In our more-is-more world, we talk a lot about lengthy skincare routines. But, when you talk to any skin expert, they will likely tell you that the most essential elements of any well-curated skincare regimen are a quality cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. That is true for everyone — regardless of gender, skin tone, and/or skin type — yet the ingredients that make up these products should be customized depending on your needs.
We're already rounded up the best expert-approved day creams and night creams for women, so it's time to share some picks for men. To better understand what you should be putting on your face every morning and night, we tapped top board certified dermatologists. From sunscreens that double as hydrators to retinol-infused rich creams, we’ve assembled the ultimate dermatologist-approved guide to face moisturizers for men.
How to Choose a Moisturizer
Research shows that men have thicker facial skin than women. That fact alone means that guys may need more potent products in order to enjoy the benefits of certain active ingredients. But that's not the only difference. Men also tend to have oilier skin because of the role of sex hormones in sebum (read: oil) production and the increased density of hair follicles on the face; they are more likely to experience pigmentation; and their facial wrinkles are deeper.
Why are we telling you this? Well, when it comes to picking a day cream and a night cream (yes, there are reasons to differentiate those two products, and we'll explain them below), it can go a long way towards helping you choose the right one. Whether you’re dealing with acne, lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone (read: hyperpigmentation and dark spots), uneven skin texture (think: acne scars), or are simply looking to keep your skin hydrated, there is a face moisturizer for you.
Dermatologist-Approved Day Creams for Men
Wearing sunscreen during daylight hours (regardless of the weather) is a non-negotiable, yet compliance among men is dangerously low. Not only does sunscreen provide potentially life-saving protection from skin cancer, but it also helps prevent UV-induced pigmentation. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30, which you will find in many of the formulas listed below.
But what if we told you there was a way to boost the benefits of the sun protectant, while also improving skin tone and texture? Enter vitamin C. “I recommend all of my patients — men and women — to use vitamin C serum in the morning,” says Samer Jaber, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. “Vitamin C has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and brightening effects.” Studies show that, when layered under SPF, antioxidants provide four times the protection of sunscreen alone. His picks? SkinBetter Science Alto Defense Serum and SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. Regardless of which vitamin C serum you choose, apply it after shaving but before moisturizer and/or sunscreen (i.e. any of the formulas below).
For Acne-Prone Skin: Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30
Just because your skin is oily and/or acne-prone does not mean you can skip moisturizer. In fact, dryness can increase sebum production and exacerbate breakouts. Instead, opt for something light and oil-free. “It's a lightweight moisturizer with a mattifying finish, so it’s great for acne-prone skin or oily skin,” says Brendan Camp, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. “It's a good option for year-round moisturizing and sun protection.” $14, walmart.com
For Multitasking: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Face Moisturizer SPF 50
There is a lot to like about this multitasking lotion that John Troccoli, MD, a New York-based board certified dermatologist, says is “perfect for everyday usage.” The non-greasy and non-comedogenic (read: non-pore clogging) formula features a broad spectrum SPF 50 (!), keeps skin moisturized all day, and helps prevent premature signs of aging thanks to an antioxidant blend. $17, neutrogena.com
For Darker Skin Tones: ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50
If you’ve ever wondered what skincare your dermatologist uses, we’ve got the answer. Dr. Jaber says he is currently using this featherweight formula and has been recommending it to “those with darker skin types.” While the knock on mineral sunscreens is that they can leave the complexion looking chalky, this zinc oxide-based formula goes on without a trace and features plankton-derived enzymes, peptides, and antioxidants to treat existing photodamage. $70, isdin.com
For Pigmentation: EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 46
Both Dr. Camp and Dr. Jaber are fans of this fast-absorbing formula that works like a sun-protecting tinted moisturizer. Designed with sensitive skin in mind, “it includes niacinamide, which is calming, and hyaluronic acid, which is a powerful moisturizer,” Dr. Camp notes. Another reason it makes his must-have list is the complexion-perfecting tint, which, he says, makes it a “great option for patients with pigmentation concerns or melasma.” $39, dermstore.com
For Improved Tone & Texture: Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30
Dr. Troccoli is a fan of this oil-free brightening formula that offers both short- and long-term benefits. Natural light diffusers instantly give the skin a soft-focus finish, and, over time, the SPF and soy complex work to treat and prevent visible signs of sun damage (i.e. dark spots, fine lines, and dullness). $20, ulta.com
For City Slickers: Supergoop City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30
There are no two ways about it, spending time in polluted environments will have a negative impact on your complexion. This antioxidant-rich (hi, vitamins B5 and E) serum — which pulls triple duty as a serum, daily moisturizer, and sunscreen — is the perfect antidote. As Dr. Camp explains, antioxidants are valuable because “they neutralize free oxygen radicals that develop throughout the day” as a result of environmental aggressors and “are damaging to cell structures.” $42, supergoop.com
For Dry Skin: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane
Combining your moisturizer and sunscreen steps is a great way to minimize the number of products on your vanity, but it’s not mandatory. Separating the two is an option, and may even be your best bet if you are dealing with dry skin. Packed with emollient squalane, Dr. Camp likes this nourishing formula for daytime — so long as you remember to layer sunscreen on top. An added benefit? It can double as your night cream (more on that below). $58, kiehls.com
Dermatologist-Approved Night Creams for Men
If daytime skincare is about protecting the skin, nighttime skincare is about repairing it. For those using a day cream without SPF, you can probably get away with using it at night as well. But, if you are using hybrid sunscreen-moisturizer formula during daylight hours, you’ll want to swap it out after dark.
Because the body and skin naturally rejuvenate overnight (yep, beauty sleep is real), finding a P.M. moisturizer with active ingredients that complement these processes is the best way to get the most out of your routine. The format you choose, be it serum, oil, or cream, will depend on your skin type. “If you have dry skin, pick a thicker moisturizing cream,” Dr. Jaber says. “If your skin is more oily, you can choose a moisturizing lotion.”
For Dull Skin: SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream
When it comes to P.M. grooming routines, Dr. Jaber recommends everyone use an over-the-counter retinol or prescription retinoid. If you are concerned about the dryness and irritation that accompanies the retinization process, this formula is for you. “It is great for those with more sensitive skin and has an alpha hydroxy acid as well for improved brightening effects,” he says. $125, skinbetter.com
For a Quick Fix: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Skincare tends to require patience, but Dr. Troccoli is a fan of this retinol-infused formula that promises visible results in just seven days. The vitamin A-derivative is paired with a glucose complex and hydrating hyaluronic acid to deliver a fast-acting effect that minimizes the appearance of deep wrinkles and plumps the skin. $34, ulta.com
For the Ultimate Beauty Sleep: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil
Freaked out by the idea of face oil? Fear not. “Common sense would tell us not to use oil as a moisturizer, but this lightweight product provides serious moisture while making the skin feel silky smooth,” Dr. Camp shares. He calls this blend “special” thanks to its ability to hydrate (thanks to squalane) and repair (hi, evening primrose oil) with an added aromatic boost — it features lavender essential oil to induce sweet slumber. $78, kiehls.com
For Serious Moisture: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream with Hyaluronic Acid for Extra-Dry Skin
For dry skin, both Dr. Camp and Dr. Troccoli recommend this innovative night formula. The gel-cream texture is ultra-lightweight yet packs a seriously moisturizing punch. “It contains hyaluronic acid, which helps skin retain moisture,” Dr. Camp notes. Oh, and if you are using a prescription retinoid, this makes the perfect pair. “It is a great moisturizer to couple with a retinol or retinoid product to help minimize skin irritation,” he adds. $24, neutrogena.com
For Lines & Wrinkles: ROC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
This drugstore-favorite is clinically proven to visibly reduce wrinkles by 50 percent over the course of 12 weeks. While the results of retinol never fail to impress, Dr. Camp is here to remind you to not over do it. “It is important to start using retinol-containing products slowly, as they have the potential to irritate skin and make it more sensitive to the sun,” he cautions. Instead, apply the cream every other night to start and always apply sunscreen the next morning. $25, rocskincare.com
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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