Most skin care products are marketed toward women, but men are increasingly taking an interest in caring for their skin. Though there has been an uptick in sales of men’s skin care goods in recent years, many men still need some guidance in looking after the health and appearance of their skin.
“If I have one piece of advice for men, it would be to not be nervous or embarrassed to consult your dermatologist on skin care and treatments,” dermatologist Dr. Kim Nichols, the founder of NicholsMD in Greenwich, Connecticut, told HuffPost. “Men struggle with their skin just as much as women do.”
More skin care lines for men seem to be popping up. However, dermatologists say you should choose products based not on your gender, but on your individual skin type — whether that’s sensitive, normal, dry, oily or combination.
“The skin-related differences between the sexes are relatively subtle,” dermatologist Dr. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin told The Good Face Project. “There is more individual variation in the skin than the variation between sexes.”
For example, men’s skin tends to be thicker and more oily, but that’s not always the case; it really depends on the person.
“The same types of ingredients can be used in men as in women to address issues like moisturizing, cleansing, sun protection and aging concerns,” said dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
HuffPost spoke with dermatologists to find out which types of products they’d like to see more men use.
“The number-one product I wish men used more is sunscreen,” said Zeichner. “[Ultraviolet] light exposure from the sun is the single biggest risk factor for developing both skin cancers and premature skin aging.”
Men are less likely to wear sunscreen, perform skin self-exams at home or go see a doctor for a skin check. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are far more likely than women to die of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
Applying sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum, and water-resistant should be part of everyone’s daily regimen, rain or shine — and not just something you do when you’re at the beach or pool. (Here are some expert-recommended mineral and chemical sunscreens — and an explainer of the differences between the two.)
Dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, the director of the Skin of Color Division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, pointed to another underdiscussed benefit of wearing sunscreen.
“It can prevent dark spots from acne and can help improve hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone,” she told HuffPost.
2. Moisturizer With Ceramides
Dermatologist Dr. Rawn Bosley, the medical director of Prism Dermatology in Southlake, Texas, told HuffPost that he “cannot emphasize enough” how important it is for men to moisturize. He recommended moisturizers that contains ceramides, which are fats that help maintain a healthy skin barrier. They occur naturally in the skin but can also be produced synthetically for skin care products.
“An adequate skin barrier protects the skin from environmental damage, prevents irritation and maintains the skin moisture,” Bosley said. “Properly hydrated skin is less prone to acne, blemishes and flaking.”
Ceramide levels in the skin decrease as people age. To replenish, “ceramide-containing moisturizers should be used on cleansed skin daily,” Bosley said.
When looking for a ceramide moisturizer, check for ceramide 1, 3 or 6 on the ingredient list, he said.
“Ceramides can also be found in anti-aging creams that may contain other popular ingredients, such as retinols and antioxidants,” he added.
3. Facial Cleanser
Nichols said she’s surprised how many men use shampoo or body wash as their facial cleanser — or worse, don’t wash their faces at all.
“Cleanser is essential for removing excess oil and dirt that get trapped in pores, causing breakouts,” she said. “Further, because facial hair can harbor dirt, oil and bacteria, a cleanser is crucial for helping to keep pores unclogged.”
Retinol — a vitamin A derivative — is a buzzy skin care ingredient that delivers results. It has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also improving skin texture and hyperpigmentation.
“Retinol is perhaps the best-studied ingredient we have to fight the appearance of aging skin,” Zeichner said. “At the same time, it stimulates collagen production to thicken the foundation of the skin, and enhances cell turnover to improve radiance and texture.”
It’s important to start slowly when using retinols, as they may cause red, irritated and peeling skin, especially at first. Dermatologists recommend easing in to let your skin acclimate by using a small amount of an over-the-counter formula every few nights, and then gradually working up to an every-night or every-other-night application over time.
Note that retinols can also cause sun sensitivity, so wearing sunscreen during the day is essential.
5. Beard Care Products
Just like hair on the scalp, facial hair needs TLC too. But for some men, caring for their facial hair “is just an afterthought,” said Woolery-Lloyd.
“Appropriate beard care is not only helpful for the beard, but for the underlying skin that can also get dry and irritated,” she said.
“Conditioning the facial hair a few times weekly with a wash-out or leave-in conditioner can reduce beard dandruff and reduce risks of ingrown hairs,” Bosley said.
There are aesthetic benefits too. “Moisturized hairs also grow with more volume and are less likely to break ... [which] helps men develop the full appearance of the beard more quickly,” Bosley added.
6. Moisturizing Body Wash
The harsh and highly fragranced body soaps that men often gravitate toward can dry out the skin. This is especially true of traditional bar soaps that “strip the skin of its natural oils,” Woolery-Lloyd said.
“Many men opt for these cleansers because they are more familiar to them. Body washes that cleanse the skin without stripping the natural oils are better for the skin and help reduce dryness and itching associated with harsh cleansers,” she added.
When shopping for a body wash, look for hydrating ingredients like ceramides and shea butter. If you have very dry, eczema-prone skin, “colloidal oatmeal is another great ingredient,” Woolery-Lloyd said.
7. Skin Care Products With Antioxidants
Using skin care products that contain antioxidants — such as those with vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol or green tea — is “crucial, especially for men who spend time outdoors or live in metropolitan areas,” Bosley said, since the environment can be harsh on skin.
“Antioxidants protect the skin from free-radical damage, which may occur as a result of environmental stressors, including UV rays and pollution,” dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick told the site Byrdie.
You can find antioxidants in combination with other ingredients in some moisturizers, serums and sunscreens, making these products a “simple yet powerful addition” to your skin care routine, Bosley said.
“For most men, in lieu of focusing on a single antioxidant, I recommend products that have blends of potent antioxidants,” he said. “Antioxidant blends can address multiple issues, improving luminosity, smoothness, reducing oiliness and the appearance of pores.”