It’s a confusing world we live in. For the longest time, all that we men knew about grooming was to brush our teeth, floss, and bathe. Life was simple. As we hit puberty, deodorant and face wash made their way into the mix. Things were pretty simple, even if we managed to get pimples all the time anyway. Yet, once we reached adulthood, all of a sudden there was talk of exfoliators and eye creams. We read about the importance of SPF, beard oil and lip balm. Even worse, people expected us to read the list of ingredients for different oils and acids we couldn’t pronounce, much less remember. It was a lot to absorb all at once. Especially since we still weren’t even flossing.

We feel your pain. After all, we lived it too. We remember being confused over what Argan Oil is and why a tiny tube of “serum” cost more than our entire outfit. We even went through the scoffing and somewhat sexist “isn’t this for women?” line of questioning. Yes, it has mostly been “for women.” That’s one of the many reasons they look better than we do.

So, what can we do about it? Is there any way to wade through the confusion? More importantly, is there a way to do all this without going bankrupt? You may have guessed that the answer to the last two questions is “yes” or we wouldn’t have written them. You’re a clever little reader.

In time, we will give you the basics for all your grooming needs. For now, though, we’re starting with your face, since it’s the most visible. Consider the information below a quick and easy overview that will cover all the essentials without breaking the bank.

The Basics of Face Care

As you probably know, there are tons of different face care products on the market. Even grocery stores are selling lip balms and bronzers now. Some of these can be useful and are worth looking into. If you’re just getting started, though, the most important thing is to start with the Big Three: Cleanser, Exfoliator, and Moisturizer. Using these will make a world of difference by cleaning your face, removing dead skin and protecting you from sun damage. To start, first you need to determine the type of skin you have. We promise it’s easier than it sounds.

A Quick Tip for Determining Skin Type

Shirtless man examining his face skin in the mirror

Before we start, we have to mention that we are not licensed skin care professionals. Our advice comes from a lot of boring research and personal experience (which has also included stealing products from our lady…) and should be taken as such. At the same time, our skin is pretty damn good. So, you know, there’s that.

Anyway, there are four different skin types: normal, oily, dry, and combination. While a dermatologist or skin care professional can give you a more in-depth description, there’s a quick rule of thumb you can use yourself. Take a look in the mirror. Does your face have a shine to it? If so, it is most likely oily. Does your face tend to itch? If so, you probably have dry skin. If both of these are true in different spots, then your skin is “combination.” Otherwise, you have normal skin and a high degree of envy and scorn from us.

Once you know your skin type, you can look for a face wash that caters to you. Luckily, most of the time this will be right on the label, so we won’t send you on an easter egg hunt for this or that ingredient.

Establishing a Routine

After you’ve found the right products for you, it’s time to put together a routine. This is pretty simple and only requires you to keep a few rules in mind and create a very basic routine. Here are a few guidelines:

Wash Your Hands

Before you put anything on your face, make sure your hands are clean. You can use the best face wash on the market and it will do nothing if you’re smearing it on with dirty hands. So, the first thing you should do is wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and dry. Yes, 20 seconds. Do not commit the cardinal sins of just running your hands under water or scrubbing them for 5 seconds before rinsing and drying. You know who you are.

Splash Your Face With Warm Water

Warm water helps to open up your pores, allowing you to clean them out more thoroughly. Before you apply any cleaner, splash your face a few times to make sure each area gets moisture. It’s important to make sure the water isn’t hot, as hot water tends to dry out skin and you don’t want that.

Use a Nickel Sized Amount and Scrub in Circles

Once your skin is damp, pour a nickel sized amount of face wash onto your fingertips. Begin by washing your forehead at the center and move outward, scrubbing gently in circular motions. Next, move down the nose and out toward the cheeks. Be very gentle with the skin under your eyes, as it is thinner and more sensitive than the rest of your face. Finally, move down to the area around the mouth and to the chin. Rinse your hands and wash the cleanser off with cold water. Just like warm water opens the pores for cleaning, cold water closes them, helping to keep dirt from getting in once you’re done.

Follow Up With Moisturizer

When you wash your face, the cleanser will cause your skin to dry up. Because of this, it is important to apply a moisturizer after you’ve pat your face dry with a clean towel. This is true even if you have oily skin. To avoid too much jargon, we will just say that oily skin happens because your pores are producing too much oil while trying to fight dryness. Therefore, a moisturizer keeps your skin from getting dry in the first place, so your face has no reason to attack itself.

We recommend buying two different moisturizers: one for the morning and one for the evening. The morning moisturizer should have an SPF of at least 30, though 50 is preferable. This will do double duty of moisturizing your face while also protecting it from sun damage as you go out into the world. For the evening, SPF would be a waste, so you can go for a cheaper alternative that doesn’t have any SPF protection. This will also help you save money, since your SPF moisturizer will last twice as long.

Wash Your Face Twice Per Day

Wash your face in the morning when you wake up. Your pillow likely has residue of dead skin and oils from your hair, so it’s a good idea to wash those off. Wash again before bed since your face has been exposed to the elements all day. We recommend doing this shirtless, since the odds that water will get on your shirt are pretty high otherwise. Flexing in front of the mirror is optional.

Exfoliate Once a Week

Exfoliation is a deeper clean and scrubs off dead skin cells from your face. At the same time, it’s obviously harsher on your skin, so you don’t want to do it too frequently. To make scheduling easy, pick one day of the week and do it that same day each time. Sunday, Monday and Wednesday are easiest to remember, since they are either the beginning of every week or right in the middle.

On your exfoliating day, wash your skin with a cleanser first. Then, put a small, dime sized amount onto your fingertips and gently scrub the same way you did with the cleanser. Rinse off and immediately use your moisturizer. Moisturizer is especially important here since your skin is very sensitive afterward.

Kicking It Up a Notch

If you feel that you have the basics taken care of and want to take it to the next level, there are a few more advanced products you can try. Since this article is focused mostly on the basics, we will only give a brief overview of those that are, in our opinion, the most important.

Eye Cream

Many a man in his late 20’s and beyond has seen the toll taken on his eyes. It’s around this time that the skin underneath the eyes starts to show redness, dark circles, or the dreaded under-eye bags. It happens to the best of us (Alexander Skarsgård, greek god that he is, still struggles with the latter).

Alexander Skarsgard smiling.
Yes, Alex, we see it.

Eye cream can help reduce the damage, though. Using your ring finger, dab a tiny drop, smaller than a pea, onto the skin under the eyes. Pat it in, moving from the area next to the nose and all the way up to the corner of the eye. Gently blend it in with your ring finger. Do this once a day.

Face Masks

Face masks are a more intense cleaning than a regular cleanser. Rather than scrubbing the skin clean like an exfoliator, though, masks work by pulling blackheads and other grime up from your skin as they dry. Since this is less harsh on your face, you can use a mask up to three times a week (but not on the same day you exfoliate). The downside is that they take longer, since you usually have to keep them on for 10-15 minutes.

To use a face mask, first wash your skin with a cleanser. Pat your face to dry it a bit, but make sure to leave the skin slightly damp. Spread a thin layer of the mask on your face, avoiding the under eye area (the skin is too sensitive). Leave it on for the recommended amount of time. Spend the 10 minutes reading a book, watching TV or playing Swamp Thing with your partner.

Swamp Thing up close face photo
The resemblance is uncanny

Rinse with warm water and follow up with a splash of cold. Finally, apply your moisturizer.

Lip Balm

Okay, cards on the table: this isn’t all that “advanced.” It just didn’t fit with our neat little “Big Three” package, so it ended up here. Lip balm keeps your lips smooth while reducing dryness and chapping. This is particularly useful if you live in a cold or windy climate. For the best results, look for a lip balm with SPF protection. Lip cancer is a real thing and men suffer from it at a much higher rate than women, due in part to the fact that we rarely protect our lips. We recommend applying it in the morning and when needed throughout the day for protection. Apply it again at night after brushing your teeth before bed. This will help keep your lips moisturized throughout the night.

Your Assignment

Take the time today to determine your skin type. Once you have, do a quick search at a local department store or online for products that work for your skin type. Pick up each of the Big Three and, if your budget allows, one or more of the “advanced” products. Pick one day of the week for your exfoliating and stick to it. Start the routine today and, after you apply your moisturizer tonight, take a look in the mirror and wink at that handsome devil.