Did you know that average life expectancy in western countries like the U.S, Canada, Australia, and in most of the E.U. countries is 85-90 years in 2050?
We will live longer and stay in better health than previous generations. But if you also want to look better, then you must take action already now. This brings us to the topic of skincare my gents.
This guide tries to give you the essentials you should know about how to take care of your face. What is what and how to choose the right product for yourself. After all, your face is your “billboard” to the world.
Why Do We Age
Aging starts the moment you stop growing. Time is a beast no one can tame. At first, your renewal processes are efficient. But by the early 30s, most of us are in their peaks performance. Now, everything depends on how you live and how you exercise of course. But the sad truth is that we are fighting a losing battle here.
So what is aging when we talk about skin? It is a combination of factors happening inside and outside of our body. Things happening inside are called Intrinsic and outside factors are called extrinsic.
Extrinsic aging – ultraviolet exposure, pollution and lifestyle choices such as smoking, sleep deprivation, diet, and daily skincare habits. These account for 80% of the visible signs of skin aging. The physical signs are the thickening of the outer layer of your skin called the stratum corneum. Also blemishes, dryness, dullness, lines and wrinkles.
Intrinsic aging – genetically and age determined. Influenced also by our overall health, stress levels, and propensity to develop skin conditions such as acne. This accounts for the remaining 20 %. Intrinsic aging includes thinning of the skin, atrophy, fine lines, loss of elasticity and dryness.
So we can not really affect thinning and sagging of our skin as this is very much coded into our genome. That is why hands and neck often betray better ones biological age compared to the face, which can be manipulated in many ways.
But as I wrote in the beginning up to 80% of the signs that make us look older can be manipulated with. Not just enough sleep, more exercise and healthy food, but also.. you know it… Skincare!
Effect Of Aging And When To Start Skin Care Routine
It is generally recommended to start with skincare in your early 30s. This involves mostly using basic cleansers and moisturizers. But you should definitely begin when you have any of these:
Wrinkles and lines
Truth to be told I had wrinkles on my forehead before I turned 30. I have the misfortune to look older than I am. You can’t beat genetics. This only highlights the importance of skincare even more. If you have lines and wrinkles in your 30s, how will you look when you are twice the age?
As your skin loses moisture, elastin and collagen, you start to develop wrinkles and lines. Collagen production decreases on average by 68% by age 80. Both elastin and collagen are essential building blocks for your skin. They act in many ways like mortar for bricks. Once the mortar crumbles, the walls can come crashing down. In this instance though – your youthful looks. The areas around your eyes and mouth are most prone to wrinkles, so start looking for the signs of age from there.
It is a general term for any discoloration, flaw, or aging spots on your skin. Not to be confused with moles.
Dry skin could be something you were born with. It can be the result of cold climate, wind, and dry air as well. But if you have never had problems with dry skin before and now your skin is starting to peel off. This could be a sign of aging. It is caused by your skins decreased ability to produce sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands). Which in turn will cause the uppermost layers to lose moisture more quickly.
If you think about older age, many of you will also think instinctively about slowness. This is a natural thought pattern, as most elderly people are slow. But it is not just their walking speed and overall activity that diminishes. The same thing is happening on the cellular level also. The metabolism and cell production of the epidermis is slowing down and causes your skin to become thinner.
It is hard to describe this as most men are very likely used to their skin the way it is. But take a moment to look at the skin of those in their early 20s. It has this glowing, shining quality to it. It is often described as youthful radiance, but in essence, it means healthy skin. When dead skin cells start to build upon your face, the glow begins to fade. And that can happen at a relatively young age as skin renewal decreases around 7% every decade.
What Is Skincare
Skincare means regular use of different products to keep your face free of blemishes, wrinkles, and make your skin shine. For most men, this sounds complicated and involves too much time just to end up covered with goo.
We have all seen how women spend countless hours and money in the search for the right product/routine combination. Occasionally it sounds more like the quest for the holy grail.
The truth is far from it. Skincare is easy. You just have to understand the basic principles of every skincare routine and identify your skin type. Once you get going, it takes less than 10 minutes.
Basic skincare means three things: cleansing, scrubbing and moisturizing.
There are, of course, a myriad of other products. Toners, anti-aging serums, eye creams, Antioxidants, etc. I will not discuss them in this guide.
Benefits Of Skincare
Skincare is essential for many reasons.
- Healthy looking skin is attractive
- Skin in good condition is less prone to be sensitive when shaving
- Reducing the signs of age on your face means you will look younger longer
- Healthy and young-looking skin boosts your self-image which in turn makes you more confident
- Once you have healthy youthful skin with the new-found confidence, life will present you better opportunities (new job offers, career enhancements, dating, etc.)
It may seem a minor thing at first, but the compound benefit is huge. It is not about vanity. It is about making you feel good about yourself and confident. Life doesn’t end when you are 60.
Is It Suitable For Men
I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I used to be often confused when I was buying a skincare product. I got this uncomfortable feeling that maybe the item I was holding in my hand was actually meant for women. My manly confidence melted away in these situations, and so very often I ended up buying the same stuff.
So after reading scientific literature and consulting the best minds on this subject, it came out that the whole “for men” and “for women” branding of a product is purely a marketing gimmick. Mostly.
Who could have guessed, right?!
Irony aside, I was surprised that there really isn’t that much difference between the two. The way the products work is the same. The ingredients they are made out of are the same. So if you take your wives or girlfriends cleanser, for example, it works the same way on you as on her.
What makes men’s products different are:
Smell – most men prefer products that give off a more manly scent. In fragrance terminology, these are called the base notes. These are sandalwood, musk, cedarwood, etc.
Color – someone somewhere a long time ago observed that most men prefer darker monochromatic (one colored) products. Dark green, brown, black and white are often colors used for packages that are sold to men.
Texture – If you have lived your whole life without using makeup and creams. Then there is one thing that I can guarantee 90% of men hate. That is the greasy feeling you get after using a skincare product. That’s why men’s products are often made to be absorbed by the skin. It is great from the previously mentioned standpoint but can be useless if you have very dry skin. More about this in the following sections.
Skincare Products Explained
As I already said in the beginning, basic skincare needs only a few things. You need something to cleanse your face with. Occasionally you should use a scrub. And also a moisturizer for daily use. If you live in a sunny area, then you also need sunscreen.
Every skincare routine starts with cleansing. Skin is filled with sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands). These produce an oily substance called sebum, which has many useful properties. The downside is that your skin may look greasy and it also clogs the pores. Add to the mix the city pollution and the layer of dead cells we talked about, and you end up having a rather unhealthy complexion.
So the natural thing to do is to clean it. Cleansers come in various forms. Bar soap, creams, lotions, gels, oils and liquids – you name it. They are all good if used properly.
The four things that I find important when using a cleanser are:
Will it leave an oily residue
Cleansing creams, lotions, and oils tend to leave behind a greasy residue. I have found that the best cleansers for me personally are bar soaps and foams. They wash off easily without leaving any residue on your skin.
How easy it is to apply
As I said, I prefer bar soaps and foams. Bar soap should be lathered on the palm and then rubbed on your damp face. It is even easier with foams as they come out of the can already in a foamed state.
Does it have any well known harmful ingredients
By going through the ingredients list, you can check for the following:
- Parabens – is a chemical used for conservation. It is widely used and safe in small concentrations. But because it’s known to be carcinogenic in bigger concentrations, many companies are avoiding its use.
- Formaldehyde – another chemical used for preservation. In smaller quantities, it is probably harmless but again is known to be carcinogenic.
- Coal tar – banned in many countries due to its carcinogenic properties. But occasionally can be found in some shampoos and conditioners
- Silica – Common chemical in skincare products that should be avoided due to its carcinogenic properties
- Phthalate – banned in E.U. but widely used in the U.S. Is considered carcinogenic also.
This small list presents some of the most common harmful ingredients you can come across when searching for skincare products. There are others like PEG-s (Polyethylene glycols) etc.
They come in micro concentrations, and it is highly unlikely that they can cause cancer. Then again, if you have picked two products and one is paraben-free, I would go with that one.
Is it suitable for my skin
The last thing you should look for is the type of skin the product is suitable for. Most cleansers are suitable for all skin types, though some can dry your skin. If you have sensitive skin, this can aggravate the situation even more. The only way to know is to read user reviews, avoid products that have alcohol in them, and to try it out yourself.
This is the one I use – L’Occitane Immortelle Precious Gentle Face Cleansing Foam. Not suitable for women who use waterproof makeup, but for men it’s quite nice. The scent is very mild, it is light, suitable for all skin types, leaves no oily residue, and comes out of the can already in a foamed state.
Scrubs and exfoliants
The process of removing the outer layers of dead cells is called exfoliating. While cleansing helps to clean the most superficial layers of your skin, you will need occasionally deeper cleaning as well. This is where scrubs come in.
Scrubs are sometimes also called exfoliants, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Products with bigger particles are called scrubs. While exfoliants are a general term for peelers, chemical (enzymes) and non-abrasive (microparticles) products.
You can think of it in terms of woodwork. If you have a rough wooden surface, you will first use a smoothing plane. After you have smoothed the surface, you may still feel some roughness. So you start sanding the area with coarse sandpaper and work yourself down to more finer sandpaper. Lower grit number means that more material is removed while a higher grit number means that only the very superficial layers are touched.
Scrubs work by abrading the skin with tiny particles very much the same way as sandpaper does. This will remove the outer layers of dead skin, in essence, thinning your skin. The size of the particles can vary. Facial skin is thinner compared to other parts of your body. That’s why you should make sure that you are always using a face scrub with smaller particles and not a body scrub. Or you may end up removing more than just the outermost layers.
The more abrasive the scrub is, the less often should one use it. If you can feel the physical particles when rubbing the skin, it means it is abrasive and once or twice a week is enough. If you use an exfoliant and it feels like covering your face with cream then its a non-abrasive type. You can use these more often, 2-3 times a week.
The things you should watch out for when buying a scrub:
Is it a facial scrub
The particles are smaller. These can be anything starting with salt crystals and ending with apricot kernels. But they are usually ground into smaller particles to reduce the abrasive effect on the skin.
Is it suitable for sensitive skin
Some men prefer the abrasive feeling because they can physically sense that something is happening. Alas, men with sensitive skin can find this uncomfortable to downright painful. These men should use scrubs for sensitive skin. Sometimes these are also called micro-scrubs or microdermabrasion scrubs. Particles used are very small, and they often include chemical exfoliators also.
Is it suitable for all skin types
As with all skincare products, the most important thing is to pay attention to whom the product is meant for. If it reads “suitable for all skin types” you can rest assure that it goes with your skin type also.
Is it free off known toxic chemicals
Parabens, Sulfates, Phthalate, PAH-s, Silicone, etc. – these and earlier mentioned are some of the most common ingredients used in the cosmetic industry which have been known to be harmful in large quantities. In small quantities, they are safe and allowed to be used both in E.U. and U.S.
Example of a good quality scrub is ACURE Brightening Facial Scrub.
Toners are optional products for men. These help to clean makeup or oily residue after some skincare products. It is usually applied with a cotton ball to a freshly cleansed face. But as men rarely use makeup in the U.S. and E.U., there is little need for the product. Then again, some men are into it and in South Korea, it is quite common for men to use makeup.
They usually contain alcohol which dries the skin. For this reason, men with dry skin should be careful with these products. Then again if you have oily skin, they can be quite beneficial for you. Especially if the greasy, shiny skin complexion is something that you struggle with daily. Then using toners during the day can be helpful. It will remove the excessive sebum and leaves your skin looking normal.
After we have cleaned our skin from daily grit and removed the outer layers of dead cells with a scrub. It is essential to rehydrate the lower layers of your skin and create a new barrier between your skin and the environment. This is a vital step in assuring that your skin retains its healthy look.
The first thing you have to do is to identify your skin type if you haven’t done it already. Most men I have talked with, hate when their skin is covered with creams. This is in large part because men have no understanding of the type of skin they have nor which moisturizer should they use.
The moisturizer that is suitable for oily and combination skin are generally vanishing type. They are oil-in-water kind, and the water is absorbed by the skin rapidly. These are well tolerated even by men who hate creams. Unfortunately, if you have dry skin, you need to use something that builds a thicker barrier between your skin and the environment. Cold cream is a must in this circumstance.
Moisturizers are generally either oily (Oily cream, cold creams) or not (Aqueous cream, vanishing creams). This depends on which component is dominant. If the oil is being suspended in the water, you end up with an oil-in-water vanishing type of cream. If water is being dispersed in oil, we get water-in-oil type or oily cream as it is more commonly known.
If you have oily skin, then the naturally produced sebum will create a protective layer on your face. This reduces the water evaporating from your skin and it won’t get dry. But after cleaning, using toners and scrubbers, all that protective layer is washed off. So you still need a moisturizer. But it should be the vanishing type.
Men with dry skin have the opposite problem. Their skin lacks the protective layer of natural oils produced by the skin. So the amount of moisture evaporating from your skin is many times greater compared to oily skin. And so you need to use more oily creams. Those will create the barrier artificially.
Moisturizer should always be used after cleaning. No matter your skin type. Generally, once daily is enough. This can vary a great deal though. If you happen to live in Australia and you surf, then your face is continuously exposed to heat, U.V. rays, wind, salt, etc. More aggressive measures are needed, and twice a day moisturizing is a good idea.
Last but not least is the sunscreen. The way your skin looks is in large part correlated how much sun exposure you get. While tanned skin is sexy, it also makes you look older. There is a reason why Meditterian women look older in their 30s relatively compared to say Scandinavian women. And this reason is – the sun!
Sunscreen should always be used when you are expecting your skin to be exposed to the Sun for more extended periods. Dermatologists consider anything above 15 minutes long so this means for many of us daily use of sunscreen.
I mention this briefly because it seems most skincare products nowadays advertise this as a crucial part of your skincare. The idea is that UV-light, toxins from the environment, bacteria, etc. cause our body to create free radicals. These particles are normal byproducts of our living tissue. But once our body produces them too much, they can cause oxidative stress. In prolonged conditions, this can theoretically lead to accelerated aging. Among many other maladies.
Antioxidants like E- and C-vitamin are used to bind these particles. The problem with this theory is that outer layers of skin are made out of dead cells. And all these free radicals are formed inside living cells that reside in deeper layers. And no matter how much you use these creams, they will never reach where they are needed. At least not in any reasonable quantity. Another issue is with the instability of antioxidants. Vitamins are known to be sensitive to light, heat and oxidizing agents, among many other things. So it is anyone’s guess how much of these antioxidants applied to your skin are still in their “working” state.
How To Choose the Right Product For Your Skin Type
There are five main skin types. But because geography, seasonality, lifestyle, age, and general health play a role – your skin might change character over time. A good example is a geography. If you live in a cold, dry climate, even oily skin can become dehydrated. Or if you work out daily and shower twice a day. Excessive showering can dry your skin and turn your otherwise normal skin into dry one as well.
So the main skin types are based on the characteristics you were born with. But remember that this can change and you might need to reevaluate your regular skincare kit occasionally.
Normal Skin / Combination
Normal skin can be defined as a skin which is neither too dry nor oily. It isn’t sensitive, pores are small, and is without blemishes and has a healthy glow.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take care of it. Even normal skin occasionally gets oily, and daily dust besets us all. So the classic triad of cleaning, scrubbing and moisturizing are as important as for other skin types.
Cleaning should be done daily. Scrubbs should be used less often if used at all. If you already have a healthy glow to your skin, scrubs can do little to improve that. I would recommend using a very mild type of scrub once weekly nevertheless. Think of it more as a prevention against blemishes that might occur in the future. And finally, always use moisturizers when you clean your face.
As the name implies, the combination is a mix of oily and dry skin. Usually, the oily zone is the so-called T-zone – your forehead and nose.
Again adhering to the same skincare principles covered earlier is prudent. Cleanse, scrub and use moisturizer. You might want to use toners in areas where you have oilier skin.
Oily skin means that your skin produces an excess amount of sebum, your pores are enlarged, and skin looks dull. The sebum produced is linked with male hormones (androgens) so as your puberty kicks in your face suddenly turns into a mess. As you get older, your androgen levels drop and as a consequence, your skin becomes drier again.
Men with oily skin should cleanse their face daily. Twice daily even if you live in a hot, humid climate. Scrubs should be used once or twice weekly. This is to remove the trapped layer of cells sticking to your face.
Toners and astringents (products that cause blood vessels and skin to constrict, e.g., alcohol, alum block, witch hazel, rose water, etc.) are very useful for men with an oily complexion. These products reduce the amount of sebum generated by the glands.
Men often shave in the morning, so using an aftershave with alcohol in it does the trick. But you might need another splash during the day and toner is the right thing for that. A good example is No B.S. Salicylic Acid Face Toner. It is mostly free of the stuff I mentioned earlier you want to avoid. It is also a spray, so it is easy to use.
Moisturizers are also generally recommended. After using cleansers, tonics and aftershaves, you have removed again the protective layer that keeps the moisture inside the skin. Even oily skin can get dry, especially if you cleanse twice a day, shave and use toners. Or if you are often exposed to the sun. Just remember to get a moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type.
Is the opposite of oily skin. Your skin is flaky, looks dull, wrinkles and lines are more prominent. Some are born with dry skin, but it is often due to overexposure to the sun, heat, cold temperatures and wind. It is also common for older men due to changes in the androgen levels I talked about earlier.
While dry skin attracts less dirt from the air, it is often more sensitive. This is because the natural barrier is missing or redundant. So this can make shaving and using scrubs painful.
You should cleanse your face once a day as usual, but all measures should be taken to avoid cleansers that contain alcohol for example. Scrubbing should be done carefully and no more than once a week. Micro abrasive type of scrubbers are recommended as they are less harsh on your skin. After cleansing, apply moisturizers generously. This is paramount for this skin type.
Look for moisturizer meant for dry skin. These should be more water-in-oil type, meaning greasy. Applied on your face before going to bed helps to endure the uncomfortable feeling you get when your face is covered with thick cream. In time you get used to it. And once your skin becomes less sensitive, regains its glow and loses its lines – you may even learn to like it.
Is more often seen with dry skin. Some might even argue that it is not a real type. There are also other ways how to classify skin types. One of these classification systems proposes that there is actually up to 12 different skin types.
Be as it may sensitive skin is something many wrestles with. There is little you can do besides moisturizing your skin. In this case, the best solution is to use products that are meant for sensitive skin and to consult a dermatologist.
How To Determine Your Skin Type
There are few telltale signs which help you determine if you have oily skin type or not. The excessive amount of oil produced by sebaceous glands leaves your skin looking dirty. Your forehead and nose shine noticeably. As well as your cheeks, chin and jaw. These areas may often have pimples and enlarged pores. And the layer of sebum traps the outer layers of dead skin so that your skin becomes dull and develops blemishes.
Still not sure if you have oily or combined type of skin? The easiest and also the most objective way is to use blotting sheets. Tab your face with it before washing. The paper is a highly absorbent type of paper. If it absorbs oils from all regions of your face, you have oily skin. If only from the T-zone then you have combined type.
Dry skin is usually self-explanatory. Dry flaking skin often accompanied by sensitivity. It can be less pronounced as well, especially in a humid climate. The only sign can be the feeling of skin tightness. If you smile or make any other facial expressions and your skin feels tight – it is dry.
Best Men's Skincare Routine For All Ages
There are three main reasons why men widely neglect skincare:
- It is seen as a feminine activity
- It is full of words men don’t know the meaning of
- It is generally believed to be time-consuming and leave you covered with heavy cream
I hope that if you are reading this, you are beyond this childish notion of feminine / masculine activities. If your skin looks old, YOU are considered old. Man up!
It is true that when you wander around the aisles of skincare products, you get more confused by the minute. Different products, brands, formulas, etc. So the best thing to do is to adhere to the KISS principle – “Keep it simple stupid.” This is something I have tried to do for you guys. And after reading this, you should be more versed in the terminology.
The last thing men have a hard time with is staying consistent with a basic regimen. It can take some experimenting until you find the right product. But I assure you, once you find the right cleanser-scrub-moisturizer combination it will take you less than 10 minutes.
Start with cleansing
Cleansing is a fancy word for face washing. Just cover your wet face with the cleanser of your choice (could be bar soap just as well) and properly wash it with your hands. After you are done with that rinse off the soapy residue. Cool water soothes skin and acts as an astringent on its own. Don’t dry your face
Continue with a scrub
Scrubs should be used once or twice a week. Could be less often if you have very sensitive skin or vice versa if you have oily skin. Face scrubs have small particles in them. An alternative is to use exfoliant (if you have very sensitive skin) which achieves the same scrubbing effect by chemical reaction. Put some scrub on your fingertips and gently massage your face with it. This will remove the outer layers of dead skin. After you are done, rinse your face again with plenty of water. Gently tab your face with a towel, to not rub it vigorously. It doesn’t have to be dry as a desert.
Follow with moisturizer
Now take moisturizer that is suitable for your skin. The fingertip unit works well here. Cover your face with it and again gently massage it into your skin. Follow the lines of your face and avoid applying too much pressure.
And that’s it.
Men's Skincare Tips
Most men understand the importance of skincare. I think the bigger obstacle is overcoming the misconception that skincare is for women. After reading this guide, I hope you at least know where to start. You should now also have a general understanding of the steps that regular skincare routine involves.
I wanted to underline a few last things before we wrap it up. These aren’t exactly tips as these won’t teach you to do something better. These are meant to steer your mindset towards the right direction and make your expectations more reasonable.
- Ignore exaggerated product claims
- Stop looking for one miracle ingredient or one miracle product
- Be consistent
- Don’t expect instant results
Skincare is about consistency and delayed gratification. When you are used to your routine, it will come naturally. You don’t have to think about what to do next. Skipping a day will make you feel uncomfortable just as you would when you skip tooth brushing.
I hope this has been useful to you. I tried to make this as comprehensive as I could while being as clear as possible. Because I remember those dark days when all this was complete alchemy to me.
I want to emphasize one last time – skincare is easy. The problem is that companies make this seem like magic. There is so much marketing bullsh*t being used that no wonder most men and women get confused. Just stick to the basics I laid out and use common sense.