No matter your gender, a solid skincare routine is a key to keeping your skin looking and feeling its best, one that works well for your unique skin. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never touched a moisturizer in your life or you have a 5-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, and deodorizer. Whatever the case, we’re here with a refresher on the basics and a quick-and-dirty (okay, quick, but not so dirty) guide to skincare for men.
Just as your body benefits when you hit the gym regularly, your skin benefits when you take care of it—big time. You’ll help prevent acne, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and—if you’re sure to include SPF in your daily routine—help protect yourself from skin cancer.
Before choosing products, it can help to know your skin type. Most people have what’s known as “combination skin,” where your T-zone—your forehead, chin, and nose—tends to be oilier than the rest of your face. Males tend to have thicker, oily skin, at least partially thanks to testosterone.¹ That said, don’t go pigeonholing yourself. The truth is no two people have exactly the same skin. Plus, your skin type may change with time, too.
Knowing your skin type can be especially helpful when choosing skincare products. For example, you might use a different face wash for dry, acne-prone skin than for oily, acne-prone skin.
When choosing skincare products, it’s all about the ingredients. You’ll typically want to use non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, dye-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, and hypoallergenic products that include ingredients like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid, and niacinamide. To make it easy, here’s your cheat sheet with comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients to avoid.
Now, let’s talk about the big picture of selecting skincare products.
1. Consider ethnicity. People from different ethnic backgrounds may have different skin types. Research shows that, generally, Caucasians experience skin wrinkling earlier and more significantly compared to other races, while hyperpigmentation is more common in skin of color (the medical term for darker skin tones). Studies show that sensitivity is the only similarity across all skin types—one ethnic group doesn’t corner the market on sensitivity.²
Research also shows that common skin disorders are associated with different skin colors. For example, acne tends to be more inflamed in people with darker skin.³
Curology’s dermatology providers receive specialized training to prepare them for working with diverse patient populations, like treating acne in melanin-rich skin. When in doubt, feel good knowing you can message your Curology provider for guidance.
2. Don’t pay so much attention to your gender. There are some broad differences between the skin of males and females,⁴ but that doesn’t mean products marketed toward men won’t work for women or vice versa. It’s all about the ingredients, not the packaging.
3. Try different products to find ones you like and will actually use. The best skincare products are the ones you actually enjoy using. Don’t be afraid to shop around and test various products to find ones you like that work well for your skin.
4. Determine your skincare goals. Knowing what you want to achieve from your skincare products will help you determine which ones to buy. Are you struggling with getting rid of hormonal acne? Are you looking for anti-aging benefits? Tailor your products to the big picture of your skincare goals.
5. Ask an expert. Still confused? Talk to a skincare professional! At Curology, our licensed dermatology providers want to help you make the right decisions for your unique skin. Let us do the grunt work for you.
You’ll find a lot of skincare tips for men out there. But the simplest skincare routines are usually the best. We recommend four steps: cleanse, treat, moisturize, and apply SPF. We know you want results, and to get results, no matter how simple your skincare routine, you’ve got to stick with it.
Cleanse. Aim to cleanse your face twice daily, in the morning and in the evening before bed. Washing up before you call it a night is especially important. You owe it to your skin to remove the grime and grit from the day. Wet your face using lukewarm water and gently massage your cleanser onto your face using your fingertips. Rinse, pat dry, and you’re done with step one.
Treat. During this step, you’ll use a product formulated to achieve your skincare goals, whether treating and helping to prevent acne or reducing the appearance of age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Use your products as directed, and remember, a little goes a long way in most cases.
Moisturize. Use a lotion or cream that leaves your skin well hydrated throughout the day (and night!)—even if you have oily skin.
Protect. Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is one of the best protective measures against UV rays and sun damage. And don’t forget to reapply every two hours whenever you’re outdoors or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. If you’d like, you can combine steps three and four by opting for a moisturizer that contains SPF.
You can also try exfoliating if you want to kick your skincare routine up a notch. A chemical exfoliator like a face wash that contains salicylic acid gently removes dead skin cells to give you a fresh appearance. Other quick and easy treatments include eye creams, which can help improve the appearance of dark circles, and lip balm (bonus points if it contains SPF!).
Remember, your skincare plan can and should be as unique as you, but it needn’t be complicated.
Like it or not, if you haven’t already, it’s high time to retire the old bar soap. Finding a good facial cleanser for your skin type is the first step to laying the groundwork for the rest of your routine. The right cleanser will clean your skin without making it feel dry and tight. Some may even treat breakouts at the same time. Check the ingredient list to see if some are working double time, like helping with acne and signs of premature aging.
Here are a few cleansers we recommend depending on your skin type.
Body acne is super common but no less annoying than facial breakouts. It’s hard to pin down just one trigger—sweaty gym clothes, pore-clogging body products, or plain ol’ genetics. Basically, anything that can lead to acne on your face can also lead to acne on your body.
Luckily, we’ve got a few product recommendations up our sleeves. Try a body wash with salicylic acids—like the one by Curology*—or a bar of zinc pyrithione soap. Vetting your current skincare routine for potentially pore-clogging (comedogenic) ingredients is another good idea, one both your face and your body will thank you for.
Anyone who has facial hair, whether long or short, can benefit from some beard love. Just like skincare, there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all for your beard care—but there are some things to keep in mind when pampering yours.
Go electric. Prone to ingrown facial hair? Try an electric razor. Traditional blades might be more affordable in the short run, but shaving too close might cause it to grow into the skin, leading to acne-like bumps.
Soak your face and neck in shaving cream before shaving. It’s important to prep your face scruff before trimming it! Shaving cream can help soften the hairs and make them easier to cut. Remember to thoroughly cleanse your face afterward to remove any residue.
Ditch ingredients that are irritating or pore-clogging. Unfortunately, comedogenic and harsh ingredients are found in a lot of men’s skincare and beard care products. Luckily, there’s a simple way to check if they’re in yours! For details about ingredients to avoid, check out this page.
Exercising your body is great, but it’s also important to give your skin what it needs. Part of that means working out in clean clothes. It might be tempting to recycle yesterday’s gym outfit, but wearing already damp or sweaty clothing can lead to breakouts.⁵
Before you leave the gym, take a quick shower. It’s refreshing and good for your skin. While sweating from exercise doesn’t directly cause acne, it creates an environment where bacteria that contribute to acne can thrive. If you really need to get home ASAP, splashing water on your face and neck will do in a pinch.
Interested in more tips? Check out our expert tips on breaking a sweat, pimple-free here.
Running outside? SPF. Playing water sports? SPF. Outdoor anything? Use sunscreen with an adequate SPF. Basically, if you’re going to be outside for extended periods during the day, you should apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+. It’s also important to reapply at least every two hours, especially if you’re going in and out of the water, sweating, or wiping your face a lot. Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Lots of men struggle with acne, but not everyone has time to see a dermatology provider in person just to get a skincare treatment that works. That’s why Curology uses the power of telemedicine to partner you with a licensed dermatology provider who can evaluate your skin and (if we’re right for you) prescribe a personalized prescription formula with a mix of active ingredients to treat your skin concerns. We believe dermatology should be easy and affordable for everyone, and we’ve been working to make it just that since 2014.
Your first month is free—you just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling. The best part? You can try our other recommended skincare products for free, too. That’s right. Your first box comes with your personalized formula, plus a cleanser, moisturizer, and more—it’s a total skincare routine sent straight to your door. free.
Ready to give it a try? Start your free month of Curology now and see what custom skincare’s all about.
Rahrovan, S., et al. Male versus female skin: What dermatologists and cosmeticians should know. International journal of women's dermatology. (2018).
Rawlings, A.V. Ethnic Skin Types: Are There Differences in Skin Structure and Function?International Journal of Cosmetic Science. (2008, April).
Ullah, N., et al. Recognizing Common Skin Conditions in People of Color.The Pharmaceutical Journal. (2021, November, 9).
Rahrovan, S., et al. Male Versus Female Skin: What Dermatologists and Cosmeticians Should Know. Ibid.
American Academy of Dermatology. Is Your Workout Causing Your Acne? (n.d.).
This article was originally published on May 19, 2021, and updated on August 11, 2022.
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Meredith Hartle, DO