While each individual has specific needs for their skin—whether it’s sensitivity, common breakouts, premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and so forth—there is still a baseline skincare regimen that unites us all. As simple as it is to cleanse, exfoliate, and hydrate skin, there are minor adjustments that need to be made for three types of skincare concerns: dry/sensitive skin, oily/acne-prone skin, and anti-aging.
Below are prescriptive routines for those types of skin concerns. To build these routines, we spoke to two trusted, board-certified dermatologists—just as you should speak with your own board-certified dermatologist—to get an even more detailed, tailored routine that builds on the below.
The Best Men’s Skincare Regimen for Dry and Sensitive Skin
It comes as no surprise that a skincare regimen for dry/sensitive skin focuses on gentle ingredients and excessive hydration. Here is the best routine, as outlined by board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, in Birmingham, AL.
- Gentle Cleanser: “Start with a cleanser that is effective enough to unclog pores and fight razor bumps [if you shave], but gentle enough to preserve the natural oils in the skin,” says Hartman. A lipo-hydroxy acid can flush pores clean and help smooth surface texture. This is just for the morning, though. Your nighttime cleanser will instead target hydration.
- Antioxidant Serum: After cleansing (and after shaving, if it’s part of the day’s routine), Hartman says to apply an antioxidant serum, which will help evict any free radicals and prevent the degradation of collagen. (This deterioration can yield saggy skin and hyperpigmentation.)
- Moisturizing Gel: “Dry skin needs extra hydration as well as extra moisture. Hydration deals with water content and hyaluronic acid, while moisturization is related to oil content and barrier,” Hartman says. “A lightweight and refreshing hyaluronic acid gel is a good supplement to a dry skin regimen.”
- SPF: Everyone needs sun protection on the daily. “Apply a lightweight [facial] sunscreen as a final step,” says Hartman. “The goal is broad-spectrum protection without a greasy film or heavy feel.”
- Hydrating Cleanser: For this one, Hartman says you want a cleanser that removes excess dirt and grime without compromising the skin’s moisture barrier, nor its defensive powers. So get one with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, to keep moisture top of mind.
- Retinol: “A retinol is a must for anyone aiming to preserve youthful skin and fight the signs of aging,” says Hartman. Plus, they help keep skin smooth, clear, and firm. “Retinols can be tricky due their tendency to cause dryness, irritation, and scaliness,” he adds, which is an important factor for guys with naturally dry or sensitive skin. Still, they can play an important role in keeping skin balanced, if yours can tolerate it. It’s likely that your dermatologist will recommend you use a gentler, OTC retinol, which is notably less intense on skin than a prescription-grade retinol.
- Lightweight Moisturizer: Seal everything in with a moisturizer. This helps expedite any restoration and repair, since the body accelerates your cellular regeneration during slumber. You should wake up with smoother, brighter, hydrated complexion.
The Best Men’s Skincare Regimen for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
Oily skin—and thus, acne-prone skin—is the most common concern among men, says board-certified dermatologist Nikhil Dhingra, MD, of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. That’s likely because men generally have larger pores and oilier skin. Below is the regimen he recommends to his patients with this concern. It’s important to note the absence of toner, too, which is often cited by experts for its ability to balance oil production. “I don’t find toners to be useful and, if anything, they can over-irritate the skin, dry it out, cause reactions, and decrease the likelihood of tolerating more effective active ingredients like vitamin C and retinols,” says Dhingra. So, take that advice if you so please, and read on for more oily/acne-prone skincare tips.
- Exfoliating Cleanser: “Wash with an AHA- or BHA-containing cleanser,” says Dhingra, for the ingredients’ ability to dissolve dead skin and unclog pores, thus promoting brighter, healthier, youthful cells—and, of course, a clear complexion thanks to far fewer breakouts. He says to look for 1–2% salicylic acid or 10–20% glycolic acid formulas.
- Vitamin C Serum: Here’s a tip that Dhingra prescribes, regardless of skin type. “Apply a tiny amount of vitamin C serum, which can go on the entire face and is a great way to combat damage from sun exposure and aging,” says Dhingra. But when you start, he suggests doing so just three days a week at first, to test for irritation or sensitivity.
- Oil-Free SPF-Packed Moisturizer: “Even oily, acne-prone skin demands additional hydration,” Dhingra says. And obviously, it’s a great way to get your required SPF, too, if you pair the two together. “Look for a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer that contains an SPF of 30 or higher. For acne- and rosacea-prone skin, extra points for a product that contains niacinamide, a potent anti-redness and anti-inflammatory, as well as hyaluronic acid, a non-greasy additive for hydrating the skin.”
- Hydrating Cleanser: Focus on hydration with your evening cleanser, says Dhingra, “to avoid over-stripping the skin, which can lead to breakouts, redness, and peeling.” Yes, even oily-skinned guys need to worry about drying out the skin—it’s far too common.
- Retinol: “Apply a sparing, pea-sized amount of a retinoid,” Dhingra says. “Keep in mind that OTC retinols are roughly 1/20th the potency of prescription-grade retinoids and are not super effective for combatting breakouts when compared with their anti-aging benefits.” For this reason, he says, it’s probably better to get a prescription retinol from a board-certified dermatologist, and to discuss possible side effects and proper instructions.
- Hyaluronic Acid Serum: A lightweight serum will help lock in moisture, to keep skin hydrated but not suffocated while you sleep. Anything oil-free and light will prevent clogging and sweating.
- Oil-Free Moisturizer: Finish the regimen with a small application of oil-free moisturizer, to help skin repair and restore itself overnight. Oil-free is key for oily-skinned types.
The Best Men’s Skincare Regimen for Anti-Aging
Really, every skincare regimen is anti-aging at heart, though some products are far more proactive than others. Here is the best morning and nighttime anti-aging skin routine for men, as prescribed by Dhingra.
- Gentle Cleanser: This echoes the previous two skincare regimens. A gentle cleanser will help preserve the skin’s natural moisture barrier while removing the necessary grime.
- Vitamin C Serum: Again, this one is something Dhingra tells his patients regardless of their skin type. “Apply a tiny amount of vitamin C serum, which can go on the entire face and is a great way to combat damage from sun exposure and aging.” Start doing so just three days a week, which can help to gauge your skin’s response—as some formulas can irritate sensitive skin.
- Hyaluronic Acid Serum: A hyaluronic acid serum will help boost and preserve moisture levels in the skin, which will keep it firm, bright, and nourished.
- SPF Moisturizer: “This is your most critical anti-aging step,” says Dhingra. “Look for a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer that contains SPF 30 or higher.” Use this daily, every single day of the year, to keep the sun’s skin-aging UV rays away from your precious mug.
- Hydrating Cleanser: Don’t pick a cleanser that dries out the skin as it washes. Use a gentle one that preserves moisture balance.
- Retinol (every other night): Apply a sparing, pea-sized amount of a retinol; talk to your doctor about whether or not to use an OTC product or a prescription-based retinol (the latter of which is far more potent in its ability to reverse signs of aging and keep skin firm and clear). “Retinols are great for fine lines and prevention of wrinkles, and for those seeking an improvement in texture,” Dhingra says.
- Azelaic Acid Product (every other night): “Alternate the retinol with an azelaic acid suspension, which helps even out skin tone and undo some of the pigmentation that can come about from sun exposure and age,” Dhingra says.
- Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer: Lastly, apply a hyaluronic acid–based moisturizer, says Dhingra. This helps to seal in moisture while also boosting moisture retention.