessly. However, she also espoused toner as a good thing (we didn’t get further into this as it wasn’t on the lesson plan). I’d be interested to hear more about this. Thanks!

Comment by Alex F

While your skin regulates the pH of your skin fairly quickly (over a couple hours, which is where you get people who say “My skin is fine, but by noon, it’s all greasy!”), the bacteria that is on your skin has all the time to find breaks in the skin to create breakouts. For the rest of the body, pH doesn’t matter as much because the pores aren’t as large on the rest of the body (most of the time). On the face, there are plenty of places for bacteria to settle in and create nastiness, so it’s important to keep that pH level low.

Toner is an important part of your cleansing ritual because it brings your skin back to where it should be. When you raise the pH of your skin to cleanse it of oils, you make it vulnerable to bacteria. When you spritz yourself with toner, you bring the pH of your skin back down. Most toners also deliver some sort of benefit (such as redness relief, oil control, etc.. it depends on your toner) because you don’t wash it off when you’re done. It also works as a pre-moisturizer, making sure your skin will absorb as much of the moisturizer as possible.

Comment by Sarah

Fab, that’s immensely useful. Two more newbie q’s:

Is it cleanser->moisturiser->toner?

Do you wash your face after moisturising (with/without a toner step) or leave as is?

Comment by Alex F

Cleanser, toner, moisturizer. Like Sarah mentioned, toner acts as a pre-moisturizer, helping the moisture absorb into the skin. The reason you don’t cleanse afterward is that cleansers are indiscriminate, and remove desirable oils and stuff as well as dirt; toning and moisturizing restore what the cleanser took away.

Comment by shreyas

Protip: I you smoke or spend time in smoke from solder, candles, etc, be sure to reapply your mosturizer a frew times a day. Smoke is terrible for your skin.

Comment by Clint Whiteside

Men don’t use moisturiser! We use Men Expert Hydra Energetic Turbo Booster.

Comment by GB Steve

I love this! I’m totally showing it to my fiance.

A few things about the skincare:

– Cleanser does make a difference, mostly having to do with the pH levels of your skin, the cleanser and the bacteria you’re trying to fight. Most drugstore cleansers have a higher pH like bacteria, while upper end cleansers say to the lower end of the scale. LUSH has a couple great mens’ cleansers, Coalface especially.

– TONER!! Toner’s another big part of skincare because, again, it helps balance the pH of your skin. Essentially, your skin has a natural pH of 3.5-5, bacteria has a pH of about 10 and a cleanser will generally put your skin at about a 7 or 8. Toners have a lower pH, which helps bring your skin back to a 3.5-5. When you skin is at that pH, your skin is the most elastic and hard to damage. You can also use a spritz of toner throughout the day to cool off and refresh your skin.

– Moisturizing your skin after you wash it actually helps preventing breakouts. When your skin is nice and cleansed, it can feel tight and dry, which is what most men prefer. Unfortunately, when your skin feels there’s a lack of oil, your body will actually produce more oil and could be the start of a breakout!

– SPOT TREATMENT! If you have a zit, find a good spot treatment. If you don’t want to drop the cash for a standalone spot treatment, take half of an aspirin and crush it up with some water to turn it into a paste. Put it on the zit overnight and wash it off in the morning. The salicylic acid in the aspirin will pull out the bacteria, calm the redness and soothe the swelling! If you touch/pop a zit, just expect more. Zits are caused by bacteria building up in your pores and not being able to get out, so they just go deeper. If you leave them alone and keep up with your regular skincare, it will go away eventually.

– Your skin has no oil glands around the eyes, which is why the skin there is so delicate.. Therefore, everyone needs an eye cream. It’s just a way of life.

– If you notice your skin is flaky and feels it needs a little extra, you can also try an exfoliant of some sort (NOT APRICOT SCRUB FOR GODS’ SAKE!!!! k, esthetician moment is over). Ocean Salt by LUSH is a good one (I promise I don’t work for LUSH.. everything they make just works!) that my fiance loves. It smells like a margarita, and it dissolves as you scrub your face.

And Shreyas and Elizabeth… This is great! I’m loving this idea!

Comment by Sarah

Ok, now to get my teenage sons to read this.

Comment by Meguey

Obvious advice that I should have been following for awhile now. I tend to have bad skin but don’t pay much attention to its care or maintenance. I intend to start!

Comment by Bret

“t the ultimate root of it, most fashion is about making you look like you are these four things: healthy, strong, thin, and tall. If not those things precisely, then you shoot for looking closer to them than you actually are. (Let me go right out and let you know I’m not writing from a place of privilege here, because I am neither tall nor thin.)”

That’s a helpful piece of advice that someone should have told me before now. I’m happy that I’ve got one in the bag already, and that’s tall, which is the hardest one to become over time through lifestyle choices. 😛

I’ve bookmarked you!

Comment by buriedwithoutceremony

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