If you walk down the soap aisle in a typical store, you may see dozens of options for men and hundreds of options for women. There are soaps in a dizzying variety of scents, colors, sizes, and styles. Does it really matter which soap you choose? Don’t they all get you clean? Is choosing soap a matter of personal preference, or an important decision that affects your integumentary health? Or is it all a ploy by capitalist fatcats in white collars to distract you, so you don’t notice that Big Soap is secretly funding child soldiers in South America to put down soap mine uprisings?
Well, there’s no such thing as a soap mine and Big Soap seems to mostly just be extra large bars of soap, so probably not that last bit. But choosing the right soap does have some effect on your skin health. It turns out that men’s needs are slightly different than women’s, so there is a real value to choosing a soap that’s specifically for men.
How are men and women different?
We can spend a lot of time explaining the birds and bees to you, but the bottom line is that men’s skin is thicker, dryer, and typically oilier than women’s. Because men have thicker skin with wider pores, they deposit more sebum and oil onto their skin, which requires soap with a little more “oomph” to get them clean. Additionally, they lose more moisture, which leaves their skin dry and rough.
As such, men need a soap that cleans thoroughly, maintains moisture, and is gentle enough that it doesn’t contribute to inflammation, itching, or dryness. The best choice for these needs is an all natural men’s soap. All natural soaps eschew rough detergents, like sulfates, in favor of real soap. This means that natural soap is less likely to cause dry skin or inflammation, particularly for people with sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, or other skin conditions.
Additionally, natural soaps come with masculine, manly scents. Packer’s Pine, for example, smells like an old growth forest, full of evergreen trees. If you’ve ever wanted to wear flannel and work with pine, spruce, and larch, Packer’s Pine is the scent for you. Other natural soaps may use ingredients like mint, eucalyptus, coffee, or other materials to soothe the skin, gently exfoliate, and otherwise maintain the best possible skin health.
What should I look for in a men’s soap?
The first thing to avoid is any product that contains sulfates, paraben, or formaldehyde. Instead, look for products that include glycerin, which naturally moisturizes your skin. Next, look for other natural ingredients in your soap that promote healing. Shea butter, pine tar, aloe vera, eucalyptus, and similar ingredients are great options for a healing soap or shampoo.
If you have rough, flaky skin, you can also look for soaps with a natural exfoliant. You will notice this either in the ingredients list or by feeling the soap bar itself. Some soaps may include sodium chloride (otherwise known as salt), which can help remove dead skin and grime from the surface of the skin. Other products may include coffee grounds, apricot kernels, minerals, or other ingredients with a rough texture that can help scrape away dead skin and soilage. These products are a great tool, but should be used with caution, especially around the face. While they may feel satisfying and extra “clean,” exfoliating daily can cause microabrasions that build up over time and end up damaging your skin, rather than protecting it. Exfoliating once or twice a week should be plenty for most skin types.
Do men have other skincare needs besides soap?
Yes! In addition to soap, you should also be moisturizing your skin. Using a neutral, unscented lotion will help keep your skin moisturized and protected. Dry skin flakes and cracks more easily, exposing your skin to potentially harmful bacteria. Keeping your skin appropriately moisturized will not only keep it from itching and hurting, but it will also keep your skin healthier, looking better, and feeling softer.
You should also do your best to keep your skin protected from the sun. If you are a man (or woman) who works outdoors, this is particularly important. Not only will the sun age you prematurely, you are at a significantly higher risk of skin cancer. Using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and working with long sleeves will protect you from harmful UV rays and reduce your risk of developing cancer in your later years.
Look for a daily sunscreen with SPF 30 at a minimum. Be sure to use higher strength sunscreens if you spend more time outdoors, and reapply as necessary. While many men may imply that sunscreen is for sissies, they may not feel the same when a surgeon has to slice off pieces of their face every few years once they hit 50.
To summarize, men have a variety of important skincare needs. The most important things to remember are to use a gentle, healing soap to remove excess oil, moisturize with lotion, and use sunscreen daily.