Summer’s Here: Keep Your Skin Clear

Ah, summer, at last: surfboards and swizzle sticks, swimmies and softball mitts … and skin that’s so burned, dry or broken out, you can forget about shaving. To avoid the latter -- yep, it’s avoidable -- we sought advice from two pros who’ve seen more than their fair share of damaged dermis. And if you, like us, insist on doing everything bad for you anyway, we’ve got recovery strategies so you can soon return to your favorite summertime activities -- and regular shaving regimen -- without having added years to your face.

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
As the owner of the Alma G. Salon in Manhattan -- a favorite of celebs, including Ashton Kutcher and freshman “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler -- Alma G. is a firm believer in preventive measures to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Wearing sunblock is foremost among her precautions. “I recommend SPF 30 for your face and 15 or higher for everywhere else,” she says. “Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside to let it fully soak in. If you’re engaging in activities where you’re sweating a lot, reapply a couple of times during the day.”

Daniela Pranjic, spa manager of the Paradisus Punta Cana and the Paradisus Palma Real resorts in the Dominican Republic, encounters many guests who -- having been pent up all winter in North America -- zip off to the Caribbean for a quick dose of sun and sand only to come back looking like a roast. “You need to take it easy, especially in those first few days,” says Pranjic. Before you jeer at those clueless vacationers, note that the same applies to the early days of summer, wherever you live. To prepare for your first big spate of outdoor activities, Pranjic recommends drinking lots of water and juices. Clothing-wise, a hat and sunglasses are a must, and she also suggests UV-protective shirts.

Can’t wait to hit the pool? Go for it, but note that chlorine can deliver a one-two punch: stripping away your sunscreen and drying out your skin. To deal with the latter, just remember to re-lube after getting out of the water. You won’t need sunblock for a nighttime dip, but you might consider rubbing on some baby oil, which will repel the chlorine from your skin and thus keep it from drying out. And though chlorine kills germs in the water -- a good thing -- it’s not so good for your face. “It will make you more prone to blackheads and whiteheads,” says Alma G., “so it’s important to exfoliate after you’ve been in the pool.”

If chlorine is killing your complexion no matter what precautions you take, try going for a dip in the ocean instead. Although it’s still important to wear sunscreen, saltwater can work wonders for the skin. “It acts like a scrub and dries out irritations,” says Alma G. Surprisingly, blowing sand can also have benefits, acting as an exfoliant. But if you’re going to spend an extended period of time exposed to this ocean-side loofa, make sure to slather on a good moisturizer before and after, lest your skin become raw.

… and Recovery
OK, so you got carried away frolicking in the ocean with your summer crush and forgot to reapply your sunblock. And now you’ve turned a disturbing shade of fuchsia. Not to worry: Alma G. has a host of home remedies in her arsenal to soothe and rehydrate burning skin. Capsules of vitamin E, split open and gently spread over the affected areas, will expedite the healing process, as will aloe vera or olive oil. A slightly more time-consuming treatment Alma G. swears by is mixing whole milk and sweet apples in a blender to create a masque for the burned areas. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to yank off the peeling skin that will inevitably appear a few days after your ill-fated rendezvous with the sun -- the new skin underneath will be extremely vulnerable, especially on your face. We know that’s a tall order, but find some bubble wrap to pop instead and leave your poor skin alone.


Razor Technology: 2011

Keeping up with the latest trends in music (Yolanda Be Cool in, OneRepublic out) and technology (iPad in, Nokia smartphones out) is easy. But razor technology is a different story. Even though razors are an every day essential, it’s hard to keep track of what’s new, hot and different. And forget about asking the store stock guy for help on the subject. (You’ll be lucky if he’s even able to direct you to the razors.)

So here’s a primer on the two chart-topping cartridge razors, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide and Wilkinson’s Quattro Titanium Precision, and one best-selling electric razor, the Braun Pulsonic 790cc -- with insight from Michael Gilman, blogger for his site,

Gillette Fusion ProGlide

This upgrade to the world’s best-selling shaving system, the five-blade Fusion, incorporates a blade with thinner edges that’s covered in a low-resistance coating to slice with less tug and pull. A blade stabilizer has been added to keep the blades properly spaced apart, and the Lubrastrip is 25 percent bigger to help the razor glide across the face more easily. “Gillette has probably maxed out the number of blades at five, so they’re focusing now on making the quality of the blades better, and a better moisture strip,” says Gilman. “They succeed here.”

Wilkinson Quattro Titanium Precision

The main concept behind Wilkinson’s new razor is the combination of three technical systems: It’s a regular razor with four blades, a contour cutter and a trimmer in one. To get beards and chops in shape, men formerly had to use an additional electrical trimmer. In the new Wilkinson product it is included in the handle of the razor. It works with an integrated battery and can be used with or without shaving foam. The adjustable comb in the trimmer can cut hair to four different lengths between 0.3 and 6.0 millimeters. “Since it’s waterproof you can use the trimmer in the shower, too,” says Gilman. “That’s useful.”

Braun Pulsonic 790cc

Braun’s proprietary Pulsonic Technology oscillates the electric 790cc at 10,000 micro-vibrations per minute to help deliver an outstanding close and comfortable shave. Its two shaving surfaces also pivot and flex to contour the face, and you can clean, lubricate and dry the shaver with a simple press of a button. “There’s a lot of validity to the Pulsonic Technology. Barbers will do an aggressive massage with their hands to get the whiskers loose and the face putty-like for a better shave. It’s the same basic idea here,” says Gilman.

Are You Getting a Cutting-edge Shave?

Your old man can be useful for some things. He probably taught you how to throw a ball, how to change a tire, how to tie a necktie -- all timeless techniques. But do yourself a favor: Forget whatever lessons he gave you on shaving. Razor technology and the understanding of how to treat your skin have improved dramatically since he was your age, when computers took up a whole room and guys thought Cher was hot. To get the best shave possible, read this up-to-date advice on methods and products, gleaned from true shaving experts. Then maybe pass it along to Dad.

  1. The cold-water myth.
    If Dad ever said that a preshave splash of cold water to the face is the key to a brisk and clean-cut razor treatment, he’s all wet -- never mind if that’s what soldiers in World War II movies do. “A hot shower or hot towel to the face before the shave opens up the pores and softens the hair,” says David Petersen, owner of Rudy’s Barbershop in Seattle. This allows for a much smoother, easier and closer cut.
  2. Real men don’t dry-shave.
    A generation ago, guys considered themselves manlier if they treated their skin like a cow’s hide. Today, “moisturizer” and “exfoliation” are no longer dirty words. Using a preshave product is the first step to protecting the skin and preparing it for the razor by reducing friction and improving glide. “With the use of preshave products, you can minimize a lot of the hazards of shaving, like razor burn, cuts and nicks,” says famed Hollywood barber William Gornik.

    Use a natural-bristle shaving brush to apply the shave cream. “I highly recommend it. I really would not shave without using one for preparation,” Gornik says. It generates lather, opens pores, sweeps away dead skin and raises facial hair.

  3. Razors do make a difference.
    In Dad’s younger days, a razor with two blades was a revelation. Now some boast five -- not to mention lubrication strips, pivoting heads, low-resistance blade coatings, and even anti-clogging rinse slots. The overall difference is a “cleaner and more consistent cut,” according to Peterson.

    But just as your facial contours and the thickness and consistency of your facial hair are unique, so are the results you’ll get from different razors. “Since today’s razors can be so sharp and aggressive, I recommend experimenting to find which ones work best for you,” says Gornik.

  4. It ain’t over when you think it’s over.

    Dad probably implied that once the last patch of stubble is shaved, your job is essentially done. He was wrong. “To finish the process, you need to close the pores,” says Peterson. This is the time to splash on cold water. Afterward, apply an aftershave balm to keep the pores closed and to moisturize the skin, allowing it to maintain its strength and health.

Shaving SOS: Your 5 Most Common Problems, Solved

For you, getting nicks, bumps and ingrown hairs from shaving is as much a regular fact of life as the sun rising in the morning and Lindsay Lohan getting arrested sometime after it sets. The good news is, your shaving problems aren’t necessarily caused by your skin, hair or genes. Instead, the culprits are often just poor tools and technique -- which are simple to remedy. Here are the five most common shaving problems, along with advice from skin and hair experts on how to make them disappear. Too bad Lindsay Lohan can’t work the same magic with her police record.

Problem No. 1: Razor Burn
These are the patches of red, irritated skin that appear within minutes of shaving. They’re extremely sensitive and really hurt when you’re working up a sweat. Eliminating razor burn is simple; you just need to soften the skin before taking razor to face. “You should always shave after you take a shower,” says Martial Vivot, owner of Salon Pour Hommes in New York City. “The steam softens the hair and makes it stand up and softens the skin.”

Problem No. 2: Nicks
Wouldn’t it be nice to throw out that styptic pencil forever? Gushers are actually easy to avoid. The keys: Use a sharp razor, glide the blade gently across the face without applying too much pressure, and take as few passes over the face as possible. “The more passes you take over a spot with the razor blade, the worse it is for your skin,” says Ben Davis, owner of the Gent’s Place barbershop and spa outside of Dallas. As for your razor cartridge, Davis advises replacing it weekly. “You can’t use a cartridge for more than a week, or else it’ll get too dull.”

Problem No. 3: Ingrown Hair
This is when hair grows inside the follicles and beneath the surface of the skin. Doctors call it pseudofolliculitis barbae, but you just call it a pain in the neck. Literally. Preventing ingrown hairs is a many-step process. The preshave shower  helps quite a bit, along with always shaving with the grain of the whiskers and not against it. Davis also suggests using a shave brush (preferably made from badger hair) to apply shaving cream: “It acts as a natural exfoliant, brushing away the outer layer of dead skin. And when you use circular motions, it helps push the hairs on the face out and creates a better lather for the shave cream.”

Problem No. 4: Barber’s Itch
These are the red bumps that look like a rash or even infected pimples. Sometimes they’re caused by ingrown hair, but often they’re from staph bacteria that enter the follicles or the skin through small cuts on the face. Davis recommends the following: 1) Rinse your razor thoroughly with hot water before you use it; 2) Apply a citrus-based preshave oil to your skin before the shave cream, to act as an antibacterial agent; 3) Use an aftershave lotion when you’re done “to seal the pores so nothing enters your bloodstream.”

Problem No. 5: Dry Skin
Simple solution: “When you’re done shaving, always use a moisturizer,” says Vivot, adding that you should reapply it at night. “You’ll find that it will make your shaving easier in the morning.”

The 1st Annual MLT Razor Awards

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Over the last year, it’s become pretty obvious that facial hair is here to stay -- though not necessarily as a permanent fixture -- on the faces of many of your favorite famous faces. Some grew fuzz, shaved it off, then started over. Some stopped shaving altogether and grew full-out bushy beards. Other perma-shaved, clean-cut, all-American guys continued to inspire the rest of us.

To honor these beacons of facial hair management, we hereby institute the first ever Annual MLT Razor Awards. Here are the winners:

Most Stylish World Cupper: GERARD PIQUE
This devilishly handsome soccer player from Argentina even got reluctant females to watch soccer right to the last match! Sure, he’s got those dark eyes and that solid jaw. But how sexy is his well-trimmed beard? Folliclewise, note the tidiness of his cheek area. And check out the well-proportioned neck margins (where the beard ends and the rest of the neck prevails). His facial hair practically spells out “winner.”

Best Return-to-the-Razor: BRAD PITT

One would have though Pitt was working on the next Pirates of the Caribbean installment this past year, what with that rubber-banded growth protruding from his face that practically screamed “Ahoy!” Brave? Aye! But why cover up that perfect mug? Pitt bladed his face to its full former glory this summer. (Just for the record, we would shave every day for the rest of our lives if the good Lord were to gift us a face like his.)

Best Nouveau Goatee: TIM MCGRAW and KOBE BRYANT

The singer and the athlete tie for making this somewhat-tired, ubiquitous growth style seem cool and new again. Perfectly trimmed -- but not over-shaped -- their look whispers masculine and confident.

Best Use of Goatee to Reveal Character Traits by a Superhero:
Our favorite superheroes always have smooth cheeks … and we love them for it! But RDJ in Iron Man 2 used his razor skilfully while growing a rebel goatee. A superhero using facial growth to tell us about his inner demons? We consider this revolutionary.

Best Post-prepster Icon:
Here’s the perfect marriage of a bare, smooth, boyish face and the markings of maturity. CNN’s intrepid reporter Cooper remains boyish with his clean shave; but his silver-fox hair reminds us he’s been around -- and knows what he’s talking about!


Best Perma-staches:
EDDIE MURPHY, JOHN WATERS (both pencil styles) and HULK HOGAN (horseshoe)
These guys are the die-hards: lifelong members of the Mustache Hall of Fame. To these men, we say: Congrats for staying true to your trademark growth.

Best Return-to-work De-bearding:
Hamm is a clean-shaven style icon on the TV series “Mad Men” (even if he is always on the verge of 5 o’clock shadow). Yet he had let loose on his hiatus with a full beard this year (perhaps to show off his facial hair’s range?). Most of us were relieved to find the barefaced Don Draper we love and admire when the new season started. For now, his position as Modern Retro American Style Paragon is safe.

Greatest Facial Hair Versatility:
Gosling has looked fantastic with a nerd mustache, roll-out-of-bed stubble, a college boy’s full beard and a preppy, clean-shaven look … all in the span of 12 months! Our co-workers would totally mock us if we ever attempted this!


Best Swashbuckling Beard:
Gyllenhaal needed something to compensate for that “abbreviated” battle outfit he dons in Prince of Persia. Luckily, he gets to wear a skilfully manicured just-barely-there beard that makes him look both rugged and noble.


The Clean-shaven Icon Award: JULIO IGLESIAS

The multilingual singer from Spain, loved the world over, has seldom dabbled with facial follicles over the almost half century he’s serenaded us. And true to form, this past year, Iglesias kept his chiseled face tan and classically clean-shaven.



Meanwhile, his son, ENRIQUE, definitely wins the award for Best Soul Patch! Hats off to a discreet hair tuft on a face every bit as smooth and handsome as daddy’s.