Skin Care for Men – The Ultimate Guide 2024

skin care for men header - three men looking sideways

The goal here is to create a reference, simplify the way that you approach your routines, or even encourage you to take better care of your skin. This way you can be as handsome as reasonbly possible and get the outcomes you want.

Why Skincare?

1: You are going to look a hell of a lot better overall and as a result likely feel better when you see your handsome ass face in the mirror.  When you look good, you feel good, and you perform well.

2: People judge and treat you differently based on your appearance. You wouldn’t go on a date or job interview if you are rocking a bowlcut, dirty clothes and your breath smells. So why wouldn’t you also take care of your face?

3: The healthier and more optimally your skin barrier is functioning, the less prone you are to unpleasant feeling things like excess dryness, acne, flaking, irritation and more.

4: You are a man who cares about themself and takes pride in your appearance, within reason.

Okay let’s get into routine steps.

There are a ton of products out there and a lot of marketing, especially when it comes to skin care for men. Here are the core products that every guy should use to get the majority of skin benefits.

1. Sunscreen (Daily) – If you did literally nothing else, this is the S+ Tier of anti-aging and preserving your handsome. This can literally make someone look 10-30 years younger or be the reason 25 year olds look near 40. UV exposure is responsible for up to 80% of visible aging. Look for SPF 30+, 50 being Ideal. Chemical vs Mineral have the same level or protection. There is zero good evidence showing sunscreen causes cancer, damages our reefs, and man there’s just a lot of BS out there about Sunscreen.
This comes from people who read headlines or research summaries without understanding what makes a good study or how it fits in with real world scenarios.

Chemical Sunscreens tend to absorb more nicely and feel better overall, but they can sting or breakout some people (Like myself). Mineral Sunscreen is more likely to have a white cast after application, but doesn’t sting and tends to have a more matte finish since the sunscreen filter is a powder. Try to reapply every two hours if you are out the sun for a prolonged period of time. If you work within say 5 feet of a window and the sun shines straight on you at times, opt for sunscreen even indoors. Just see the images below if you don’t beleive me.

Yes, you will still get sufficient vitamin D even if you use sunscreen. Tans look pretty sick for sure, but at the minimum don’t tan your face, or you’ll regret it by your 30s, especially if you’re single and not 1% rich.

Sunscreen on face only not neck
Exhibit A (Years of Sunscreen on face vs Unprotected Neck)

2. Face Wash (Nightly) – Dry skin folks should look for cream cleansers or gentle ones. Oily folks should look for ones that are a bit stronger or contain ingredients like Salicylic Acid which do a great job of clearing out pores and preventing blackheads/acne. A good cleanser should not leave your skin feeling very tight or “squeaky clean” if it does, it is likely too strong. A cleanser washes away dirt/grime so that you have clear skin, better asborb ingredients and over time can slow aging. This happens by washing away free radicals that like to attach to the skin. These free radicals slowly cause damage that adds up over decades.

3. Moisturizer (Nightly/as-needed) – Lighter gel to gel creams if you have oily skin and more cream all the way to balm type consistencies if you have more dry skin. There is no best moisturizer, if it feels good and your skin looks good, it’s probably good. What one person thinks is the Creme de la Creme, you may think is absolute garbage. Moisturizers improve skin hydration, reduce appearance of fine lines/wrinkles, protect your skin, smooth/soften skin and can reduce acne breakouts depending on the formulation.

4. Retinoid (Nightly/as-tolerated) – Tretinoin is the prescription standard here, but many find tretinoin to be too brutal(high irritation profile), I recommend opting for a Retinaldehyde because it converts directly into Tretinoin, has the same outcomes long term and causes much less irritation. Here is the conversion chain Retinyl>Retinol>Retinaldehyde>Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin). These increase cell turnover rate, increase collagen generation, and are the most potent ingredient for anti-aging outside of Sunscreen, and are fantastic for preventing acne or even ingrown hairs when shaving. Opt for Retinyl Palmitate around the eye area if you have issues with other retinoids.

Extra Credit written on a chalk board

Extra credit (1-2x/Week): Various Exfoliants from physical to chemical. These essentially aim to make it so you have all fresh skin on the top layer of your face, and that can make your appearance brighter, more clear and overall better. However, sometimes just using a retinoid does a good enough job of increasing cell turnover, especially when you are a younger guy in your teens or early 20s. I always exfoliate the day before I attend an event or am fgoing to be on camera because I know it keeps me looking my best.

Extra Credit Pt 2 (Mornings): A Vitamin C serum, especially ascorbic acid, is fantastic for daytime use. This has strong antioxidant powers and improves collagen generation as well, just not near as well as your retinoid will. I consider Ascorbic Acid A tier on the anti-aging tier list and it’s excellent for brightening skin as well as provides strong anti-oxidant power. Some other forms of Vitamin C such as Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (in our serum) are fantastic too.

Eye creams, Hyaluronic Acid Serums, Random Masks and everything else either don’t really move the needle, or are situational. Eye creams are made of the exact same things your regular face moisturizers are, they are just made to feel a little more rich and in some cases glide on more easily. If they contain actives like Retinol, they generally use the lighter version to minimize the chance of irritation around the eye. Eye creams are a scam in 98% of situations, you pay more for either an ineffective product or one that is redundant and complicates your routine. If you are using a quality moisturizer, you don’t need an eye cream. It’s just easy for brands to sell eye creams because eyes are the biggest complainf or people.

For those of you who want to maximize everything, microneedling of course is amazing for the skin, so I highly recommend that one for improving skin texture, firmness, collagen, and more. This is an S Tier Anti-aging treatment you can do at home.

Man waking up about to stop his alarm clock

Standard Men’s Skin Care Routine

Morning – Wet Face & Dry > (optional) Apply Serum > Apply Moisturizer if needed and/or apply Sunscreen if going out.

Pretty simple. If you have very oily acne prone skin, you may want to wash your face in the morning instead of just wetting your skin. Then as for sunscreen & moisturizer, Most people only need to apply one, but if you feel the sunscreen isn’t providing enough moisture, you can use your moisturizer before hand. Sunscreens are basically Moisturizers with SPF filters.

Night – Wash Face > (optional) Exfoliant > Apply Retinoid > Apply Moisturizer

If you are acne prone or find issues with your sunscreen, it can be a good idea to wash your face twice on days you apply sunscreen to ensure you get it all off the skin. Should you experience retinoid irritation, take some time off and try applying the retinoid after your moisturizer in the future.

For those using more products, the general rule is lighter more water based products go first before heavier oilier ones, but in all liklihood this makes no noticeable impact on outcomes.

Product Recommendations

Try to find products that suit your skin type or conditions you are looking to treat. Generally speaking, all men should be using Niacinamide. This puppy builds the skin barrier up, regulates oil production and excretion, and brightens the skin. Making it excellent regardless of if you are oily, dry, or anywhere between. If a brand discloses the amount of Niacinamide, this is a big bonus. 4% is the gold standard target that is heavily studied and data backed.

Normal – Balanced skin that is clear and has barely visible pores.

Dry – Rough, flaky, or tight. Dull appearance. Feels dry in the morning.

Oily – Shiny or greasy by mid-day. May have enlarged pores and be more acne prone.

Combination – Dry or Normal in some areas. Oily in others such as the T-zone(Forehead/Nose/Chin)

Moisturizers

All skin types – Strive Miracle Facial Moisturizer 
Miracle Facial Moisturizer

This bad boy comes packed with 4% Niacinamide, Ceramides, Alpha-Arbutin and more. Meaning it can help your oily skin, build up your dry skin along with fighting dark spots, blemishes and skin redness. It was tailor made for men, so it has lots of soothing ingredients like Bisabolol and Centella Asiatica for when we shave or do manly shit.

If you are very prone to blackheads and acne


Naturium Encapsulated Salicylic Acid Moisturizer is a great one. This uses Salicylic acid ( a BHA Chemical exfoliant) to dive into your pores and clear out excess oil, all while being relatively gentle.
Naturium Salicylic Acid Moisturizer Container

Very Dry Skin – Try topping off the Strive Miracle Facial Moisturizer at night with Vaseline, Cerave Healing Ointment, or Aquaphor. Often times those with very dry skin simply have barrier disruption and it improves greatly when properly nourished. Otherwise Cerave Healing Ointment alone does a good job here for night time use until your barrier builds back up.

Cerave Skin Renewing Night Cream (Not to be confused with CeraVE PM)
Cerave Skin Renewing Night Cream Containers

Paulas Choice Replenishing Moisturizer (This is a decent choice for dry skin.)

Paulas Choice Replenshing Moisturizer

Sunday Riley Ice – Extra Posh Moisturizer for Dry/Very Dry Skin
I love how this moisturizer feels and smells, even though everyone else tells me it smells weird. As a note, you should consider moisturizers as overpriced if they are over $50 unless they come with some serious actives or in a large quantity.
Sunday RIley Ice Face Cream

Very Oily Skin – Even a simple hyaluronic acid serum may suffice for you, but it is more ideal if we can get products with Niacinamide or Salicylic acid in them as well because we want to attack the root of the problem, your skins oil production.

Neutrogena Hydroboost Water Gel

Oil-Free Moisturizer Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel

Cleansers

 

  1. Strive Deep Clean Hydrating Face Wash ($30 – Best Overall)
    Deep Hydrating Face Wash on White Background

    Alright so obviously our wash is going to top the list. That’s because the Deep Clean Hydrating Face Wash uses a premium powerful cleansing agent that has been perfectly balanced with ingredients that make it quite gentle on the skin. It is well balanced and suitable for all skin types. This means you get deep cleaning without the dry, tight skin feel and great our restoring ingredients bring moisture to the skin as the product is washed off.

    Additionally, ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, Panthenol, Aloe Vera & Glycerin bring hydration to the skin. Aloe Vera and Centella soothe redness & irritation from shaving or ya know, doing manly things. Lastly, Niacinamide is included to brighten the skin and reduce the apperance of redness, dark circles & blemishes.

  2. Tatcha The Rice Wash Soft Cream Cleanser ($36 –  Great for Dry Skin)
    TATCHA The Rice Wash Face Wash BottleWhen you have Dry or Very Dry skin,  washing your face can feel horrible because it makes the situation much worse. It is a good idea to look to cleansers that are very light on the skin and provide moisture/hydration to the skin. This is where you may want to consider a cream cleanser instead of your standard gel one. This cream cleanser from Tatcha feels rich, luxurious, and will allow you to get a good clean without drying out your skin.
  3. Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash ($38 – Great Fragrance)
    Kiehls Deep Cleansing Wash
    For those who want a bit of fragrance in their products and don’t have a sensitivity to them, we love how this product smells. It also foams and lathers quite nicely. If you are the drier side, you may want to look elsewhere as this doesn’t do a whole lot in the way or restoring the skin after washing.
  4. PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide ($8.00 – Great for Acne)

    Panoxyl Face Wash

  5. Cerave SA Cleanser ($10 – Great for Blackheads)

    CeraVe SA Cleanser Bottle

    Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that can easily go deep into pores and clear them out. This makes the product helpful for preventing/treating acne, but this is particularly useful if your acne is more mild and/or you are mostly dealing with blackheads & whiteheads. These cleansers can tend to be quite drying, so becareful not to excessively dry out your skin, as this can make your situaion worse

  6. Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($10 – Great Overall Budget Cleanser)

    Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

Sunscreens

Great Chemical Sunscreens
Biore Aqua Rich UV Watery Essence

Paula’s Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid

Regular Cerave Sunscreen works too for doing this on the cheap, but it is far from being the most elegant comfortable solution.

Physical

Haven’t found a great one on the cheap, but this is what I use.

DrJart Everyday mineral sunscreen spf 50

Exfoliants 

Please don’t over exfoliate, be chill and listen to your skin. Dudes love wrecking their skin with these.

Physical – I would avoid things like St. Ives unless your’e just using that on your body or you really know your skin and what you’re doing. Many scrubs are way too harsh for the face.

Strive Fresh Face Jojoba Scrub
Fresh Face Jojoba Scrub on White Background

Chemical

BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) – Best for clearing pores, minimizing pore size, and excellent for oily skin. Can be a bit drying for those with dry skin, but this also depends on dose/frequency.

Stridex Pads – Use the Sensitive one if the regulars are too strong for you.

Regular
Stridex Pads
They also come  in a Sensitive Skin Variety for those who may dry out or have easily irritated skin.

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid – Very popular exfoliant
Paulas Choice 2% BHA

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) – These are Glycolic Acid, Lactic acid and Mandelic acid. That is also the order of their strength and irritation potential as well. These work more on the surface of the skin than BHAs and break up dead skin cells there. Careful when these get over 10%. Also, these kick ass for removing odor causing bacteria, so I use these on my pits or downstairs if i’m not too fresh mid-day or something and can’t shower. Gamechanger.

Paulas Choice 8% AHA
Paulas Choice 8% AHA

Skin Care For Men FAQs

**Won’t diet, water, and excerise just fix all this anyways?**

While what you eat and how you treat your body can certainly impact your skin health, this differs for everyone and there is no universal diet that magically fixes someone’s body that is genetically predisposed to producing more oil and thus is very acne prone.
You can do everything perfeclty food diet and exercise wise and still have horrible skin. Also, water intake doesn’t impact skin hydration funny enough, unless you are very dehydrated.

**What about using natural ingredients?**

If you feel strongly you need to go for natural ingredients, by all means proceed. In my experience, natural products are not only way less effective, but they cost more, are more harmful for consumer health overall. and have a larger carbon footprint. This is because let’s say i’m using Lavendar Oil in my product. Lavendar Oil is made of many different chemicals and it’s structure can be very different depending on so many factors like: What region was the plant grown, how was it extracted, what time of year it was harvested, how much rain was there that season and so many other things.

The result is that it’s nearly impossible to truly study the safety and efficacy of it because the compound is so different depending on the sourcing. Whereas something syntheic is the same every single time, is often cheaper to produce and because it’s the same everytime, it is much more well studied than natural counterparts.

Additionally, natural preservatives put you more at risk for nasty bacteria and mold because they are way less effective than synthetic preservatives. I can assure you anyone touting tons of plant extracts in their products barely uses any in the formula, because they easily mess up products and have poor stability. Over years we have been almost built to think anything not natural is bad because of the great job natural companies have done changing the narrative based on faulty data. Let’s say you read an article saying that a particular ingredient is a cancer causing endocrine disrupter. Sounds pretty horrifying right?

But when you take a step back, this is if you directly ingest 1000 Grams of the substance directly. Let’s say that same substance is used at .01% of your 50 gram moisturizer, so .005 grams in volume. That’s .005 grams applied it is applied topically, not ingested. That means in the end, only a very tiny amount of that .005 grams may be absorbed. Toxicologists study these amounts and take into acount, well what if that ingredient is in tons of your other products you apply several times a day? This is how they determine that an ingredient has no chance of doing anything because even at an extreme level, you aren’t going to get anywhere near the threshold that is considered to have any level of impact on humans.

**Does a product being men’s vs women’s matter?**

Yes and no, it depends on the product and it depends on the man. You can find a perfectly great women’s product that is awesome for you skin, even though it may not look so hot in your bathroom. I may have a bias, but men’s personal care products, in general, tend to be more poorly formulated than women’s. They often use outdated generic formulas or ingredients in ineffective quantities just so they can market that they have that ingredient. Gender neutral brands like Kiehl’s tend to be a little better, but ultimately fall short of being truly great formulations because of a lack of the optimal active ingredient %’s.

Men’s skin is on average 25% thicker, produces more collagen, produces double the sebum(oil), has more and larger hair follicles, and we seat 30-40% more than women. Oh and we do manly sh** like contact sports, manual labor or fight eachother at bars… so we are more prone to irritation. This all means we may be more prone to larger pores/acne, and more dead skin cells from the increased sweating resulting in dull skin. Then with thicker skin, it’s harder for the good stuff to get to where it needs to go, so stronger ingredients may be called for.

Women’s products will still work, but a good men’s product will account for what I just mentioned by having an emphasis on higher active ingredient %’s when appropriate, using soothing ingredients and on average using lighter feeling formulations that don’t leave shine. If you already have great skin genetics, you might be able to get away with just about product.

BONUS SECTION

Anti-aging Tier List – This is my opinion, but it is almost entirely based on research papers.

S + – Sunscreen
S – Retinoids, Microneedling
A – 15-20% Vitamin C in Ascorbic Acid Form, LED Masks
B – Vitamin C Derivatives, Peptides, Chemical Exfoliatns
C – Antioxidants
D- Collagen Powder
F – Hyaluronic Acid, Facial Exercises, Most all other facial devices (microcurrent, silicone brushes, dermaplaning)

Ingredients to look for to tackle specific conditions:

Anti-aging, fine lines, firmness & Wrinkles – (See tier list above)

Hyperpigmentation (dark eye circles, post acne marks, dark spots, redness)
– Prevent the transfer of excess melanin – – Niacinamide + Vitamin C
– Prevent production of excess melanin – Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Licorice Root Extract, Retinoids, Hexylresorcinol, Azelaic Acid (DHT inhibiting)
– Improve Cell turnover – Retinoids + Exfoliants

Acne Blackheads/Whiteheads- Salicylic, Benzoyl peroxide, Azelaic Acid(dht inhibiting)Cystic Acne – Tretinoin, Adapalene, Benzoyl Peroxide or Isotretinoin in severe cases(see your doc)

Damaged Skin Barrier/Dry Skin

Niacinamide, Ceramides, Panthenol, Urea, Borage Seed Oil, Colloidial Oats. Occlusive ingredients (don’t let water evaporate) like Lanolin, Allantoin, Petrolatum and Dimethicone.

Eye BagsTough one, often requires surgical ntervention. Can be improved temporarily with things like caffeine, cold presses and other methods. Always possible it’s a reaction or you have poor sleep hygiene.

Oily Skin/Pore Minimizing – Salicylic Acid, Retinoids, Niacinamide

Irritated/Inflamed skinSame as Damaged Skin + Soothing ingredients like Bisabolol (King), Centella Asiatica, Chamomile, Aloe

Stretch Marks Deep Microneedling, Powerful Retinoids, Centella. Ideally when they are still red.

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