Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/26/2020
Caring about your skin isn’t shallow and it definitely isn’t unmanly. We get it — you’re tough — but that doesn’t mean your face should look and feel like you live outdoors and exfoliate with sandpaper.
It’s largely assumed men prefer the minimalist approach to skin care — a bar of soap in the shower and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, this approach isn’t always best. As a matter of fact, you could be doing your complexion a serious disservice by drying it out, encouraging acne breakouts, and literally doing nothing to prevent the early signs of aging.
The good news is, creating a skin care routine is relatively easy. Like a healthy diet, the important part is actually sticking with it. Using a cleanser and moisturizer doesn’t make you soft, but it could make your face feel and look better, and make you more comfortable in your own skin.
Very few skin products are one-size-fits-all. Your skin is unique, so what you put on it should cater to its uniqueness. Finding the right skin care products and knowing how to use them begins with knowing your skin’s needs.
Dry Skin: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If you have dry, flaky skin that’s prone to itchiness, and a face that feels like it might crack when you smile too hard, you likely have dry skin.
Oily Skin: Again, pretty easy to recognize — oily skin is characterized by large, visible pores, a shiny and greasy face, and acne breakouts.
Normal Skin: It’s what we all wish we had — skin that’s neither too dry nor too oily. Your pores are small or invisible, and you’re not prone to many skin problems at all.
Combination Skin: Most folks fall into this bucket. If you have combination skin, some areas — the T-zone in particular — are more prone to oiliness and pimples. Other areas may flake and itch, particularly when the weather is dry and cold.
Sensitive Skin: You can have oily, dry, or combination skin and sensitivity. People with sensitive skin may have reactions to harsh products, even breaking out in rashes, itchiness or bumps when using something with harsh cleansers or perfumes.
It’s highly unlikely that your skin type right now is the same skin type you had at age 15 or the skin type you’ll have when you’re 50. Really, your skin’s needs can change from season to season. Understanding how your skin behaves in its natural state right now will help you choose the products to keep it healthy now and long into the future.
You may just use your bar soap on your face in the shower each morning and call it good, or perhaps you splash water on it. In either case, you could be doing more to keep your skin clean.
Each day, your skin is exposed to dirt and pollutants in the air. Each night, it’s smashed against your pillow case, rubbed, and marked with sleep crusties when you wake. In other words, it needs cleaned. Every day. Probably twice.
Deodorant soaps -- the bar kind you use in the shower — are generally too harsh for the more sensitive skin on your face, and even if you have tough, non-sensitive skin, this kind of cheap soap isn’t doing you any favors.
If you have oily skin, you’ll want to wash your face twice a day. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a cleanser marked as oil-free and non-comedogenic (non-pore-blocking). They also recommend your cleanser contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, to fight existing pimples and stave off future breakouts.
If you have combination or normal skin, look for a mild cleanser. You don’t want anything too drying or too moisturizing, or you’ll risk throwing off the pH balance, which can lead to breakouts or drying.
Dry skin types should look for a gentle cleanser. Cleansing creams are a good choice, as they don’t strip the skin of what little natural oils there are. Also, to prevent further drying, make sure to use lukewarm water, not hot.
This section is mainly for the men suffering with acne. We know, you wish you had left it behind with the voice change and downy soft underarm hair of your youth. But, you didn’t. Up to 50 million Americans are in the same boat as you, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, so don’t feel like you’re doing this alone.
At home, your acne can be treated with over-the-counter and prescription topical solutions. If you’ve tried it all and had no luck, it may be time for a chat with a dermatologist. But, if you admit you haven’t exactly been consistent in your efforts, it’s time to start. With a daily cleansing routine down, you’ll want to find the products made specifically to treat your current pimples and prevent future ones.
Spot treatments like those containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid work to target existing pimples by drying them out. Generally, you can apply them directly to your zits one-to-three times daily, where they basically shorten the lifespan of a pimple.
Acne treatments may also include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, or retinoids*. They too work to dry oily skin and kill the bacteria that causes pimples. These are meant to be applied over the entire face, generally twice a day. Sometimes, products can be used as spot treatments and all-over acne treatments.
Toners and astringents are, in most cases, too harsh for your skin. Yes, even your oily skin. Their main ingredient is alcohol, and though it may feel like they are tightening your pores and drying you out, this feeling doesn’t last and the alcohol could be doing more harm than good.
Blotting sheets are more about appearance than anything — but we know when you have oily, acne-prone skin, you care about your appearance. They reduce the oil on the skin by soaking it into a small tissue like paper.
Perhaps the most important step in any skin care routine is to moisturize and protect. If you were to only do one thing to your skin everyday it would be this: protect it. You do this by selecting a product that will restore an ideal moisture balance to your skin while protecting it from future damage.
Sunscreen. No matter your skin type, sunscreen is a must. Whether your skin is an oil slick or a desert, you need to shelter it from harmful UV rays that can cause premature aging, dark spots, and wrinkles. Look for a moisturizer with “broad spectrum sunscreen”, as it protects against the UVA rays that cause aging and UVB rays that cause sunburns. Ideally, one that has an SPF of at least 15, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Moisturizers. If you have oily skin, make sure you get a lightweight moisturizer, ideally one labeled as oil free and non-comedogenic. Combination and normal skin can opt for a light to medium weight moisturizer for daily use. Dry skin types should seek out a hydrating moisturizer, possibly containing hyaluronic acid.
Anti-aging serums. And if you’re interested in making your beauty rest work in your advantage, consider an overnight serum or cream. Wrinkles are, by their nature, minimized in appearance when the skin is hydrated. So, your moisturizer will help to a certain extent.
“Most cosmetic treatments are variations on moisturizers,” says academic dermatologist Dr. Michael Detmar in an article in the Journal of Clinical Investigations.”They immediately reduce the appearance of fine lines by 15%-20%.”
Anti-aging serums that contain retinoids are another good choice, and there are retinoid options for all skin types. They typically come highly recommended by dermatologists because they are one of the few components that’s able to penetrate beneath the skin’s surface.
“They penetrate into the skin, and can work on the extracellular matrix -- the collagen and elastin fibers,” Dr. Detmar says.
Finally, be smart about where you spend your money. It’d be great if there was one magic elixir that would give your skin a youthful-forever, smooth, healthy glow, but there isn’t. Just like there’s no magic pill to give you the body of your dreams, good skin is a matter of consistent, good habits and the right products.
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