Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/16/2021
The words “skin care” usually don’t appear in our day-to-day conversations, and we’re not really sure why.
It’s common sense to us that all good men should take care of our skin the same way we do our hair, our fingernails and our clothing. Despite this, many guys are hesitant to talk about their skin care needs, as if the topic is radioactive.
Want to talk about boots with somebody? They’ll talk about that shit all day. Want to know where a man gets his haircut? He’ll tell you like a giddy schoolgirl.
Want to know how much that selvedge denim wrapped around that dude’s legs at the coffee shop costs? He’s into it.
But ask a guy how he keeps his skin so clear and fresh looking, and suddenly you’d be looked at like you’re Hannibal Lecter. It’s more than a little ridiculous.
Make no mistake, fellas. A good skin care routine is a damn necessity. Today, we’re going to let you know how it’s done, from the specific issues that can affect your face to the techniques and products that you can use to deal with them for good.
We’d wager that 80 percent of you reading this are genuinely interested -- but also more than a little nervous -- about learning more about keeping the skin on your face looking healthy, free of imperfections and fresh.
The other 20 percent of you are here because we said “shit” in the fifth sentence, and you might just appreciate our moxie.
Either way, we’re glad you’re here. The truth is the reason why most men are turned off by face care -- or skin care, in general -- is because it seems daunting.
We see all the commercials for the serums, the masks and the special water and all that other stuff that none of us understand -- but spokespeople and “real customers” swear by -- and we decide it’s just too much.
It’s an understandable reaction. Not only can the long list of “must-have” face care ingredients promoted in popular media feel overwhelming, but it’s also extremely expensive.
The good news is that you don’t actually need all of that stuff to take care of your face. In fact, the reality of skin care is that you only need a few relatively affordable products to ensure your skin looks good throughout the year.
For the most part, the “secrets” to good skin care for men are a good facial cleanser, a reliable moisturizer, an exfoliator, a wrinkle cream and, if you’re feeling extra attentive, a serum.
We’ll go through each of these products below, but first, let’s talk about why you should care about this stuff.
The majority of people who don’t really adhere to some kind of face care regimen are generally of the disposition that the skin on our faces is just fine.
You’re handsome, and it’s not like you’re dying without it. So why care about this stuff?
Well, if that’s the way we’re going to approach it, we might as well ask what the big deal about your wardrobe is when Walmart has shirts for three bucks a pop and jeans for just a few bucks more.
Why invest in a good pair of boots when you can buy knock-offs for an eighth of the price? Hell, why go to the barber twice a month? Hair is hair, and yours works just fine.
This is all true, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this mentality. These things work just fine. But we take time and effort to invest in the good stuff because we know that it makes a real difference. Why settle for good when you can have great?
And that’s what brings us here.
Just like everybody else, men suffer from skin care issues. Many of these issues develop slowly over time, which is why they’re often imperceptible to you in your 20s but suddenly easier to see in your 30s.
Some of the most common skin concerns that can affect men include:
Fine lines and wrinkles
Blotchy, discolored skin
Bags under the eyes
Deep lines and creases
Even if these things aren’t a problem for you now, it’s worth paying attention to them to prevent them from becoming problems in the future. Put simply, instead of treating these problems after they develop, you’ll get the best results by preventing them ahead of time.
Right now, you’re probably sitting wherever you are, going through this checklist and having a bit of an epiphany. You might have started noticing some wrinkles near your eyes and around your mouth, or bags under your eyes that you never noticed before.
You might have a couple blotchy patches you’ve pretended to ignore for some time, as well as the same forehead lines you used to make fun of your dad for.
Welcome to everyone’s life. No one is perfect, and no one has perfect skin. But by taking care of your skin, you can improve these issues and make sure your skin looks and feels its best as you get older.
You’ve heard it since you were a kid: wrinkles are just a part of life. That’s true, and usually the person who says it to you goes on some rant about how wrinkles are indicative of your special life experience and wisdom.
But the other truth is that you don’t just have to accept wrinkles as an inevitable consequence of getting older. While it’s impossible to maintain baby smooth skin for your entire life, the right mix of skin care habits and science-based products can have a big impact on how your skin looks.
Wrinkles develop as a result of your skin thinning and becoming less elastic over time. Certain habits, such as spending too much time in bright sunlight, can accelerate these natural changes and make fine lines and wrinkles more visible.
The first line of defense against wrinkles is a good wrinkle cream. These creams are generally applied in the evening, right before bed and just after you’ve cleansed your skin.
They’re different from regular a.m./p.m. moisturizers because they’re usually thicker and more effective against wrinkles.
Most wrinkle creams contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and caffeine, which help your skin to retain moisture and protect against the effects of UV radiation.
For additional protection against wrinkles, you might want to consider adding a retinoid to your skin care routine.
Retinoids work by promoting the peeling of dead skin cells, which can build up over time as a result of your skin’s cellular turnover process. They’re commonly used in anti-aging to control fine lines, wrinkles and other common skin issues.
You can find tretinoin, one of the most effective prescription retinoids, in our Custom Anti-Aging Face Cream.
If you’re not ready to use prescription skin care products, try adding a non-prescription retinoid product, such as adapalene or retinol, to your anti-wrinkle kit.
There are a bunch of ways to help remedy blotchy skin, but a lot of them are pretty intense and include everything from bleaching with hydroquinone to cosmetic procedures that peel away the outermost layers of your skin.
Just like with wrinkles, a reliable way to deal with blotchy skin is by using topical tretinoin, which is approved by the FDA as a treatment for mottled hyperpigmentation (a clinical term for blotchy, darkened areas of skin).
Under-eye bags can develop for many reasons, from natural aging to allergies that cause your face to become puffier than normal.
Depending on the severity of your under-eye bags, you could get away with just modifying your lifestyle so that you get more sleep, as these issues often develop in people who are frequently sleep deprived.
You can also use well-known skin care treatments like tretinoin, moisturizer and night cream to keep your skin hydrated and healthy, which may help to prevent bags from showing.
If that doesn’t work, you can do the “cucumber slices over the eyes” thing. Seriously, as strange as it should, it actually works.
If all else fails, there are hydrating eye creams that can be applied directly to under-eye bags in order to help moisturize the skin and rejuvenate it with important vitamins.
Wrinkles can vary in severity. Some are fine, mild and easy to cover up by avoiding some facial expressions. Others are big, obvious and seemingly deeper every year, especially the wrinkles that can form on your forehead.
While it’s true that once a wrinkle is there, it’ll never really go away without the help of things like botox and microdermabrasion therapy, there are still plenty of things you can do to help mitigate the visual appearance of those wrinkles.
The first is to moisturize every day. Although moisturizing doesn’t really stop deep wrinkles from forming, it helps to hydrate your skin and make them less visible. In fact, moisturizer is often the main active ingredient in many costly anti-aging creams.
You should also consider using men's daily sunscreen, even when it’s not sunny and even in the winter.
UV rays are the biggest obstacle standing in the way of healthy skin, and proper UV protection is the most effective way to ensure as little damage as possible. In fact, skin damage from UV radiation is responsible for as much as 90 percent of the visible aging that affects your skin.
Finally, as always, tretinoin and other retinoids can play a major role in preventing this type of skin aging. The same way it works wonders on small stuff, tretinoin is also widely known as an excellent way to lessen the severity of the big stuff.
This one is the easy part. Whether you’re in your 50s or grinding your way through your 20s or 30s, the fact is that just going about your daily business can easily cause your skin to become dry and irritated.
Dry skin can develop as a result of your environment, exposure to hot water and chemicals in fragrances, cleaning solutions and skin care products that remove moisture from your skin.
The good news is that dealing with dry skin is easy. Start by applying moisturizer, preferably as soon as you’re done drying yourself after your morning and evening shower.
To avoid removing moisture from your skin, wash with warm rather than hot water and limit the amount of time you spend in the shower to five to 10 minutes. Also, try to avoid rubbing your skin as you dry it -- instead, gently blot it dry using a soft, clean towel.
If you want to make sure you’re doing every little thing, a good vitamin C serum can also work wonders for dry, itchy skin.
Serum is highly concentrated and includes all of the good stuff and none of the fluff. It’s often a little on the spendy side, but it is worth it.
For extra help with dry skin, you can check out our detailed guide to keeping your skin hydrated throughout the day.
Finally, there’s the bane of every teenager’s existence: acne. We like to think that it stops when our balls drop and our mustache starts to grow in, but as we can all attest, acne is a persistent, troubling annoyance that often sticks with us well into adulthood.
Acne can occur in adults for a lot of reasons, ranging from genetics to use of oil-based skin care products. Even hormonal fluctuations, anxiety and anger can either cause or contribute to some acne breakouts.
Most acne lesions develop when your hair follicles, or pores, become clogged with a natural oil produced by your skin called sebum and dead skin cells. These can form into comedones, or in some cases, inflamed and painful pimples and cystic acne.
Defeating acne is all about limiting the things that cause it -- namely sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.
You can do part of this using our trusty friend tretinoin, which helps to prevent acne by removing dead cells from the surface layer of your skin.
Other popular ingredients that can help with acne include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid and tartaric acid, as well as beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid.
Like tretinoin, these ingredients promote exfoliation. You can find these ingredients in cleansers and other skin care products available over the counter.
Beyond actively treating acne, making a few simple changes to your daily routine can often help to stop it from forming in the first place.
Start by avoiding moisturizers and other products that are packed with oils. Instead, look for skin care and anti-aging products that are labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic.” These are usually made with fewer oils and other ingredients that can clog pores and cause acne breakouts.
To prevent sebum and dead skin cells from building up, wash your face two times a day, as well as after you exercise. Finally, try to avoid popping your pimples, as this makes your acne worse and can lead to infections and scarring.
If you still have acne even with plenty of self care, it’s always best to talk to a dermatologist and find out about your options.
There are several prescription medications for acne out there, with tretinoin (an ingredient in our Customized Acne Cream for Men) one of the most popular. While using prescription medication to treat acne might sound scary, the reality is that it’s both common and highly effective.
Finally, make sure to keep your diet in check. While the link between greasy foods and acne is much less proven than people think, some research suggests that high-GI foods such as sugar and “empty” carbs may play a role in triggering acne breakouts.
Want to learn more about how your diet can affect your skin health and risk of dealing with acne breakouts? We got you, bro.
Contrary to what magazines and social media might tell you, creating a good face care routine is neither complicated nor expensive.
Start with a cleanser. Then, keep your skin free of dead skin cells and acne with a good quality exfoliant, such as tretinoin. Follow up by staying hydrated with a good moisturizer and complete the show with plenty of sun protection.
If you’re feeling extra attentive, it’s fine to add a wrinkle cream and serum. However, neither of these are absolute essentials.
When you’re comparing skin care products, remember that the active ingredients matter much more than the brand name. You’ll often find quality ingredients in simple, inexpensive products, allowing you to build a skincare routine that does lots and costs relatively little.
Finally, keep your skin type in mind throughout the process. If you have oily skin, look for active ingredients that limit oil production. On the other hand, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll get the best results by prioritizing ingredients that are mild and less likely to cause irritation.
Need help getting started? You can find everything you need in our collection of men’s skin care products, or learn more about caring for your skin in our detailed guide to creating your own skin care routine.