A solid skin-care routine is the cornerstone of good grooming. Well-cared-for skin means you’ll experience less frequent breakouts, you’ll show less irritation and redness, and you’ll stave off visible signs of aging. Start taking this stuff seriously, and it will make you more handsome almost immediately—and ensure you age more gracefully for the rest of your life. More important than all that, though, is the satisfaction that comes from a daily ritual of taking care of yourself. It just feels good.
But it can be hard to know where to start. The skin-care rabbit hole is deep: You start with a thing of Cetaphil from CVS, and next thing you know you’re ordering snail-secretion filtrate, airmail from Korea. And this particular moment, when so much is in flux and so many of us are searching for new ways to fill our days, is in some ways the perfect time to pick up a new habit and make it work for you. But what you don’t need is yet another thing that makes you feel overwhelmed or down on yourself. A grooming routine should quite literally do the opposite. So before taking any of the advice I’m about to dispense, be realistic about what you’re willing to commit to when it comes to skin care.
This guide is intended to help you work out a five-step routine that will take five or 10 minutes every morning and evening. It’s not that big of a deal once you get started, but if multiple steps and products sound like a little much, maybe start somewhere extremely simple—a drugstore face wash and an inexpensive hyaluronic acid serum, say—and see how that goes. (If you’re starting completely from scratch, it could go a long way!) On the other hand, if you’re feeling ready to commit to a true routine, let’s get started.
You’re Starting With the Man in the Mirror
There’s no single universal best skin-care routine, because everyone’s skin is different. Instead, there are two important concepts when it comes to figuring out the right routine for you: skin type and skin concern.
Skin type refers to your skin’s neutral disposition—what it’s naturally like if you’re not doing anything at all. “The most common skin types are dry, normal, and oily,” explains my friend the aesthetician Renée Rouleau. Dry skin, she explains, is found on someone with small pores and tight-feeling skin, who doesn’t get oily throughout the day. Normal skin doesn’t get oily, but generally doesn’t feel tight or uncomfortable. Oily is someone who gets large pores and can build up oil throughout the day, most commonly around the nose and forehead. (There are absolutely more types, but I’m keeping it simple here for a reason. If you’re really curious about diving in, you can take a quiz to better categorize yourself.)
Skin concern is a little bit different: It’s what’s happening on your face that you’d specifically like to address. This refers to specific skin issues, like signs of aging, acne, hyperpigmentation, or redness and irritation. Products are often formulated to address a specific concern.
You can certainly get fancier with it, but a complete skin-care routine has just five basic steps:
4. Eye Cream
Until this becomes second nature, write it down on a sticky note and place it on your bathroom mirror, or keep this list handy on your phone.
Step One: Cleanse
To all the discourse about men finally washing their damn hands because of the pandemic, allow me to add: Wash your damn face too. “Cleansing is important, morning and night,” Rouleau says. “It removes toxins and oils, gets rid of bacteria from [you] touching your face, and any debris, sunscreens, or topical products you’ve applied.” Beyond hygiene, cleansing allows any products you apply afterward to be properly absorbed by the skin for maximum efficacy.