You’re not alone if you’re overwhelmed by the idea of creating the best skin care routine for men. There’s so much advice out there and products abound, but at the end of the day, the process should be three things: simple, effective, and affordable.
Men are fortunate enough to steer clear of the wild hormonal rides women endure, so it’s easier to keep your skin care routine simple. However, men have skin care needs unique to their skin type and bodily make-up, too, especially if you deal with issues like acne or sensitive skin. Ultimately, you should cleanse, treat (if necessary), moisturize, and load up on sunscreen.
You can apply tons of fancy, expensive products, or you can understand what each step of a skincare routine provides so you can make the best choices for you. Below, I’ll go over each key step plus the extra ones that make a difference depending on your needs and skin type. That way, you can pick and choose which steps are essential for you so you can adjust accordingly.
Overall, the best skin care routine for men should be simple and effective. It shouldn’t include too many steps and should treat and protect the skin to give you the best results possible. The best products for a solid, basic skincare routine for men include a cleanser like Cetaphil because it’s gentle enough for all skin types, a moisturizer like Kiehls because it’s light and hydrating, and a sunscreen from Elta MD because it’s derm-approved and best for both the skin and the environment.
How to Complete this Step: Yes, you should be double-cleansing—but only if you’re wearing sunscreen, make-up, or if your skin is excessively oily (hello summertime). Regardless of method, the cleanser should be gently rubbed over the face in circular motions. If you’re using an oil (I’ll get to that) it can be gently removed with a warm washcloth, and if you’re using micellar water, cotton pads work like a charm.
What to Use: The method you use for your first cleanse depends on your skin type. If it’s dry, oil cleansing is a popular method because ‘like dissolves like’. A friend of mine swears by Viva Naturals organic cold-pressed coconut oil but an oil specifically designed for cleansing the skin, like DHC deep cleansing oil, works too because it’s non-comedogenic and affordable. If the idea of putting oil on your already oily skin freaks you out, your intuition is correct. You’re better off with micellar water, which attracts dirt, sweat, and oil like a magnet. The best in the game comes from French brand Bioderma. It’s pricier than Garnier but better quality.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you’re a simple guy who doesn’t wear make-up and your skin isn’t terribly oily, then you might be better off skipping the first cleanse when creating your best skin care routine for men. Excessive cleansing runs the risk of overstripping the skin, which produces more oils and causes further problems.
How to Complete this Step: Most men usually start here. It might seem like the easiest step in a basic skincare routine for men, but you can actually be washing your face incorrectly. Face wash should be applied to damp skin in circular motions for 60 seconds to effectively cleanse each and every part of the face. And what you need is a good cleanser to gently remove dirt, oil, and other daily impurities from the skin without stripping it.
What to Use: For all skin types, you can’t go wrong with Cetaphil. It’s cheap, it’s effective, and it’s derm-approved for highly sensitive, acne-prone skin. Another cleanser in the back pockets of derms is La Roche Posay Toleraine Purifying Foaming Facial Cleanser. I love that it has niacinamide, which hydrates and restores the skin barrier. Dry skin will love Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser because its soft, lotion-like texture provides lots of creamy hydration.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Washing your face is never bad for your skin. However, I’ve had derms recommend avoiding a wash in the morning. I’ve washed my face in the morning and I’ve skipped it, and it really depends on your skin type and personal preference. When in doubt, wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply moisturizer, and follow-up with sunscreen.
How to Complete This Step: Controversy abound as to whether exfoliation is necessary, but that really depends on the type of exfoliator. Essentially, exfoliants cleanse and purify clogged pores, slough dead skin cells, and encourage fresh cell turnover. Because there are many different types of exfoliators, I recommend following the product instructions for best results. Typically, you don’t want to exfoliate more than once or twice a week.
What to Use: There are chemical exfoliants and there are physical exfoliants, and what you use depends on your skin type. Chemical exfoliants include AHAs and BHAs like salicylic acid, a powerful acne-fighting ingredient, and are gentler for sensitive, acne-prone skin. I personally love to use the cult product Aztec Clay Mask once a week to gently exfoliate my acne-prone skin. Men with dry skin and deep pores can handle a physical scrub, and I love this one from Clinique because it contains salicylic acid and lifts beard hairs to help to reduce ingrown hairs.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Like I said, exfoliating isn’t really necessary if your skincare seems to be working fine. But if you sweat a lot, get rashes from shaving, or break out easily, consider working it into your weekly routine.
How to Complete This Step: Ah, toner, the great skincare debate. Some say it’s essential skin care for men, others say it’s not really necessary. I say, it depends on what’s in your toner. This step always comes after cleansing. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, apply in circular motions using a cotton pad. If you have dry or combo skin, pour into the hands and gently press into the skin.
What to Use: A great toner ‘tonifies’ the skin by purging pores and reinstating anti-aging and acne-fighting ingredients. Acne-prone skin does well with Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner because it contains salicylic acid for fighting break-outs. Baxter of California Herbal Mint Toner is a great option for all skin types because it’s chock-full of antioxidants that protect the skin and fight against free radicals and cell damage.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you’re cleansing your skin properly and you’re tight on cash or bathroom space, you probably don’t need a toner. However, if you want to boost your skincare regimen, consider toning the skin after cleansing.
How to Complete This Step: Serums are where you can have a little fun. You can use this step to further treat skin issues like acne, plump the skin with a hydrating barrier, or protect skin from the environment and early aging. Because serums are thin, they should be evenly applied over the face before applying moisturizers or creams.
What to Use: Vitamin C serums are common because they contain antioxidants that protect the skin while also providing an undeniable glow. Hims Vitamin C Serum for Men is appropriate for all skin types (even acne-prone skin can benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin C). Dudes with pimple-prone skin should turn to La Roche Posay Glycolic Acid Serum (another AHA, glycolic acid helps regulate cell turnover). Ingredients like lactic acid brightens and tightens, while vitamin B5 reduces dark spots.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: This step can be avoided if your cleanser or exfoliator already contains the ingredients found in these serums. However, there are hundreds of serums out there containing lots of different ingredients, so it’s easy to find something ‘good’ (vitamin C, niacinamide, zinc, etc.) to add to your skin for protection and optimal maintenance.
How to Complete This Step: Because the skin around the eye is thinner than the rest of the face, you do actually need a separate eye cream to treat hydration, reduce dark circles, and prevent wrinkles. Because the molecules of this cream are thinner in order to penetrate the thinner skin found here, it should be dabbed, never rubbed, onto the skin before moisturizer.
What to Use Brickell Men’s Restoring Eye Cream is packed with hydrating, anti-aging ingredients to protect the delicate skin around the eye. It’s suitable for nearly all skin types thanks to peptides (a skincare buzzword these days) that boost collagen production and improves elasticity. It also has lactic acid and hyaluronic acid that hydrate and reduce dark circles and puffiness.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Eye cream isn’t as essential as washing your face and applying moisturizer and sunscreen, but it’s very important if you suffer from dry eyelids like I do, or if you want to treat wrinkles. It’s really up to you.
How to Complete This Step: Much like washing your face, you should never skip moisturizing. Because it returns essential hydration to this skin, it’s key for both oily and dry skin. Fortunately, this step is easy. When applying, try your best not to rub too harshly into the skin. Patting and pressing is the ideal method.
What to Use: My husband, who has oily/combination skin, loves using Kiehls Facial Fuel Moisturizer day and night. He says it’s lightweight yet hydrating, and never leaves his skin feeling oily. Simple and lightweight is typically the way to go, but if your skin is pretty dry, or you need something heavier while you sleep at night or in the wintertime, try Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream. It contains salicylic acid, squalene and glycerin to hydrate the skin without clogging the pores.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: There’s no way around it, you gotta moisturize, even if you have oily skin. Without it, your skin will only produce more oils, creating more problems. However, make sure to avoid anything too thick or comedogenic. You might want a lighter moisturizer in the summer and a thicker cream in the winter if your skin feels dry.
How to Complete This Step: If you think you can skip this step, come talk to me in ten years when your face looks like a leather handbag. In all seriousness, next to washing and moisturizing, sunscreen is really the only other essential part of a skincare routine for men. It protects your skin from damage the sun can cause, from wrinkles to cancer. This should be liberally applied (the length of your forefinger should do) every single morning, even if you sit inside (yes, you can get sun exposure from sitting by the window).
What to Use: Without a doubt, the go-to sunscreen for both my husband and I, who both have oily, acne-prone skin, is Elta MD UV Clear Face Sunscreen. My derm recommended it to me because it’s a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide, which is better for skin and the environment than che mical. It’s so easy to rub in and never leaves a white cast. But it is pricey, so if you need a chemical sunscreen that rubs in super easily and costs under $10, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen in SPF 70 is a goody.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Unlike washing your face and moisturizing, skipping this step isn’t necessarily noticeable after a few days (unless you get a nasty sunburn). It’s more like a long-term investment in your skin’s overall health. Nothing, and I mean nothing, promotes aging (and potentially cancer) like not wearing sunscreen. Keep that in mind.
Does My Skin Type Affect My Skin Care Routine?
When it comes to the best skin care routine for men, I would argue that your skin type is the most important factor to consider. It will inform you how to tailor your products to your needs and let you know which steps you should use and which can be avoided.
Acne-prone skin needs acne-fighting ingredients like glycolic acid and salicylic acid to treat the skin in a gentle, non-irritating manner. Dry skin needs hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and niacinamide to plump and maintain the integrity of the skin’s barrier. If you have normal skin with minimal issues, congratulations. Keep it clean and simple.
Why you should trust us
While I’m not a dermatologist, I am a fashion and grooming writer at Fashionbeans with fifteen years of experience as a model in the fashion and beauty industry.
Not only do I have dozens of skincare experts at my disposal, but I have heavily researched the benefits of each skincare ingredient and the products that contain them to determine what makes a great product, what products are actually necessary, and what simply ain’t worth the hype.
I started off with hundreds of considerations and narrowed it down to the top products you see on this list that will best fit a range of discerning customers. Whether your skin is oily, dry, or combination, I want to see everyone find the best skin care routine for men.
The best skincare routine for men should be easy to follow and not break the bank. It should involve products like a face wash, a moisturizer, and a good sunscreen to cleanse, hydrate, and protect the skin. Consider incorporating Cetaphil face wash, Kiehls moisturizer, and Elta MD sunscreen into your everyday routine.
Essential skincare for men includes a good, gentle cleanser, a moisturizer, and sunscreen. If you have dryness or oily skin you want to treat, either a toner, serum, or exfoliator can be thrown into the mix.
You’ll want to cleanse the skin and apply sunscreen in the morning, while clay masks and heavy-duty serums can be applied in the evening to really soak into the skin as you sleep. When in doubt, consult a licensed dermatologist.