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Hey, guys: Can we chat? It won't take long, I promise.
I've seen you aimlessly wandering around Sephora, staring at your phone like there's nothing to shop for. I've heard you complain to your friends, family, and coworkers about dry skin, blemishes, and razor burn. I've been at bachelor parties where you've scoffed at the idea that you'd ever be caught dead getting a manicure or—heaven forbid—a pedicure.
The vast, booming industry of beauty products is one aimed squarely at women, and disappointingly, that's probably not going to change anytime soon. One of the less-consequential (but nevertheless unfortunate) byproducts of this myopic reality is that men typically neglect their skin.
The task of developing a sensible skincare regimen is, somewhat insanely, seen as "feminine." For generations of men who've been pressured to protect their masculinity at all costs, the easier and more comfortable alternative is to simply blow off skincare routines entirely.
Sure, you can find plenty of beauty products marketed towards men, but most of the time these products aim to de-feminize themselves with sandalwood scents and lumberjack imagery. And look—there's nothing wrong with masculine fragrances and, I suppose, deforestation (within reason). But fellas, if you limit yourself to the products that protect your gender-normative notions of self, you're not really setting yourself up for skincare success.
So lets get serious and ditch the hubris—I'm going to walk you through a relatively easy, affordable skincare regimen that's more than just a list of manly-smelling soaps. Feel free to follow some of my advice, all of my advice, or to make fun of me in the comments.
1. Exfoliate with a gentle peel that works for most
It all starts with exfoliation. Right now, your face is covered in all sorts of dead skin cells. It's like a five-alarm rager, and all the coolest dead skin cells are invited. However, as much as we all enjoy a good party once in a while, sooner or later, everyone's gotta go home.
Enter exfoliants: the narcs determined to break up the bash before your busted skin breaks out. Exfoliating whisks away dead skin cells, allowing your skin to look and feel fresher than before and preventing future blemishes.
Exfoliants come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and formulations, and if you feel like doing a deep dive, you can check out our round-up of the best face exfoliants for every skin type. If you just want to dip your toes in, however, this Dr.G's brightening peeling gel is a mild chemical exfoliant that, when applied, eliminates dead skin cells from your face and leaves your cheeks smooth and bright.
Simply wet your face, squeeze out a dab, and gently work it around your face and neck. You'll notice the gel pilling almost immediately, but fear not—your skin isn't peeling off. Afterwards, splash your face with some more water to remove any lingering gel. I use it just 2–3 times a week and find that a higher frequency of use makes my skin unhappy, so don't overdo it!
The reason I ride so hard for this stuff as an ideal entry-level exfoliant is because of how gentle it is without sacrificing its effectiveness. It works for most skin types, so if you've struggled with things like face scrubbers and exfoliating brushes in the past, you can rest easy knowing that the peeling gel won't leave your face looking damaged.
2. Slough off dead skin with inexpensive, hygienic loofah
Start by replacing that disgusting shower pouf ball thing you've been using. This isn't the first time I've written about that filthy ball of nylon mesh hanging in your shower. In fact, I've been known to spontaneously and incessantly bring up the horrors of these things to friends, family, and total strangers I pass on the street.
Shower puffs do a fantastic job lathering up soap and body wash, but because of their design (which is perfect for trapping germs), they're also a breeding ground for bacteria. You can't really stop this from happening, either, since they live in one of the best places in your home for bacteria to fester: your warm, humid bathroom. Dermatologists everywhere feel similarly and urge people to seek alternatives.
It's also recommended that you replace your nasty shower ball thing every 2-4 weeks, and I can all but guarantee that the one in your bathroom right now is well past its deceptively short window of acceptable use. The solution? Ditch your disgusting, dank nightmare ball with a cleaner alternative.
This nylon bash cloth by Salux is a total revelation. It's similar in texture to your filthy shower pouf, but can be draped over a surface for fast-drying or tossed into a washing machine with the rest of your towels if it gets a little gross.
The best part about it, however, is its length, which makes it easy to exfoliate those hard-to-reach spots on the back of your body. If you suffer from occasional acne on your back and shoulders, I can't stress enough how much of a difference this cloth makes. It's cheap, longer lasting, and way better for your skin.
3. Incorporate an effective, affordable daily cleanser
The cornerstone of any successful skincare regimen are the cleansers you use every day. They ought to be effective enough to clarify your skin but gentle enough to be used with steady frequency. You might already use products like this and don't see yourself switching it up anytime soon, and that's totally fine!
But if you don't use a daily face cleanser at all, it's high time you incorporate one into your mornings and/or evenings.
Cetaphil is everyone's favorite facial cleanser whose name also sounds like some kind of weird water bug. I resisted Cetaphil for years because the word "Cetaphil" conjured up laboratory imagery—complete with bubbling vats of chemicals and scientists wearing gas masks. When I finally started using it, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was living up to its harsh-sounding name.
Turns out, there's nothing in Cetaphil that's particularly good at cleansing your skin, and negative user reviews of the stuff often describe all sorts of bad after effects associated with its use. Cetaphil also contains SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), a known skin irritant.
Instead of dropping ten bucks on another bottle of Cetaphil, seek an alternative. Acure Seriously Soothing cleansing cream is an effective, affordable alternative to Cetaphil that works for just about everyone—even people with dry, sensitive skin.
4. Or try a high-class cleanse—if you don't mind spending a bit more
Kiehl's—a premium skincare brand with a cult following—offers a lineup of facial care products that are as effective as they are pleasing to use. Kiehl's products not for everyone (and usually come with a fairly hefty price tag), but if you choose to go down this road, you're probably gonna have a hard time leaving it.
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser is a fantastic entry point into the Kiehl's family of products. I have to admit: Not every Kiehl's product I've tried has been a slam-dunk, but this particular cleanser is worth the relatively steep price ($10 to $20, depending on the size).
5. Calm oily or acne-prone skin with toner
Toner is not for everyone. I'd even go so far as to say that, of all the skincare tools I've compiled in this guide, toner is probably the least critical in maintaining a vibrant visage.
That said, if you have oily skin and acne-prone skin, a touch of toner can go a long way in tempering these troubles and rebalancing your skin's natural pH level, which could prevent breakouts.
I recommend using an alcohol-free toner to avoid drying out your face, and most importantly, starting with a basic brand that won't cost an arm and a leg. There's no sense in dropping fifty bucks on a solution that doesn't agree with your skin, no matter what you might be told. If you end up seeing positive results, then feel free to splurge on something a bit more premium.
Neutrogena's alcohol-free toner, therefore, is a perfect place to start. Use a cotton ball or tissue to dab some of it on your face in between cleansing and moisturizing.
6. Cure post-shave redness with a gentle shaving cream
If you honestly don't see yourself ever breaking out of your current shaving routine (or if you just don't shave), then go ahead and skip this section. No, seriously—it's not easy to find a combination of shaving products that work for your skin type. If you don't have any issues with your current routine, it's probably best to stay the course.
If you want a better shave, however, keep reading.
If your shave days are leaving you with redness, try a shaving cream designed for sensitive skin. Shaving ought to be a calming, meditative ritual—not something to dread. If you're like me, the wrong shaving cream can spell disaster for your finicky skin.
I've found that fragrances are my number one cause for concern when trying out a new shaving agent. As much as I love the grapefruit-scented cream I used for years, it was really doing a number on my skin, leaving me with red, dried-out blotches all along my neck. Woof.
I decided to stay with the same brand—Taylor of Old Bond Street—but to pivot towards the company's sensitive skin offering. There's still a slight scent to be found here, but not much. Since making the switch, I've seen a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of my skin in the hours and days following a shave.
Do I miss my lavish, citrus-smelling shaving cream? Like the deserts miss the rain, my friend. That said, I'd rather have a neck that doesn't look like I set myself on fire in between taking a shower and getting dressed.
7. Try out an aftershave that actually does something besides smell good
But by far the biggest game-changing element I've incorporated into my shaving routine is a small, deceptively pricey bottle of stuff called Tend Skin, which helps prevent razor burn, ingrown hairs, and common redness associated with getting a close shave.
At around twenty bucks a bottle, it's not the most affordable thing in the world, but I've honestly never been so eager to buy something a second time.
Here's how it works: After you've finished shaving (but before you moisturize), soak a tissue, cloth, or cotton ball with a small amount of the Tend Skin solution. Next, dab it on your freshly shaved skin—but be sure to brace yourself for the momentary sting. The sting is good. The sting means it's working. The sting is your skin thanking you.
Afterwards, be sure to moisturize your face and neck—there's a ton of alcohol in this stuff, so it's going to dry your skin out if you don't supplement it with a moisturizer.
8. Moisturize your body with a non-greasy, quick-drying lotion
If you're not already moisturizing daily, I regret to inform you that your skin is really, really upset with you. I love moisturizing. In fact, I've grown so accustomed to moisturizing in the morning that if I happen to leave the house without doing it, I feel weirdly naked and uncomfortable.
Moisturizing is a great way to sustain healthy skin, but protecting your skin is just as important when it comes to maintaining healthy skin for years to come.
I've had a bottle of Aveeno's fragrance-free moisturizing lotion on my dresser for over a decade. Among other ingredients, this lotion harnesses the natural skin-livening power of oat to moisturize your face, neck, and body for an entire day after applying.
Unlike other lotions (I'm lookin' at you, Eucerin), this stuff goes on smooth—it's not greasy in the slightest. It only takes about thirty seconds for the lotion to completely mellow out, leaving your skin feeling naturally soft rather than unnaturally slimy.
9. Start wearing sunscreen, for the love of all things holy
To quote Baz Luhrman, "If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it." Everyone—especially folks with a fair complexion—should be applying sunscreen to their face every day. Allow me to break it down:
Dead of winter? Apply sunscreen. Overcast and foggy? Apply sunscreen. Not going to the beach today? Apply sunscreen. Staying inside all day, getting day-drunk on the couch? Doesn't matter—apply sunscreen anyway.
Getting into the habit of doing this everyday—regardless of the season or the weather—is one of the most important habits you can develop in order to keep your skin youthful and wrinkle-free for decades to come.
If you're not careful, however, oiling up your face with globs of Coppertone can lead to breakouts practically overnight. I recommend picking up something like La Roche-Posay Anthelios, which is specifically designed for everyday use and isn't likely to cause acne.
Admittedly, it costs more than I'm usually comfortable spending on sunscreen, but by limiting it to facial use, I'm able to make a bottle last quite a long time. For most people, putting on sunscreen every morning is a tough (and strange) habit to get into, but trust me: Your handsome self from the future is thanking you for it.
10. Familiarize yourself with jojoba oil
I saved my favorite for last, because honestly, jojoba oil could just as easily have been slotted into any one of these sections I've outlined. After discovering it several years back, I started using jojoba oil for everything: pre-shave oil, aftershave oil, basic moisturizing, and even hair care.
Jojoba oil is a liquid wax that comes from a desert shrub. Its make-up is remarkably similar to sebum, the oily stuff your skin produces that can cause acne and blemishes. While it might seem counterproductive to apply an oily substance to oily skin, jojoba oil actually regulates your skin's production of sebum, which can help prevent common skin ailments including acne.
Jojoba oil is also a fantastic hair moisturizer—I use it in conjunction with shampoo and sometimes add a small amount after showering to give my hair some texture without weighing it down with heavier hair products. Some people even swear by the stuff for keeping dandruff in check. It's odorless, hypoallergenic, completely natural, and incredibly versatile. Don't believe me? Just read the Amazon reviews.