After a winter of fantastic neglect, my skin resembles the hide of a monitor lizard with acute, late-stage leprosy. You think I kid?
I don’t want to go too far in grossing anyone out, but during one brutal stretch of March a few years ago, I even had dandruff in my eyebrows – and dry, scale-ish spots the size of tapioca forming along my left jaw line. My nose’s pores, already larger, grew even larger, to the point it seemed I had a golf ball for a proboscis.
And you know what? I deserved that face, because despite the constant, loving urgings of my wife, I refused, categorically, and idiotically, to “moisturize,” unless she literally waited until I was dozing off in bed and then quickly smeared some unguent on my cheeks in the dark while I was oblivious.
Like most males, I can look back to certain early childhood experiences that made me lotion-averse. When I was not yet 10, my grandmother, god rest her soul, decided I should go to bed every summer night with a thick mask of Noxzema plastered on my face – an apparent hedge against sun damage and mosquito bites and god knows what else. I looked like an extra from some Kabuki horror spectacular, covered in a thick sheen of ghostly guck. Noxzema, to this day, is for me the smell of failure, the scent of "giving in to grandma."
Later, it was teenage acne and a brief but desperate reliance on the zit creme, Clearasil. The tube’s contents came in a ghastly orange-pink colour and had a texture that suggested (I’m trying to be kind here) salmon pudding. Worse, it smelled like sulfur. At bedtime, you might as well have been putting a mask of rotten eggs on your face, and forget about trying to wash off the stench the next morning. As I trudged to school, emitting my high medicinal funk, my female classmates ran screaming in the opposite direction.
I haven’t used Clearasil in nearly 45 years, but sometimes I think I still catch of whiff of its lingering odour from my last application in 1972 and that’s when I start crying inexplicably.
Which brings us back to today. Despite my several skin-lotion phobias, I desperately needed help. It was just last month and the skin on my face, dry as a gulch in a John Ford Western, had been made worse by a scraggly winter beard I’d let grow too long. Where my skin wasn’t splotchy and rashy, it was parched and patchy.
So my beauty-editor wife, Liza (always at the ready), thrust a six-inch glass and metal cylinder of blue, bubbly lotion into my hand, accompanied by her usual advice: “Please, just try this!”
It’s called Clinique For Men Maximum Hydrator ($46 CAD and $39 USD at clinique.com), and according to the finer print on the bottle, is “an activated water-gel concentrate.” It is also 100 per cent “fragrance free,” and after my early traumas with Noxzema and Clearasil, its notable lack of pungency is no small thing.
For a few weeks, I’ve been applying it mornings and evenings, rubbing the translucent gloop onto my cheeks and forehead and a little on my neck where the beard once was.
At first I overdid it a bit (in cosmetics as in life I tend to go at things with the dexterity of a bear in a phone booth), but over time I’ve learned that less is more. To quote from another grooming brand of my youth: “A little dab will do you.”
Best of all, and true to Clinique’s boast, the lotion is visibly, tangibly, “oil free.” It also absorbs quickly – as long as you don’t apply it with a trowel, as I first did.
Verdict: Clinique For Men Maximum Hydrator Activated Water-Gel Concentrate leaves my skin feeling good and fresh, and my face is no longer defined by patches of dryness, and please, at the risk of letting this sentence run on too long, don’t tell any of my male friends about this.
Most of them were similarly traumatized by acne creams when they were young and it’s probably going to take me a little while longer to convert them to the cause. So, in the meantime, shhh.
CLINIQUE FOR MEN MAXIMUM HYDRATOR ACTIVATED WATER-GEL CONCENTRATE INGREDIENTS: Water, Butylene Glycol, Phenyl Trimethicone, Propanediol, Sucrose, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Alteromonas Ferment Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Algae Extract, Cholesterol, Hydrolyzed Rice Extract, Trehalose, Acetyl Glucosamine, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Sorbitol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Polyaspartate, Caffeine, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hydroxide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Carbomer, Dextrin Palmitate, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Benzophenone-4, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Sodium Citrate, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Green 6.