Easy Skincare for Men: Complete 2021 Guide
Want to put your best face forward? Keep on reading to learn the basics on skincare for men and how to get started!
Everyone has skin. So let’s talk about skincare for men!
If you’re a guy that hasn’t dabbled in skincare before and you’ve made it this far in life, you might be hesitant to start now. After all, how many items are on that long list of things we *should* be doing but seem to survive just fine without?
The countless products on store shelves might overwhelm you, but be rest assured that skincare doesn’t have to be complicated. Even if you don’t have any obvious skincare issues that you want to address, there’s plenty to be gained in giving a little extra TLC to your face.
It’s recommended to start a skincare regimen before you start to notice any issues. In fact, the best time to start is *checks watch* right now. Skincare isn’t vain and should be right up there in your health habits with healthy eating and exercise! If you start now, you’ll have fewer problems later, and even the most simple routine is better than nothing.
If you’re curious at all about how you can start or upgrade your skincare routine, read on! We’ll go over the basics of men’s skincare and help uncover this intimidating topic.
First, Know Your Skin Type
If you want your skincare to be effective, you should have an idea of what your skin type is before you shell out money on fancy shmancy top of the line products. The last thing you want is to spend all that money on products that won’t work for your face!
The major skin types are: normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive.
Here are some ways to tell what skin type you have.
If you have “normal” skin, you aren’t particularly oily or dry. You probably aren’t prone to breakouts or have flaky skin.
But just because you aren’t oily or dry doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything to maintain your skin’s health.
Dry skin produces less sebum, or oil. This sebum is your body’s primary defense in keeping the skin barrier hydrated, so with less oil your skin will look duller and is more susceptible to premature aging.
You’ll want a routine that restores and holds moisture to keep it looking healthy.
If you have oily skin, your skin produces extra sebum. This oil sometimes clogs pores and causes blemishes. Aside from these more obvious signs of oily skin, you might see a sheen in your T zone - your forehead, nose, and chin. This area of your skin produces the most sebum.
You’ll want a routine that helps balance out this oil, won’t clog your pores, and helps clear away dead skin cells.
Combination skin is, you guessed it, a combination of oily and dry skin.
It can be a little tricky to manage, since you are simultaneously trying to balance out excess oil and hydrate the dry parts of your face. But we’ll get into that later.
If you have sensitive skin, you might experience visible signs of redness and have symptoms of discomfort. While sensitive skin is often talked about on its own, you can have oily and sensitive skin, dry and sensitive skin, normal and sensitive skin, or combination and sensitive skin.
You’ll want a routine that is gentle and helps strengthen that fragile skin barrier, as well as soothe redness and irritation. Avoid scented products, as they might irritate your skin.
How to Determine Your Skin Type
If you’re still not sure about your skin type or would rather double check, you can do a quick test to get a better idea.
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and then pat it dry with a clean towel. Wait 30 minutes.
- If your skin looks shiny all over, you probably have oily skin.
- If your skin feels tight and flaky, you probably have dry skin.
- If your T zone - your forehead, nose, and chin - looks shiny, but the rest of your face doesn’t, you probably have combination skin.
- If your skin feels comfortable - not tight or flaky, and not shiny - then you probably have normal skin.
Remember that you can have any combination of these skin types and sensitive skin. Pay attention to any signs of redness and feelings of irritation, in addition to your general skin type.
Once you have an idea of what skin type you have, it’s time to start paying attention to ingredients.
Next, Read The Labels
You might be tempted to ignore ingredients lists or zone out after the first three, but the ingredients matter! Again, you don’t want to pay for products that don’t work for you, or worse, irritate your skin.
Knowing what ingredients to look out for can help you avoid products that rely on spiffy marketing tactics and claims, instead of quality formulations.
Here are a few basic active ingredients you should look for when buying skincare products for men. These “active ingredients” are what makes the product work as advertised. And in case you don’t already know, it’s important to note that the ingredients towards the beginning of the list on the back of the bottle are generally the ones that make up the most volume.
So what ingredients should you look out for?
Not all alcohols are bad, but some that are added to skincare products can dry out your skin. Examples of alcohols that you might want to avoid are as follows:
- Ethyl alcohol
- Denatured alcohol
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Benzyl alcohol
AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids)
Alpha-hydroxy acids are a class of exfoliating agents that help break down the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together. Regular exfoliation is helpful in preventing ingrown hairs. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are two common AHAs that you can include in your regimen.
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize damaging free radicals we’re exposed to in everyday life, from outdoor pollution to our body’s normal cellular processes. Examples of antioxidants that you might want in a product are as follows:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Green tea
Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that you might want to include if you have problems with breakouts.
BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acids)
Beta-hydroxy acids are another class of exfoliants. These are oil-soluble and therefore good at penetrating pores and clearing blackheads. A common BHA to look for is salicylic acid, which is particularly good at clearing away dead skin that leads to ingrown hairs.
Hyaluronic acid is a compound found naturally in your skin’s tissue. It works with most skin types, and when applied to your skin it helps hold in moisture.
Mineral oil is sometimes added to products to help moisturize and soothe skin. For some people it causes issues with clogged pores, so avoid this ingredient if that is a concern.
Parabens are a class of preservatives that include butylparaben, propylparaben, methylparaben, and ethylparaben. They’re largely safe when not used in excess, though many manufacturers remove them from their formulations due to consumer concerns about estrogen production.
Phthalate is another chemical that is often removed from formulations in response to consumer concerns over health effects.
Sulfates are a class of cleansing agents that include sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate. They can cause dryness or irritation when used in excess or when left on the skin for too long, so some people choose to avoid them. If you have particularly dry or sensitive skin you might opt for products that don’t use sulfates.
If these ingredients and chemical names feel like a lot of information, no worries! You can make your skincare routine for men as simple or as fancy as you like. Don’t stress about getting it right the first time, just do a little trial and error to see what works best for you.
Now, Follow this Basic Formula for Your Skincare Goals
Now that you have an idea of your skin type and what kinds of ingredients you want to include or avoid, let’s go over the basics of your daily skincare routine!
While some trial and error with products here and there is expected, the real goal is consistency. You should find a realistic routine that you can follow in the morning and at night. When you set aside just a few minutes each day for this routine, you will see real results!
Additionally, know that skincare products can be unnecessarily (and aggressively) gendered. You don’t need products that are marketed towards men for them to work for your face - it’s all about the active ingredients! However, the packaging can help you know what the product is intended for, such as dry skin or acne.
Keep it simple: know your skin type, determine your skincare goals, and develop a routine from there.
Step 1: Cleanse
We hope this one isn’t a surprise! It makes sense that the first step in healthy skin would be to remove pore-clogging dirt and debris from your face.
However, as tempting as it may be, this does not mean you should be taking a power washer to your face. There is such a thing as too clean! The top layer of your skin and its oils is delicate and protects the deeper layers, meaning that too much washing can actually be counterintuitive.
While washing too much can strip your skin of the oils that keep it healthy, you should at least be washing your face with a nonabrasive gentle cleanser every morning and night to make sure those oils don’t build up too much and clog your pores throughout the day and as you sleep.
It might be tempting, but don’t settle for bar soap! Your face deserves better than the harsh ingredients that are used, even in natural soaps.
If you have oilier skin, be careful with overwashing, which can actually make things worse.
Use lukewarm water to rinse your face, apply the cleanser with your fingers, and rinse off with lukewarm water. Be careful not to rub your face too hard in the process, which can damage your skin.
Pay attention to your skin to know whether you’re washing your face too little or too much. If you’re noticing clogged pores and blemishes, there is a chance you could benefit from washing your skin more, but know that more than twice a day isn’t necessary. If your skin is feeling tight and dry and you’re washing your face twice a day, see what happens when you scale back and just wash your face at night.
In addition to standard day to day cleansing, you should make a point to wash your face when you get particularly sweaty, such as after a workout.
To make things a little easier, cleansers will often advertise the skin type they are best suited for right on the front. But it’s still worth taking a peek at the ingredients list to see if there are any ingredients that you like, or ones that you’d rather avoid.
Know that if you have combination skin, proper face washing should help balance it out and clear away excess oil without drying out your skin and leaving it feeling tight.
You might see face cleansers with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide on the list of ingredients. If you struggle with breakouts and ingrown hairs, this could be a good option to try.
Some cleansers might have added hyaluronic acid for hydration.
Face cleansers are where you also might see added sulfites. They are not necessarily cause for immediate concern, but pay attention to how your skin reacts, especially if you have dry skin. If your skin feels dry or irritated after using it, just try swapping the product out for one that doesn’t use sulfates.
When in doubt, go with a gentle cleanser that doesn’t disrupt your skin barrier.
Step 1.5: Exfoliate
We’re calling this step 1.5 because you shouldn’t be exfoliating every day. Remember that your skin barrier is delicate, so if you over-exfoliate you’re going to be damaging the skin barrier, which is counterproductive.
Use an exfoliator once or twice a week to help remove dead skin cells and improve cell turnover. Clearing away this dead skin will help with ingrown hairs from shaving.
When shopping, it’ll say exfoliator on the front label. Certain chemicals, such as AHAs and BHAs, are good options for exfoliation to add to your routine.
While traditional exfoliants are meant to be used once or twice a week, there are some “in between” products that are formulated for more regular use. For example, Only Skin’s scrub with added botanicals and essential oils is meant to be used in place of your cleanser 3-4 times per week to help clear away buildup and dullness.
As with any products, pay attention to what your skin likes and what it doesn’t, and only use products as directed. Some products will irritate your skin when you leave them on longer than you’re supposed to.
Know that it only takes a little bit of product to do the trick. Don’t exfoliate too hard! Rub your face in gentle circles, especially along your nose and forehead where buildup occurs. When you’re done, just rinse and pat dry.
Step 2: Repair
Your skin is exposed to a lot of damage-causing compounds throughout the day. From air pollution to UV rays, day to day life takes a toll.
For this reason it’s a good idea to try to combat all that damage with products that include antioxidants and other repairing compounds.
Products with added vitamin C, retinol, and other antioxidants can help reduce some of the damaging effects and stave off signs of premature aging. You can find cleansers with antioxidants in them, or opt for a daily serum. Either way, do this before your moisturizer step.
One important thing to note is that while retinol is good for cell turnover, it might irritate sensitive skin and should be used at night or under sunscreen since it makes your skin more sensitive to light.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to take your skincare routine a step further, serums are more potent than moisturizers and will deliver concentrated active ingredients more efficiently.
If the amount of options overwhelms you, take a second to think about your skin type and skincare goals. Serums will have their purpose advertised on the front, and if you really want to channel your inner skincare guru, take a look at the ingredients list to check for compounds that suit your needs.
Whichever serum you decide to try out, just remember that this goes after your cleanser and before your moisturizer.
Step 3: Moisturize
This might be an obvious step for those with visible signs of dry skin, but even those with oily and combination skin need to moisturize.
Without moisturizing, your skin might overcompensate in producing oil and make oily skin worse. Finding a moisturizer that you like is important to help balance out that oil production and keep your skin happy and looking healthy.
Moisturizer is absorbed best on clean skin, after you’ve washed it with your cleanser of choice and warm water and while it’s still a little damp. If you really want your moisturizer to sink in, you should exfoliate once a week.
You don’t need to be slathering on your moisturizer of choice for it to be effective, but don’t skip this step either! Without moisturizer your skin will feel duller and even tight and flaky.
Step 4: Protect
Don’t groan...but you should be wearing sunscreen every day as part of your skincare routine.
This is one of those things that you’ll be happy you did 10 years from now, but might feel unnecessary today. Even in the winter or when you’re just sitting on the patio after work, your skin is exposed to harmful UV sun rays that cause skin damage and premature aging.
Pick a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 and apply it every morning. You’ll be able to find some moisturizers with added SPF if that’s more your speed. You should be putting SPF sunscreen on any parts of your skin that will be exposed to the sun, and reapplying it during prolonged exposure.
Using SPF daily is one of the best tactics for anti aging for men!
When to See a Skincare Professional
Any time you have any concerns about your skin or questions about your skincare routine, you should consult a dermatologist. Only a qualified professional can diagnose and treat skincare problems, and it’s always good to get a reputable opinion instead of consulting Dr. Google!
Don’t worry about your problems being “too small” for a dermatologist visit. Dermatologists are trained to treat isolated issues including acne and eczema and prescribe medications for your needs, and can also do routine mole checks.
Even if you don’t have any immediate concerns, you should go to the dermatologist every year to help you understand your skin and how best to take care of it. This is different from going to an esthetician, who can perform topical treatments.
We hope that now that you’ve made it through the end of this post that you realize that skincare truly is for everyone, and everyone out there has something to gain from taking a little extra care of their skin. You’re never too young or too old to pick up a new good habit!
While all of the fancy products on shelves can be overwhelming, once you break it down into a few basic steps and know what your skin likes best, you’re already halfway there. Even if you’re just adding a gentle cleanser to your daily routine, you’re still taking steps to improve your skin. Just remember that consistency is key, and don’t be afraid to experiment and do a little trial and error.
With these tips, we hope you feel more empowered to make decisions that help you put your best face forward and take care of your skin!