Ask Dr. Bailey: Men’s Melanoma Protection for Oily Skin

Cynthia Bailey, MD|July 18, 2016

Men's Skin Care_Main

skin care answers from a dermatologist on the webHi Dr. Bailey, I am hoping you can help me.  I am looking for something for my husband.  He has a very, very strong family history of skin cancer.  My husband is absolutely not fair skinned at all.  I’d say he’d be close to the “tan” in your mineral makeup line.  He grew up in the Midwest in the sun – every day on the lake, never used sunscreen.  Even now he’ll use sunscreen only when he’ll be outside in the sun.  We live north of Seattle so it is hard to win the argument that he needs sunscreen while he drives in the rain… any ideas on how to win that one He is 40 this year?  I drag him in annually to a dermatologist.  So far he’s good.  The two issues I’d like a product to address for him are:

1) Daily skin cancer prevention/protection that is sweat resistant (he drips sweat) and zinc based but truly light and invisible. I bought him one by TerraSport and it works for weekends but he’s in sales (drives a lot) and it leaves a very faint purplish hue on his darker skin.

2) Anti-Aging.  He’s starting to get some very fine lines and he has some ‘skin thickening patches’ (can’t recall what the Dr called them) and some dark spots that I know will bother him once they become more obvious…I’d like to prevent him even being self-conscious about them because he’d just resign himself to it, which sounds like most men do.  

Additionally, I need a product that is easy for him to use – one step in the morning would be best?  If not maybe a morning sunscreen and something he can use in the shower?  He has very oily skin but never had any acne. He hates lotions on his skin – he washes his face once a day with bath-bar soap.  Has for years and never a pimple…. He struggled for a few years with razor burn on his neck (he could shave twice a day) so he uses a scrub I got for him that doesn’t smell feminine and has salicylic acid.  He uses an electric razor in the morning and doesn’t wash his face in the morning as it makes razor burn worse so a sunscreen would need to not sting shaved skin and also not stain his nice clothes as zinc has stained a few shirts.  The trouble is he is pretty resistant to much effort (I think for fear of being too feminine) and he has very oily skin (never any acne) so he hates the way lotions feel on his skin – maybe something like a presoaked pad?  It’s just the lotions feel bad on his skin and he feels a bit “feminine” putting a lot of effort in to his appearance.  I’d love one product that can address all of these things, at most one product and one sunscreen?  Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you,



Dear Sue,

Your husband’s skin and his feelings about skin care are very common.  In fact, you describe many thousands of men that I've treated over the years.  They have this common complexion conundrum:

  1. Skin cancer prone skin living on a sunny planet
  2. Oily skin with a dislike of the feel of product residue on their skin
  3. Minimal interest in applying skin care products

They don't want to get skin cancer and they don't like the brown age spots that slowly crop up over time but they resign themselves to them, as though it's fate.  I love the way you describe the nuances of this scenario including the challenges men face with shaving! Before discussing products, let me clarify that everyone needs sun protection 356 days a year, no matter how far north they live and how many clouds there are between them and the sun.  That's because harmful UVA rays are always out.  UVA rays cause skin cancer (especially melanoma), skin aging, wrinkles and skin fragility and even some of the brown spots that happen with age.  Skin and sun is a bad combination, even in Seattle in the rain.  I do have a very simple skin care routine that many of my male patients use.  My husband uses it too.  It includes a medicated pore-cleaning cleanser, an evening product for skin aging issues, and a morning sunscreen that feels sheer and is invisible on the skin.

Cleanser: Foaming Acne Cleanser

  • It contains 2% salicylic acid (BHA) and 10% glycolic acid (AHA) to help keep the pores clean.
  • It foams nicely to remove skin oil, dirt and the day's sunscreen.
  • It does not smell feminine and the product container is gender and age neutral.
  • It will exfoliate with the combination of BHA and AHA to help remove dull dead skin.

Night Cream to fight the signs of skin aging: Glycolic Acid Face Cream

  • It contains full professional strength 15% glycolic acid which is very powerful and gets the job done while they sleep.
  • The cream loosens the cells that build up on crusty age spots and that hold brown color in all brown age spots.
  • It also helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles 3 important ways:
    • Helping to stimulate the skin’s natural collagen renewal process.
    • Increasing the skin’s production of hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated without oil.
    • Exfoliating dull dead cells to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • It helps to fight razor bumps by exfoliating the skin at the opening of the hair follicles to prevent ingrown hairs.  It stings when applied after shaving so I have men apply it at night and shave in the morning.
  • I have men use the Glycolic Acid Cream on their face and neck.

Day Time Sunscreen: Here you have a few choices, and it's important to pick a product so that there is no reason to avoid using it daily.  Here are a couple of products that men seem to like the best in my practice:

1)  Tinted Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen or Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen SPF 50+ 

  • Tinted Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen
    • This is a new and very high tech sunscreen.
    • It conquers the infamous mineral zinc skin pallor with advanced tinting technology that blends with all skin colors so that the product sits invisibly on the skin while providing the best sun protection available today in my opinion.  This is really important for the face.
    • It has a dry and very sheer feel on the skin as well as oil absorbing technology to fight skin-oil all day long.  People with oily complexions love this product!
    • There are two downsides.  First, it is not an inexpensive product though it is an amazing product.  I call it a “holy grail” product because it’s been that impossible perfect solution for exactly the complexion dilemmas that you describe.
    • The other down side is that the tinting technology can leave a mark on fabric.  For this reason I recommend it for the face and upper sides of the neck.  For skin where fabric will touch, I recommend a more traditional mineral sunscreen without tinting such as those I mention next.
  • Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen SPF 50+ 
    • This ultra-sheer is also invisible on the skin.
    • It can be used right above the collar line and on the top of the scalp if any skin is exposed to daily sun due to hair thinning or a part line.
    • It can also be used on the face but it does not have the oil absorbing technology of the Tinted Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen.
    • I recommend spraying it in the palm of the hand and then spreading on the neck skin or using the fingertips to apply to the scalp skin.

The two other sunscreens that men really like and happily apply daily are:

2) EltaMD UV SPF 46 It has a very light feel on the skin and blend nicely with most skin tones.

3) Citrix Sunscreen. This is a work horse sunscreen in my practice.  It is water resistant for really sweaty skin or areas that get wet like the back of the hands. I also always have a tube at home and my entire family uses it.  

Only the Tinted Sheer Strength Physical Sunscreen product is oil absorbing. Given the need for a completely invisible product that has mattifying/oil absorbing attributes, this would be my first choice for the face.  I would chose one of the other three products for the lower neck near the clothing line.

To summarize a Men's Efficient, Complete, Anti-Aging Skin Care Routine:

In The Morning:

Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen to facial skin and down to almost the collar line and Sheer Strength Spray to the low neck and top of the scalp or EltaMD SPF 46 or Citrix on the lower neck.

In The Evening:

At night, wash with Acne Foaming Cleanser Extra Strength followed by Glycolic Acid Anti-Wrinkle Face Cream 

This powerful, combination, anti-aging skin care routine helps to:

  • Keep pores unplugged and clean
  • Fight razor bumps
  • Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles
  • Reduces brown age spots
  • Protects the skin from sun damage
  • Control facial oily shine during the day

I hope that helps you to find a product routine that your husband will love. Thank you for asking a such a great question!


Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

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