During his 13 years as a dermatologist, Corey Hartman, M.D., the founder of the Skin Wellness Center of Alabama, noticed a shift in how men take care of their skin—starting with the fact that they, well, take care of their skin.
“Men are now seeking treatments and regimens that weren’t always in the male mainstream,” says Dr. Hartman. They’re using moisturizer every day. They’re looking at ingredient labels. They’re applying sunscreen—even when it’s overcast outside.
The shift is due in part to celebrities like Pharrell Williams and Deion Sanders. In 2017, Williams revealed that he exfoliates “like a madman.” Sanders, for his part, touted his proud use of Botox.
The second part of that skin-care trend comes from a shift away from the “lazy man” trope you saw with Al Bundy. And the stoic image of so-called “real men”—dudes like John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart, who never cry or moisturize—is starting to feel archaic. We’re in the age of GQ and Queer Eye. And we’re living longer, too, which means you probably won’t die before your skin starts to sag. Modern men are encouraged to think about their skin and personal appearance.
But if you’re just starting to craft your skin-care routine, or you’re looking to fine-tune or simplify your regimen, you should know one thing: Men have different skin—and skin needs—than women do, so you need to tailor your skin-care routine accordingly.
The good news is, men’s skincare doesn’t need to be complicated. “A simple regimen is fine,” says Emily Newsom, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA. The most important part of any skin-care routine, she says, is the daily application of sunscreen (SPF 30+). Beyond that, Dr. Newsom advises using a gentle cleanser in the shower, followed by a moisturizer. More on how to optimize your skin-care routine ahead.
Men’s skin is thicker.
Men’s skin is about 25 percent thicker than women’s, Dr. Hartman says. It also thins gradually over time, while women’s skin thins abruptly at menopause. Menopause causes a “sharp drop-off” in female hormone production, but no comparable life event curtails testosterone in men, Dr. Hartman explains.
What this means for your skin-care routine: Because men’s skin is thicker and oilier than women’s, men can tolerate more potent skin-care products, like the Swertia chirata extract in our Overnight Rebuilding Cream; it promotes skin-cell turnover and combats for free radicals.
Men have more collagen.
Collagen is a protein in your body that makes skin supple and smooth. “When collagen is degraded, skin starts to wrinkle and lose its elasticity,” Dr. Hartman says. Men’s collagen density is higher than women’s, so their skin wrinkles less.
What this means for your skin-care routine: Preserving collagen is key to preventing wrinkles and other signs of aging—and Dr. Hartman says antioxidants (like vitamin C) and sunscreen can help you do just that.
Dr. Hartman compares free radicals to little Pac-Men that go around munching on and destroying collagen, and antioxidants stop them in their path. Of course, it’s better to limit the free radicals in your skin in the first place, which is why sunscreen—even in the winter—is so important.
Men tend to have oily skin.
Oil glands are associated with hair follicles, and because men are hairier than women, they produce more oil. As Dr. Hartman tells his male patients, that’s a good thing: The oil in their skin keeps it looking younger longer.
What this means for your skin-care routine: Some men produce so much oil that it causes acne and seborrheic dermatitis (a skin condition marked by red, scaly patches), so make sure you cleanse after a sweaty workout. Also note: The idea that men with oily skin shouldn’t moisturize is a myth! Your skin will make its own oil to compensate for a lack of moisture.
Men’s skin can have a rough texture.
Another consequence of more body hair is a rougher skin surface. And because many men shave the hair on their face (and, you know, wherever else you shave), their skin is prone to irritation. Those with sensitive skin are especially likely to feel a sting afterward.
What this means for your skin-care routine:
Men with sensitive skin should avoid scented products, which can cause irritation. Opt for “fragrance-free” rather than “unscented,” though—products with the second label often contain extra chemicals that mask the smell. For those who suffer inflammation after shaving, Dr. Hartman suggests a calming moisturizer.