For almost my entire adult life, I’ve been asked about my skin–specifically, what kind of products I use for my face. Most of the time, the questions would come from women, but a lot of the times (discreetly) from men as well.
At this point, it might be helpful to give a little bit of color on where I’m coming from. Many of you know, but but for those who don't, before Soko Glam I spent more than eight years on active duty in the United States Army as a combat arms officer, serving almost the entire time overseas (including a deployment to the Middle East).
I’ve experienced extreme weather conditions (over 130°F in the desert and -30°F in the arctic tundra) and gone weeks without clean, running water. To say the least, my skin has taken quite a beating. But even through all of this, I still get compliments on my skin. How? Sure, everyone is born with different skin, but I thought I’d share how I’ve approached skincare all these years.
A photo of me (on the right) with two of my brothers (Andy and Ethan)
First, I have to give my mom some major props. As Charlotte has mentioned before, in Korea skin care is just a part of the culture. I remember when I was a young, overweight elementary school kid (with coke-bottle glasses and braces), my mom taught me to always, always wear sunscreen and use facial soap for my face -- not bar soap, which is too harsh for your face. Skincare is all about prevention and being proactive, so I’m thankful for being educated at such a young age. But no worries if you weren’t as lucky, because it’s never too late to start.
Products from my current regime
I actually generally stick to the 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine because I've seen the results. I'm a believer in taking steps that will prevent, treat, and protect. But I do realize that this could be a bit daunting for someone just starting out. In the military, we often used the concept of “crawl, walk, then run” – this is no different, especially when it comes to changing something you do everyday. So to start, I recommend these three basic, easy steps that will go a long way:
1) Use a gentle cleanser. Don’t use bar soap or hand soap. Let’s think about this one. Why would you wash your face with the soap that you wash your unmentionables with? Without getting too deep into the chemistry of things, let’s just say that the skin on your face is unique and has different needs than skin elsewhere on your body (think: pores, oil glands, pH balance, etc.). I use both the Banila Co Clean it Zero Classic (oil-based cleanser) and the Skinfood Green Tea Bubble Cleansing Foam (water-based cleanser). If you’re intrigued, you can check out Charlotte's post on the double cleansing method.
2) Apply moisturizer. Think of those nice leather shoes you have. What happens to it when they go dry and untreated? They crack and start breaking down. Your face is more important than your shoes, so give your mug more attention. Ever heard of the phrase “you judge a man by his shoes”? How about by his face? I use the Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel (for day) and the Missha Time Revolution Immortal Night Cream (for night).
3) Apply SPF protection daily. I apply SPF on my face every, single day without fail. It’s not only for the day at the beach or sports. UV rays are what’s most damaging to the skin. I always think back to this photo of a truck driver. One half of his face is dramatically more damaged than the other due to it being the side that faces the window (sun). Apply and reapply daily. I use either Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 or the Missha Waterproof Sun Milk.
Truck Driver with half of face sun damaged
A lot of people have asked us what products men should use, but here is the biggest misconception: You shouldn't be buying your skincare products based on your assigned gender: you need to buy skincare based on your skin type and conditions. Most gender-specific products only differ by fragrance and packaging; the formulation is no different.
Early Soko Glam days in Seoul with Jessica from SNSD and Banila Co.
Hope this article demystified men’s skincare even a little bit. If you identify as male and you're reading this, just know that you’re not alone. Believe it or not, we get a lot of emails from men asking about skincare and they've reported back that they're loving their new routine. If you’re not male, I hope this was insightful and you can share this blog post with your father, brother, husband, son or friend.