It’s not your imagination, your skin really is taking one for the team this month. Dryness, zits, dullness — all of a sudden, your face is under attack. The transitional seasons (fall and spring) wreak havoc on men’s skin, and most guys go about combating it the wrong way. “One of the most common mistakes you’ll see is when guys jump in a long, hot shower to fix their dry skin,” says Dan Pettit, co-founder of men’s grooming label Tenzing. “But what they’re really doing is stripping their skin of all its natural oils, which only makes the problem worse.” Here’s what to do instead.
Change your cleanser.
Summer formulas tend to be oil-removers, since the humid air and subsequent sweat cause that slickness on your skin to build up. For fall, you want a cleanser that removes grime without taking your skin’s natural oils with it, leaving your face feeling dry and tight. One to try: Shodai Men’s Face Wash ($20). New to the U.S. market this fall, the Japanese label uses oil from the Hiba (Cypress) tree in northern Japan in its wash. In addition to its rich, lubricating powers, Hiba oil is known for its antimicrobial properties, which help prevent breakouts and heal already-irritated skin.
Skip the sulfates.
You probably have no idea you’ve been washing your face with mineral salts all this time, but they are frequently added to grooming products because they aid in the sudsing action of soaps and shampoos. “In the fall, choose cleansers that don’t have sulfates, because they strip the skin of its natural oils,” says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., a dermatologist in Miami. “This means that your cleanser won’t foam the way you expect it to, but you can still effectively cleanse the skin with a creamy cleanser, while avoiding increased dryness.” A good bet: Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser ($9.99).
Check your beard oil.
All that humidity in the summertime has a surprisingly positive side effect: It helps your beard hair grow thicker and retain its luster. The dry fall air? It sucks the moisture right out of the strands, leaving your facial hair looking dull and lifeless. “In the colder months, your beard is going to get brittle and dry without some assistance,” acknowledges Preston Hage, co-founder of Tenzing. “To get that sheen and soft feeling back, you need to apply an oil to your beard daily. It’s not hard, it’s just about consistency.” For best results, work about a capful (half-teaspoon, for those who get precise about this stuff) up in your hands, then knead your fingers through your beard like you’re giving it a massage. Don’t rinse. Tenzing Pre-Shave Oil ($22) is composed of only natural ingredients, including olive oil, grape seed oil, and castor seed oil. “Castor oil, in particular, has a thicker viscosity than other oils, so it leaves a light, protective coating over the beard,” notes Hage. “It will absolutely restore your shine.”
Go thick with your moisturizer.
In warmer seasons, the humid air prevents the oil on your skin surface from evaporating, allowing it to create a protective barrier between you and the elements. Come fall, the drier, cooler air allows the oil to escape, and suddenly there is no defense between your skin and the particles floating around in the atmosphere. Those toxins adhere to your skin surface, irritating the epidermis and—voila!—breakouts and flakiness ensue. What you need: A thicker cream than you wear in the summer months. “The best way to tackle dry skin in the fall is to change from a lightweight moisturizer to a heavier one,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. Ideally, look for one that is oil- not water-based, and ones that use natural ingredients like aloe and shea butter to help the skin lock in the lubrication. “Cheaper moisturizers use water, but that defeats the purpose since water pulls moisture out of your skin in the first place,” says Pettit.
Give green tea a try.
What’s good for your diet is also good for your skin: “Green tea contains antioxidants, which have anti-aging properties and are good for the complexion,” says Brown. “It also contains catechins, which function as anti-inflammatories and may help extract particles from clogged pores.” Blackheads, a common complaint during the fall season, can be treated using a gentle green tea–based exfoliant, such as St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub ($4.50).
Your summer tan did a great job masking a lot of things, but it left you with a little reminder that too much fun in the sun without enough SPF protection is a bad idea. The good news: Those less-than-attractive brown spots on your face can be greatly decreased with the use of the right product. The even better news: You can prevent them entirely if you follow a consistent regimen of wearing daily SPF. Yes, even in the winter when you can barely see the sun over the horizon.
As for the dealing with the spots you have, here’s help: Lab Series Age Rescue+ Face Lotion ($24) was developed solely for men and contains ingredients that help lighten skin discolorations while also tackling those other byproducts of the sun: Fine lines and wrinkles.
See your dermatologist.
Sometimes, fall’s flaky, irritated skin is more than just a nuisance. Psoriasis, a skin condition where cells multiply at an abnormally high rate and cause scaly red skin, worsens during this time of year. “Decreased humidity can cause psoriasis to flare, leading to dry and itchy skin,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. Look for topical ointments (ask your dermatologist or pharmacist) to control a flare-up.