Saving face

1 Oct 2006 by business traveller

Is your skin dry and sensitive?

Symptoms Your skin feels tight, dehydrated and uncomfortable. It may be easily irritated and look blotchy.

The cause This skin type can be the result of your genes or exposure to irritants and the environment. The latter in particular affects frequent flyers – constant changes in climate and humidity levels leave the skin's defence mechanisms running to catch up.

Whatever the cause of dryness and sensitivity, the result is that the skin's barrier function becomes weakened. Dehydrated skin is vulnerable to cracking and allows potential irritants to penetrate, setting in motion a cycle of stress, irritation and damage. It is thought that this constant low-grade inflammation also has a negative effect on collagen production, leading to skin ageing.

The solution First, here's what not to do. Don't use soap – it just strips the skin of its natural oils and will make your skin drier and potentially more reactive. Try to avoid heavily fragranced products too as they can often be a cause of allergy. Your strategy should be to moisturise your skin regularly to strengthen the barrier and, if you are sensitive too, use products designed for sensitive skin, which will calm and rebalance it. If you have persistent allergies it's worth going to see a dermatologist or allergy specialist.

Try Boots Botanics Sensitive Shave Stick (1), £3.75, with soothing marshmallow for a close shave for easily irritated skin; Nivea for Men's Sensitive range, especially After Shave Extra Soothing Balm (2), £6.30, which are free of colorants and alcohol and contain calming, protective chamomile and vitamin E; L'Occitane Cade After Shave Balm (3), £17, a light, non-tacky texture with shea butter and birchwood sap to soothe redness, tightness and razor burn.

Do you have rosacea?

Symptoms Skin that looks red or flushes easily with broken veins on the cheeks. Small pimples sometimes develop under the redness.

The cause The cause of rosacea isn't known for sure, though stress, extremes of temperature, alcohol and spicy foods are all known to aggravate it. Some studies link the same bacteria that causes ulcers to rosacea, so it may be worth being tested for H. pylori, which can be treated with antibiotics. The severest form is rhinophyma, when the nose goes bumpy and red – but it's pretty rare to get to that stage, especially if you go to your GP for treatment.

The solution Your GP can prescribe special sulphur-containing products and other medicines that are highly effective. In the meantime, choose skincare products that are anti-inflammatory or specifically labelled "anti-redness". Helpful ingredients to look out for include aloe vera, licorice extract, mushroom extracts, chamomile, green tea, evening primrose oil, basil and oats.

Try Medik8 Red Alert (4), £29, which contains vitamin K and helps to fade redness, red veins and rosacea (stockists +44 (0)845 673 2222); B. Kamins Booster Blue Rosacea Treatment (5), £57 (stockists +44 (0)20 8997 8541).

Are you prone to spots or acne?

Symptoms Spots and blackheads.

The cause Stress, hormones and genetics all play a part in whether you suffer spots or, more extremely, adult acne. Although the exact cause is hard to pinpoint, the factors involved are clogged pores, increased oil production and a bacteria in the skin called P. acnes.

The solution If the problem is severe, do see a dermatologist as there are many excellent prescription products to try. For more minor, but regular, skin misbehaviour, look out for products that contain benzoyl peroxide which fights the P. acnes bacteria, anti-bacterial tea tree oil and retinol and salicylic acid, which help to unblock pores, increase cell turnover (so are good if you suffer in-growing hairs in your beard too) and reduce oil. Look for the words "oil-free" on moisturisers.

Try Molton Brown Men Papain Daily Facial Wash (6), £16, a soap-free, tingly cleansing wash that unblocks pores; Clinique Skin Supplies for Men Post Shave Soother (7), £15, an aloe-rich lotion to soothe your skin after shaving which also contains skin-clearing ingredients to prevent spots.

Is your skin tired and lack-lustre?

Symptoms Skin that doesn't glow with health, even after a good night's sleep.

The cause Young, healthy skin reflects light both at its surface and from the sub layers beneath. Scientists at beauty company Olay have found that over time, UV damage from the sun creates various changes in the skin, such as collagen degradation, which means light is absorbed and lost rather than reflected back through the skin. When your skin doesn't reflect light optimally, youthful luminosity is decreased and your skin looks older.

Other contributory factors to lack-lustre skin include stress, smoking and a poor diet – especially one that's low in essential fatty acids (found in oily fish).

The Solution Protect your skin from further damage by using sunscreens from March through to October in the UK and whenever you're going to be in the sun. Regular exfoliation to remove skin-dulling dead cells ensures optimum light reflection from your skin, not to mention the fact that it makes it look and feel smoother. Daily moisturising helps to keep your skin in good condition too. Try one with low levels of fake tan – don't worry, it won't look like make-up – to cheat a sunkissed glow.

Try Boss Skin Healthy Look Face Lotion (8), £29, which moisturises and builds up a healthy, spent-time-outside glow after three days; Biotherm Anti-Dullness Detoxifying Cleanser (9), £16, with thermal plankton to revitalise the skin, caffeine to de-puff and decongest and a detoxifying complex to boost the microcirculation; L'Oreal Men Expert Skin Renovator (10), £4.99, unclogs pores, sloughs off dead skin cells and refines the texture of the skin, leaving it smooth and bright.

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