Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/31/2021
It’s been a relatively short amount of time since the cosmetics and dermatology worlds really started getting through to men.
A generation ago, you were either fine or pizza-faced, and that was about it.
But after decades of products and branding directed toward a “men can care too” attitude about skin care, even the average guy is starting to learn more about (and take better care of) his face and body.
Skin care is a complicated business, and the men’s skin care world is not short on variety when it comes to treatment.
Some are effective, some are proven, some are snake oil and some things are just ridiculous.
Figuring out which product works best for you really all depends on one thing: your skin type. Once you learn what kind of skin you have, you can start planning a routine around it.
All you need to know to determine your skin type is what problems you face day to day that keep you from a perfect complexion.
Simply, a skin type is a category of definitions to describe what your skin is or isn’t capable of managing for itself, and what problems your skin may or may not have as a result of those imbalances.
Skin types describe what isn’t working — whether that’s your skin’s ability to keep itself moist or its ability to moderate oil production.
A skin type may also describe your skin’s balance in relation to a “normal” skin type.
People with “normal” skin tend to have few problems generally, while people with other skin types may suffer from a number of problematic issues or lack the balance to protect themselves from things like dandruff, acne or inflammation.
Men’s skin types are divided into four or five categories, depending on your sources.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, there are five categories, consisting of normal, dry, oily, sensitive and combination.
These skin types each come with their own set of benefits, drawbacks and concerns to be on the lookout for.
Normal skin types are defined by what they are not, which is oily, sensitive or dry.
Normal skin types don’t have dryness or sensitivity problems, and they tend to produce a healthy amount of oil in moderation, which in turn assures that the skin stays both healthy looking and feeling.
Dry skin types, as you might imagine, suffer from problems associated with insufficient moisture.
A person with dry skin may experience flaking, itching and other forms of roughness due to dead, dry cells accumulating on their faces and other areas of their skin.
These people could be described as having dull looking skin, which may be prone to certain types of acne and other issues.
Often, they want to achieve soft skin, free of visible pores and flakes.
Oily skin has the opposite effect of dry skin in many ways. It may appear shiny and greasy, as oil accumulates in excess in the areas where oil is most frequently produced on the face.
The resulting issues, however, may also be similar to what people with dry skin types experience — oil may cause more breakouts, and it may create the right breeding ground for acne and other issues.
Oil may also cause dirt and other pollutants and irritants to cling to your skin, making for additional irritation and even inflammation if not cleaned regularly.
Combination skin type men are the sort of unfortunate lottery winners of the skin type world.
They get the frustrations and complications of both oily and dry skin types, ostensibly without any benefit.
Essentially, combination skin may have some areas of dryness, and other areas of oily or greasy patches, making it a headache to maintain or treat and causing some medications and treatments to be less effective — after all, you can’t use the same treatment for oily skin that you do for dry skin.
Sensitive skin can be the most frustrating skin type because it can be prone to oily or dry conditions depending on how irritated it may be.
And lots of things can irritate sensitive skin, from environmental factors like pollutants in the air, to a hormonal imbalance that might be causing acne.
Extra skin sensitivity may result from external factors like harsh deodorant soaps or cleaners and household detergents, but it might also be a result of genetic predispositions.
There are important things you can do for your skin regardless of your skin type, but each skin type will benefit from certain elements of a great skin care routine more than others.
For normal skin, maintenance may simply mean keeping things basic.
Things like washing daily and after exercise, wearing sunscreen whenever outdoors and watching things like your shaving technique, which can irritate and cause ingrown hairs regardless of your skin type.
This advice is likewise all good for combination skin types — holistic skin care is the best for people with no chronic issues, and also for people with several chronic issues.
Oily skin types will want to manage their oil production. That definitely means washing your face daily to keep irritants from building up and bacteria from prospering in the excess oil.
Free radical-causing pollutants can alter oil production on your face, which may in turn result in inflammation.
But it might also mean moisturizing or using acne medications to manage and prevent breakouts.
If you’re seeing oily layers or acne (or both), talking to a dermatology expert might help you figure out the right plan to manage your skin type.
Dry skin benefits from a quality moisturizer for men. We know it may seem obvious, but in truth, moisturizing is about more than smearing aloe on your face.
Applying moisturizers after showering or shaving while the skin is still damp will help you reduce dryness.
Another thing that might help is the use of humidifiers during the dryer months or in dry climates.
You’ll want to drink water, particularly if you’re known to not drink much water throughout the day.
You can compound the benefits of good hydration by finding products and treatments that involve hyaluronic acid, which acts as a sort of storage unit for moisture.
It’s naturally occurring in your joints and skin, but more can be acquired from external sources like goodnight wrinkle cream.
Hyaluronic acid keeps any skin type looking younger and fresher.
Sensitive skin doesn’t need a pillow to cry on, though your pillow case may be one of many sources of irritation you’re not keeping an eye on.
People with sensitive skin should be extra vigilant of product ingredient lists on labels, and likewise should take care when shaving.
Checking your skin regularly for spots, injuries and inflammation is an important part of managing sensitive skin which can be exacerbated by things like age, shaving techniques, soaps, sun and just about everything else we’ve already mentioned.
If you have sensitive skin, both preventative care and symptom treatment are an important reality if you ever want that clear, glowy flawless look.
Use a gentle cleanser and other properly gentle skin care products.
The various types of skin we've outlined here apply to people of every skin color and age, and surprisingly few of the skin concerns you may be experiencing aren't preventable.
Clogged pores and sun damage, as well as mild acne and the risk of skin cancer are all easily managed risks — and likely preventable with just a bit of extra effort.
We get it — a daily skin care routine takes time, and skin care products cost money. But most common skin conditions are easily managed by a few simple products.
You can learn more about skin care products here, but if you're looking for the right next step, consider speaking with a healthcare professional about your concerns.
Whether it's a worrisome skin condition, flaky skin, dark spots or you're simply looking for better acne treatment, a healthcare professional can help.
The skin type you have isn't something you can change — you're born with that. But the skin you want is within reach.