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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

Men’s Skincare: How to Treat Your Face

Nail down your daily routine with the essential products.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Some say women are the more sensitive than men, and it’s definitely true when it comes to your face.

Dee Anna Glaser, MD, professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University, says, “Men’s facial skin is typically thicker than women’s and less likely to be sensitive to ingredients in facial cleansers and moisturizers.” Skincare is also usually a simpler routine since men typically don’t wear makeup.

But shaving is another story. For men with heavy beards or curly or kinky hair, irritation and razor bumps can be a big problem. With proper face care, though, those hazards can be made a thing of the past and a clean, smooth face can become a welcome daily occurrence.

Bar Soap or Liquid Cleansers for Men

Most men prefer bars to liquid cleansers. That’s fine as long as you have normal or oily skin. But bar soap tends to dry skin out more than liquid cleansers. “If your skin feels tight or a little itchy after you wash your face, try switching to a liquid cleanser,” Glaser says.

  • If you insist on bar soap, look for moisturizing soaps with emollients such as glycerin. Many are made with vitamin E oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil.  

You may experience problems with acne if you have very oily skin. Acne is caused by excess oil production that clogs pores, causing inflammation.

Look for soaps or liquid cleansers that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzyl peroxide. All three of these exfoliating agents remove the upper layers of dead skin and allow for deeper cleaning of pores. They also have antibacterial properties.

Moisturizers for Men

Some soaps are laced with moisturizer, and for some men they work just fine. But the surest way to moisten your skin after washing it is to apply a moisturizer.

  • For dry skin, choose a cream, which is the thickest formulation.
  • For normal skin, reach for a lotion, which is lighter and less oily.
  • For oily skin, choose a skin toner or gel.

If you have problems with acne, moisturizers that contain glycolic acid or salicylic acid will help remove dead skin and keep your pores from clogging, dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD, says.

Sunscreen Protection for Men

Lots of facial moisturizers promise to keep your face young, but not all of them deliver.

“A lot of products these days tout the fact that they contain antioxidants,” Glaser says. “Theoretically, they should help. Sunlight and pollution cause oxidative damage to skin. But so far, we don’t have any scientific evidence one way or the other that says antioxidants at the level contained in skin products really help.”

Prescription-strength products with retinol (Retin-A) do smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and even reverse signs of aging at the cellular level. But the lower levels of retinol found in over-the-counter products may not be high enough to do much good.

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