03/20/2012 01:05 pm ET Updated May 20, 2012

Are You a Renaissance Man?

I have quite a large number of male patients, who come to my practice with a toiletry kit full of skin care products. They either want to know if I approve of the products that they are using or they want suggestions for new products since the old ones are not meeting their needs. Men are clearly becoming more aware of the importance of their skin and the burgeoning number of skin care products available.

Who are these men who are so interested in skin care? Initially I thought of them as "Metrosexuals." An on-line definition for "Metrosexual" reported that the term was coined in 1994 and derived from the words "metropolitan" and "heterosexual" to describe a man who spends a lot of time and money on shopping for his appearance. Urban Dictionary specifically addresses skin care in its ten definitions of a Metrosexual. It states that "You might be "metrosexual" if: #6. You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and moisturize". But the term Metrosexual leaves me less than satisfied because it does not exactly capture who these male patients are or their motivation.

The term also has a slightly negative connotation. I think the term "Renaissance Man" comes closer to capturing the essence of these men. To paraphrase an on-line definition of a "Renaissance Man," he is someone who seeks to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments, and in the arts. My male patients want to learn as much as they can about their bodies and they want to take the very best care of their bodies, which, of course, includes their skin.

Science has taught us that the bodies of men and women are different. As you would expect, there are several comparative differences between the skin of men and women that necessitate different skin care products. These differences include:

  • Thicker epidermis (top layer of skin)
  • Thicker dermis (lower layer of skin)
  • Larger pores
  • More facial hair growth on the face
  • Increased oil production
  • Increased sweating

It is no surprise that men ask me for skin care products that will reduce their oil, promote smooth bump-free beard skin, allow the pores to appear smaller, even skin tone and minimize the signs of aging. The active ingredients in these products must also be able to penetrate the thicker skin that men have to get in and work. What are the essential products that men need to achieve their goals and where can they find them? Generally, I recommend the following products for my male patients: a gentle cleanser that reduces excess oil, a SPF 15 or higher sunscreen that is not greasy or sticky, a shaving cream that hydrates the skin and softens the beard hair, a hydrating moisturizer particularly for the winter, and an anti-aging product (cream, lotion or serum formulation) before bed.

Fortunately, there are a host products formulated specifically to address the skin care concerns of men that are sold at mass (think drugstore) including Dove Men, Nivea Men, Neutrogena Men, Vaseline Men and Gillette products. There are also more expensive products that are sold at prestige (department stores and specialty skin stores) including Lab Series, Anthony, Jack Black, The Art of Shaving and eshu, just to name a few.

With all of these options, if you still don't know which skin care products to buy or even where to buy them, visit your dermatologist (preferably a woman because we are often more in tuned to skin care product offerings). Another option is to investigate Urban Cargo ( Here is how Urban Cargo works. You pay $12 each month, and Urban Cargo will send you a customized package of high-end skin care products (cleansers, shaving creams, shampoos, etc...) for you to try. You can decide which products you like and work for you. Then you can purchase the full size product at the Urban Cargo website. Some of the brands that they have include Alchimie Forever, Baxter of California, John Masters Organics, Kyoku For Men, Suki, and Wash With Joe. Will one product work the same for every man? Of course, not. That's the benefit of being able to try different products and at the same time become more aware of your skin type and skin care concerns.

On a final note, my husband is the type of man who usually stays with the tried and true. I gave him a 3-month subscription to Urban Cargo. I am looking forward to him becoming my favorite Renaissance man. We will see how it goes.

Disclosure: I have no financial interest in any of the brands or sites mentioned in this blog.