Why is it so hard to get men to do skin care?

It might be the fact that so many men don’t talk about it themselves. Jesus, 33, touches on how discussing skin care among men is frowned upon for Latinos.

“Skin care is one of those topics where when you’re around other Latino males, you don’t share your skin care regimen, and they’ll actually make fun of you if you do. It’s only if the alpha male of the group shares something and then says, ‘Hey, I use this, you should use it.’”

David, 60, also confirms that boys and men often tease each other about their skin and never discuss tips or their personal regimen. “Skin care only comes up among guys if it’s teasing. Like, ‘Look at you, your ankles are ashy!’ Barbershop jokes like that.”

A lot of times, skinterventions come off as nagging. In reality, we just care.

Let’s face it: Getting the guy in your life to care about his skin can be complicated. You have to consider their skin type and needs, emotions and personality type, and your own credibility.

I’ll never forget how I deliberately avoided helping an ex-boyfriend for fear of destroying his feelings. He wasn’t using the right shaving product to protect him from razor bumps. His neck looked like he had taken a cheese grater to it.

Instead of helping him myself, I relied on my dad to intervene and show him his skin products. My ex never took the advice, but the memory always made me wonder: Are there better ways — other ways — to get guys to take care of their skin? How can we get the men in our lives to start moisturizing, sunscreening, exfoliating, and treating their acne?

To get a better sense of skintervention approaches and experiences — the good, the bad, and the ugly — I reached out to some of my closest friends and family members.

Here are their experiences.

Start by using a gentle approach

When it comes to her brother, Candice, 26, knows that she has to ease in the recommendations. He doesn’t like it when she tells him what to do and will tell her off when she does.

“I have to really ease him into things. I noticed that he was getting heat bumps, so I said, ‘Hey, I notice that your skin is breaking out. What are you doing to take care of it? Is it working for you?’”

When he told her that he was just using bar soap, she recommended an exfoliating scrub. “He tried it and was like, ‘Yo, this [bleep] is dope! I’m about to keep using this!’”

When it comes to skin care in heteronormative spaces, Jussie, 26, notes that he has to be direct, as skin care never comes up.

Candice also uses this approach with her boyfriend, adding, “Men don’t know anything about cleansers or moisturizers, so I had to encourage him to exfoliate as well. He’s still using bar soap for the most part, but now he exfoliates once a week.”

Definitely avoid judgment and bullying

Spoiler alert: This is the least effective approach on helping anyone improve their skin. Please don’t ever do this!

Monique, 30, never had any skin issues in her family and was at a complete loss when she saw her younger nephew with acne.

“His friends would tease him. They had clear skin and facial hair. He had moved to a bigger city, and his looks were becoming more important to him. I think his acne brought his swag down, and he’s a handsome little fella. And no one likes acne.”

“I told him, ‘You need to wash your face more. And change your pillowcases.’” She also asked him, “Who put their dirty hands on you? Who is touching your face?” When he told her that he was washing his face, she could see the embarrassment and frustration.

He’s never asked Monique for help with his skin again, and in retrospect, she understands why.

Use mixed company as an opportunity

Jesus, who previously discussed skin bullying among guys, has had a rare experience of openly discussing skin care with a male friend in mixed company.

“We were working with students, and the girls and guy students would always kinda hang out with us during our breaks. One day, our female students were just hanging out, talking about moisturizers. And that was kinda our chance to get in on the conversation.

Sean told me, ‘Hey Jesus, I see that your skin is kinda oily. You should try this. It’s not that expensive and you can get it at Costco. Trust me, you will thank me.’”

Jesus was floored by the results and has expanded his skin care routine since.

“I saw that my little brother was getting some whiskers, and I asked him was he shaving or not, has he tried it or not. And he had acne a little bit, and I noticed some bumps... and so I said something: ‘This will help.’” — David, 60

Showcase your expertise to build rapport

Jesus also happens to have a cosmetologist mother and licensed massage therapist brother to turn to for additional help.

“I’ve always been able to go to my mom to see which skin products to use. My brother knows about oils for your skin and things like that, so he’s recommended some oils and even cocoa butter for my skin,” he says.

David, who previously noted the importance of skin care on men’s confidence, has a female friend who owns a skin care business.

When looking for product reviews, she’ll give him products to try, ask for his feedback, and jokingly recommend new approaches.

“I’ve been knowing her forever, so she’d be like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve gotta stop using that Vaseline! I told you to stop using that Vaseline!’ And there was some resistance, but she’d say, ‘Look, it works!’ She would educate me.”

Read the room: Find out when to be direct or complimentary

Jussie, 26, has always had flawless skin. His parents promoted skin care to him at an early age, including instilling the importance of staying hydrated. (Trust us, this does wonders for unlocking that inner glow.)

When it comes to skin care in heteronormative spaces, he notes that he has to be direct, as skin care never comes up. (On the contrary, when he’s in LGBTQ+ spaces, compliments seem to work better.)

He works as a dorm parent. When speaking to his male students, Jussie says, “I’m very upfront. [I’ll say], ‘You need lotion. Why? Because your skin is cracking, and it’s not a good look.’”

His Black students tend to appreciate his direct help and associate being called out with embarrassment. “My non-Black students may need a few reminders,” he says. “I don’t think it resonates with them that skin dryness is something they need to be aware of. They’re more concerned with not having pimples or blemishes.”

“I still have the scar to this day. Now I just ask my wife for help with my skin.” — Kobby, 36

Similarly, Erika, 54, who’s battled dry skin issues all her life, has a no-filter approach to getting her husband to moisturize.

“I saw that my husband’s face was really rashy. It was really bad, like a monster! So I just asked him, ‘What’s going on with your face? Have you used a moisturizer?’ I was concerned that his gout came back, because his skin was so rashy. I was worried.”

With her background in skin care products, she was able to recommend a moisturizer, which he willingly tried.

David promotes skin care to young and old men as a marker of professionalism and pride in oneself.

“You want to be presentable, you know… what are you trying to project? My little brother was in high school, so it’s like, ‘Tighten it up. I know you have your [hip-hop] style, but girls still like presentable. You’re gonna want a job, you gotta be presentable. You don’t want to look like a rhinoceros!’”

“[My wife] just told me to start using a moisturizer and things like that. She wasn’t critical or anything. She just wanted to help me.” — Orville, 60

David also mentions giving a skintervention as a way to problem solve. He similarly helped his grandfather find shaving products better suited for thinner skin due to aging.

“I saw that my little brother was getting some whiskers, and I asked him was he shaving or not, has he tried it or not. And he had acne a little bit, and I noticed some bumps... and so I said something: ‘This will help.’”

Both guys were amenable to this type of approach and tried his recommendations.

In rare cases, some men just know who (and when) to ask

Okonkwo, 28, is a self-proclaimed “guy’s guy” and is very confident and stylish. He battled acne as a teenager and has been to a dermatologist.

He’s never talked to another man for help with his skin and relies on his female friends or girlfriends. He assumes that they “know way more about it than guys.” (From my conversations with other men on skin care, he’s right.)

Kobby, 36, struggled with acne as a young man and confirms that asking other men for help with his skin isn’t the best approach.

“I was playing soccer, and my teammate saw a huge zit on my nose. He told me to squeeze it until the pus and blood came out, and then use a pad. So I went home and did that.”

This approach, however, left him scarred. Literally. “I still have the scar to this day. Now I just ask my wife for help with my skin.”

When Orville, 60, experienced recent breakouts due to his vegan diet, he asked his wife for help and appreciated her nonjudgmental approach. “She just told me to start using a moisturizer and things like that. She wasn’t critical or anything. She just wanted to help me.”

And that’s the crux of it all. When skin care tips are dished out — to men and women — it’s an act of care, out of love.


Zahida Sherman is a diversity and inclusion professional who writes about culture, race, gender, and adulthood. She’s a history nerd and rookie surfer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.