The Ultimate Skincare Routine for Men [2023]

Last updated April 13, 2023

Man applying moisturizer to their face

The best skincare routine is one you can keep up with. For many, that stops at a mere one-over of bar soap, but the truth is, you could (and should) be doing more for your skin. After all, it’s your largest organ and susceptible to environmental stressors (read: sun spots and photoaging) and genetic predispositions alike. On top of these factors, men naturally have more sebaceous glands (a.k.a. more oily skin) when compared to women. This means their pores can appear more pronounced, and they’re more prone to acne, particularly cystic acne, which can go on to scar, says Dr. Mary Alice Mina, Atlanta-based board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon.

Needless to say, a proper skincare routine is necessary in keeping your skin healthy and functioning well, says Dr. Mina. We know how intimidating a 12-step regimen can be. We also know that for many, the sheer number of products on the market may deter you from even thinking about having a skincare routine at all. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate skincare routine for men with minimal effort required. No excess products, no fluff — just six effective steps that you can easily incorporate into your routine (with product recommendations along the way). You’re welcome.

Man washing their face
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Step 1: Cleanse Away Dirt and Oil

Toss the bar soap. It may have gotten off the day’s grime, but it also took away your skin’s moisture along with it. We believe in the importance of a thorough daily cleanse that doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight (which really just means you’ve dried it out).

Cleansers are designed to whisk away dirt, oil, and debris sitting on your skin — all of which can inhibit your other formulas from penetrating your skin. Depending on your skin type, there are gel, cream, and foam cleansers available.“Gel cleansers are lightweight and best for oily or more acne-prone skin types,” says Dr. Mina. “A cream cleanser is more hydrating and best for wintertime as well as those with dry skin.” If your skin is neither oily nor dry, it lies in the “normal skin” category, and a foaming cleanser is best for you.

Huron Men’s Face Wash is a plant-based creamy cleanser that’s laced with aloe to calm irritation and bamboo powder to refine pores. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a dual-action cleanser and exfoliator that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin types.

If your skin needs a deep clean, Lumin’s Charcoal Cleanser is the ultimate detox, with charcoal, rose flower oil, and herbal extracts that work together to reduce inflammation, up hydration levels, and remove impurities without causing irritation.

A toner and cleanser all in one, Jack Black’s Pure Clean Daily Facial Cleanser relies on the toning properties of witch hazel and the soothing properties of chamomile extract to cleanse the skin and prep it for shaving.

Man using moisturizer

Step 2: Exfoliate Dead Skin Cells

The idea behind exfoliating is to increase cell turnover in your skin — that is, get rid of dead skin cells in order to make room for fresher, healthier skin cells. If you’re already using a retinol in your routine (kudos to you if so), then you may be able to skip an exfoliator altogether. But for men who aren’t, exfoliating may be the ticket to a brighter, fresher complexion.

There are two forms of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliators can be anything from a heavy-duty scrub to even a textured washcloth. These help get rid of dead skin cells sitting on the surface of the skin. Chemical-based exfoliants, on the other hand, are a better fit if you’re looking to target the deeper layers of the skin.

Here’s where things get interesting. Within the realm of chemical exfoliants, there are two types: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). While AHAs are good for things like fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage, BHAs are better for those with acne-prone skin, as they can help regulate oil production by targeting sebaceous glands, says Dr. Mina. In any case, these are powerful formulas, and you should limit their use to two to three times a week to avoid pissing off your skin.

Step 3: Shave (If You Want)

For those with facial hair who like keeping it close, shaving is an important part of your daily skincare routine. Not only does it help you look well-groomed and put-together, but it can also be beneficial to your skin.

First, shaving helps to exfoliate your skin by removing dead skin cells and impurities, leaving your skin looking fresh and smooth. It also helps to unclog your pores, which can help prevent breakouts and ingrown hairs.

Shaving should come after cleansing and before applying products that are going to sit on your skin for the day. Dr. Mina says to first let the skin and hair follicles soften with warm water or a steam in the shower for a few minutes before shaving. “Using a gentle shaving cream and a clean razor, shave in the direction of the hair (versus against it, which can cause razor bumps),” she says. “After shaving, apply a gentle moisturizer and then sunscreen.” If you’re struggling with razor bumps or ingrown hairs, you can use a benzoyl peroxide 10% face wash to calm down the redness and inflammation, recommends Dr. Mina.

Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Shaving Cream for Men

Step 4: Apply Serum

Serums are concentrated formulas that help you hone in on a specific skin problem you’re facing. For instance, if your skin is dull and lackluster, a vitamin C serum can help brighten up your complexion. If you’re dealing with dryness, a hyaluronic acid serum can help plump up the skin and reintroduce moisture. For acne-prone skin, go for a salicylic acid serum to help treat existing breakouts and ward off future ones.

We recommend the Jack Black Protein Booster Skin Serum.

Man applying moisturizer to their face

Step 5: Moisturize All Over

You may have thought moisturizers were only for hydrating your skin. You’re right, but they do so much more. Some of them infuse SPF (for a one-two punch of moisture and protection) while others can help mattify the skin if you’re struggling with midday grease.

Dr. Mina recommends sticking to a thicker cream formula if you have dry skin, like the Geologie Moisturizing Face Cream with SPF15, which goes on smooth and won’t disrupt your daily routine with stickiness or a heavy feeling. If your skin leans oily, stick to a lotion or non-comedogenic cream.

Recommended: Best Men's Moisturizer with SPF

Step 6: Finish Off With SPF

SPF is the last step of your skincare routine, and by and large, the most important one. SPF, which stands for "sun protection factor," prevents the sun's harmful rays from wrecking damage on your skin (at best) and skin cancer (at worst). It’s recommended to stick to a SPF of 30 or higher for everyday protection to reduce your risk of skin cancer and to keep sun spots, fine lines, and wrinkles away. If you're looking for a lightweight, non-greasy formula that rejuvenates the skin, try the Kiehl's Facial Fuel Men’s SPF 20 Moisturizer, a two-in-one moisturizer-SPF formula. For those seeking higher protection against all forms of visible light (including blue light), Jack Black Double Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20 is a solid option — it contains Blue Algae Extract & Sea Parsley to provide antioxidants and boost hydration.

What to consider depending on your skin type

Dry Skin:

For men with dry skin, it's important to focus on hydrating and nourishing your skin. Start with a gentle cleanser that won't strip your skin of its natural oils. Look for moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid in your moisturizer, and apply it twice a day, especially after showering or washing your face. Use a facial oil or serum at night to lock in hydration and provide extra nourishment to your skin.

Related: Crack the Code: A Man's Guide to Tackling Dry Skin

Acne-prone Skin:

If you have acne-prone skin, look for skincare products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help unclog your pores and prevent breakouts. However, be careful not to overuse these products, as they can be drying and irritate your skin. Stick to a gentle cleanser, use a non-comedogenic moisturizer, and consider spot-treating any blemishes with a targeted treatment.

Sensitive Skin:

Men with sensitive skin should look for products that are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic to avoid irritation. Use a gentle cleanser that won't strip your skin of its natural oils and follow up with a moisturizer designed for sensitive skin. Be careful when trying out new products and ingredients, and avoid anything that causes redness, itching, or a burning sensation.

Combination Skin:

If you have combination skin, your skin may be oily in some areas and dry in others. Focus on balancing your skin's needs by using a gentle cleanser, followed by a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer. You may want to use a toner on your oily T-zone to help control oil production. If you have dry patches, consider using a facial oil or serum at night to help hydrate and nourish those areas.

In Summary

We know taking care of your skin can be tricky biz, and if these steps sound like a lot, we hear you. For the efficient guy who's pressed for time, start by narrowing down your routine to the basics: a gentle cleanser, a shaving cream, and an oil-free SPF formula. You can expand on these steps to create your own skin care regimen whenever you see fit — either way, your skin will thank you.