Eight Skincare Secrets That All Modern Men Should Know
Illustration by Mr Michal Bednarski
I have a ridiculous grooming routine. My bathroom cabinet could unwrinkle a small village of geriatrics, and the expense of some of the serums within would make a diamond-hoarding dragon blush. I blame the fact that I discovered my mother’s SAINT LAURENT concealer at the formative, acne-stricken age of 14 and never looked back – much to her chagrin and expense. But for better or worse, I am woefully wedded to the idea that a robust skincare routine is a non-negotiable part of my life.
Still, this addiction has taught me plenty. Namely that a hefty price tag doesn’t always mean a good product, and that you need to allow some things at least a couple of weeks to give them a chance to work. Skincare is also largely a game of trial and error – what will benefit one man’s skin will do nothing for another. Still, there are a few universal tips I’ve learnt that, if you’re the kind of man who cares about his appearance, are truly worth taking the time to explore.
Invest in a good cleanser
Washing your face sounds easy (soap is soap, right?). But there’s more to it than you’d expect. In the short term, stripping the skin of its natural oil with a harsh cleanser may feel good, but that squeaky clean feeling is only speeding up the ageing process and throwing your sebum glands out of whack – and making you oilier, spottier or wrinklier in the process. Invest in an effective but gentle cleanser, such as one with vitamin C that works to brighten skin and minimise the appearance of pores. Or try a cleansing balm, that will generally be kinder to dry or sensitive skin types. Finally, look at cleansing powders, which you can mix with water and will softly exfoliate oily skin.
Acid wipes will change your life
Smearing one’s face with acid might sound like a punishment from a particularly dark instalment in the James Bond franchise, but it’s one of the most effective ways to reinvigorate dull-looking skin. Therefore, you’ll want to look into acid wipes. I’ve spent plenty of time proselytising skincare-curious friends onto Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s cult favourite AHA daily wipes, which are – as the name suggests – gentle enough to be used every day, and every single one of them has been thrilled with the results. They make skin look as poreless and plump as a freshly peeled egg, and only takes two minutes to work. MALIN+GOETZ’s glycolic wipes are also brilliant – smooth them over freshly cleansed skin, wait for 10 minutes for them to work their magic and dissolve the dead skin cells, before neutralising with water to reveal brighter, smoother skin.
Get a tinted moisturiser (and get it right)
Men have the tendency to get a bit jumpy around anything that might be perceived as makeup, but tinted moisturiser is a product even the most fragile male ego will benefit from. Also known as a BB cream (the BB stands for “blemish balm”), getting a good tinted moisturiser will hide all manner of skincare sins, and has the power to transform a blotchy or dull complexion into a beatific picture of health. A total lie in a bottle, but an undetectable one if you get it right, one of my favourites is by Sisley – the coverage is light enough to slide onto skin unnoticed, but still has enough pigment to cover any blemishes and some pretty monstrous hangovers.
Use a retinol oil at night
Despite being an industry worth billions, there’s surprisingly few skincare ingredients that all dermatologists agree on. One exception to that, however, is retinol. Wrinkles, acne, texture – retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, will improve it all. It can take some searching before finding the right one, and complaints that it irritates or dries out skin are not uncommon, so I recommend trying out starting out once a week and building up your skin’s tolerance from there. An overnight retinol cream or oil (look to Tata Harper for some of the best) can show a marked improvement in texture and tone by morning, and is a proper secret weapon to waking up looking well-rested.
Combine your vitamin C with SPF
As well as wearing SPF (even on cold or cloudy days) to keep your skin in robust, healthy condition and to stave off fine lines and age spots, you can bolster its effects by combining it with vitamin C. The easiest way to do this is with a vitamin C serum, which you apply before your moisturiser. This will work to brighten up your skin – particularly great if you suffer from morning zombie face.
Moisturise well – even if you have oily skin
If your skin is already oily, it might seem as though the last thing it needs is a slather of cream. But depriving your skin of moisture is counter-productive, especially after showering or cleansing. All skin types will benefit from moisturiser, but to make sure it won’t make you any greasier, opt for one that contains hyaluronic acid. This substance is produced naturally by our skin and is the molecule that retains water, so it makes skin look immediately fresher, plumper and healthier. An absolute failsafe is Dr. Barbara Sturm’s hyaluronic serum – it goes on like slightly sticky water and melts into skin in seconds, and is great to keep in your desk and reapply throughout the day.
Quality over quantity
Though the aforementioned contents of my bathroom cabinet would suggest otherwise, my own daily skincare routine only makes use of around five to seven products total. It turns out that, although they can help, sheet masks, specialist serums, eye rollers, double cleansers or LED pens are not always necessary for a great routine. Instead, focus on getting the basics right. A decent cleanser, moisturiser and SPF are what you should aim for first; once you have those down pat, you can explore further should you wish.
Skincare has always been gender neutral
Newsflash: the “FOR MEN” plastered in decidedly tough typography on your moisturiser is nothing more than marketing. While, generally speaking, men’s skin tends to be slightly thicker and oilier than women’s, all skin is still made up of the same stuff and will react to skincare products in much the same way. That’s not to say you should start eschewing gendered skincare entirely, but don’t let fragile masculinity get in the way of discovering products that will make you look better in the long run.