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You Asked: My Boyfriend Has Bad Skin

Dear Sugar,

My boyfriend of almost a year has really bad skin. When I offered him some of my shower gels and face washes during a recent vacation, he took the shower gel insisting that was all he needed. I was shocked to hear this was what he used to clean his face. I left him with a blemish-fighting cleanser, but he didn't bother using it. How can I get him to use acne-fighting products without hurting his feelings or demeaning his masculinity?

— Dropping Hints Danni

To see Dear Sugar's answer


Dear Dropping Hints Danni,

Giving criticism, specifically about someone's appearance, can be nearly impossible to do without hurting feelings. I'm sure you're only trying to help your boyfriend, but it sounds like he's not quite as concerned about his skin as you are, which makes matters more difficult, so make sure to tread lightly.

If I'm incorrect, and this is something that your boyfriend does worry about, then the next time it comes up, mention that using shower gel as a facial cleanser is not a good option for someone with troubled skin. I don't think there's anything wrong with just coming out and giving your opinion as long as you're not being judgmental.

However, if this topic isn't going to come up any time soon and you don't feel comfortable being direct about the issue, go out and get him some nice products — buy new shampoo, shaving cream, a good razor, moisturizer, and face wash. When you give it to him, tell him that you felt like he was depriving himself of a wonderful thing: great beauty products. Now whether or not he decides to change his ways and give the new items a go is completely up to him, but once you've done your part, try to let it go. It is his face after all.


Join The Conversation
higgydt4 higgydt4 9 years
cvandoorn - "I would personally hate to kiss a pimply face...yuck." That statement was very rude. My boyfriend has bad skin and he tries SO HARD to clear it up. If I wouldn't have looked passed his face, I would have never found my sweet, caring, would do anything for me boyfriend. You should really stop being so shallow and look beyond pimples.
amers230 amers230 9 years
snowbunny11 - have you discussed accutane at all with your doctor? i was on it for approx. a year a few years ago and it was pretty much my miracle drug. seriously, my skin looked so good that i decided to go off it (the gov't imposed a bunch of new regulations on it and i also decided i didn't want to deal with them haha.) i didn't start to break out again until about two years after i went off of it, and i think that was more due to my going off of birth control than anything else. it's not a good fit for everyone (if you're trying to get pregnant or if depression runs in your family) but if you can stomach the chapped lips and governmental regulations, it's golden. i actually just went back on it a few days ago and don't think i've ever been so excited about taking medication in my life haha.
amers230 amers230 9 years
i have terrible skin (it's hereditary in my family) and have been trying to control it for years. i always thought i was really sensitive about my skin but now that i think about it, noone but my mom (and dermatologist obviously) has really commented on it, except for one of my former managers who asked me if i'd like to have an extra proactiv starter kit she had accidentally ordered. i didn't even mind her saying something to me because i knew she was coming from a helpful, loving place. if you approach him in a non-hostile manner i think you could really help him. buy a few over the counter products (a facewash with salycilic acid, an astringent, and a skin cream with benzoyl peroxide), sit him down and just be tell him his skin could really improve with just a few little products. maybe even suggest seeing a dermatologist. just be careful in your phrasing lol. i wouldn't jump the gun and buy him something like proactiv right away though. for one, it didn't do anything for me and two, it'd probably turn him off as it's kind of expensive and kind of in your face "you have acne" haha. i'd just do the basics from neutrogena or clean and clear and if nothing's changed after a few months, try to get him to a dr. a lot of times acne can really only be treated from the inside, like mine.
k1212 k1212 9 years
In my relationship, it's the opposite. My guy has the best skin in the world. I've been on almost every single type of medication and after several years, I've finally found something that helps. But, my boyfriend has never said anything about my skin. Even when I complained about my skin, he would tell me that I looked beautiful. If he ever gave me proactiv for christmas, I would never forgive him lol. I would say just let it go - acne isn't contageous for the most part - and remind him to wash his face b4 going to bed and other basics. If he doesn't grow out of it soon, I think he will realize himself that he needs to get treatment. Skin is a really sensitive issue for most people, so I would def be careful around it.
girlfriday girlfriday 9 years
OMG, ninjastarlett that was hilarious. Seriously though - the straightforward approach with boys. If he's young enough to get acne, he probably hasn't learned to get hints from women yet. Just say - no, don't use that on your face. Bad. And give him one of those new men's products for face.
jJuliet jJuliet 9 years
Thanks for the support guys, I'm glad it's not just me. Proactiv does help somewhat. My acne would be worse without it, but it takes several months to really see a difference. I can't use it twice a day like they suggest though, because it dries out my skin. I actually think that switching from liquid to mineral makeup (from has made the biggest difference. I really can't imagine being a guy and not having the luxury of wearing makeup at all. I am often surprised how outwardly insensitive and judgmental people can be when it comes to this topic. Would you go up to an overweight coworker and say, "Hey, I noticed you have a flabby muffintop. Have you tried trimspa yet?" No? Well, I don't see how this is different from saying, "Hey, I noticed you have an acne problem. Have you tried proactiv yet?" You might be trying to help, but you are only pointing out the painful obvious.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
Juliet-I feel your pain. Especially from people who work in the beauty industry! Someone who worked at my salon tried to sell me some facewash, and though I love finding out about new products, I use a special antibacterial soap my derm gave me. She just replied, "well, dermatologists just are trying to make money by not curing your skin." Right, I'm on three different prescription medications and use special facewash and moisturizer, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, avoid alcohol and dairy all to improve my skin. I'm glad proactiv works for you, but my acne seems a little more serious and it didn't work well enough for me. I hate it when people are like, "have you tried proactiv yet?" Right, I just go to the derm like 3 times a month and it never occurred to me to try proactiv. Sorry, this is something that has been really devestating to me lately, I just can't handle my skin anymore. I just think people should be aware of how much people with acne really do try to do to clear it up, it's not like we forgot to wash our faces or something.
emalove emalove 9 years
I like Asia84's suggestion.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
"What? you only drink one bottle of water per day? you should drink a gallon." I catch your drift, it can be extremely frustrating.
jJuliet jJuliet 9 years
My skin is prone to acne, but I do my best to take care of it. I start with St. Ives apricot scrub, follow with the proactive system, then moisturize with aloe. I wear cotton, take vitamins, use mineral makeup, and avoid chocolate. For the most part, this routine works really well. If I didn't do these things, I would have pizzaface, pizzaback, and pizzaarms. Yet, I still have some acne (but a few pimples at a time, instead of hundreds). People will often comment on it, trying to sell me on their miracle cure. They always seem to assume that I am blissfully unaware of the fact that I have pimples of my face, and that I have no idea that treatments exist. When my boyfriend says, "You know, that would go away if you just put some astringent on it." I find this extremely frustrating. Um...alcohol on my skin? Are you kidding??? I get plenty of advice, and it always comes with the attitude of "this is really bad. It's your fault, and you are not doing anything to treat it." Here are some things I have heard: "You only wash your sheets once a week? You should wash them every day!"; "You only take one shower a day? You should take at least two or three!"; "You should cut out all simple sugars from your diet!" When I hear this advice, I feel hurt and inadequate. I'm honestly not sure how you can tell your boyfriend that he needs to take better care of his skin, or even if this is something that you should say. But if you do, please avoid this attitude. Listen to him and be understanding.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
I suffer from adult acne and routinely leave my dermatologist's office in tears because I am so frustrated. I don't know how your boyfriend feels about his acne, but it's possible he is brushing you off because he is so frustrated. My boyfriend is my biggest support in this issue, and I would be devastated if he ever said anything negative to me about my skin. I know guys really don't know too much about products, perhaps he is low maintenance. Neutrogena makes an acne body wash that is the exact same as their face wash, but with a higher concentration of the acne-fighting drug. Since he is a guy, his skin won't be as sensitive as a girl's, and should be able to handle the body wash, on his face too. Buy it for him, but be really gentle with his feelings!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
Skin is a very sensitive issue and I can see how it is hard to bring up the subject. While I have never had an acne problem I have had friends that have really suffered in the past with it and I felt horrible for them. I grew-up with horrible eczema and just got used to telling everyone what it was from an early age. People actually thought they would get it but fortunately my family just treated it as something normal so I did not suffer. I still have it as an adult although not to the extent that I did as a child. I think picking up something that is made especially for men would be a nice gesture. I wouldn't make a big production out of it and I would just get the bare minimum like a moisterizer and face wash. I think if you buy a whole system he would freak out.
kperry2414 kperry2414 9 years
I recently had to deal with a similar issue with my boyfriend. He's black and has razor bumps but doesn't try and do anything about it. I'm not sure he was ever taught that black skin is very sensitive to shaving. Anyway, I bought him special shave gel and lotion for black skin and convinced him to use it so when he goes to job interviews he can make the best first impression. Needless to say his skin is improving! Next up are his chewed up cuticles. I never realized it could be so hard to convince a man to get a manicure!
ckeller825 ckeller825 9 years
ashleybrooke87....sneaky sneaky! :) i love it...haha
hholbert hholbert 9 years
some guys just don't know the benefit of face washes and other products. It came up in a conversation that my b/f said he used regular soap to wash his face. I said "you don't want to use regualr soap, it's not meant to clean your face but for thicker skin on your body. Your face is senitive and you need something that will clean out your pores. You know how it feels tight sometimes after you wash it, will its because its too strong for your face, it's drying your skin out which causes breakouts." He uses facewashes quite regularly now and I even got him to start using moisturizer. He was relectant at first to use moisturizer but I got him to try it one day and he loved that his face didn't feel tight afterwards. The benefit of using it is addicting. I think if you can talk him to use facewash and moisturizer he'll look how his face feels and will not go back to regular soap. This is our secret though. He might be embarassed that I'm sharing this. Especially with him being a "manly-man"
Janine22 Janine22 9 years
Some men need help with their grooming rituals, some of them just don't really think about it or know what to do. I would just be honest and straight up about it, it probably bothers him too but he doesn't realize that there are things you can do to clear it up. Just be gentle about it with him so he doesn't get too self conscious. By the way, Proactiv does work, I have used it for years and I used to have really bad skin. However, you really have to moisturize when you use it and wear sun screen.
cassee cassee 9 years
I agree with everything hotstuff said. You have to just be upfront about it! My boy doesn't have flawless skin, and I've told him to pick up some face wash when it gets really bad. It's just conversation, and hopefully he'll see it as though you're just trying to be helpful!
geekygirl geekygirl 9 years
i got my bf to start using moisturiser by buying some stuff that was clearly for men (masculine packaging and didn't try and sound at all soft). be honest with him but at the end of the day, he has to be the one who wants to take action.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
I wouldn't recommend Proactive, as he would have to continue using it beyond the first kit. Have a talk with him. Maybe even suggest nature's Cure for guys.
ashleybrooke-87 ashleybrooke-87 9 years
buy him his regular shower gel, dump the gel, fill it with a face wash, and viola! (: but i guess im just sneaky like that. my guy uses all my face products. i think its kinda funny...
ninjastarlett ninjastarlett 9 years
Just say "SHOWER GEL IS FOR SHOWER, NOT FOR FACE!" followed by "FACE WASH FOR FACE" and hand him one that includes salicylic acid. Maybe he would feel more "masculine" if you got him an over-the-counter general face wash instead of something like ProActive... so stuff like the Neutrogena Face Wash or Clean & Clear.
Poster-of-a-Girl Poster-of-a-Girl 9 years
Maybe it's a case of "products are for girls, I'm not using that stuff". You might need to attack it from that perspective. It might be not that he doesn't care about the acne, but he can't get over the hurdle of using "girl products". Some guys are like that. In any case, he doesn't act very sensitive about it. I would bust his balls for picking at it though. He can give himself acne scars.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I think you need to stop dropping hints and be straight forward. I mean what's a relationship if you can't be honest about wanting to help your partner? I could see if you actually had a conversation with him and he got offended but that's not the case. Casually bring it up one day, you never know he may be grateful for the help. Just ask if he's ever considered seeing a dermatologist or if he wants to try some products. If he gets all mad because you actually CARE about his acne problem then leave it alone. At least you'll know where he stands with this. I really believe communication is key in any relationship with any problem.
Emiily Emiily 9 years
I tried leaving Pro Active in my beaus medicine cabinet, he didn't touch it : / I tried washing my face with him and telling him that I could get him something to clear up his skin and he shrugged it off. He's beautiful, but he has acne too. He likes to pick it and it gets worse. Boys will be boys!
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