Although men's skin care routines don't differ much from women's, there are still a few things to consider—especially if you like growing a beard. Keeping skin healthy while you grow that much hair on your face is a delicate balance.
"Although most men consider having a beard to be a low-maintenance venture, the reality is that it can definitely make the choice of skin care even more critical," says New York City-based board-certified Dermatologist Rachel Maiman, MD. "The skin beneath a beard becomes subject to a greater tendency to develop dryness and multiple inflammatory conditions."
So, what are the best ways to prevent dry skin under a beard and address other related skin concerns? You'll want to keep the following five things in mind.
1. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate
A common skin concern that may occur when one has a beard is pseudofolliculitis barbae, or PFB. This is a condition that causes inflamed acne-like bumps to appear in the beard area and occurs when hairs that are shaved or plucked get trapped under the skin. This is especially prevalent for those with naturally coarser and curly hair, which can often become ingrown.
To prevent this, exfoliation is key. Dr. Maiman recommends using a mild chemical exfoliant, such as alpha-hydroxy-acids (which can include glycolic acids, lactic acids, etc.), once or twice a week. If you find your skin is on the drier side, she recommends a gentle scrub to be used once weekly. This will also help with any inflammation and acne.
Dr. Maiman also recommends changing your razor blade every two or three shaves and gliding the razor in the direction of hair growth. You can also opt for an electric razor, which she says will help prevent those red bumps.
2. Use a Beard Oil
The skin beneath a beard is more likely to be dry. Dr. Maiman explains that products are limited in their ability to reach the skin beneath all that hair and that the moisturizer used on the rest of the face may not deliver adequate hydration to that specific area.
Although she still recommends a gentle, hydrating moisturizer, she says men should consider using a beard oil to help moisturize both the hair and the skin underneath the beard. Look for something with ingredients like rosehip, jojoba, and sweet almond oil that are hydrating and non-comedogenic.
You'll also want to opt for a shaving cream over a shave gel. Shaving creams, she explains, can contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and repairing ingredients like allantoin.
3. Wash Beards with Dandruff Shampoo
You might be in the habit of saving the shampoo for the top of your head, but the same issues that affect the scalp can affect a hairy face. So yes, beards can get dandruff, too. Dr. Maiman says that when a beard has dandruff, it will not only have flakes but also inflamed skin. To prevent this, she recommends washing beards using dandruff shampoo with ingredients like ketoconazole or selenium sulfide to soothe any inflammation or redness. If that doesn't work, go and see a Dermatologist for help.
4. Avoid Drying and Irritating Ingredients
One of the best ways to prevent dry skin under beards is to avoid ingredients that will hinder it from getting the moisture it needs. Dr. Maiman identifies the ones to avoid:
- Sulfates: Sulfates, which come under a variety of names, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, are known to dehydrate hair follicles and result in breakage.
- Alcohols: Alcohols strip away a beard's natural moisture and trigger inflammation.
- Mineral oils: These include ingredients like petroleum jelly or paraffin. Mineral oils can seal the hair follicles and impair their ability to absorb moisture. It can also prevent other products from penetrating the follicle and working effectively.
- Dimethicone: This ingredient is known to clog pores, and using it on the beard can result in acne.
5. Use a Hybrid Sunscreen
Even though a beard provides the skin with some coverage from the sun, harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can still penetrate to reach the skin and create problems if you don't use the right protection. You still need to wear sunscreen every day.
Dr. Maiman recommends using a hybrid sunscreen, given that an all-physical sunscreen is more likely to leave a white cast on the skin, which can be extra noticeable on the face. Always apply sunscreen after moisturizer and rub it in well so that it's not just sitting on the beard. Something like EltaMD's UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is super lightweight and blends in easily while giving you the ultimate sun protection.
There you have it. Making sure skin stays moisturized while you're growing out does take special care, but it's easy with these five steps. Now, get out there and sport that beard with pride.