men's skin care routine - a comprehensive guide

Men’s Skin Care Guide: Finding The Right Regimen

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When it comes to men’s skin care, there is a whole wide world of intimidating products.  But what’s funny is that men’s skin care is no different really when it comes to women’s skin care (except the marketing).

From cleansers, moisturizers, exfoliators, and tons of products in between, it can be a daunting task to try and figure out if it makes sense looking into them further to boost a man’s skin care game.


If you want to get healthier looking or clearer skin – you are going to want to at least do a few basic things for your skin.

Let’s face it:

Men’s skin care is gaining more and more steam among the population.  In fact its one of the biggest growing market sectors for beauty markets (source below).

Personally, it took me some intense research to figure out what all the differences are between the men’s skin care products.

But don’t worry – I feel I sorted it all out and will serve it up to you in a easily digestible manner!

Don’t be scared when you hear words like alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, PH levels, and so on.

Once your done with this comprehensive men’s skin care guide you will be set to get products confidently.

So the next time you hop over to Amazon or are at your boutique beauty store you will be an expert.

Honestly Should You Consider Any Men’s Skin Care Products?

Skin care products and more importantly adopting the right regimen will give you a ton of great skin benefits.

Using the right combination can make your skin glow, moisturize your skin to prevent dryness, reduce wrinkles, close up your pores, give you an overall younger appearance to your skin, and reduce the risk of acne.

When you consider using an array of skin care products, its important to know that its not something that will happen over night.

In fact, in order to accurately gauge whether or not something is working out for you, you want to try it out for about two weeks.

Mens Skin Care Products Compared to Women’s

mens skin care

This is by and far one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to deciding on skin care products.

Here’s the deal:

Men skin care ingredients when compared to women’s are virtually the exact same – minus the scents.

Therefore skin care products are for the most part unisex.

When trying to decide on which one to go with, ignore the label design and pick the right one that will be for your skin.

To further hit this point home, if this is your first time getting into a proper skin care routine, you want to actually stay away from the scents as they may cause unwanted irritation.

The only reason that separate product lines exist between both men and women is largely due to marketing purposes.


Women make up a huge majority of skin care product purchases, however men skin care is one of the fastest growing sectors per the WSJ.

To even hit this point further home:

Women often may be purchasing products geared towards men as they are often times cheaper than the same exact product with a different label marketed towards women (sometimes the markup can be 2x as much)!!

That’s crazy!

So when deciding on products, DON’T pick them purely on the label design – it means nothing in the world of skin care.

Introducing New Products – Patch Test

behind ear allergies

Before you introduce any new product to your skin its important to do a patch test.

What exactly is a patch test?

Don’t worry it’s nothing too fancy!

Basically you want to take about a half of a dime sized amount of the product (enough to be noticeable but not a ton so your entire face won’t look like a giant red balloon).

One of the best way to test for allergies is either behind your ear or on the soft skin in the bend of your arm.

For irritation, you will want to test in the area that you are most sensitive (this varies from person to person, however common sensitive areas are cheeks, fingers, palm, forehead, or feet).

Lastly to check for acne reactions, you will want to apply a small dab of your skin care product to areas on your skin that are most prone to developing acne.

Here’s the kicker:

This part can be frustrating, but after you apply it, some people experience flareups on allergies or irritation within minutes after applying, however it is recommended to wait about 24 hours to see how your skin reacts.

The main takeaway here is that when you apply skin care products, your skin should never feel like its burning or reacting in any way.

If this is the case, then you will want to remove that skin care product from your cabinet.

Correct Order for Skin Care Routine

When it comes to applying skin care products, there is actually a pretty close regimen that you should stick to.

Remember what I was saying earlier, skin care products are virtually identical between both men and women.

Therefore the routine below is universal – with the exception of shaving your face of course.

This is what your routine should look like:


The dreaded phone alarm is going off…

Get That Cleanse Going – But Not Too Much

cleansing men skin care

First thing to do is to hop (or slowly crawl to the bathroom) – and clean (i.e. cleanse) your face.

If your skin tends to be a bit more on the dehydrated side, some simple water to give it a bit of moisture (you will want to cleanse at the end of day instead).

However if your a bit on the oily side, you will want to open up the medicine cabinet and reach for a proper cleanser.

A cleanser is just a product that is used to wash your face.  One of the most popular cleansers is this one made by CeraVe.

I will go over specific recommendations below based on skin type.  But the cleanser listed above is suitable for all skin types – especially those that are a bit more on the oily side or folks with acne.

When using water, you don’t want to go piping hot or ice cold.  In fact either or is bad for your skin, instead stick to a lukewarm water temperature.

If you are using a cleanser, you don’t want to over do it as it will actually increase the production of oils and cause irritation.

Shave If You Must

shaving with a double edge razor

Alright so you are all cleansed – time to hop in the shower if you plan on shaving.

The best time to shave will be after your morning shower.

When you take a warm shower, the hair follicles on your face will fatten up and become much softer.  Once they do so, it will be much easier for the blade to go across your face.

If you are using a cartridge based razor, I strongly suggest that you take a look at changing it up and begin using a double edge safety razor.

A double edge safety razor has a plethora of benefits when compared to a cartridge based razor – from long term ownership to an outright better shave.  Be sure to check out our post about safety razors.

In addition, make sure that you skip out on the cheap shaving creams as they can make a world of difference when it comes to your skin condition.

Many cheap shaving creams use alcohol as a base, this severely dries out your skin.  I would recommend checking out one of the nicer ones like this one here.

After You Do Your Shaving It’s Time To Use an Aftershave

aloe vera aftershave

Aftershaves have started to re-emerge in the men’s grooming world.  In fact, aftershave back in the early 1900s used to serve a completely different purpose.

Back then the barbers used to use straight edge razors (the blades are not swappable like they are now) and would use the same razor client after client.

Aftershaves were used for a few reasons, however being a disinfectant was the primary one.

However, aftershaves have evolved to where they are today and provide great skin benefits as we outlined in our recent post.

Not only do they still serve as a disinfectant, but when the are coupled with all natural ingredients like witch hazel or aloe vera, they can help tone the skin, reduce general after shave razor burn and razor bumps, and act as a natural astringent (closes the pores).

If its your first aftershave, I would recommend checking out one that is unscented and has witch hazel and aloe vera as a base like this one here.

Apply Some Sunscreen Before You Go Out The Door

If you have fair or darker skin complexions, you should be using sunscreen regardless.

Sure, sunscreen definitely prevents you from getting sun burned on a daily basis in the summer, but it is probably one of the MOST important parts to a healthy skin care regimen.

Over your lifetime, sunscreen will be one of the most effective anti-aging/anti-wrinkle treatments that you can do for yourself.  Not to mention too, is that it decreases your risk of skin cancer.

Just make sure that the sunscreen rating you get is at least SPF 30 and blocks out harmful UVA rays.

When applying it in the morning, you are going to want to use a liberal amount on all exposed areas of the body.

In addition, you will want to be using it year round.

The UVA rays from the sun don’t sleep in the winter time just because it is cold outside, therefore your sunblock shouldn’t either.

Your Morning Recap and On to Afternoon

As a recap, in the morning you want to make sure you first cleanse your face, then jump in the shower if you plan on shaving (to thicken up and soften your hair so its easier to cut), apply an all natural aftershave, and lastly apply some sunscreen before you head out the door.

That’s it for the rest of the work day!

But look:

You can’t rest on your laurels at night time.

Before you hit the sack there are just a few more things that you should be doing.

Time To Hit The Exfoliator Before Bed

Your face had a rough day, between all the chemicals, fumes, etc that it might have been exposed to just on your commute alone, its time to degrease it.

Let’s face it, the pores on your face are clogged with dirt and oil build up throughout the day.

Therefore the best thing to do is to exfoliate it.

Before you do that there is one step that is necessary:

You must give your face a quick cleanse your face before exfoliating.

Be careful not to do too much of a deep cleanse on it as you will be exfoliating next.

When exfoliating its much better (although just a hair costlier) to go with a chemical exfoliant over physical exfoliation.

The major downside when it comes to a physical exfoliator is that you won’t get an even scrub on your face unless you are using a mechanical brush like this.  Even then, event distribution of scrub is not always guaranteed.

An alternative to the physical exfoliator is the chemical exfoliant.

Don’t let the word chemical scare you here.

Hear me out:

Chemical exfoliants are often times made from natural ingredients and typically not very harsh chemicals.

As mentioned earlier, its always best to do a patch test first before using this fully on your face.

Using chemical exfoliants can help reduce acne, removing closed comedones, and improve your overall skin tone.

When looking at the types of exfoliants you are going to see two different active ingredients alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA).

AHA is used to break up bonds of the dead skin cells so it will fall apart quickly to show the healthier brighter skin that lies underneath.  When you use a exfoliant containing AHA it is very important to note that you absolutely must use sunscreen with it.

AHA will make your skin much more sensitive to the sun thus opening yourself to sunburn, faster aging (wrinkles), and perhaps even sun spots.

If you have normal to dryer skin, you may want to start with a AHA based exfoliant first.

BHA on the other hand is used to break up the sebum (skin oil).  Using a product with BHA will help reduce the chance of clogged pores and ultimately acne.

If you have oily skin, start with a BHA based exfoliant first.

You don’t want to exfoliate ever day to start.

In fact, general consensus says to start at around twice a week and then gradually build it up to a more frequent basis.  If you are concerned about using a chemical exfoliant, there are organic ones to choose from.

Last But Not Least – Overnight Treatment

man sleeping in bed

Once your face is dried from applying the exfoliant in the previous step, the last thing you want to do before you go to bed is to apply a treatment product.

This will serve as overnight work to help clear up any acne, give your face boost of moisture, as well as flush it by serving up a healthy dose of antioxidants.

This sort of spot treatment can vary wildly person to person, so therefore if there are any areas on your face that you wish to concentrate on or work out further, you would want to apply the appropriate substance to work overnight.

Don’t Get Cheap and Fail Your Skin Care Regimen

There are all too often posts around in DIY sites, blogs, etc that try to get skin care on the cheap.

I have seen folks use baking soda on their face and after prolonged use (2 weeks), they started to have extremely dried out skin that began cracking and making their skin extremely red.

The same goes with other household ingredients like toothpaste or vinegar (apple cider).

When you aim to clear up your skin and adopt the proper skin care regimen, the goal is to level out the balance in your PH level.

Adopting household ingredients like baking soda, toothpaste, or vinegar have a wide ranging PH level that will either completely dry out your skin or burn it pretty badly.

So set down the Arm and Hammer!

Few Suggested Skin Care Products For First Timers

If this is your first plunge into the skin care world, don’t be scared!

Once you get into a regular routine, you will be surprised on how quick your skin will clear up and look incredible in no time.

For the first timers out there here are a few suggested products to check out by category:


CeRave Foaming Cleanser – Mostly all skin types (geared a little bit more for those with oily skin)

CeRave Hydrating Cleanser – As the name suggests, for those with dryer skin

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle – A great starter one as it covers mostly all skin types


AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) – Typically for normal to dry skin types

Alpha Hydroxy 10% – Renews moisture, gets rid of dead skin cells

Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir

BHA (beta hydroxy acid) – Typically for oily skin types

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid

Stridex Strength Medicated Pads


Blue Lizard for sensitive skin

Elta MD UV Lotion

Recapping The Skin Care Regimen

As we discovered there is a lot that goes into the proper skin care regimen.

However the benefits will far outweigh the costs once you get into a regular daily routine.

The most important takeaway from adopting a routine is to make it a daily thing that you don’t think twice about.

While all the steps might seem lengthy, in due time you will be running through them in only a matter of minutes – seriously.

If you have any questions, I would love to hear them!

Drop a line in the comments below and let me know what you think!


About The Author

Shawn Burns

Shawn is the founder and senior editor at Tools of Men, the leading style and grooming source trusted by men in 187 countries. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. He is an expert in all things men's grooming related. His work has been mentioned on countless sites including The Wall Street Journal, NBC, AskMen, Vice, WikiHow, and the New York Times.

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