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Beginner’s Guide to Skin Care for Men

Trying to treat your skin better, but not sure where to start? We’ve assembled a step-by-step men’s skin care guide to make it simple

March 01, 2021

There’s a bevy of reasons you should commit to a year-round skin routine, even if you’re starting from scratch. The right regimen can help:

  • Reduce dryness and flakiness

  • Keep oiliness under control to prevent discomfort and acne

  • Deliver a cleaner shave while minimizing razor burn

  • Mitigate wrinkles and other signs of aging 

Not sure where to start? You’re not alone, so we’re here to help. Keep in mind that the routine and products that work for you may vary, but these tips can at least start you off on the right foot.

Understanding your skin type

The very first step you should take on your journey toward cleaner, clearer and healthier skin is determining your skin type. Your skin type will play a key role in determining what products and practices you incorporate into your routine. 

There are 5 main skin types. We’ve included key characteristics of each type for reference:

  • Normal: Never too dry or too oily (though the t-zone may still get a bit oily), bright complexion, no or few imperfections, barely visible pores, rarely oversensitive 

  • Dry: Tighter feel, duller complexion, barely visible pores, often includes dry patches, more sensitive to weather changes

  • Oily: Oilier feel, shinier appearance, visible pores, often accompanied by acne and/or blackheads

  • Combination: May exhibit a combination of normal, dry and oily characteristics on different parts of the face; for example, excess oil around your forehead and nose, but dry, red patches elsewhere

  • Sensitive: Flushes easily, often itchy, dry and/or red; easily irritated by a variety of triggers that may include certain skin care ingredients, food allergies, stress and changes in the weather 

Please note that the characteristics we’ve described mostly apply to your face, and the skin on your face may react differently to skin care products and external conditions than the rest of your body. If you have specific concerns or want to find products that complement your skin type and lifestyle, consult a dermatologist.

Skin care for your face

Though it’s crucial to develop a skin care regimen that covers your whole body, your face generally demands most of the attention. So, we’ll start with a step-by-step guide for the perfect face routine.

1. Use a face cleanser

Men are oilier than women. It’s science. This makes it extremely important to wash your face with a cleanser in order to avoid both acne and physical discomfort caused by excessive sebum (read: oil). Plus, as their name suggests, cleansers are simply useful for general cleanliness.

You could always just wash your face with soap, but cleansers are often crafted with gentler ingredients, which is why we’re recommending you use one.

Don’t have time to knock out a full-blown cleanse over your sink? Cleansing wipes are a solid alternative.

Once you’ve chosen a cleanser, you can generally use it twice a day—once in the morning, once in the evening. If you have sensitive skin, however, you may only want to use a cleanser in the evening, and then wash your face with a gentle toner or filtered water in the morning.

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2. Try a toner if it makes sense 

Toners can be confusing if you’ve never used one. They’re part cleanser and part moisturizer, but they also balance your skin’s pH level. For practical purposes, though, they’re mostly just another way to help cut down on excessive oiliness. You might not even need a toner unless you have oily or acne-prone skin.

Think you’ll benefit from a toner? Use it directly after your cleanser.

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3. Choose serums that address your problem areas

The term “serum” encompasses a variety of skin care products that target specific issues with equally specific ingredients (usually including some combination of vitamins and nutrients). Serums can help with all sorts of things, but common applications include wrinkle prevention, improving skin texture, calming irritation and treating acne. 

Dealing with specific skin issues? See if you can find a serum to help. Use it after your cleanser, but before you moisturize (which we’ll touch on in a second).

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4. Moisturize (and include an eye cream if you can)

Moisturizing is an obvious move for dry skin, but it’s just as necessary if your skin is oily. 

In fact, one of the main reasons your skin might be producing excess oil is because it’s not hydrated enough, so your glands are working to compensate. Long story short? This isn’t a step anyone should skip.

But don’t just grab a basic lotion and slather it all over your body. Instead, pick a body lotion and a face moisturizer separately. Facial skin can be especially sensitive, so it makes sense to use a different (and usually milder) product. You might also want to add an eye cream to help protect the delicate skin around your eyes from lines and dark circles.

Remember to pick moisturizers that complement your skin type. Normal and oily skin might respond better to a water-based moisturizer, while oil-based moisturizers are a more natural fit for dry skin. This is an area where experimentation might come in handy.

After you’ve picked out your products, moisturize once in the morning and once at night. Apply your moisturizer(s) of choice to damp skin to trap that moisture before it dries out.

Lip balm may be another sensible addition to your regimen, particularly in the winter. Chilly weather and chapped lips go hand-in-hand.

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5. Protect your skin from the sun

If you spend time outside on a daily basis—whether it’s hours or mere minutes—you should go out of your way to protect your skin with sunscreen. In fact, you should probably use sunscreen even if you work from a desk that’s near a window. The sun is a major cause of common skin issues, from early wrinkles to discoloration.

Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15—higher is better—and apply several times a day.

Some general skin care products (like moisturizer, for example) provide sun protection, too. Still, it can’t hurt to apply sunscreen in addition to the rest of your routine for good measure.

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6. Exfoliate regularly, and choose your exfoliant carefully

Exfoliants and scrubs are used to get rid of dead skin and other buildup, ultimately leaving your skin smoother and helping it get more out of moisturizers and other products your skin care process includes.

There are a few different ways to exfoliate. Physical exfoliants use larger, rougher particles to physically eliminate buildup. There are certain “tools” that are considered exfoliants, too, like pumice stones (which shouldn’t be used on the face), as well as brushes and sponges (which are available for the body and the face). 

Then there are chemical exfoliants, which loosen skin by dissolving the bonds that connect skin cells.

You might prefer one method over the other, or a combination of both. It depends on how your skin reacts. For your face, start with a chemical exfoliant, since it’s typically gentler and your face is typically more sensitive.

Whichever products you prefer, make sure you’re only exfoliating 2 or 3 times a week (or just once a week if you have sensitive skin) to avoid irritating your skin and/or throwing off its oil balance.

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7. Use the occasional face mask

Face masks are multifaceted. They’re great for hydration, and they’re often useful for clearing your pores of excess oil and debris. But if you follow the process outlined above, you should already have a few products that accomplish these tasks to some degree. Treat face masks like icing on the cake. You don’t need to use one every day, but one moisturizing mask a week can be a nice pick-me-up.

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8. Mind your scalp

Dry scalp and dandruff are experienced by millions of people daily. Keep in mind that dry scalp is just dry skin; it’s not dandruff, which is caused by excess oil (though dry scalp may eventually lead to dandruff).

If you’re dealing with dry scalp trouble, there are a couple of ways you might be able to fix it. To begin, massage your scalp before you jump into the shower to loosen the flakes. You can do this with your fingers or a brush, though they make scalp massagers specifically for this purpose, too. 

Then, try switching to a natural shampoo with gentler ingredients for a few weeks, and see if you see improvement. Dry scalp is sometimes caused by an active shampoo ingredient.

Finally, consider using a scalp moisturizer every few days. They’re pretty straightforward—massage the moisturizer into your head, leave it for several minutes, then rinse.

You can try a similar regime to take care of dandruff, but you may benefit more from an actual anti-dandruff shampoo featuring ingredients like salicylic acid, selenium sulfide or coal tar.

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9. Take care of your facial hair (or lack thereof)

Shaving is another huge source of skin irritation. One wrong move with a cheap disposable razor and you’re left with blemishes left and right. Fortunately, a solid shaving cream or gel (preferably one that’s thicker, and not just foamy) can help reduce these issues. You might want to try a shaving oil, too—either as an alternative or alongside your shaving cream for maximum lubrication. 

Not planning to shave? Keep your facial hair shipshape, and your skin will reap the benefits. Beard conditioner and similar products can not only make your beard softer and healthier, but can help moisturize the skin that’s buried beneath your hair, which can be hard to reach with normal moisturizer.

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Skin care beyond your face

Skin care routines are often geared entirely for the face. That seems natural, given how finicky your facial skin can be. But there’s the rest of your body to consider, too. 

We won’t go too deep here, but here are some pointers for skin care beyond the face:


Instead of a generic bar of soap, try using a shower gel or a body wash made with natural ingredients, particularly if your skin is sensitive. Also, opt for warm water rather than hot. Hot water strips your skin of its oils more quickly, leaving you drier and, in some cases, triggering that excess oil production we mentioned earlier.

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Certain common deodorant ingredients (like aluminum and other metals) are associated with irritation. Luckily, there are plenty of aluminum-free deodorants, which you should likely default to if your skin is easily irritated.

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Eating the right foods (look for food with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) can help keep your skin clean and clear. Overindulging in heavily processed foods can trigger acne, swelling and other issues.

Consider ingredients and read labels before you buy

Now, you’re almost ready to order your first batch of skin care essentials. Before you fill your cart, however, here’s one key piece of guidance.

Read labels, and study up on common skin care ingredients. There are too many different ingredients used for us to dive deep into every single one here, but a quick Google search of the ingredient in question should tell you what it’s used for and what to consider when using products that contain it.

Some ingredients can irritate certain skin types (like the metals in deodorant), while others may simply be hit-or-miss. Checking ingredients is particularly important if you have sensitive skin or think you may be allergic to certain things. If you’re not sure whether you should use a certain ingredient, contact a healthcare professional.

Product labels contain more than just ingredients, though. You’ll also (usually) find step-by-step instructions on how the product is used—it’s important to follow these for best results—as well as the information on the product’s shelf life and any applicable warnings, all of which can and should affect your decision to buy.

Be consistent!

Our last tip? Commit to your skin routine, even if it seems inconvenient and overwhelming. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Now, if you’re ready to get started, shop skin care essentials with Gopuff. Pick your products and place your order, and we’ll see you soon.

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