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Great skin at any age: Skincare for men in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond

How to take care of your skin at all ages

Handsome young shirtless man applying cream at his face and looking at himself with smile while standing in front of the mirror.
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A grooming routine is essential for men’s skincare of every age. Similar to how your body can benefit by exercising with the best workouts, your skin needs you to start taking care of it as early as possible. By building healthy habits, you’ll keep your skin — your body’s largest organ — looking and feeling its best for a lifetime.

You can’t stop time, but a solid routine can make your skin look younger and healthier no matter how many years go by. To help you establish a grooming routine, we’ve curated a list of the best skincare products for the three prime decades of your life, your 20s, 30s, and 40s. With some research, preparation, and dedication, your skin will look its best at every stage in your life. Here’s what you should know about skincare for men as you get older.

Man using skincare mask
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What’s the best skincare routine for men?

As you age, so does your skin, which is why a man’s skincare routine should change with the times. But regardless of your age, your routine should contain these three essentials: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and an SPF sunscreen. These three products should be the building blocks of your routine, with everything else just an optional benefit. That said, skincare for men looks a little different in your 20s than your 40s.

In your 20s, your goal should be preservation and protection. Around age 25 (or earlier if you’re a smoker), your body naturally stops producing collagen. Hence, you may start seeing signs of aging, like wrinkles, once you hit 30. By your 30s, your objective is to delay the aging process. At age 40 and beyond, your goal should be to maintain the skin you’ve been diligently taking care of for the last two decades.

Shot of a young man looking in the mirror while applying moisturizer to his face. - Yuri A/ / Shutterstock

Skincare for men in their 20s

How often should a man wash his face? As often as you shower, which should be at least once a day. If you skip a morning shower, at least throw some water on your face to clean the sleep out of your eyes and wake you up.

Men in their 20s might not be thinking about skincare as something they should be focusing on, but by adopting a long-game mindset, those small steps you make every day will pay off in a big way exactly when you need them to. At this age, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get those long-term gains you’re after, which is great if your career is getting off the ground and all your income is just going toward the basics. Taking care of yourself and your skin should be on that list, along with all the other things that accompany a healthy lifestyle.

If you want to look 21 forever, or at least get compliments on how good you look for years to come, these five basic steps (and corresponding products) will help you get on the right track.

Gentle cleanser

You can wash once (at night) or preferably twice (morning and night), but ridding your skin of grit, grime, and gross stuff daily is a must since it allows your skin to perform at its peak. This gentle face wash is excellent for acne-prone and sensitive skin, which many men in their 20s experience on and off. It contains salicylic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells and improve your skin’s overall texture. If you also suffer from back or body acne, this cleanser is great to use in the shower all over your body. It’s affordable, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and enriched with vitamin D for extra antioxidant protection.

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

A cropped shot of a handsome young man looking worried while washing his face in his bathroom basin at home.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Acid toner

Don’t let the word “acid” freak you out. This is not the same as battery acid, unlike the acid used in Breaking Bad. Acids in skincare serve as a chemical exfoliant, which can help clear breakouts and give you smooth, soft skin without harsh scrubbing. Use this exfoliator every night after washing your face by applying it onto a cotton pad and wiping it across your face. In less than two weeks, you’ll notice an improvement in your skin’s texture and appearance. It helps calm redness and reduces inflammation from active pimples and spots. Great for clearing blackheads, this liquid exfoliant is a men’s skincare secret weapon.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Hydrating moisturizer

Zoolander said it best: “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” Hydration is the key to healthy, balanced skin, but it doesn’t need to be too complicated. This facial cream, which contains squalane, avocado oil, and apricot kernel oil, goes on thick but sinks in immediately, so you don’t go to bed with that greasy feeling. It’s nourishing, gentle on sensitive skin, and can soothe parched, dehydrated skin in no time.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

Everyday SPF

If you invest in one thing — and only one thing–to ensure good skin as you age, it should be a facial moisturizer with SPF. This is non-negotiable. You can put all the lotions and potions on that mug, but if you are getting too much sun, you’re just throwing money away. Yes, other products will work wonders in helping you fend off Father Time, but sunscreen isn’t just good for your face — it’s good for your health. Skin cancer can be deadly, so to keep your body’s largest organ in tip-top shape, wear SPF every day.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Acne spot treatment

Zits don’t magically disappear for most guys when you age out of your teens. You’ll still experience the odd pimple here and there, which somehow knows precisely when you have an important presentation at work or an event to attend and always manages to pop up mere days beforehand. These spot treatment acne patches work like Band-Aids on your pimples. Their work is twofold: To prevent you from picking and popping your pimples while delivering a medicated treatment that helps them heal faster. Wear them overnight and take them off before you leave the house, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well they work in such little time.

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original Acne Patches

Man washing his face
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Skincare for men in their 30s

By now, you should have gotten the memo that taking care of your skin is necessary if you want to age well. Those of you who are graduating into your 30s, congratulations! We trust that, by now, you have established a good foundation of washing, hydrating, and protecting your skin, so it’s time to dive in a little deeper into keeping that skin looking better for longer.

As we get older, our skin loses its ability to bounce back. Much like how our metabolism slows, our eyesight fades, and our hair falls out (which calls for a hair tonic), our skin changes quite a bit as we age. After we hit 20, 1% less collagen is produced in the dermis each year, and the skin’s natural exfoliation process decreases by almost 30%. Once we hit our 30s, fat cells shrink due to moisture transfer slowing down between the layers of the skin. And this is just the stuff you can’t avoid. Things like a skincare routine, diet, and sun exposure can speed all this up faster than you can say Botox.

So what are you going to do about it? For starters, using products that contain higher doses of antioxidants and vitamin A derivatives like retinol, as well as regular chemical exfoliation, will help you keep your skin soft and supple, allowing you to age a little more like George Clooney and a little less like Keith Richards. These five essential steps (and corresponding products) will help you get on the right track.

Hydrating cleanser

As you age, your skin loses elasticity and crucial oils that give it that youthful glow. Incorporating more hydrating products into every step of your routine is the key if you want to hold onto your skin’s precious natural oils and protect the outermost layer from water loss that can make your skin look dry and flaky. This cleanser from the French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay is excellent for people with sensitive skin and conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The cleanser contains ceramides, which help to prevent moisture loss and restore the skin’s moisture barrier. It also contains niacinamide, which works wonders as an anti-aging, oil-reducing, pore-smoothing, and brightening ingredient.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser

Chemical exfoliant

This potent skin tonic is packed with alpha-hydroxy acids like lactic acid, azelaic acid, and salicin to keep the skin in peak condition. It’s gentle enough to use daily (we prefer it as an aftershave with an added kick), and swiping this over your face helps prevent breakouts as any good post-wash tonic should do. Still, it also gently exfoliates the skin, helping to keep wrinkles at bay. With regular use, this daily chemical exfoliant will smooth the texture of your skin, reduce the size of your pores, and give you a glowing complexion that will shave years off your actual age.

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

Retinol serum

How should a man take care of his face? The fastest and most effective way for a man to take care of his skin in his 30s is to use retinol. Retinol is the hero when it comes to fighting off wrinkles. It’s one of the many derivative forms of vitamin A, increasing cell turnover, which can help reverse the damage. There isn’t another product you go out and buy that does that. Our pick, for those just getting started with retinol, is the Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum. It is mild retinol to ease you into using this powerful ingredient. Vitamin A products like this can dry or irritate, but if you start slowly and early, it will become your skin’s best friend.

Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum

Peptide moisturizer

After chemically exfoliating to smooth your skin’s texture and slathering on retinol serum to reduce the look of wrinkles, your skin needs a tall glass of water in the form of a moisturizer, preferably one with peptides, like this one from Drunk Elephant. Peptides are a diminutive form of amino acids, and if you’re a fitness fanatic, you know how essential peptides are to your body’s overall health. This nurturing yet fast-absorbing daily moisturizer is formulated with nine signal peptides, which help bind moisture to the skin, visibly plumping, firming, and restoring bounce. It also contains pygmy waterlily stem cell extract, an excellent source of antioxidants and effective in supporting youthful, healthy-looking skin. It sounds very complex, but it’s a simple moisturizer with an anti-aging kick.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer

Eye cream

The skin underneath your eyes is some of the thinnest on your body, which is why it’s one of the first areas to show age. Wrinkles and dark circles are a near certainty once you hit your 30s due to stress combined with the natural aging process, but there are certain products you can use to help prevent the appearance of these fine lines by boosting hydration. This eye cream from First Aid Beauty contains hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, and caffeine, which help to moisturize and calm your skin.

First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy

Man looking at his skin in the mirror
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Skincare for men in their 40s (and beyond)

If you’ve been smart enough to take good care of your skin in your 20s and 30s, then your 40s should only require a few moderate additions. If you haven’t, and seeing those fine lines turn into straight-up wrinkles, you may want to take a more drastic approach and investigate dermatological procedures like Botox and fillers. There’s no shame in wanting to look your best because when you look better, you feel better, right?

What’s happening with your skin once you start going over that hill? Well, for starters: Gravity. Yep, you’ve been fighting gravity for decades, and it starts to win once you hit 40. What else? Your body’s collagen (what keeps your skin “plump”) and elasticity (what lets it bounce back from the natural aging process) have been on the decline over the last decade. Still, that deterioration starts to pick up the pace.

To fend off future wrinkles (or at least slow them down), you have to up your defense against these three offenders. Below are some of our favorite men’s skincare products to add to your good skin regime that will help fight back against this aggregate of aging. For those of you behind in the good skin game, it’s OK. Pick these up now, and you’ll see some results sooner than you can say, “40 is the new 30.”

Soothing cleanser

How should a man clean his face? Gently, surprisingly. If you’ve noticed, this guide to men’s skincare doesn’t contain any of those harsh scrubs. That’s because those scrubs can irritate the skin and cause inflammation. Inflammation is the root of many skin concerns, making this cleanser featuring soothing ingredients like turmeric and licorice root an excellent pick for men over 40. The Scotch Porter Restoring Face Wash is a gentle, soothing, and calming way to begin a men’s skincare routine if you’re dealing with redness, the occasional breakout, and general dullness. Your skin will feel clean, smooth, and ready for the next step in your routine.

Scotch Porter Restoring Face Wash


If it’s not clear already, allow me to repeat it for the final time: Proper hydration is the key to great skin. This lightweight moisturizer from Sunday Riley delivers intense hydration with two forms of hyaluronic acid and tamarind extract. According to the brand, it increases your skin’s hydration by up to 68% in as little as 15 minutes for up to 24 hours of continuous moisture. It gives you an instant shot of soft, supple skin without feeling heavy or greasy. Use it in the morning and at night if you have super dehydrated skin, or skip the moisturizer in the morning and go straight to SPF if you have a combination or oily skin.

Sunday Riley TIDAL Brightening Enzyme Water Cream


Anyone who knows anything about skincare for men swears by EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum. Why? Because it’s just that good, plain and simple. Once you’re over 40, you don’t want to spend time trying the latest and greatest products that might or might not work for you. This sunscreen is a favorite of dermatologists, estheticians, and moms everywhere. It’s not greasy, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free; it also contains antioxidants that help protect against skin-damaging free radicals. There are plenty of other reasons why this sunscreen is so good, like the addition of niacinamide and lactic acid. Still, it’s the combination of all these elements that creates the perfect SPF protection.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum

Vitamin C

Have you ever looked at your face on what would otherwise be considered a “good skin day” and just felt it was lacking … something? That something is brightness, and it’s another thing that dulls as you age. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells. The result is brighter, glowing skin that will make you look at least ten years younger. The Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum by L’Oreal is a great drugstore find formulated with 10% vitamin C to reduce wrinkles and leave skin looking brighter and feeling softer. Apply it in the morning before your SPF, as vitamin C can help your SPF better protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays.

L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum


If you started using retinol in your 30s, you’re ahead of the curveball, and your skin is better for it. If you’re in your 40s, it’s not too late to start incorporating this wrinkle-reducing miracle ingredient in your skincare routine. This retinol from Skinceuticals is consistently hailed as one of the best, and at 1% strength, it’s incredibly powerful. If you’re new to retinol, use it once a week as the last step in your routine. Apply a tiny amount where you get wrinkles on your forehead and around your smile lines, and use sparingly everywhere else. After a month or two, you should see visible brightening, refining, and tightening results that will make you believe in the anti-aging power of a great men’s skincare routine.

Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0

Man in mud mask
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Skincare don’ts for men of any age

Just as important as it is to know what to do is knowing what not to do. Here are eight skincare don’ts for men.

  1. Avoid picking your skin. Picking can cause scarring, dark spots, and blemishes to appear making your skin look uneven.
  2. Refrain from using products abundant in alcohol. Using products with too much alcohol can dry out the skin.
  3. Steer clear of shaving with unclean or dull razor blades. This can cause inflammation, redness, and/or ingrown hairs, which can irritate the skin and cause dark spots.
  4. Don’t assume that you can skip SPF due to cloudy weather. Harmful UVA/UVB rays are always present — even on overcast days.
  5. Moderate alcohol consumption for healthier skin in the long term. Alcohol has an aging effect on the skin.
  6. Exercise caution with eyebrow plucking or waxing to avoid inflamed skin and ingrown hairs that can cause irritation and blemishes.
  7. Wash your face after you work out. Sweat is salty, has bacteria, and can dry out your skin.
  8. Remember to care for your forehead and cleanse and moisturize it regularly. Your forehead is part of your T-zone, which can be the oiliest or driest part of your face. Giving that area proper attention is essential to good skincare.
Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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