Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/1/2021
None of us want to age, but it’s probably the case that most men also have no interest in participating in an elaborate men’s skincare routine—no matter what the beauty editors might preach.
Between the expensive products and bathroom counters full of vials and jars, most guys have seen the potential and put a stop to what could become a very time (and money) consuming prospect.
But most men are also concerned about the prospect of wrinkles, aging, dry skin and the weathered, “not-the-top-dog-anymore” look and feelings that all can bring about.
The good news is you don’t need lots of products to prevent aging from ravaging your skin—in fact, you only need a few.
A simple cleansing routine, moisturizer, and good sunscreen can be all you need to improve your skin texture and overall look—not to mention give you a fresh (and completely masculine) healthy glow.
The key is understanding the ingredients necessary to treat your facial skin right. It also helps to know if you have sensitive skin, for example, or clogged pores.
Knowing more about your skin can help you find the best skincare routine—starting with the best anti-aging face wash for you.
Wrinkles might seem mysterious: For many people, they can be nonexistent one day, and the next, boom—there to stay.
But wrinkles don’t just show up—and are actually caused by the accumulation of a number of factors. Much of this has to do with three important skin components: elastin, collagen and keratin.
All are necessary for your skin to look and stay youthful: Elastin keeps your skin resilient, collagen keeps it firm and keratin protects it from the elements.
Damage to one or more of these compounds will make your skin look less youthful over time.
Two major theories explain why skin ages: factors that are extrinsic, and factors that are intrinsic (and for your benefit, you should consider both valid).
Extrinsic sources include the elements—things like poor air quality, sunlight, deficient nutrition and insufficient water intake.
In other words, stuff you can either prevent or avoid. You can also damage your skin by smoking, sleeping face down or rubbing your eyes too hard.
Oxidative stress accounts for most of this damage, and happens when free radicals affect your skin’s normal process of making new cells and proteins.
Free radicals steal energy from your cells much the way seagulls steal food from your plate, except they do it in the form of electrons.
Lost electrons make things malfunction or produce slowly, which means you make fewer new, healthy cells.
Meanwhile, intrinsic sources do similar things, but by different methods. This has to do with aging itself—the older you get, the harder those basic processes are to perform optimally.
Think of your skin as an organ (it is, anyway)—and the skin’s aging process is like decreased organ function over time.
Facial cleansers are important for a number of reasons, including removing built-up dead cells, allergens and other pollutants from your skin that (in addition to dehydrating and damaging your skin) may also cause premature aging.
Miracle cures or natural options like essential oils for wrinkles might make you roll your eyes, but it can get even harder to pick apart reality and fiction when it comes to scientific claims.
A 2007 review published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal concluded that while countless skincare products promise smooth skin and other anti-aging benefits, “...studies proving their efficacy are limited.”
In other words, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical. But the same researchers did offer a few nuggets of skincare wisdom.
They specifically noted the importance of a few elements in their review: moisturizers and ingredients like peptides, vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamin A and vitamin B.
Why these ingredients are so important has to do with what they can do (or undo) for your skin.
According to the researchers, alpha-hydroxy acids and vitamin C have been heavily studied for their anti-aging capabilities, and have been shown to help.
Ingredients like vitamin B derivatives and vitamin A were also noted for showing promise, and pentapeptides were said to be effective in reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles.
The review authors also pointed out that moisturizers have long been shown to boost skin hydration and improve the skin’s appearance.
Sure, there might be some plant out there in a rainforest that will make you look 19 for the rest of your life, but short of finding it yourself, you’re dependent on the science we have like everyone else.
Here are some of the most important ingredients you can find in a face wash to help prevent signs of aging:
Your skin needs moisture—perhaps more than anything else. Moisturizers help hydrate your skin, to keep it from looking dry, tired and worn out.
One of the most popular hydration ingredients you’ll find? A product called hyaluronic acid (try this moisturizer for men), which is said to bind to more than “one thousand times its weight in water,” to keep you moisturized.
Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in your body and is a a great way to infuse your skin with extra hydration.
Exfoliants are also helpful when it comes to anti-aging skin care. While you may not see them in typical soap products, retinoids are a profoundly useful compound for cleansing skin.
These synthetic vitamin A compounds strip dry, dead cells from your face while encouraging collagen synthesis, which helps keep your skin firm.
Tretinoin is one of the bigger guns in the vitamin A world—it’s been around since the 1960s, and it can also encourage new cell growth, which means faster turnover of younger cells for your face.
Learn more about tretinoin here, and see if it’s right for you.
Good for colds and folds: Vitamin C might be the go-to when you’re sick, but it’s also recommended for reducing fine lines.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C is basically your missile shield for free radicals. It acts like an electron buffer, sparing your cells when free radicals go to town.
It’s also great in a serum, like this daily Morning Glow Vitamin C Serum, which can be applied in the morning.
Taking your vitamins—who would have thought the advice applies to skin too? Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties, which are essential to subduing irritation caused by the things you’re washing off at the end of the day.
It also smooths skin and helps retain moisture—yay for bonus benefits.
While the science isn’t strong with this more holistic type of product ingredient, there are still some substantial findings that show essential oils may benefit your skin (and fight aging).
Some essential oils like rose oil have anti-inflammatory properties that can keep your skin healthier.
Others like rosemary oil may help your skin retain elasticity and hydration. And lemon oil, which you may only know from cocktail garnishes, has antioxidative properties that are entirely natural.
Signs of aging, as much as we hate to admit it, aren’t permanently preventable. At some point, you’ll be 99 years old (if you’re lucky) and your skin is never going to have the resiliency it did 70 years before that.
The point of anti-aging treatments generally is to help you feel confident, healthy and reflect the age you are (minus a few years, of course).
If you’re seeing signs of aging that are concerning or sudden, even the best anti-aging face wash isn’t going to help.
Sudden signs of aging may be distress caused by other factors, and a healthcare professional is going to be able to help you determine what’s going on.
They’ll be able to diagnose why your skin suddenly feels dull or weak. They can also help you with more gradual aging problems, which may have external causes beyond what’s been discussed above.