The Best Skin Care Routine for Men (Even for Beginners)

It’s never too late to start the best skin care routine for men, or to build on the one you’ve got. Doing so is an investment in your health and self-confidence. But as I’ve learned through many conversations, a skin care routine for men often feels like some endless treasure hunt, with a map that is impossible to decode. But here’s the secret: There’s no end goal. It’s like daily exercise for your skin, the same way you eat healthy, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. After all, it’s a skin care routine, and these are habits you’re building because they’re good for you, not because you’ll magically look like Lee Pace or Henry Golding when all is said and done. (We would all be so lucky.)

Hopefully, I can help you figure out the best skin care routine for you, by explaining the best steps to follow (and in which order), as well as some of the key ingredients to look for along the way. Here, then, is the best skin care routine for men—if such a thing exists. And if it feels like too much for now, there’s always the simplest (3-step) skin care routine, too. If you start there, you’re already miles ahead of most guys. In fact, that’s a great place to begin. 

The Baseline Regimen: Cleanse, Exfoliate, Moisturize

The three core steps of any regimen are cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing, but not all 3 at once. Here’s an ideal scenario:

  1. Cleanse twice a day. Use face wash first thing in the morning, to wash away any product applied the night before, as well as any sweat and bacteria you accumulated during the night. Then cleanse in the evening, to begin your bedtime regimen. 
  2. Exfoliate twice a week. This step removes dead skin cells and allows you to keep a brighter, smoother, softer complexion—while also preventing breakouts. For the task, you can choose a physical scrub or a chemical exfoliant. The latter is probably better if you’re dealing with acne and want to dissolve dead skin cells as well as sebum trapped inside the pores (especially a product with salicylic acid). But don’t exfoliate more than suggested by your chosen product (usually twice weekly), since your skin cells don’t really regenerate fast enough to keep up with constant sloughing. Lastly, it’s best to exfoliate in the evening (always after cleansing and before moisturizing), so that skin can recover as you rest. Otherwise you might navigate the day with a reddened mug.
  3. Moisturize morning and night, with SPF as a daytime priority. Moisturizer sounds like a proactive product, but it’s actually less active about hydrating your face as it is about preserving skin’s natural moisture levels, and bouncing away any threats to the skin’s defensive barrier functions. We suggest having one for the morning, with SPF to shield against skin-aging UV rays. This daytime defender will wear slightly lighter than your evening moisturizer, which is more proactive in the nourishment department.

The Intermediate Regimen: Hydrating Serums, Eye Creams, Face Masks, Spot Treatments, and Toners

If you want to graduate from a baseline skin care routine to a more proactive regimen, then there are a few types of products to first bring into the fold. Now, you don’t need to introduce all of these products, but you should at least have a clear understanding of each.