Culturally, women are more conditioned to place importance on their skin, but men are increasingly ditching harsh bar soap in favor of facial cleansers, moisturizers, acne treatments, and rejuvenating products that keep their skin healthy and their visage handsome. But, for men who are just now stepping into the world of skincare, it may be a bit bewildering to see the vast selection of cleansers, creams, lotions, and serums populating the shelves.
If you’re a gentleman of any age in need of a skincare routine, but you don’t know where to start, read on for everything you need to know about skincare products for men.
What Type of Skin Do You Have?
Knowing your skin type makes it easier to choose the right products to use in your skincare routine. The four basic skin types are dry, oily, normal, and combination. In addition, you may also have sensitive or aging skin. Learn more about each below to discover which type you have.
Dry skin is often flaky and rough, so it may feel irritated, itchy, or tight. Dry skin may also look dull, lacking hydration and lipids (fats) that keep your skin’s elasticity, which helps it look plump and healthy.
Oily skin is most noticeable on the T-zone, or the forehead and nose, which will look and feel greasy. Excess sebum, or the natural oils in your skin, can cause breakouts, acne, and large pores in addition to oily skin.
Normal skin is neither dry nor oily. If you have normal skin, your pores won’t be easily visible, and your T-zone won’t typically break out or turn flaky. Rather, it’ll feel soft and supple.
Combination skin has some areas that are dry and some that are oily. The cheeks and chin are generally dry, and the forehead and nose are oily. You’re more likely to break out in areas where the skin is oily.
If you have sensitive skin, it will react to environmental factors like cold or dry air, wind, sunlight, and certain ingredients in skincare products. Your skin may feel dry, irritated, itchy, or tight when it reacts to these things.
Aging or Mature Skin
As we age, our skin loses elasticity due to a decrease in cell regeneration and collagen production. Age spots may begin to appear on skin that’s been damaged from the sun, and lines and wrinkles become more pronounced around the eyes, on the forehead, and by the mouth.
The Essentials: Men’s Skincare Routine
A solid skincare routine is the same for men and women and involves three main steps.
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Step 1: Cleanse
Choose a cleanser that removes impurities like dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, which can clog your pores and cause breakouts. Skin that is consistently cleansed is able to absorb essential ingredients in other products later in your routine, which helps boost their effectiveness and keep your skin clear.
To cleanse your face twice a day (morning and night):
- Wet your face with lukewarm water
- Pour a pea-sized amount of facial cleanser on your fingers
- Rub your fingers together to evenly distribute
- Gently massage the cleanser into your face, working in gentle circles
- Rinse your face with lukewarm water
After cleansing, you can use a men’s pore strip, which is larger than the regular pore strips to ensure full coverage.
Skin that is consistently cleansed is able to absorb essential ingredients in other products later in your routine, which helps boost their effectiveness and keep your skin clear.
Alternate Step 1: Exfoliate
Exfoliating products remove dead skin cells from your face (or body) so that they don’t clog your pores and cause breakouts. Physical exfoliants like scrubs contain ingredients to slough off dead skin.
You can use an exfoliating scrub once or twice a week in place of your daily cleanser (any more than that may cause skin irritation).
To exfoliate (1–2 times per week):
- Wet your face with lukewarm water
- Squeeze a blueberry-sized amount of an exfoliator scrub onto your fingers; then gently apply it to your face, moving in circular motions
- Rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water
Step 2: Moisturize
Every skincare routine should include twice-daily moisturizing.
Facial moisturizer is important for every skin type. For dry skin, moisturizers boost hydration and soothe itching and tightness. For oily skin, a water-based (rather than oil-based) moisturizer will help prevent overproduction of sebum.
To moisturize (day and night):
- Use a light moisturizer product (with SPF as a bonus) in the morning and a heavier “night cream” at night
- Squeeze a nickel-sized amount of moisturizer onto your fingers, and dab the moisturizer on all areas of your face
- Lightly apply the moisturizer to your face in circular motions until it’s evenly distributed
- Allow it to fully absorb into your skin
Step 3: Apply Sun Protection
Sun protection is essential for healthy skin, both now and later on down the road. Apply an SPF 30 sunscreen every morning (after you cleanse and moisturize) that’s formulated for facial skin of your skin type.
If you choose a moisturizer with SPF 30, as we mentioned briefly above, you can skip this step — you’re already covered.
Intermediate & Advanced Skincare for Men
Once you’ve got the basics down — cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and applying sun protection — you can add a few other steps and products to your skincare routine for even better results.
Pore strips pull out dirt, excess oil, and dead skin cells from your pores to help prevent and treat blackheads. Using a pore strip directly after a shower when your skin has been in contact with moisture is best for maximal effectiveness.
To use pore strips directly after you cleanse:
- Remove the backing from the pore strip and firmly place it across the bridge of your nose
- Wait 10–15 minutes, then gently peel off the strip
Toners cleanse your pores, drawing out impurities from deep in your skin. They can also work to restore your skin’s balance and luster.
Here’s how to use toner directly after you cleanse (morning and night):
- Soak a cotton ball or cotton round in a toner and swab your face; you can also use your hands if you’re in a bind
- If the cotton ball or round is very dirty afterwards, repeat this step with a fresh applicator until it comes away clean
Serums are very lightweight and penetrate your skin more deeply than moisturizers and other lotion, oil, and cream products.
Some serums are exfoliators like AHAs and BHAs, while others are moisturizers like hyaluronic acid. Serums provide your skin with essential vitamins and other nutrients that keep it healthy, hydrated, and glowing. Choose a serum based on what you observe of your skincare needs after consistently following the essential steps outlined above first.
"Serums provide your skin with essential vitamins and other nutrients that keep it healthy, hydrated, and glowing."
Here’s how to apply serum directly after you tone (morning and night):
- Squeeze a couple of drops of serum onto your fingers, and gently apply it to your face in light, sweeping motions
- Allow the serum to soak into your skin for a few minutes before you apply another product
Facial masks brighten your skin, remove dead skin cells, and improve the texture and tone of your skin. A variety of mask types are available for all skin types. They come in ready-to-apply formulations, as a powder you mix with water to form a paste, or as a treated or medicated sheet you lay over your face. Face masks are a great way to end the day, especially if you have oily skin.
To apply a face mask after you cleanse, tone, and use serum:
- Mix your mask, squeeze it from the tube onto your fingers, or get out your sheet mask
- Gently apply the mask to your face in a thick layer — don’t spread it too thin or massage it into your face
- Allow it to sit 3–5 minutes (or for the time recommended on the packaging), then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and pat dry
Face masks are great to use 2–3 times per week, unless you have sensitive skin. In that case, 1 time per week is best.
A Sample Skincare Routine for Men
Here’s a rundown of a typical skincare routine for men, step-by-step, using all the products needed for clean, smooth skin:
Step 1: Cleanse, rinse, and pat dry (exfoliate 1–2 times per week in place of your cleanser, if needed)
Step 2: Place a pore strip on your nose for 10–15 minutes, as needed
Step 3: Swab your face with toner
Step 4: Apply a serum, and let it soak in
Step 5: Apply a facial mask 2–3 times a week after toning
Step 5: Gently massage moisturizer into your skin
Step 6: If your moisturizer doesn’t contain sunscreen, apply an SPF 30 formulated for your face each morning
- As more and more facial products for men enter the market, it’s getting easier to incorporate skincare products into a quick shower, morning, or nighttime routine
- An ideal skincare routine for men includes products for your face that are formulated for your skin type (dry, oily, normal, or combination) and incorporate cleansing or exfoliating, moisturizing, and sun protection
- Pore strips, toners, serums, and facial masks are bonus products that help prevent and fight breakouts, provide your skin with extra essential nutrients, and spot-treat problems like dryness and uneven skin tone
- Healthy skin requires a little work, but adopting a skincare routine can help prevent or reduce the effects of environmental toxins and the UV rays of the sun