To peel or not to peel? For guys preparing to head back to the office—or who find themselves spending even more time on video calls—that seems to be the question.
“With Zoom and intense periods of time on camera highlighting perceived flaws that they were previously not conscious of, women—but also increasingly men—want to address these concerns,” explains Dr. Rabia Malik, who specializes in facial peels at The Wellness Clinic at Harrods in central London. According to her, the right peels can help solve a variety of issues, including hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, increased pore size and plain old dull skin.
Her male patients have increased by a quarter than before lockdown. “Based on data from April 12 [after lockdown easing in the UK] I have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of men seeking advice and treatment for their skin, and the number of peels I have carried out on men has increased by 40 percent,” Dr. Malik says.
This makes sense. Botox and fillers make noticeable changes and additions wherever they’re injected, but a light peel will help erase signs of damage without changing the structure of your face. It also has the advantage of stopping the appearance of redness and perspiration. Dr. Penelope Tympanadis, a dermatologist who practices in Athens and London, says she’s treated many politicians over the years who don’t want to appear shiny on camera or in person. They worry it can make you look weak or shifty—think of a glossy Richard Nixon debating a matte JFK.
Not all peels are created equal though. “Superficial peels will use acids such as glycolic, lactic, mandelic, citric or salicylic which all have slightly different properties,” explains London-based Dr. Sophie Shotter. “Salicylic is great for cutting through oily skin and for treating acne, citric is great for brightening for example.” But what many don’t realize is that peels do more than just remove the dead, dull skin cells, they stimulate collagen and elastin, the proteins that make up the supporting fibers of the skin to lift and sculpt the face and reduce wrinkles.
The types of men who peel vary widely in both age and rationale. “They are generally professionals who wish to maintain their appearance and want healthy, younger-looking skin,” says Dr. Malik. “But the majority are also the sons, husbands or fathers of my existing female patients.” While guys in their 20s might want help with acne scarring, men in their 40s and 50s seek her help addressing early signs of aging and sun damage.
And this isn’t just London calling: In the US, where the pandemic has similarly amplified existing skin concerns and caused new ones, peels are popular for men too.
“‘Maskne’ [acne caused by mask wearing] is a big problem for men as they have thicker skin and more oil glands, and tend to be prone to clogged pores and acne breakouts,” says Dr. Bryan G. Forley, a New York-based plastic surgeon whose practice also features non-surgical solutions. “The peels we offer are mild and from start to finish, patients are in our office for 20 to 30 minutes and can go right back to work with no bruising, redness or downtime.”
This reporter chose a peel with Dr. Malik as a first step when getting ready to face the world again. Over the past year, we’ve all had a bit more to worry about than slapping on the SPF as religiously as usual or stocking to a proper skincare routine. The result was pigmentation on my forehead, a dull complexion, blocked pores and uneven skin tone peering back at me from daily Zooms. The peel Dr. Malik devised tingled for 60 seconds, yet and instantly revealed brighter, cleaner skin. It also diminished the appearance of wrinkles—and not a needle in sight.