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Skin Care for Men: Routines, Products and Tips

by Martha Adams

The 30 Best Skincare Products for Men

In the past, it used to be that most men’s skincare routine consisted of one simple product—that bar of soap kept in the shower. And for special occasions? A bracing splash of aftershave. Thankfully, there’s been a bit of an evolution, especially in the past 20 years, with all the big name brands having their own targeted men’s product line. Everything a man of today needs to keep looking sharp and feeling fresh is now available to him, and in a wide range of price points, too. From focusing on washing away the daily dirt, pollution, and grime to moisturizing to prevent dry patches and applying sunscreen to ward off sun damage and aging, there is a general understanding that a one-step skincare routine is not the way to go.

That said, getting too complicated with products isn’t ideal, either. “Men want the simplest routine possible,” says Jeffrey Hsu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago. With that in mind, the ideal routine includes face wash, moisturizer, exfoliator, serum, and sunscreen—with the addition of a few products that can address your specific skin concerns (like dark spots or razor bumps). Whether you’re shopping for a partner or are looking for the best skincare for men for yourself, here are the products worth your consideration.

Our top picks

How to Build a Skin Care Regimen for Men

If your ideas about skincare come from Reddit, you might think it’s a dark rabbit hole of science akin to astrophysics or neurology. If your opinion comes exclusively from the men’s personal care aisle of your local big box store, you probably think one multi-use product can do everything (as long as it contains charcoal). But the reality of skincare lies somewhere in between.

Thanks to the sheer volume of product options, skincare can be daunting at best and confusing at worst. Maybe that’s why many guys have no skincare routine to speak of—they don’t want to put in the effort to figure it out. Or maybe they just don’t care. Well they, and you, should care. Good skincare is one of the most powerful tools we have against most of the common issues men face on their faces: acne, wrinkles, even sun damage. And in both the short and long term, it could mean the difference between someone saying, “Wow, you look great!” as opposed to, “Oh, have you been getting enough sleep?”

Effective skincare takes more than just washing your face with whatever soap you have lying around and hoping for the best. It’s like anything worthwhile: it takes commitment, consistency, and care, not to mention a healthy amount of experimentation till you find the right products for you. That’s why I’m here; this is a safe space and no one here is expecting you to know the difference between hyaluronic acid and niacinamide overnight.

And anyways, building a skincare routine from ground zero takes only a few simple steps, and you’d be surprised by how much of a difference you’ll see after just a few weeks of following them. I’m going to lay it all out—from beginner to advanced—because chances are, once you see your face after a few weeks of moisturizer, you won’t ever want to go back.


You’ve never washed your face with anything other than hand soap and never used, much less bought, a moisturizer.

Step 1: Facial Cleanser

When we think of clean skin, we’re conditioned to expect a dry, squeaky-clean feeling, but that’s actually a sign that you’ve over-cleansed and that is a bad thing. It means your skin’s protective barrier is disrupted and you’ve stripped away good oils that keep it moisturized. Instead, use a specific facial cleanser that’s designed for your skin type. If you have dry skin, look for a cleanser with moisturizing ingredients and if you have oily skin, use a gel cleanser with oil-controlling ingredients like salicylic acid. Use your cleanser morning and night for best results.

Step 2: Eye Cream

Eye cream is like the Swiss army knife of a man’s skin care routine: it’s a simple tool that can fix a whole lot of problems. Dark circles? It can help get rid of them. Puffy bags from a rager late night? It can send those packing. Starting to see wrinkles and fine lines? Eye cream can keep you looking fresh. Eye skin is thinner than on the rest of your face, so it needs more concentrated ingredients, and tends to lose moisture quickly and easily. Start using an eye cream morning and night after cleansing, even if you don’t do anything else (but you should do other stuff too, so keep reading).

Step 3: Moisturizer

The biggest reason I hear guys say they don’t wear moisturizer is that they don’t like how it feels on their faces. I get that. Who likes to feel like you have glop all over your mug all day? But finding a moisturizer you can tolerate is easy (there are more lightweight formulas coming out every day) and wearing one will, at the very least, keep your skin from feeling dry, and at the most, help it maintain moisture that will keep it looking good for years to come. Look for words like “lotion” or “gel” instead of “cream” on the label if you’re a beginner. Slap it on after your eye cream to lock in moisture.

Step 4: SPF

The final step is most important: no matter your skin tone, you need to be wearing sunscreen every day. Seriously. UV rays from the sun, which we all encounter every day unless we are shut-ins or vampires, not only cause skin cancer, but are also the biggest factor in our skin’s aging. Daily sunscreen is the most effective anti-aging product we have. But most guys don’t wear it for the same reason as moisturizer (“I don’t like how it feels” *crying face emoji*). That’s no longer an excuse. Instead of using a moisturizer that has a tiny amount of SPF, look for a sunscreen that has skin-hydrating ingredients. That way you can wear it over your moisturizer (more hydration never hurt anyone), or on its own occasionally, like when it’s hot.

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Congrats: you’ve learned how to wash your face like an adult and you even found a moisturizing sunscreen you don’t mind wearing every day. It’s time to graduate to the next level.

Step 1: Chemical Exfoliation

Regular exfoliation is important because it gets rid of dead skin cells that stick around on the surface of our face where they can clog your pores, keep products like moisturizers from working their best, and make your skin look dull. But before everyone comes at me saying that exfoliation should be in the beginner section, hear this: men exfoliate every time they shave. That means some of us exfoliate every single day without realizing it. If you are going to exfoliate on purpose (which most of us should do about once a week), don’t use scrub, which can be too harsh. Instead look for an exfoliator containing alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, which will slough away dead cells more gently. Use your chemical exfoliator once or twice a week after cleansing, but before applying your other products.

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Step 2: Serum

If your skincare routine were a smoothie, serum would be the wheatgrass shot (or whatever booster you want, I don’t know your life). Serums are more potent than your daily moisturizer, and are meant to impart active ingredients and nutrients more quickly and effectively. The good news is that no matter your skin concern, there is a serum for that. The bad news is that it can be hard to know what you need. If you’re new to the serum game, look for one that addresses a variety of issues: They’ll usually contain hydrating and skin-building ingredients that all skin can benefit from. Use it twice a day, after your cleanser and before your moisturizer.

Step 3: Mask

There are hundreds of different kinds of masks, and what they all have in common is that they’re meant to supplement our core skincare routines. They’re like serums, in that they deliver more concentrated ingredients and target specific skin concerns. The best kind of mask for men, especially beginners, is a clay mask. These masks use ingredients like clay and mud to cleanse deep into your pores (deeper than your twice-daily cleanser can go) and remove built-up dirt, oil and debris. But, also like serums, you can find masks that do almost anything - like exfoliate and hydrate - so no matter what you’re trying to target, there’s a mask for that. Most masks should be used once or twice a week.


There’s not a dead skin cell in sight and your pores are clean AF. Maybe you even have multiple serums. Welcome to the big leagues.

Step 1: Retinol

Some people confuse retinol with an exfoliator, but it’s actually a form of Vitamin A that helps cell turnover (growing new skin cells and getting rid of old ones) and attacks signs of aging. The reason it’s an advanced move is because it can be harsh on sensitive skin and if you wear it, you absolutely must wear sunscreen every day (it can make skin more sensitive to light). It can also make skin flaky, especially at the beginning, so look for a gentle version that also contains moisturizing ingredients. Apply your retinol at night right after you wash your face and before putting on any other products.

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Step 2: Toner

Lots of people think of toner as a second cleanser and, sure, sometimes it can help remove dirt and oil left over from your cleansing step. But the real purpose is to balance the pH of your skin after cleansing. If you have oily skin or struggle with acne, toner can be an invaluable step in keeping your skin clear and shine free; if you have dry skin, it can help restore much-needed moisture. Use a cotton pad to swipe some of it over your face after cleansing or if you’re not a cotton pad man, use one in a gel form after washing.

Step 3: Night Cream

Wearing a special moisturizer at night may seem crazy at first, but while you’re resting, your skin is trying to rebuild itself. Night creams are typically very, very hydrating and contain specific active ingredients like peptides to help this regenerating process. For added value, try a night cream that contains anti-aging retinol or gentle exfoliating acids that work overnight. Wearing the same moisturizer during the day and night is fine, but having a separate cream at night is the real pro move.

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Skin Care for Men: Routines, Products and Tips

Perhaps you’re an outdoorsy kind of guy — spending lots of time in the sun, exposed to the elements. Or you’re the casual, more indoorsy type. Maybe you’re clean-shaven or sporting a full beard. No matter your style or lifestyle, taking care of your skin is important.

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“A lot of men have the common misconception that skin care needs to be really complicated, but it doesn’t have to be,” says dermatologist Jane Wu, MD. “You can have a simple regimen that’s easy to follow as part of your daily routine.”

Dr. Wu shares what kind of products are important for keeping your skin fresh and healthy, along with both a simple and more advanced routine for men who’re interested in leveling up.

Choosing the right skin care products

In people designated male at birth (DMAB), the dermis layer of their skin tends to be thicker and tougher than in people designated female at birth (DFAB). This causes deeper, furrowed wrinkles from repeated muscle movement. Testosterone can also make your skin more oily. But Dr. Wu says picking the right skincare products isn’t about gender as much as it’s about figuring out your skin type.

“You should really assess your personal skin type because that can really matter more than the differences between genders,” says Dr. Wu.

Skin types

There are roughly four skin care types:

Normal skin can tolerate a variety of different skin care products without any harsh results.

can tolerate a variety of different skin care products without any harsh results. Dry skin can be red and flaky in areas, especially when exposed to cold, winter elements. You may also have this type if you remove the natural oils from your skin by washing or scrubbing your body excessively. If you have this skin type, you’re more prone to getting eczema.

can be red and flaky in areas, especially when exposed to cold, winter elements. You may also have this type if you remove the natural oils from your skin by washing or scrubbing your body excessively. If you have this skin type, you’re more prone to getting eczema. Sensitive skin reacts to different products in a variety of ways. If you break out in a rash or experience itchiness, redness or burning when trying new skin care products, you might have this skin type.

reacts to different products in a variety of ways. If you break out in a rash or experience itchiness, redness or burning when trying new skin care products, you might have this skin type. Oily skin causes your face to appear shiny or bright. You tend to breakout or have issues with acne more easily if you have this skin type.

You can also have a combination skin type, in which the center of your face may be oily, but other parts of your face, like your cheeks, can be dry.

Important ingredients

On the most basic level, everything you do should cleanse your skin, moisturize it and add a protective layer in case of injury or irritation. At a glance, there are a ton of products on the market, and figuring out which ones to try (and which ones work) can be overwhelming. But when you start boiling it down to these three goals (cleanse, moisturize, protect), finding the right ingredients can make this process easier. Here are some ingredients you should consider when looking for cleansers and moisturizers, and a few you should avoid.


The original cleanser is your good old bar of soap. But, Dr. Wu warns that many traditional soap products are so good at their job they actually strip your skin of all its natural oils when removing dirt, oil or makeup. Instead, look for a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser. If you have dry or sensitive skin, try using a cream-based cleanser, but if you have oily or a combination skin type, you’ll want to use a foaming cleanser.


Moisturizers keep water in the skin so it stays hydrated, plump and full. Hyaluronic acid is the ingredient that draws water in and keeps it there. But you also want to look for ceramide-enriched moisturizers.

“Ceramides are a component of your skin’s fat or lipid layer,” explains Dr. Wu. “So it helps to replenish your skin barrier.”

Salicylic acid and glycolic acid

These two ingredients are important for acne care. They both chemically exfoliate the top layer of your skin, but salicylic acid can actually penetrate deeper into oil glands.

Avoid fragrances

Everything smells like something these days, but fragrances can be bothersome. They can cause contact allergies, which can result in red, itchy or scaly rashes on your face, head and neck. And even if it’s unscented, it’s not entirely safe.

“You want to look for something that says it’s fragrance-free,” says Dr. Wu. “In something that’s unscented, they can sometimes add a masking scent, so you don’t smell anything, but there’s actually a fragrance still in the product.”

If you experience a contact allergy from a fragrance, it’s usually a delayed reaction that can happen days if not weeks after you start using the product.

Avoid alcohol-based aftershaves

There’s nothing quite like that burn right after a good shave, and while that might feel refreshing at first, it’s actually hindering your ability to stay moisturized because it dries out your skin.

“Alcohol-based products are traditionally meant to act as an antiseptic and help prevent infection, but it can be very irritating to the skin. Using a moisturizer is more helpful than an alcohol-based aftershave for most people,” advises Dr. Wu.

Simple skin care routine for men

For the simplest routine, you want to stick to the basics: Cleanse, moisturize and protect.

Step 1: Cleanse two times a day

You’ll want to clean your skin twice a day, usually first thing in the morning and right before bed. If you tend to exercise in the morning or in the middle of the day, you should cleanse right after your workout.

Hot water can strip the oils from your skin, so use warm water with your cleanser, even if you do this step in the shower. Use your fingertips to massage the cleanser into your skin, then rinse off completely. When drying, don’t rub all the moisture off. You’ll want to pat dry instead.

Step 2: Moisturize twice a day

While your skin is still a little damp after cleansing, you lock that water in with a moisturizer. “The idea here is to replenish that lipid barrier your skin has by maintaining its moisture,” says Dr. Wu. “By restoring your skin barrier, you help defend yourself against chemicals and irritants in the environment.”

Step 3: Apply sunscreen once in the morning

It’s important to wear sunscreen every day because UV rays (even on cloudy days) have the ability to accelerate aging, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. Sunscreen also helps prevent skin cancer.

If you shave, there are some additional tricks

Shaving is one of the most common concerns for men. While you should avoid alcohol-based aftershaves, there are other things to consider, too.

Your facial hair will be softer after a warm or hot shower, so cleanse first.

Use a gentle, bland shaving cream or oil to prevent rashes or ingrown hairs.

Shave in the direction of your hair growth to reduce irritation. If your skin is irritated or dry, using an electrical razor with safeguards can help.

When you’re done shaving, apply a gentle moisturizer to your skin. If you have dry skin, an oil-based product can be used as well.

If you typically get ingrown hairs, use an exfoliant (like a gentle face scrub) on your skin a couple times a week to remove dead skin cells.

For more advanced routines

“Oftentimes, less is more, but you can make your routine as sophisticated as you’d like,” notes Dr. Wu. If you’re looking for a more advanced routine, adding in the following steps can take your skin care game to the next level.

Add an antioxidant serum in the morning

“For something more advanced, you’ll want to add a product to prevent damage and repair cells,” says Dr. Wu. Adding an antioxidant serum like vitamin C can help protect your skin from free radicals — substances in the environment and in your body that can cause harm to your cells through normal processes like breathing and aging.

“You should put this on after you cleanse but before you moisturize in the morning,” says Dr. Wu.

Add retinol to your routine at night

“Retinol is one of the key players in anti-aging that helps with fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Wu. Retinol helps chemically exfoliate the top layer of your skin and helps build collagen, which gives your skin that pleasurable, plump feeling. Since retinol makes you more sensitive to the sun, you should avoid doing this in the morning.

When should you start your skin care routine?

Everyone’s built a little differently, but it’s never too early to start a skin care regimen. Some people can show signs of wrinkles and aging as early as their 20s, and Dr. Wu suggests everyone should be proactive in terms of sun protection from childhood.

When should you see your doctor?

Dr. Wu suggests doing self-checks in the mirror or with a partner three to four times every year, as well as having your skin checked during routine physicals with your family doctor. If you spot signs of new or changing lesions, especially moles or growths that change in size, shape or color, you should see your trusted healthcare provider. If you have skin concerns that aren’t improved with your skin care regimen, like acne, rosacea or eczema, you should seek help from a board-certified dermatologist.

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