Rumor has it that Jack Black was backstage one time, trying to impress a certain lady-friend by using the following logic:
“You take away the looks, money, intelligence, charm and success and, really, there’s no real difference between me and George Clooney.”
Unfortunately, the reasons most men give for not taking care of their skin are about as flimsy as the above.
The fact is, good skin doesn’t only refer to a smooth, clear complexion; it’s about health, vitality and confidence. Good skin looks good on everyone.
We get it, though – most guys aren’t going to be that interested in a 10-step nightly skin care routine that women seem to find satisfying.
No biggie – you can still enjoy healthy, youthful skin with a few specific products, including the gold-standard for men’s anti-aging skin care: retinol.
Men & Women Age the Same, Right? Wrong
Skin is a very important factor when it comes to appearance.
But while the skin care industry caters overwhelmingly to women, the truth is that wrinkly, rough, discolored skin isn’t only a female problem.
In fact, many male public figures – from actors to politicians – wear makeup to improve their complexion and appear healthier, younger and more authoritative.
Now hold up – we’re not suggesting you raid your lady’s makeup bag for something to cover your dark undereye circles. In fact, the secret to a healthier appearance is actually addressing the health of your skin, not just covering it up.
However, while both men and women show their age on their face, the aging process can actually look quite different for both sexes.
Men’s skin is literally thicker than women’s skin; thicker skin tends to hold up better and is slower to show signs of aging like fine line and wrinkles, so (theoretically) men appear to age more slowly than women. (Cue fist pump.)
But wait, don’t get too excited. It’s pretty obvious that women are encouraged to worry more about their appearance and the signs of aging at an earlier age, so they tend to take much better care of their skin than men do.
In fact, men are pretty terrible at caring for their skin.
One major offense: not wearing sunscreen. UV radiation is incredibly damaging to our skin and the major culprit behind aging, not to mention dangerous conditions like skin cancer.
So while women’s skin ages faster, the effects are often mitigated by taking good care of their skin, such as wearing sunscreen and adopting a healthy skin care routine. Men’s neglect of their skin will eventually come back to bite them in the form of wrinkles, lines, dullness, discoloration…you get the picture.
But there’s great news: no matter your age or the current condition of your skin, you can achieve a healthier-looking complexion by adding retinol to your grooming routine.
The Not So Little-Known Secrets of Retinol
Retinol is simply vitamin A, an essential nutrient that our body does not make on its own. It has many functions, including aiding in eye health (remember when your mom told you to eat carrots for your eyes?). But eating carrots alone won’t magically make your skin look healthier. To get the maximum benefit, you’ll need to apply it to your face.
Retinol is actually just one member of the retinoid family, which includes a number of different derivatives of vitamin A. Because it’s an antioxidant, vitamin A helps the skin to defend itself from cell-damaging free radicals. These free radicals (produced from UV radiation, pollution and smoking) are the main cause of many common skin concerns.
Fortunately, retinoids are incredibly efficient multitaskers. Studies have shown that retinoids can:
- Increase the skin’s production of collagen. Collagen is the protein that provides structure to the skin, and we produce less and less of it as we age. Increasing collagen leads to a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles1.
- Clear acne. Retinol products increase cell turnover rate, which keeps dead skin cells from building up and clogging pores.2
- Reduce the appearance of pores. Sun exposure, congestion, and general aging can cause pores to appear larger, contributing to a rough, aged appearance. By clearing pores of dead skin cells, pores appear much smaller and skin looks smoother and cleaner.3
- Fade dark spots (hyperpigmentation) including acne scars. Many of us have these unwelcome reminders from our teenage (or even adult) years, along with sun-damaged discoloration. Retinol decreases the amount of melanin (the pigment responsible for skin coloring) present in the skin4.
- Increase blood vessels in the skin. This one is pretty incredible: more blood to skin = better coloring and improved skin health.2
- Decrease dark circles under eyes. The skin around the eyes is thinner than the skin on the rest of the face. By increasing collagen production, retinoids help make this delicate skin thicker, causing dark circles to fade.
So, yeah, retinoids basically do everything you’d ever want for your skin.
“Ok. That’s all well and good,” you might be saying. “But how do I actually use retinol?”
Read on for how to use retinol the smart way.
If You Can Spare 30 Seconds a Day, You Can Achieve Great Skin
Now that you are thoroughly convinced that you need to make retinol part of your life, here’s how to incorporate it into your routine:
There are a lot of products out there that contain some form of retinoid. These range from prescription-only tretinoin, to gentler, over-the-counter forms like retinol and retinyl palmitate. You can find retinoids in lotions, serums and creams.
If you are new to retinol, it’s best to start with a product that contains either lower concentrations of retinol, or one that contains retinyl palmitate, as it has fewer side effects than other retinoids (more on this in a moment).
Valice’s Reconstruct 3D Eye Complex men’s under eye cream contains retinyl palmitate to combat wrinkles, dark circles and under eye puffiness, along with peptides and collagen to further smooth fine lines and hyaluronic acid for serious moisturization.
Eye creams are a great idea for anyone who is concerned about maintaining a healthy, youthful appearance, since wrinkles and other signs of aging typically appear around the eyes first, where the skin is the most delicate. Likewise, signs of fatigue – like dark undereye circles and puffiness – can make you appear haggard and weary.
Retinol works well with and is enhanced by other antioxidants, such as ferulic acid and vitamins C and E. So if you really want to boost your skin care game, try adding a serum like Valice’s C,E Ferulic+ Brightening Complex.
Retinol is a slow burn kind of compound and can take some time to work, so patience is important. In fact, it can take up to 3 months to start to see improvement, so don’t give up if your skin doesn’t magically transform overnight.
Finally, a Word of Caution
Retinol can be harsh.
All the great work that it’s doing on your skin can also cause pretty serious irritation and dryness if you’re not mindful of how you use it, especially if you have sensitive skin.
That’s why some of the more potent forms are only available with a prescription.
If you’re a retinol newbie, you’ll want to start out slowly. Start by applying it a couple of times a week at first before gradually increasing. Once you’ve successfully used it for a couple of weeks, you can begin to use it every other day, working your way up to once a day. Your skin will become accustomed to it over time so that you will be able to reap the benefits without any side effects. If at any point you do start to experience irritation, dial back your usage until your skin adjusts.
You can always start out with a gentler derivative (retinyl palmitate), then move up to the more intense stuff if you need to.
There is also evidence that retinol can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it’s best if you apply it at night. However, you can use it in the morning if you also apply sunscreen (which you should be doing anyway, ahem).
And one last thing: retinol has a tendency to make skin really dry, so use a good moisturizer to keep your skin looking and feeling supple and vibrant.
Men like to think that the rugged, wizened look can be distinguished (and it certainly can) but don’t use that as an excuse. Skin neglect doesn’t look good on anyone, even the most silvery silver fox among us.
Start making some strategic changes today and get back to healthier, younger-looking skin that will give you confidence and help you age like a fine wine, not a worn-out rock star.