Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/25/2020
With age comes experience and wisdom...and wrinkles and gray hair. Not everything about aging is cause for celebration. But while you might not be able to stop the aging process, caring for your skin can increase the likelihood that at least your complexion will age somewhat gracefully.
Your skin doesn’t stay the same from season to season, and certainly not from year to year. It not only adjusts to accommodate seasonal, environmental changes, but also the changes going on within you. As you age, oil production slows and wrinkles appear. Working with your skin during these changes means understanding what’s going on and being flexible in your skin care routine.
Sure, not every man is a walking acne advertisement in his twenties and a wrinkle prevention spokesperson in his forties—we’re all different. But many complexions follow a similar trajectory as we age, and advice catered to these generalizations can be fitting for many men.
For most men, oil control is a biggie in your twenties. Sure, you may not have the pimpled, greasy glow of your teens, but high testosterone levels do lead to extra oil production. And if your pores are clogged on top of this extra moisture, pimples generally result.
The best thing you can do for this young, glowing complexion is control the oil as much as possible and keep it clean.
Cleanse. Look for an oil-free cleanser labeled as non-comedogenic, which means it won’t block your pores. If your skin is extra greasy, opt for a daily cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which will help control oil production. Wash at least twice daily, especially in the morning, evening, and after workouts.
Exfoliate. Don’t overthink exfoliation. Exfoliating simply means removing dead skin cells. If you shave, you already do it. Sweat is another good exfoliator and so are some of the ingredients in acne treatments. The textured products that promise to uncover new skin are generally too abrasive. If you occasionally feel like your need extra exfoliation, a clean washcloth will do the trick.
Treat breakouts. Treat any pimples or areas prone to breakouts with spot treatments and all-over acne products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
Moisturize and protect. Moisturize daily. Yes, even oily skin needs help with moisture balance. If you dry your skin out too much, oil-production can actually increase to compensate. Look for a light, oil-free daily moisturizer with sunscreen. Your older self will thank you for protecting your face from the wrinkle-producing rays of the sun.
By now, you’re likely starting to see some changes in your skin type, texture, and appearance. It may be slightly drier and rougher, and wrinkles may be appearing around your eyes.
Your skin care routine will need to change as your complexion does. If you’re still just as greasy and acne prone as you were in your 20s, you don’t need to change much, but assuming your skin is aging as you are, you’ll likely want to switch things up accordingly.
Cleanse. For combination skin, a mild daily cleanser is best. It may take trial and error for you to find one that balances your skin best. Look for a gel or liquid cleanser that is labeled mild and non-comedogenic. If your breakouts have mostly subsided, you may be able to use a cleanser just once daily and rinse your face with clean, lukewarm water for your second wash.
Exfoliate. Your skin cells may be turning over at a faster rate, now, and a gentle exfoliator can help remove the dead skin cells. Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that weakens the bonds between skin cells and helps slough away the outermost layers without damaging the healthy skin underneath. Though exfoliation is optional, a product with glycolic acid is your best bet.
Treat problems overnight. Overnight is a great time for your skin to soak up beneficial ingredients. In your thirties, you may want to consider a night serum or cream to help treat the early signs of aging. Some night creams are very thick and moisturizing; unless your skin is very dry, you’ll want to watch out for these and instead look for one made for normal or combination skin. Dermatologists typically recommend anti-aging formulas containing retinoids.
Moisturize and protect. Protect your skin from continued damage by the sun by using a moisturizer with sunscreen daily. The benefits here are two-fold -- moisturized skin is more youthful skin, as a good moisture can reduce the appearance of fine lines by as much as 20%, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigations. But also, the sun never stops its relentless attack on your complexion, and in your thirties, if not before, you begin to see the signs of this damage appearing.
That rugged, aging look works for some men -- think Sean Connery, for example. But if the former 007’s face was littered with age spots and dull, lifeless skin, you can bet his sex appeal would drop several notches.
Keep the salt-and-pepper gray hair that may be coming in when you hit your forties, but continue to strive for a youthful, healthy complexion.
The key to youthful skin in your forties, fifties and beyond is moisture.
Cleanse. Choose a cleanser specifically made for aging skin. Obviously, some men will always have slightly oily skin -- if this is you, continue to look for an oil-free anti-aging formula. However, it’s more likely you can opt for something with more moisture now. If your skin is dry, look for a cream cleanser to be used once or twice daily.
Treat the signs of aging. Anti-aging serums, including overnight treatments, are more of a must-have now. Products with antioxidants help slow the degradation of collagen and those with retinoids can increase collagen production. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, has proven a potentially strong anti-aging ingredient and vitamin A, a retinol, is also frequently found in these products.
Moisturize and protect. Moisture is more important now than ever. Not only does it make your skin appear more youthful, but depending on ingredients, can help it stay that way for years to come. Daily moisturizers specifically made for aging skin will likely be thicker than the oil-free daily moisturizers of your youth for this reason. Sunscreen is still a must-have at this age.
There are some things you can do for your skin, throughout your life, to ensure a healthy complexion for years to come.
Don’t smoke. Smoking damages collagen and elastin and can lead to premature aging, as if you need another reason to forgo this habit.
Stay hydrated. Moisture for your skin can come from the inside out. Always make sure to drink plenty of water.
Eat a healthy diet. Your skin’s health depends on the vitamins and minerals in your diet. A diet heavy in sugar and refined carbohydrates can speed the aging process, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Sweat regularly. Exercise isn’t only good for your neck-down, it also helps create a youthful glow by purging toxins from your pores. Get your blood flowing on a regular basis.
Be gentle to your skin. If a product stings, scrapes or otherwise hurts your face, it’s likely too harsh. Even skin that is acne prone needs a gentle approach.
Always, always wear sunscreen. Have we beaten this dead horse enough? Sun damage doesn’t only contribute to the signs of aging but can lead to increased cancer risk. Always protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.