For the man deciding to embark on a responsible skin-care regimen (or for the woman deciding on his behalf), the flood of new products to the market over the last year and a half makes that first baby step a confusing one. While Dr. Harold Lancer recommends exfoliating the face to remove dead skin cells, then cleaning the skin to remove dirt and oils, then repairing damage (which includes, but is not limited to, hydrating the skin with a moisturizer), if he was forced to pick just one step, it would be using an exfoliant.
"But," he points out, "if you're a beginner and you're starting in the $9.95 [drugstore] category, probably the single best thing to do would be to buy a combination facial scrub and cleanser."
To that end, we took his advice and speed-dated a handful of male-specific skin scrubs — most of which do at least double duty (and sometimes more).
Gillette Fusion ProSeries Thermal Facial Scrub (3.3 ounces, $6.99)
In June 2010, Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand rolled out a quartet of skin-care products clustered around the traditional morning shave ritual, including a face scrub that heats up on contact with water, warming the face and softening the beard at the same time as the skin is being exfoliated and cleaned (making it a "three-fer"). The only slightly disconcerting thing about it is its light blue color, which makes it look like a toothpaste. Which could cause an awful mistake.
Although it's not the first men's pre-shave to crank up the heat via a chemical interaction, its recognizable name, bright orange-blue-and-silver NASCAR-worthy packaging and familiar Gillette scent make it a good point of entry for the skittish skin-care neophyte.
Dove Men+Care Deep Clean (Two 4.25-ounce bars for $3.99)
The brand's first-ever product line created specifically for men rolled out in December 2009, and was featured in a high-profile commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl. That's no doubt because there's a lot to overcome — starting with the awkward name (do you pronounce the "plus" or is it "and"?) and ending with the fact that it's essentially a curved bar of Dove soap that's sitting in your soap dish — which seems kind of feminine. (The line also includes a scrubbing tool for the shower and a face and body wash).
But since this version (there are two others) of the bar contains "purifying grains," cleanser and Dove's traditional "one-quarter moisturizing cream," you've got the entire skin-care trifecta in the palm of your hand. If you heed the packaging suggestion and use it on the face and body, it practically becomes the shower stall equivalent of the Swiss army knife.
Neutrogena Men Razor Defense Face Scrub (4.2 ounces, $5.99)
Johnson & Johnson launched its line of Neutrogena Men facial cleansers in 2008, and Mintel's recent survey of the men's grooming industry singled it out as the only brand that's distributed through food, drug and mass merchandise stores that gained market share — up 37% between June 2009 and June 2010.
Although the full product range includes a hydrating eye reviver, a post-shave balm and a handful of moisturizers that range in SPF from 15 to 30, one needs to look no further than the Razor Defense Face Scrub to see why the line has proved popular. A tame-looking oil-free, dye-free and non-pore-clogging white paste with a mild soapy scent that's served up in a simple black-and-white tube, it packs a wallop, and just a dime-sized dollop is all that's needed to leave the face feeling clean, smooth and primed for the morning's ritual razor-dragging.
Dermalogica Daily Clean Scrub (4 ounces, $25)
Part of a suite of Dermalogica men's shaving products that have been around for a couple of years, these scrubs are color-coded with red caps to stand out from the rest of the line so you don't have to ask for help finding them (since guys notoriously don't ask for directions). This is actually a twofer (or what the grooming industry calls "dual action") — exfoliating (thanks to tiny beads of silica) and cleaning the face at the same time, leaving the face fresh and shave-ready.
Its simple, straightforward packaging gives it a vaguely science-lab feel, and its lack of artificial colors or fragrances will appeal to the morning-ritual minimalist. Follow the shave with a pea-sized squirt of Dermalogica's Daily Defense Block SPF 15 and you've accomplished another twofer — hydrating the skin and providing sun protection at the same time.