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By Charley A. Prescott

Women dig guys with healthy skin just like guys appreciate women with flawless complexions. But improving your skin is not solely about aesthetic appeal, or even feeling good. It symbolizes a personal health investment for the future. It says you want to look good today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

Quality personal care products are available at all price levels. When it comes to shopping for skin care products, don’t buy the first thing you find. It pays to do your research and look for products that will suit your needs. We spoke with Erika Rucker, a licensed esthetician in North Carolina who works at Chakras Salon & Spa in Greensboro. She gave us these five tips for better skin care.

Cleanse

Rucker said that, when choosing a cleanser, stay away from products with fragrances and avoid soaps. They leave a film on your skin, clog pores and frequently cause irritation. A man’s skin is 20 percent thicker than a woman’s, she said, because it is richer in elastin and collagen. Because men have larger pores, it is also much oilier. Cleansing is important because it removes the daily buildup of dirt and oil. We know it’s tempting to grab that bar of deodorant soap in the shower and use it for your entire body, including your face. Unless the bar of soap is a noncomedogenic product — meaning it does not clog pores — it could negatively affect the skin on your face by drying it out.

Exfoliate

Exfoliation is an essential step in skin care routine. But does it benefit your face? Aside from removing dead skin cells and revealing healthier skin, exfoliation helps to clean debris out of pores. Said Rucker, “By using a gentle exfoliant two to three times a week, your skin is better prepped for shaving, and you are less likely to deal with ingrown hairs and inflammation. Avoid harsh scrubs with nuts and shells because they will tear and irritate your skin.” If you think you will forget to exfoliate a few times a week, countless brands offer two-in-one products in the form of exfoliating cleansers, which save time and money.

Moisturize

Regardless of skin type, moisturizer is an integral park of skin care regimen. “Even oily skin needs to be moisturized. Make sure you use the appropriate moisturizer for your skin type and, when applying, don’t forget your neck,” Rucker said. “For men who shave, aloe vera is outstanding because it contains nutrients such as A, C and E, which help heal irritation. The polysaccharides found in this plant form a barrier that prevent the moisture loss often caused by shaving.”

Apply SPF

For any number of reasons — skin color, lifestyle — many men believe they can omit SPF from their health and grooming routines. If you are a man who wants to maintain his youthful good looks, we suggest using SPF on a daily basis. As a rule of thumb, go with 20 SPF for everyday use and 30-plus SPF when you will be outdoors for a long period of time. In such cases, reapply every two hours. Sunscreen breaks down in the sun.

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Eat a balanced diet

Taking care of skin is not limited to what you put on your face. It also matters what you put in your face. If you want healthy skin, exercise and proper nutrition are fundamental in helping to fight the effects of aging. Along with consuming the right foods, proper nutrition includes drinking lots of water. Green tea is a powerhouse item that is used topically and consumed in the form of tea. With phytochemicals that help to reduce acne, it offers anti-aging properties for men and women. According to WebMD, “Health experts say that vitamins and minerals in all forms play an integral role in a healthy complexion, whether the source is food, supplements, or even a jar of cream.”

What foods promote healthy skin?

These four fruits — blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums — are loaded with antioxidants that help to protect cells from free radical damage. Additional fruits and vegetables packed with antioxidants include artichokes, prunes and black, red and pinto beans.

Low-fat dairy products such as yogurt are rich in Vitamin A. In addition to providing the body with Vitamin A, low-fat yogurt contains acidophilus, a “good” bacteria that aids in digestion.

Essential fatty acids are fundamental dietary components for healthy skin. Excellent sources of omega-3 include salmon, walnuts and flax seed oil. Adding foods with essential fatty acids to a diet can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, prevent cancer cell growth and reduce the risk of becoming obese.

Healthy oils labeled as extra virgin, cold-pressed or expeller-processed are loaded with nutrients that encourage skin hydration. The least-processed forms of healthy oils, such as olive oil, provide high levels of the powerful antioxidant polyphenol.

Selenium-rich foods such as whole-wheat bread, tuna, turkey and brazil nuts also work to create healthy skin cells.

In terms of general lifestyle choices, Rucker says, “Shy away from excessive alcohol, smoking and make sure you get ample rest. If not, these factors will decrease blood flow and bring about the onset of premature aging.” When it comes to the average male, taking a quality multivitamin and eating a balanced diet are practical ways to consume the nutrients that are essential for healthy skin. If good dietary practices are adopted along with the use of top-notch skin care products, a man is taking the proper steps to better his complexion.

(Charley A. Prescott is a freelance writer who specializes in fashion and grooming.)