Sure, they make you look like a serial killer, but hey, gorgeous skin! As we…
A simple daily skincare routine for men
Let’s get this hot-button question out of the way:
Is there any difference in men’s skin compared to women’s?
The answer is yes. The dermatology literature states that men’s skin contains more collagen than women’s skin and is also approximately 25% thicker (The Male Patient in Aesthetic Medicine, de Maio and Rzany). After puberty, men also have higher sebum production than women throughout adulthood. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous gland in your skin. The excess sebum can mix with dead skin cells and bacteria and clog up your pores, and thus makes it more likely for you to have acne breakouts.
Speaking of pores, research studies also indicate that men also tend to have more facial pores than women, and there is some evidence that suggests increased facial pores are linked to decreased skin elasticity (Kim et al). Skin elasticity is kind of a big deal to watch for. As we get older, men and women both, our skin becomes less elastic and more prone to sagging.
That said, we’re talking about the characteristics in terms of the general population. On an isolated, individual level, you might be blessed with good genetics and have flawless skin like this dude even if you only wash your face with water and bar soap (gasp!)
(For our female audience reading on the behalf of their boyfriends/husbands, this has been your fan service of the day, and you’re welcome 😉 )
Are skincare products for men different from women’s?
Yes and no. Yes, there are skincare brands that actually have great, solid men’s skincare lines. However, there are also brands out there that do nothing except slapping the words FOR MEN™ on their generic products with VERY MASCULINE PACKAGING™ to upsell you. Shopping for skincare products for men can be a headache because the labels can be deceiving. You definitely don’t want to waste your money on some generic unnecessarily gendered products that don’t do anything for your skin.
When it comes to buying skincare products, here’s what you need to know:
- Know your skin type (along with any allergies or triggers with specific ingredients)
- Know your skin goals (do you want to prevent breakouts? fade acne scars?)
- Do your research about the products. Read the ingredients list to see if there’s any ingredient that does not jive well with your skin. CosDNA is a great database that lets you see the ingredients broken down by what they do and alert you if an ingredient is a potential acne trigger)
As promised, here is the very simple daily skincare routine for men, derived from the 10-step Korean skincare routine. All the products we’ve curated in this list have very minimalist, gender neutral packaging in case cutesy stuff is not your jam.
Too lazy to read? Here’s the TL;DR Skincare Basic Bundle we’ve put together for you to try out:
**Note: this bundle is based on the general assumption of oily skin type, with the goal to control sebum and shrink pores. If you already know your skin type from experience, see the complete skincare routine for men below for more comprehensive tips and product recommendation.
Face wash: CosRX Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Moisturizer: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
Sunscreen: CosRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++
Face wash: same as daytime
Face toner: same as daytime
Night cream: TonyMoly The Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream
Face mask (1-2 times a week): Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
The simple, straightforward daily skincare routine for men
1. Wash your face with a low pH cleanser
Your natural skin has an pH of 4.7 on average. The acidic condition is created by a protective layer of your skin called the acid mantle, which is made up of sebum (see, not all sebum is terrible) and amino acids from sweat. Using products that are high in pH can mess up your acid mantle and cause your skin to be dry, and may make it more prone to breakouts.
For the love of all that is holy, don’t use bar soap or hand soap. That stuff is way too harsh for your face.
Best low-pH face washes (cleansers) for men to try
- Has a skin-balancing pH of 5
- Contains tea tree oil to help with acne breakouts
- Contains allantoin which moisturizes and calms skin
- Energizing tea tree oil scent to wake you up in the morning
- Has a skin-balancing pH of 5.5
- Contains centella asiatica (Asian pennywort), witch hazel, and aloe to hydrate, soothe, and brighten skin
- Has salicylic acid, which controls acne breakouts
- Has a skin-balancing pH of 6.5
- Contains 98.9% naturally derived ingredients, great for sensitive skin
- Contains panthenol, which hydrates, and madecassoside (derived from centella asiatica), which repairs skin damage
2. Use a toner
Why use a toner? A toner can give you extra hydration if your skin is dehydrated or dry. You can also use it after shaving to soothe the irritation on your skin. If you’ve eschewed from using toners because of bad experience with dryness or irritation, rest assured, the toners we’re talking about are NOT the run-of-the-mill astringent toners sold at drugstores in the West, which typically contain a lot of alcohol and can feel drying or aggravating on skin experiencing breakouts.
Asian skincare brands offer plenty of non-astringent, super-hydrating toners such as Missha Time Revolution The First Intensive Moist Treatment Essence or Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner. Both of these are alcohol-free, which is great because toners with certain types of alcohol can exacerbate dryness if your skin is already a dry type.
Best hydrating face toners for men to try
- Contains up to 90% fermented yeast extract from Himalayan purple barley to fade hyperpigmentation
- Has niacinamide and adenosine which brighten the skin
- Great for those with chronically dry skin
- Contains up to 96% snail secretion filtrate which repairs skin damage from the sun, aging, or acne
- Has a skin-friendly pH of 6.5
- Contains rice sake and peach extract, which are rich in vitamins A and vitamin C
- Control shine and shrink pores
- Has chamomile extract and allantoin, which soothe irritated skin
3. Moisturize your face
As mentioned above, you may not get the best result searching Google for “best face wash for men” or “best face lotion for men”. It’s more effective to shop for products by your skin type.
If you have oily skin, go for moisturizers that are gels or lotions that have light texture like the Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel. Those with dry skin should look for hydrating face moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid or creams that have a richer texture such as CosRX Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream. If you are trying to fade acne scars, products that contain snail secretion extract like Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream are fantastic for fading hyperpigmentation.
Best face moisturizers for men to try
- Contains up to 70% Birch sap, which is fantastic at repairing irritated, or over-exfoliated skin
- Has a skin-friendly pH level of 5.5
- Great for acne and/or oily skin
- Contains guaiazulene, which is extracted from chamomile oil to calm irritated skin (The natural blue color of the cream comes from guaiazulene).
- Contains centella asiatica to hydrate and heal skin
- Soothe irritated skin due to acne, shaving, or sunburn
- Contains up to 80% of aloe barbadensis leaf juice which is known for its amazing moisturizing ability to soothe sunburns, cuts, and any skin irritation
- Contains 10% of bee propolis extract to repair skin damage
- Absorbs quickly without greasy residue
4. Use a high SPF sunscreen daily
Skin cancer is no joke. It is an unfortunate fact that more men have skin cancer and die from it compared to women. According the predictive statistics from the American Cancer Society for 2018, about 91,270 people will be diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer). Of those numbers, about 55,150 cases are men and 36,120 are women). About 9,320 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 5,990 men and 3,330 women).
Do you think you’re tougher than the sun? The humongous radioactive ball of fire that is the sun? Even if you luck out and don’t get melanoma, your skin will get wrecked by the UV rays and look like old leather boots.
Not convinced yet? Here is a photo from the New England Journal of Medicine of a truck driver with long term sun damage on one side of his face.
If you hate wearing sunscreens because you don’t like the greasy feeling that most American drugstore sunscreens leave on your face, you need to check out Asian sunscreens. They are formulated to be cosmetically elegant (that means lightweight texture and easy absorption) while having a high SPF rating as well as being broad spectrum with UVA/UVB coverage. Best of all, most Asian sunscreens don’t leave a white cast. For more information on what to look for when buying a sunscreen, and how often to apply, head over to our sunscreen basics guide.
For starters, we recommend the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-free UV Protector SPF 42 Broad Spectrum for Face or CosRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++. There are too many good sunscreens to list here, but if you want to explore further, check out our in-depth reviews on the best sunscreens by skin type for sensitive skin, dry skin, and oily skin.
5. Exfoliate once a week
Exfoliating your skin gets rid of the dead skin cells, which helps unclog your pores and prevent future acne breakouts. Recall what we know about how men have more pores and higher oil production than women. It is ideal to exfoliate 1 to 2 times a week, depending on how sensitive your skin is with the exfoliator. You definitely don’t have to exfoliate frequently. In fact there is such a thing as overexfoliation, where you could damage your skin for the short term.
There are many exfoliators to choose from. You can do a physical exfoliator like the Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off or a chemical exfoliator like the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea, which tightens pores.
6. Don’t forget lip care
For a simple everyday lip balm, this TonyMoly Honey Moisture Liptone Lip Care Stick is a great pick. If you want a lip balm with SPF for use during the day, try this Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25. In addition, we have written a detailed lip care guide here, with specific care tips for chapped, dry lips that might help you out.
Best lip balms for men to try
- Contains moisturizing avocado butter and olive oil, blended with shea butter
- Contains extra organic fruit extracts and peppermint oil for a cooling, minty sensation
- Paraben-free, certified organic
- Contains moisturizing ingredients such as allantoin, panthenol, and vitamin E
- Medicated lip balm, perfect for those with chronically dry lips
- Contains nutrient-packed oils such as coconut oil and avocado oil
- Contains peppermint oil for a cooling sensation on your lips
The Male Patient in Aesthetic Medicine by Mauricio de Maio and Berthold Rzany
Sebum, acne, skin elasticity, and gender difference – which is the major influencing factor for facial pores? by BY Kim, JW Choi, KC Park, SW Youn