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Men's Skin Care Basics

They're quick, easy, entirely image-changing — so why are you neglecting them, guys?

spinner image Man in front of mirror putting on eye cream.
Basic skin care for men can be affordable, simple and the easiest way to be forever young.
Getty Images

You could have a Crossfit-crafted body filling out a made-to-measure Dunhill suit and I’d still argue that to really look your best, you’d need to devote attention to your one true source of distinction: your face. After all, it’s the thing that everyone — friend or stranger — notices first when you show up; and as you age, clear, healthy skin only gets more impressive and appealing. 

Just in case you still hang on to the antiquated notion that skin care is only women’s work, know that the men’s skin care market is projected to top $60 billion by 2020, with younger men latching on to facial creams, masks and serums without hesitation. But just because you neglected such products in your 20s doesn’t mean you can’t make and instigate change starting now.  

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The goal is not to turn back time but to look fresh, vital and healthy. And it’s neither too complicated nor too expensive to start making this a beneficial reality. All of the products recommended are available at major pharmacies as well as on Amazon or other online sites — and some are even discounted at big-box stores like Costco. I have also used and will vouch for all of them. Best of all, the following steps take no more than 15 minutes a day. To paraphrase an iconic women’s ad tagline: Aren’t you worth it?

Wash your face, but not with soap

spinner image Man leaning over a bathroom sick washing his face
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Let’s start with this easy but most essential act: Wash your face every night before bed. I asked 75 men how many did so and was stunned by their unnerving 3-out-of-4 “don’t do it” reply. Instead of my admonishing you, I’ll let award-winning cosmetic dermatologist (and clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine) Patricia Wexler read you the open-and-shut riot act: “This is what gets on your skin during the day: pollutants, free radicals, hydrocarbons, whatever crap snuck through the depleted ozone layer, dust and bacteria from rarely filtered office and condo central air conditioners, plus collagen-destroying UVA rays from sunlight, which reflect off of the sidewalk, or come through the window to your desk. You need to get this gunk off your face before your head touches the pillow.”

Got it? Good, but, and this is important, do not wash your face with soap. Detergent-based soaps strip natural oils and leave a film on your skin. Try a facial cleanser from Neutrogena or L’Oréal, both of which contain micellar water, which moisturizes as it cleans. Cerave’s hydrating facial cleanser will also leave skin clean but supple and is great for sensitive types.

Put on a moisturizer, morning and night 

Washing, both morning and night, should always be followed by a moisturizer. Get over it. We’re talking required maintenance here, not makeup — like waxing your  car,  and washing your Titleist V1x golf balls. Besides, moisturizer takes as much time to apply as  deodorant .

In choosing a moisturizer, know that those with vitamins A, C  and  E, enzyme-fighting MMPi or retinol (read the labels on the box) can also stimulate our body's production of collagen, which we need to keep skin firmer and which naturally decreases as we age. The inclusion of ingredients such as chamomile, green tea or lavender oil will help alleviate redness in your skin.

In addition, for  day , you want a moisturizer with sunscreen, which men and women should be wearing every day. (Remember: Melanoma is on the rise, is no fun and leaves scars.) You want something light rather than greasy or you won’t use it. I promise it will feel better, and may even smell better, than your aftershave. Night can be a good time to add in a thicker cream (make sure it's still easily absorbed so it doesn’t smear on your pillow) with extra skin-saving properties.

spinner image Three product images, Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate; Wexler Intensive Night Reversal and Repair Cream, ROC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
There isn’t a one-size fits all option when it comes to men’s skin care.
Courtesy: Kiehl’s, Wexler, ROC

Some recommended choices

For day

• Aramis Lab Series Moisture Defense SPF 15, with antioxidants to help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals 

• Olay Total Effects Whip, with vitamins C, E, B3, B5

• Kiehl’s Facial Fuel, with vitamins C and E

For night

• Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery, with primrose oil, which strengthens; lavender oil, which reduces redness; and squalene, which preserves the suppleness we lose with age

• RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, which relies on retinol, derived from vitamin A, to boost collagen and diminish fine lines  

• Patricia Wexler’s Intensive Night Reversal and Repair Cream with collagen-boosting MMPi

spinner image Man rubbing clear cream under his eyes.
Getty Images

Consider adding two more bottles to your shelf 

Beyond the absolute basics above, these next two product types — eye creams and wrinkle smoothers — will take you a step beyond clean and healthy to handsome and (more) youthful.

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You don’t need me to tell you that the skin around your eyes is more tender and also is affected by different issues than the rest of your face. But you might need me to tell you that eye creams are for men, too. If you have bags, try a product that contains caffeine and/or peptides, such as Olay Eyes Ultimate Eye Cream. Dark circles can be brightened with extracts of mulberry, linseed, green tea or caffeine; try Kiehl’s Age Defender Eye Repair with linseed extract. For addressing wrinkles or crow’s feet, you want a product with retinol high up on that contents list.

I never leave home in the morning without what I consider one of modern science’s greatest gifts to those of us with over-50 skin: a product known as a wrinkle smoother, which penetrates quickly to help work on the appearance of fine lines, either through temporary fixes like hyaluronic acid (which has a plumping effect) or longer-term ingredients like vitamin C (to brighten) and peptides (to work on that all-important collagen issue). Yes, your moisturizer may have some of these ingredients, but this underlayer is like skin-boosting extra credit. My go-to is Dr. Wexler Advanced No-Injection Wrinkle Smoother. Another pick: Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum, which wins lots of beauty awards as an all-around skin refresher.  

Visit a dermatologist as often as your dentist

If you want to take things further than what you can buy in a jar, find a dermatologist you like and can trust. They can tell you about advanced options, like new ultrasound techniques that smooth aging skin or laser treatments to eliminate rosacea and even out skin tone. In the meantime, eight glasses of water a day is still the best skin purifier ever, and exercise dispels toxins, gets the blood flowing, and makes you kind of proud of yourself, and that will always show — yes, in your face. 

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