From Chore to Ritual: An Effective 5 Step Skincare Routine for the Men’s Wellness Novice
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Like so many everyday routines that evolve into hobbies, the simple act of washing one’s face has proliferated into a multi-billion dollar industry with a dizzying array of options, accoutrements, and optimizations. As an industry that has historically focussed its marketing attention on a female audience, many men don’t quite know where to get started.
You probably don’t need a 12-part routine and dedicated skincare refrigerator, but that old tub of St. Ives Apricot scrub isn’t cutting it either.
In this quick guide we’ll walk you through a simple, effective skincare routine that will elevate your daily wake-up and pre-bed chores into rituals.
Before we dive in, let’s get a couple of quick disclaimers out of the way:
- Much like a diet, there’s no one size fits all approach to skincare, but there are generally supported guidelines that are effective for most people. If you have a specific skincare need, you should speak to a dermatologist.
- For the most part, men and women do not have unique skincare needs. Nothing we recommend is “for men only”. The reason we’re writing about men’s wellness is, quite frankly, because too many men underinvest in self-care and maintenance, often due to an outdated belief that these things are “not masculine”.
Step 0: Get 8 hours of sleep
To be honest, this is Step 0 for just about every positive change you want to make in your life. Applying a healthy routine on top of sleep-deprived skin is like eating vegan while smoking two packs a day.
When you wake up:
Step 1: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
The objective of cleansing your face is to remove impurities, grime, and skincare products (such as SPF and facial oils) without stripping your skin of its natural lipids. This may require you to make a bit of an adjustment to what you think a clean face should feel like: those feelings of tightness, which you may have previously considered the sign of a deep-clean, are actually indicators that you’ve over-cleansed, and potentially done some damage to your skin.
Look for a cleanser that:
- Contains gentle surfactants. Here are some examples: decyl glucoside, coco-glucoside, disodium cocoyl glutamate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, cocoyl methyl glucamide, sodium cocoyl isethionate, and lauryl lactyl lactate
- Contains moisturizing ingredients to minimize the impacts of the surfactant, such as oils, butters, or proteins.
- Does not contain SLS, fragrances, parabens, or abrasive exfoliants.
Since even a gentle cleanser can strip your skin of essential lipids, you’ll want to use a small amount of product, gently rub it into moist skin in a circular motion (avoiding the eyes), and quickly wash it off with cool or luke-warm water. A common mistake is to leave the cleanser on the skin so that it will “sink in”. This is the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish in the cleansing stage.
Here are some cleansers we like:
- Drugstore classic: https://www.cerave.com/skincare/cleansers/hydrating-facial-cleanser
- No water needed: https://niod.deciem.com/us/low-viscosity-cleaning-ester-240ml.html
- Luxurious texture: https://www.clarinsusa.com/en/hydrating-gentle-foaming-cleanser/CS00242987.html
Step 2: Apply the right moisturizer for your skin
This is the part of the routine that will vary most, in response to your specific needs. Here are some general guidelines:
- Apply your moisturizer when the skin is still damp, as the occlusive elements in the moisturizer will help lock in this moisture.
- For oily skin, a lightweight, non-comedogenic (i.e. will not clog your pores) option will likely be best.
- For dry skin, a heavier ointment will provide additional moisture and serve as a protective barrier. Look for options with hyaluronic acid or glycerin.
- For sensitive skin, an all-natural, minimalist product will likely pose the least chance of irritation.
Here are a few moisturizers we like:
- Drugstore option for the extra-dry: https://www.neutrogena.com/products/skincare/neutrogena-hydro-boost-gel-cream-with-hyaluronic-acid-for-extra-dry-skin/6811048.html
- Lightweight, all-natural: https://www.youthtothepeople.com/products/superfood-air-whip-moisture-cream
- High-end Japanese: https://www.sk-ii.com/product/moisturizer/rna-power-radical-new-age
Step 3: Apply SPF (30 or higher)
At this point in human history, the importance of sun protection has been pretty well socialized, so we won’t go too deep here, though if you need a primer, here’s a great article from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/best-sunscreen/art-20045110
- Make sure to use at least SPF 30
- While it might be convenient to use a moisturizer with SPF, these products are typically less effective, and need to be re-applied frequently, so we recommend a dedicated sunblock.
- Both chemical and mineral based options can be effective, however, mineral options like zinc are more likely to leave a noticeable white cast on your skin.
- We prefer oil-free, lightweight sunscreens -- personally I have an issue with heavy textures on my face, so the best sunscreen is the one that I’m comfortable using daily.
Here are some of our favorite SPFs:
- Ultralight, urban protection: https://www.shiseido.com/us/en/urban-environment-oil-free-uv-protector-spf-42-sunscreen-9990000000141.html?cgid=face-sunscreen
- Clean, with a velvet texture: https://supergoop.com/products/unseen-sunscreen
Enhance the morning ritual:
Since you’ll be spending just a bit more time on your morning routine, this is a great opportunity to set an intention for the day. (If this sounds too new-agey for your tastes, bear with us.) Intentions help to guide your day, and put focus on the things that are really important to you. This doesn’t need to be a formal practice, but simply a moment of reflection on what you’re building toward in your life. I like to consider the thing that I’m most dreading on my to-do list, consider why I want to avoid it, and what statement I want to be true by the time my head hits the pillow. Remember, you’re not making a goal, you’re setting an intention for how you’d like to be today.
During the day: Stay hydrated and eat a diet that’s vegetable rich.
While research on the best foods for healthy skin is limited, there's growing evidence that antioxidant-rich foods have a protective effect for the epidermis. As a general rule, when you're looking to increase your antioxidant intake, seek out a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
Before you go to bed:
Step 4: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser (again) - in a luxurious setting
This is, for me, the most common point of failure in my routine. I’m a morning shower guy, and I’ve never had much of a night-time pre-bed ritual. I found that the secret was to make the process enjoyable by putting on some music, donning a comfortable robe, lighting my favorite candle, and altogether doing my best to channel the spirit of Niles Crane.
Step 5: Apply a facial oil with a non-irritating retinoid
By this point, you’ve likely noticed a theme. A good routine is one that keeps your skin’s natural moisture and lipids where they belong, and replaces what you lose. Facial oils are an effective way to restore your skin’s natural barrier, as well as a great delivery mechanism for antioxidants.
Most hesitancy around facial oils, especially from men, tends to come from the assumption that the oil will cause you to break out, make your skin greasy, or feel extremely heavy… but this is far from the truth. A good facial oil absorbs quickly into the skin, and leaves the wearer with a supple and balanced complexion.
While our female counterparts have already discovered the value of these types of products, they are still underutilized by most men, which is why we created our Evening Ritual Oil, a multi-tasker oil with a powerful retinoid, the single most dermatologist-recommended treatment for reducing the signs of aging.
Here’s what’s in it:
- Organic Virgin Marula Oil - a luxurious antioxidant rich oil from the kernel of the Marula fruit, native to Southern Africa
- Granactive Retinoid - This ester of all-trans retinoic acid is the most advanced form of vitamin A available over the counter. It provides all of the benefits of retinol with none of the irritation, so it's suitable for daily use.
- Ceramides - Ceramides are lipids that make up 50% of your skin's natural barrier.
Enhance the evening ritual:
While you’re performing your evening ritual, take a moment to reflect on the intention you set in the morning. How’d you do? Remember this isn’t a place for judgement, just observation. As you review the day, identify at least one thing that you’re grateful for. Gratitude isn’t mere sentimentality, it’s strongly correlated to long term happiness. I find that the most effective way to practice gratitude is to recontextualize negative experiences as opportunities to express appreciation.
Enjoy the ritual. Email us with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org