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The GAY (MAN)ual – 100 Things Every Man Should Know #4

Acne Treatment

There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and finding a big, red pimple on your face. Most of us had when we were teenagers but some of us still suffer from acne breakouts well into our twenties and beyond.

Last year, I also started to have acne breakouts out of the blue after years of enjoying my smooth, acne free skin. I knew at the time that acne was caused by clogged pores so I thought I was doing the right thing when I washed my face every day, twice a day, with a heavy-duty exfoliating face wash. And to no one’s surprise, my acne problem didn’t get any better—in fact, it got worse! That’s when I decided to do my homework and actually learn about acne – the science behind what causes them and their treatments – through actual scientific research (and not what some girl says on Youtube).

So what causes acne and how should you treat it? Keep reading below to find out!

What is Acne?


To understand what causes acne, we must first understand how our skin works. Our skin has three parts to it: the uppermost layer, which is called the epidermis, the middle layer – where the sebaceous glands are located, called the dermis, and the bottom layer – where the hair follicle starts, called the subcutaneous tissue.

When our pores are unclogged and our sebaceous glands are producing the right amount of oil, all is well. However, problems start occurring when there is too much oil, a clogged pore, or a bacterial infection.

Contrary to what many people believe, a clogged pore is usually caused by a condition called hyperkeratinization, and not the result of poor hygiene or a “dirty” face. Normally, skin cells along the hair follicle detach at regular intervals and are then forced out by the growing hair. But when your skin makes too much keratin, which is largely influenced by genetics, these dead skin cells do not leave the follicle. The excess keratin and oil makes the dead skin cells adhere to each other, making it much more likely for a clog to form and cause acne.

In addition to clogged pores and excess oil, bacteria is the third member of the acne triad that we should know about. The bacteria that causes acne (Propionibacterium acnes) is an anaerobic organism that lives deep within the follicles of our skin and gets its energy by metabolizing the oil produced by the sebaceous glands. The bacteria itself is pretty harmless and does not cause a problem if our pores remain unclogged and lets any of the excess sebum that is produced to rise to the top of our skin. The trouble arises, however, when the sebum remains in a clog in the pore. It is in these cases where the bacteria rapidly multiples, triggers an inflammatory reaction, and the resulting red pimple.

The Different Types of Acne

There are five distinct types of acne, and can be separated into two distinct groups: inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.


The two most common are whiteheads and blackheads, which are the non-inflammatory type of acne.

Whiteheads form when the pore is blocked near the top of the epidermis. The sludge of bacteria, sebum, white blood cells and dead skin cells remain trapped beneath the surface of the skin with only a microscopic opening, not big enough for the contents of the pore to be excreted out.

A blackhead, or an open comedo, is a wide opening on the skin with a blackened mass of skin debris covering the opening.  They are filled with plugs of sebum and sloughed-off cells and have undergone a chemical reaction resulting in the oxidation of melanin. This gives the material in the follicle the typical black color.

When a pore becomes blocked and causes the wall of the pore to collapses and release the bacteria-ridden clog of skin cells and sebum into the dermis layer of the skin, it leads to other, more severe forms of acne lesions. Among these are papules, pustules, and cysts.

Papules are small bumps that appear on your skin and have a rough texture. These occur when the wall of a hair follicle break and cave in. The visible inflammation is due to white blood cells rushing in and trying to contain the bacterial sludge in the compromised pore.

Pustules are simply the medical term for pimples or zits. They are visible several days after papules have formed, when the white blood cells rise to the surface of the skin. Like cystic acne, pustules can be large and painful.

The most severe type of acne is when the inflammation reaches deep into the skin and an acne cyst forms. This happens when the bottom of the follicle breaks, and causes the follicle to completely collapse and spread the mixture of pus, bacteria and oil into surrounding tissue. Cysts are therefore very painful and people often see permanent scarring after this type of acne.

How To Treat Acne

Acne is caused by clogged pores, bacterial infection, and excess sebum production. Therefore, effective acne treatments work by speeding up the skin cell turnover (thereby reducing the chances of pore blockage), fighting bacterial infection, and reducing oil production.

For treating mild acne, like treating blackheads and whiteheads, we’re going to focus on the first two.


We need to first start off with a mild facial cleanser with glycolic or salicylic acid, like DHC’s Salicylic Acne Wash.


These are chemical exfoliants that remove dead skin cells from the skin and helps reduce the chances of future breakouts. It’s important to remember that acne-prone skin is typically not the result of poor hygiene or a dirty face. So avoid the urge to scrub your face too hard because that will likely cause more irritation in the skin, making the acne worse. When cleansing, be gentle and imagine you’re washing the soft skin of a baby’s face. Let these chemical exfoliants do their work and avoid scrubbing your face too harshly. Do this twice a day.


Next, we must deal with the bacteria. The gold standard is a topical cream containing benzoyl peroxide. I use Neutrogena’s On-the-Spot Acne Treatment.


The painful inflammatory acne that we experience is caused by our body’s immune response to the bacteria in our pores. Merely cleansing our face does not deal with the bacteria, so we need to do something else to address this issue. A topical cream containing benzoyl peroxide is your best bet, since it does three important things to fight acne all at once.

First, it works as an exfoliant by helping dissolve those clogs of dead cells and oil after they form. Second, it has antibacterial properties that kill the bacteria that cause acne. If you remember, the acne bacteria Propionibacterium acnes is an anaerobic organism, meaning it can only survive in oxygen-deprived environments. Benzoyl peroxide injects oxygen into the skin and makes it uninhabitable for the bacteria, effectively killing them without the use antibiotics. And finally, the same oxygen rich environment that prevents acne from multiplying also helps in the healing of all types of acne. Apply a thin layer of the cream all over your face, and a second layer over the problem areas.


Finally, moisturize your skin with an oil-free moisturizer. I switch between Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream and DHC’s Salicylic Face Milk, depending on the condition of my skin that day.


The constant exfoliation and stripping of oils from our skin may excessively dry out our skin and therefore increase the chances of irritation. Properly reintroducing hydration into the skin not only eliminates flakiness which benzoyl peroxide can produce, it also helps prevent the skin from becoming red or irritated. But before putting anything on, make sure it is labeled “water-based,” “oil-free,” or “non-comodogenic”. Some moisturizers have ingredients in them that have been clinically shown to aggravate acne, so you want to make sure you stay away from those.

The table below from Acne.org lists ingredients which score a 3 or above on the 0-5 comedogenicity scale. If any of these are within the first seven ingredients on the ingredient list of a product you are choosing, you may want to reconsider.


Time to Call in The Specialist

If you don’t see a change in your acne condition or if it gets worse from using over the counter treatments, you should consult a dermatologist. Here are some treatments they may recommend:

Antibiotics – Oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, are often prescribed for acne. If you eliminate the bacteria that cause inflammatory acne, then you get no acne. Taking antibiotics as directed will help your acne clear but the downside is that there may be a bacterial resistance with prolonged use.

Interlesional Corticosteroid Injection – When an acne cyst becomes severely inflamed, there is a good chance that it will rupture and scarring may result. To treat these severely inflamed cysts and prevent scarring, dermatologists may inject such cysts with a much-diluted corticosteroid. This lessens the inflammation and promotes healing.

Topical Retinoids – Retinoids are a derivative of vitamin A and considered a cornerstone in acne treatment. They work by regulating the cellular turnover in the skin cells to unclog pores and prevent whiteheads and blackheads from forming. Topical retinoids can irritate the skin and increase sun sensitivity so it is important to use sun protection and follow the dermatologist’s directions to maximize effectiveness. An added benefit in using topical retinoids is that they may help diminish the signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Oral Contraceptives – Oral contraceptives have been shown to effectively clear acne in women by reducing androgens (male sex hormones) in the body. Studies have shown a causal link between the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and overactive sebaceous glands in women. The more DHT a woman  has, the more likely she is to have acne. This makes sense, since puberty is when we first start experiencing acne breakouts, the same time our hormones kick into overdrive. By suppressing androgens in the body, you are also effectively suppressing the overactive sebaceous glands.

Lasers – Laser therapy works on the premise of exciting compounds called porphyrins (a type of pigment), which are inside acne bacteria. When the lasers excite the porphyrins, the porphyrins damage the bacteria wall, effectively killing the bacteria. However, consensus amongst researchers is that results are temporary since colonies of acne bacteria grow back quickly. Results are also incomplete, since lasers alone usually do not completely clear acne.

Accutane – It’s very simple: Accutane stops oil glands from making oil, and if oil glands don’t make oil, you can’t have acne. However, like any other potent drug, there are severe side effects that must also be taken into consideration. Probably the most widely known side effect of Accutane treatment is the effect it has on a developing fetus. Accutane must never be used while pregnant and even one dose of the drug while pregnant can cause severe birth defects. Women of childbearing potential must therefore submit to regular pregnancy tests are required to use two forms of birth control, both before, during, and for one month after treatment. The other most publicized side effect of the drug is depression and suicide. Even though medical studies concerning this issue were inconclusive, anybody that is a candidate for Accutane and has a history of depression or is taking medicine for depression should consult with the physician who is treating that depression.

How Long Does it Take Before I See Results?

How long does a new skincare regimen to work? The short answer is we are talking about weeks not days. This is a perfect example of when patience is a virtue; this is a process of evolution not revolution. If you are not realistic in your expectations you are just going to go from product to product. How many of us are guilty of tossing or returning a product after three days just because you did not see the results that you wanted?

When you are using a new regimen, it has to take at least a week to see any meaningful results, even with the best products. There are a lot of very good products out there, but there are no miracle products.

Most dermatologists recommend sticking to a regimen for 4 to 8 weeks before making changes to the treatment. It is very important to be aware of this time frame so that you do not become discouraged and discontinue the regimen. Conversely, if you see no change whatsoever after two months, you might want to check with your dermatologist regarding alternative therapies to treat acne.


“The role of follicular hyperkeratinization in acne” Journal of Dermatological Treatment. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/095466300750163645?journalCode=jdt

“The Response of Skin Disease to Stress” Journal of Dermatology. http://archderm.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=479409

“How to wash acne-prone skin” Acne.org.  http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/acne_prone_wash.html

“What is Acne?” American Academy of Dermatology.  http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/acne.html

“Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19761357

“Disorders of the sebaceous glands”  Rook’s Textbook of Dermatology

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The GAY (MAN)ual – 100 Things Every Man Should Know #3

The Difference Between Being Fashionable and Having Good Style


“Wearing clothes is a necessity in life, so why not do it well?” –Yourlovelyman

There’s a distinction between learning about style and learning about fashion. Style gives you the possibility to define your own version of “cool” while fashion simply follows trends set by others. Fashion is always changing. Style does not. Fashion is overtly materialistic, with unnecessary items tagged with useless hype and overpriced into oblivion. Fashion is, essentially, a business. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry whose sole purpose is to create an artificial demand for novelty and innovation. Style, on the other hand, can happen at a thrift store or in a bargain bin.

For the most part, style pervades our life, not fashion. The guy interviewing you for your job doesn’t care if your suit is Brooks Brothers or not. But he’ll notice if it doesn’t fit right. Your boyfriend’s parents don’t care what kind of seam your jeans have. But they’ll notice if you’re dressed like a slob. You need to look your best when the moment calls for it.

People are strongly influenced about how we feel and believe about a person based on how they look. Almost from the moment of birth, each of us is judged—silently, unconsciously, and nearly instantly—on the basis of our height (or lack of it), our weight and bulk, the shape and symmetry of our facial features, the length and style of our hair, our mode of dress, our grooming—everything that goes into the mix of qualities known as “physical attractiveness.” This physical attractiveness phenomenon has been studied in depth for decades by social scientists of many disciplines, including psychologists, sociologists, biologists, and anthropologists and their collective conclusion is that what you look like—or more important, how others perceive you— can drastically shape your life, for better or for worse. But for this specific post, I’ll be focusing more on this topic from a sartorial perspective and less of an academic one.

Here are some things I’ve thought about concerning the clothes we wear:

Clothes should make you look good. Or at least make you think that you look good. I read on a blog some time ago that said something along the lines of: “Fashion is vanity; it’s a non-functional adornment of the body,” but that’s not really true. It is functional. You don’t dress nice just for the sake of dressing nice. Some say they do, but I think there’s an ulterior motive. I think we dress nice to increase our chances of getting “lucky.”

INTERESTING SCIENCE FACT: Studies have shown that women unconsciously dress more provocatively, in more revealing clothes and wear more jewelry when they’re ovulating.

Think about it from another perspective: Would you walk up to a guy or girl in bar (or anywhere, really) who is dressed horribly and try to strike up a conversation with him or her? Highly unlikely. Without exchanging a single word between each other, you’ll assume, based solely on what he’s wearing, that he’s probably unhygienic, socially awkward or inept, and just plain creepy. You can deny it now but think about it the next time you’re in such a situation. That’s the power of clothes.


This is the same person, taken about two years apart. Which would you befriend?

The wearer’s personality should be apparent. Don’t copy each look (on a mannequin or in a magazine) piece by piece. Being stylish requires some degree of confidence, whether it be on how your clothes match or how well they fit. But if you or someone just reproduces a whole look from head to toe, you’re just agreeing with what someone else has suggested you wear.

There is an intrinsic appeal and virtue in quality itself. If someone takes care to produce what they produce, in any walk of life, then even if it comes out a bit wrong, or it’s not for you, you may still appreciate it and attribute value to it accordingly.

Men look good in tailored clothing. It can absolutely flatter a man’s natural physique if done properly. It can also lo terrible if done badly, and in general, American men don’t dress well in formal clothing. See the British or the Italians for better examples of how to do it.

There is no such thing as overpriced. The idea that something is overpriced means that the item you want to buy is priced at a level that is over what you are willing to pay. If everyone felt that the item is priced too high, no one will buy the item and the store will go out of business. Basic economics will tell you that you and your friends will each feel that different items should be priced at various levels (this is called your personal price point). If you feel that an item that costs $2 is a good deal, your friend might feel that it is “overpriced”. However, since we’ve just determined that you are willing to buy the item, the item is not “overpriced” — it merely “doesn’t meet your friend’s price point”. Same goes for stores. A store cannot be “overpriced.” If you ever say “Oh man, this store is so overpriced, let’s get out of here!” we can no longer be friends.

But T-shirts that cost $200 are probably always overpriced. My justification for spending a lot of money on particular clothes is that it’s just what you have to pay to get exactly the thing that you want. Menswear, in particular, is all about details. So anyone can get a shirt, or a cotton shirt, or a slim fitting cotton shirt and so on, but what if you want one that has a particular detail on it that appeals to you, like, high arm holes and very slightly flared cuffs. It’s probably not worth $200 to get those details, but if that’s what you want and there’re no alternatives, what are you going to do?

A guy in fashion forum once posted this:

“The jacket that I got recently is made out of old tracksuits, re-cut and then garment dyed and washed. The result is, from a distance, not entirely dissimilar to any other double breasted jacket. But there aren’t any other double breasted jackets that are made like that, or indeed that look or feel like that up close. Is it worth what I paid for it in terms of quality, materials, construction. probably not. But when I saw it, it appealed to me, and I knew that I couldn’t get it anywhere else. So to me, that makes it worth it. Clothes are just boring otherwise.”

And finally,

Personal style is not something you can develop by lurking and looking at pictures of strangers on the internet. Clothes are meant to be worn, and when you put something on that is essentially you it feels right on some subconscious level. And, with the proliferation of fast fashion outlets that allow you to experience a wide variety of aesthetics at a relatively low price, it’s never been easier to buy a bunch of random shit and see what actually works for you.


“Changes in Women’s Choice of Dress Across the Ovulatory Cycle: Naturalistic and Laboratory Task-Based Evidence” http://business.utsa.edu/faculty/kdurante/files/6ChangesinDress.pdf

Gueguen, Nicolas. “Makeup and Menstrual Cycle: Near Ovulation, Women Use More Cosmetics”. The Psychological Record, Vol. 62, No. 3. 2012

Photos: GQ, r/malefashionadvice

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The GAY (MAN)ual – 100 Things Every Man Should Know #1

How To Roll Up Your Sleeves… In Style


What: A Button-Down Shirt

Maybe it’s because I’m still 23, but there are few sartorial pleasures more sensual than slipping on a crisply pressed, finely fitted dress shirt at the break of dawn. And the more formal shirts, like the ones with French cuffs — worn exclusively with cufflinks — gives you that nice feeling like you’ve become part of the bourgeois~~

But back to reality. Since occasions to wear nice shirts like that are far and few between, let’s focus today on the here and now: how to look good and feel equally comfortable in every-day button-down shirts. Contrary to what some people may think, good style and practicality can go hand-in-hand. Rolling up your sleeves is practical when you’re about to engage in some sort of physical activity but it can also be utilized to achieve a casual-chic look that looks dapper for a man of any age.

When: 1. Practical Necessity — Washing your hands, doing heavy lifting where the wrists and forearms are strained, or working on something dusty are all perfectly normal reasons to pull back the shirt sleeves. Anytime your sleeves might get in the way or dirty or caught in a moving part — roll ‘em up. 

While the appropriateness of rolled sleeves varies by workplace, generally, anytime you’re in a place where there is direct sunlight, rolled sleeves are acceptable. They’re also nice when you work or live inside a place where the temperature fluctuates a great deal, as it’s nice to be able to roll them down when the A/C’s blowing on you, and roll them up when the room gets stuffy.

2. Casual Attitude — As a purely stylistic expression, rolled sleeves mostly serve to “dress down” something that would otherwise be too formal/dressy for the occasion. For example, upon leaving the office for a less-formal work function or social gathering, men with their jackets off and their sleeves rolled up is a classic “Happy Hour” style. A collared shirt with rolled up sleeves is also a popular look for men out at clubs and bars over the weekend. And when in charge of a meeting or hosting a party, it’s a great way to signal to others that it’s okay to not worry about formalities.

How: The Two-Step Method

1. Flip the cuff back past your elbow.


2. Take the bottom of the inside-out portion and fold it up until it traps the bottom of the cuff.


That’s It!

Here’s a diagram for those who are still confused:


The final look should be something like this:


or this:


but not this: 


The best part rolling up your sleeves this way is two-fold (pun intended): it leaves less creases and when you want to unroll the sleeve, you simply grip the exposed tip of the collar and pull it down. No more unrolling sleeves like a caveman.


Images: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m69depeIMG1r3wlbi.jpg, yesstyle.com, gq.com
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