The Ultimate Guide To Men’s Grooming

More and more men are waking up to something women have known for a long time: proper skincare is all about prevention. Here, The AEDITION lays the groundwork for the ideal grooming routine.
Written by Garrett Munce
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The Ultimate Guide To Men’s GroomingLightField Studios/Shutterstock

There’s a stereotype out there that men don’t like to take care of their skin. While it’s been said that stereotypes contain a nugget of truth, we beg to differ. It’s not that men don’t like to take care of their skin — it’s that most guys don’t really know how to do it.

Times are changing. The men’s grooming industry is poised to become a $166 billion business by the year 2022 and the skincare segment is the most rapidly growing. More and more men are waking up to something women have known for a long time: proper skincare is more about prevention than reaction. Taking even a few steps to cleanse and protect your complexion every day can lead to big changes in your skin and may even slow the signs of aging more effectively than even the most potent anti-aging cream. Think of it this way: if you don’t take your car in for regular maintenance, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to fix when it starts to break down.

The problem with skincare is that, if you’re just starting out, it can be incredibly overwhelming. There are thousands of products that all claim to be essential to your skin’s health. Walking into any skincare or men’s grooming aisle is an SAT-level vocabulary lesson that can leave your head spinning. That’s where The AEDITION comes in. No matter your knowledge of skincare, here lies the most important rules you should follow when creating a well-rounded and effective grooming routine. Follow these eight steps and you’ll be well on your way to the best skin of your life.

1. Put Down the Multi-Use Products

For decades, product developers and marketers thought that the only way to get men to use grooming products was to pack as many functions into a single package as possible. The idea was that men don’t want extensive routines (which is true), but the functionality doesn’t live up to the thought. The problem with these products is that they put a big emphasis on cleansing. In order to properly cleanse your body, they typically end up being too harsh for your hair and face.

The skin on your face is more delicate than the skin on your body, so irritation and dryness can occur when it’s over-cleansed. The same goes for your hair. Hair can get dry and brittle (and can fall out more easily) when the natural hydrating oils are stripped. Even two-in-one shampoo and conditioners tend to lean more heavily on cleansing — without enough conditioning agents to properly hydrate hair. Before we go any further, please throw out your multi-use products.

2. Wash Your Face With a Facial Cleanser

Once you get rid of your multitaskers, the first thing you should buy is a good, gentle facial cleanser (the SkinFix Barrier+ Foaming Oil Cleanser and REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk are two of our favorites). Understanding that the skin on your face is delicate and should be treated gently is the first step in proper skincare.

Traditional soaps and cleansers contain sulfates, which are foaming agents that make soap lather. The problem is that these sulfates can disrupt what’s called the skin barrier, a protective layer of lipids that keeps the moisture in your skin and the bad stuff out. When harsh cleansers clean away dirt and oil, they also strip away this layer of lipids, which can leave your skin dry, irritated, and susceptible to inflammation. When you’re choosing a face cleanser, look for one that says “gentle” and “low-foam” or “no-foam.” The varieties will not lather as much, which can take some getting used to, but they will clean your skin without leaving it feeling tight. You should use your cleanser as your first step both morning and night.

3. Exfoliate Smarter, Not Harder

When you start diving deeper into skincare, you start to hear a lot about exfoliation. It’s the idea that as your skin cells go through their life cycle, the dead cells accumulate on the surface of your skin and can leave it looking dull, flaky, and sallow; some say they can even contribute to the formation of signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. Exfoliation, at its most basic, is about getting rid of these dead cells. What lots of guys don’t realize is that if they’re shaving every day, they’re already exfoliating, thanks to the same razor that gets rid of their facial hair. But unless you’re shaving your entire face, you still need to exfoliate at least once a week to keep your skin looking fresh.

Most exfoliators marketed to men are facial scrubs, but remember your skin barrier? Scrubs can be too harsh, particularly if you use them aggressively, and can potentially cause damage to your barrier — even if you’re using a gentle cleanser. Instead, look for an exfoliating toner or mask that contains alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic or lactic acid (may we recommend Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 and The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution). These acids will gently break the bonds between dead skin cells and slough them away naturally, instead of relying on your hands to do the work.

4. Use an Eye Cream Every Day

Most men say that the first place they notice signs of aging is around their eyes, and, when it comes to crow’s feet and under-eye bags, prevention is the name of the game. Using an eye cream twice a day will keep the delicate skin around your eyes hydrated and firm. Look for creams that contain caffeine, a natural stimulant to help wake up the skin, and peptides, which are proteins to help maintain the health of the skin. We're partial to the Dr. Loretta Tightening Eye Gel and Lab Series Age Rescue Eye Therapy.

Gently apply eye cream by using your ring finger to tap the cream into the skin, instead of rubbing, and put it on after cleansing both morning and night. Bonus: it will help erase signs of sleepless or hard-partying nights, too.

5. Moisturize Day and Night

Aside from cleansing your face properly, the cornerstone to even the most basic skincare routine is moisturization. Even if you don’t struggle with dry skin, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated; it helps the skin cells stay healthy and work properly. A moisturizer will not only replenish hydration, but will also create a protective barrier on your skin to keep the moisture inside. When choosing a moisturizer, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring acid that helps skin cells retain moisture, and ceramides, which are lipids like the kind found in your skin barrier. Our picks: Aesop Seeking Silence Facial Hydrator and Baxter of California Oil-Free Moisturizer.

The most common reason men say they don’t use moisturizer is because they don’t like how heavy creams feel on their face. If you’re one of those guys, look for a lightweight gel moisturizer that won’t feel like slathering your face with mayonnaise, but will still give you the hydrating and protecting properties your skin needs. Apply your moisturizer after your eye cream both morning and night.

6. Sunscreen Is Man’s Best Friend

Many dermatologists will say the most important step in everyone’s skincare routine, regardless of gender, is sunscreen. The problem is that most men don’t use it. If you’re going to take away one thing from this list, it should be to use sunscreen daily. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), men are diagnosed with skin cancer twice as often as women by age 65 (and they also die from it at a higher rate), and the most troubling part is that it can be prevented if they would just use sunscreen.

Skin cancer prevention aside, sunscreen is also one of the most effective anti-aging products available. Studies have linked signs of aging to UV rays, and by wearing a daily sunscreen, you’re minimizing the damage on a cellular level. Like moisturizer, most men who don’t wear sunscreen say it’s because they don’t like how it feels. Also, like moisturizer, there are lightweight options available — like Cardon Daily Moisturizer + SPF and Supergoop! 100% Mineral Smooth & Poreless Matte Screen SPF 40 — that make this excuse a moot point. You can even find moisturizers that contain sunscreen, which is the only multi-use product we will endorse. But keep in mind that the AAD recommends a minimum of SPF 30, which is higher than many moisturizer/sunscreen combinations contain, so if you’re going that route make sure you read the label.

7. Night Time Is the Right Time

If you’re going to wear a daily moisturizer that contains SPF, you may want to use a different moisturizer at night. If you’re not, you should still consider it. That’s because, like many of our other bodily systems, our skin regenerates while we’re sleeping. It’s the perfect time for the microscopic systems to repair themselves after the onslaught of sunlight, pollution, and environmental aggressors they’ve spent all day protecting themselves from.

Night creams typically contain a higher percentage of hydrating and repairing ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, and will also sometimes contain retinol which helps to promote skin cell turnover (the production of new cells). Using a special cream at night (we're fans of the Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Cream and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream) could mean you wake up with a brighter, smoother complexion with very minimal effort. Each night, after you wash your face and apply eye cream, apply your night cream or SPF-free moisturizer.

8. Advanced Move: Use a Serum

You hear a lot of talk in the skincare world about serums. If your skincare routine is like a smoothie, serums are like the booster shots. They’re packed with concentrated ingredients to target a variety of issues and are ideal for addressing concerns like redness, uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation (i.e. dark spots), and signs of aging. Typically, you apply them after you wash your face and before you put on your moisturizer. They’re add-on products; you can create an extremely easy and effective skincare routine without ever using a serum, but, if you want to take your skincare to the next level, try an all-around serum that addresses a variety of issues, like the Caldera + Lab The Good Multi-Functional Serum or Venn Age Reversing All-in-One Concentrate. If you like the results, consider what you want to target and look for a serum that specifically addresses that.

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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GARRETT MUNCEis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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