Men are increasingly aware of the importance of incorporating healthy skin care habits into their daily lives. If you’re a man new to skincare, you may be surprised to know that building a skincare routine can be as simple as covering 3 basic steps.
In this article, we’ll explain the different male skin care needs based on biological characteristics, and how to choose the best products to effectively build a simple but effective skincare routine.
MALE SKINCARE AND ITS IMPORTANCE – SCIENTIFIC FACTS
Even though skin care may seem vain to some, it’s quite important for your health 1 . Consistent skincare routines have been proven to have a significant long-term impact on the overall quality and maintenance of skin health and its protective and regulatory functionalities 2 .
When it comes to male skin, research 3 has proven that some skin parameters are distinctive. Men tend to show 3 :
- Higher production of sebum (aka oil).
- Bigger pore size.
- Higher transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which means the amount of water leaving the skin and entering the environment 4 .
- Deeper facial wrinkles.
- More prominent facial sagging in the lower eyelids.
All these different male-related issues can be prevented or improved by establishing skincare habits.
Some studies have confirmed the relationship between consistent skincare routines and better male skin functioning. Men who performed a daily skincare regimen demonstrated a significantly lower sebum amount and transepidermal water loss value than those who did not 5 . The same was observed in a second study comparing the sun protection and skincare habits of young men 6 .
Men normally find it difficult to start using cosmetics and even more adhering to a skincare regimen due to a “tacky” feeling when applying the products 5 . If that’s your case, we are here to tell you that it should NOT necessarily be that way, and creating a proper skincare routine is easy when you understand HOW to do it.
THE 3 ESSENTIAL STEPS OF SKINCARE
A basic skincare routine should cover three fundamental steps, which are:
3. Sun Protection.
Products for each step should be selected according to your skin type (dry, oily, combination, normal, or sensitive), as we will explain.
In addition to these basic steps, you may want to include products that also target specific skin concerns (such as acne, blackheads , dark spots , or wrinkles). For this, serums are your best choice in a “treatment” step right before moisturizing.
1. Cleansing needs:
Cleansing is the first step in any skincare routine. This is especially important for male skin, which tends to produce greater amounts of sebum and sweat 4 . For this reason, it’s often recommended that men’s cleansers be more “aggressive” to effectively remove all these secretions 4 , such as those known as “foaming cleansers”.
However, you should be aware that cleansers are formulated and should be chosen based on your skin type. This means that a “foaming cleanser” may work better if your skin is indeed oily, but not so much if it’s dry.
As a rule, the ideal cleanser should perform its function without leaving your skin feeling dry, tight, and irritated , that’s why it’s advisable to start with a basic cleanser that claims to be mild or gentle.
To choose the perfect one for you, here is a general guideline:
|SKIN TYPE||CLEANSER FORMAT – WHAT TO LOOK FOR?|
|Oily||Foaming cleanser or gel cleanser.|
|Combination||Light foaming cleanser, lotion cleanser, or even “cream to foam” cleanser (such as CeraVe ).|
|Dry||Cream or lotion cleanser.|
|Normal||Any type of cleanser will work. It will depend on your personal preference but avoid those that can overly dry and tighten the skin.|
|Sensitive||Go for gentle, calming, “fragrance-free” cleansers that claim to be for sensitive skin.|
What to avoid?
- Scrubs: avoid cleansers with exfoliant particles. They can damage your skin in the long run.
- Bar soaps: their pH is too harsh for the face.
- Use your shampoo or body wash to cleanse your face.
- Overdoing it: avoid cleansing too often during the day as this can cause excessive drying of the skin, and if your skin is oily, it can lead to sebum overcompensation that ultimately makes your skin oilier 7 .
2. Moisturization needs:
The next basic step is moisturizing. Male skin has unique skin moisturization needs. As mentioned, transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is greater in men 4 due to altered barrier function 5 which can be exacerbated by the shaving process 8 .
Moisturizers are meant to restore the skin barrier and facial hydration post-shave, by reducing the TEWL by combining three different types of molecules:
- Humectants : these increase hydration by attracting water from the skin’s deeper layers. Examples are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, panthenol (B5) , and aloe vera.
- Emollients : rebuild the lipids that are essential to smooth and preserve the skin barrier. Examples are vegetable oils, ceramides, and squalane.
- Occlusives : these create a hydrophobic barrier on the skin surface sealing all moisture in. Examples are petrolatum, shea and cocoa butter, mineral oil, waxes, and lanolin.
Male moisturizers containing humectants (glycerin) and emollients (such as ceramides) can greatly improve male skin barrier function, which can be further boosted by ingredients such as niacinamide 8 .
Choosing the right moisturizer normally depends on your skin type. However, regardless of skin type, men tend to perceive a “tacky feeling” from these products.
What should you look for? To avoid that “tacky feeling”, it’s recommended to choose lightweight moisturizers such as gel creams, rich in humectants and restoring emollients like ceramides. Avoid occlusives since they tend to give a heavy sensation. However, if you have dry skin, opting for a nourishing cream format (even with some occlusives) may be better.
To choose the perfect one for you, here is a general guideline:
|SKIN TYPE||MOISTURIZER FORMAT|
|Oily / Acne-prone||Gel or water-cream moisturizers. Look for “oil-free”, “non-oily”, or “lightweight” claims.|
|Combination||Gel cream or lightweight lotion.|
|Dry||Creams that nourish your skin with different types of moisturizers.|
|Normal||Gel-based or cream-based rich in humectants and emollients.|
|Sensitive||Look for “fragrance-free” products formulated for “sensitive skin” with emollients (ceramides),
humectants (glycerin), and even calming ingredients ( cica ).
3. Sun Protection needs:
Sunscreens are an essential step in any morning routine. Engaging in daily sun protection should be of the most importance for male skin. Men don’t respond as well as women to environmental stressors like UV rays, being more prone to UV-induced harm 9 due to lower innate antioxidant defenses 10 .
Men must protect themselves every day with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher . To simplify this step in your morning routine, we advise choosing a suitable moisturizer already with SPF for your morning routine, meaning that you’ll need a second moisturizer for the night routine.
4. Treatment needs:
To this point, building a basic skincare routine consistently covering the 3 essential steps is enough.
However, to treat a specific skin concern, you could incorporate a serum into your nightly routine, intended to deliver high concentrations of active ingredients to the skin.
Here is a general guideline on how to choose the ideal serum for you:
|SKIN CONCERN||WHAT TO LOOK FOR?|
|Acne||Actives such as salicylic acid (also labeled as BHA), azelaic acid, niacinamide, or retinol*.|
|Dark spots||Actives such as azelaic acid, arbutin, tranexamic acid, vitamin C , niacinamide, licorice, retinol* or kojic acid.|
|Dehydrated skin||Hydrating serums with humectants and ceramides.|
|Wrinkles||Actives that help build collagen: peptides, vitamin C, retinol*.
Antioxidant serums: help fight free radicals involved in skin aging.
- As a beginner, start with the lowest and most gentle concentration of retinol (0.15 – 0.30 %) every other night, and increase gradually.
- Retinol might irritate the skin. If it’s not well tolerated, choose its natural alternative bakuchiol .
- It makes skin sensitive to sunlight, so wash your face well the next morning and apply sunscreen.
BUILD YOUR MEN’S SKINCARE ROUTINE
Now that you know how to select the building blocks of your skincare routine, let’s see how you can combine them in a morning and night routine.
A basic morning routine can follow this sequence:
1. Wash your face . The use of a cleanser is optional and will depend on your needs (too oily and sweaty? Apply it)
2. Apply a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher.
A simple night routine can follow this sequence:
1. Cleanse: essential to remove all oil, sweat, dirt, pollutants, and bacteria trapped in your face at the end of the day.
2. Treat: apply serum to treat your skin concern.
3. Moisturize: apply a generous amount of moisturizer to seal all actives and moisture in.
Simple skincare habits such as cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection can do wonders for the skin, including that of men. Male skin is characterized by many biological needs that skincare routines can help tackle and improve. Choosing the right products is key, and they depend on your skin type and concerns. If you are bothered by heavy and sticky products, look for “lightweight” formulations which can help you engage in building a suitable daily routine.
- Oblong, J. E. (2012). Male skin care: Shaving and moisturization needs. Dermatologic Therapy, 25 (3), 238–243. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2012.01502.x
- Rodan, K., Fields, K., Majewski, G. P., & Falla, T. (2016). Skincare Bootcamp. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Global Open, 4, e1152. https://doi.org/10.1097/gox.0000000000001152
- S, R., Fanian, F., Mehryan, P., Humbert, P., & Firooz, A. (2018). Male versus female skin: What dermatologists and cosmeticians should know. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 4 (3), 122–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2018.03.002
- Draelos, Z. D. (2018). Cosmeceuticals for Male Skin. Dermatologic Clinics, 36 (1), 17–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.det.2017.09.003
- Mizukoshi, K., & Akamatsu, H. (2012). The investigation of the skin characteristics of males focusing on gender differences, skin perception, and skin care habits. Skin Research and Technology, 19 (2), 91–99. https://doi.org/10.1111/srt.12012
- Infante, V. H. P., De Melo, M. O., & Campos, P. M. B. G. M. (2022). Impacts of sun protection and skin care habits in the biophysical and morphological properties of young men skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 21 (10), 5073–5080. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.14965
- The effect of a daily facial cleanser for normal to oily skin on the skin barrier of subjects with acne. (2006, July 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16910029/
- Draelos, Z. D. (2012). Male skin and ingredients relevant to male skin care. British Journal of Dermatology, 166, 13–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10784.x
- JDDonline – Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2022, May 11). Men’s Attitudes and Behaviors About Skincare and Sunscreen Use Behaviors – JDDonline – Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://jddonline.com/articles/mens-attitudes-and-behaviors-about-skincare-and-sunscreen-use-behaviors-S1545961621P0088X/
- JDDonline – Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (n.d.). Addressing Male Facial Skin Concerns: Clinical Efficacy of a Topical Skincare Treatment Product for Men – JDDonline – Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://jddonline.com/articles/addressing-male-facial-skin-concerns-clinical-efficacy-of-a-topical-skincare-treatment-product-for-m-S1545961618P0301X/