For pretty much everyone, knowing where to start with a skincare routine can be daunting. There is an overwhelming amount of products to choose from, lingo to learn, and experts to follow.
That’s where we come in. Here, you can find everything you need to know about creating a skincare routine (for both morning and evening), products to use, how to tackle various skin conditions, and how it slots into your shaving routine, too.
Should guys have a skincare routine?
In short: absolutely. A skincare routine isn’t reserved for women only and it can have incredible benefits for men, too. Skincare at home has the ability to calm acne, soothe eczema and even dramatically reduce signs of ageing.
If you’re thinking “but men don’t get wrinkles,” sorry to say, this 2018 study proves otherwise. In fact, (apart from the 65 to 75 age group), men showed greater facial wrinkles than women.
The good news? There’s plenty you can do about it — and it doesn’t have to be complicated. With just a few simple steps, you can dramatically improve your skin, making it appear healthier and feel more comfortable.
If you’ve got a particular skin concern in mind, (be it acne, pigmentation or ageing) there are certain products that can help make a significant difference.
Do men need different products than women?
It's true that men's skin and women’s skin is slightly different — men typically have thicker skin, more sebum, and generally have less hydrated skin than women. There are, of course, variables across the board for all people, but it gives a good indication of how your skin might be behaving.
Having said that, many experts don’t believe skincare should be created based on your sex, but rather on your skin condition, type and desired outcome. So, how do you do that?
Know your skin type
Fundamentally, the skincare ingredients for men and women are the same. The most important factor is actually what skin type you have. The main skin types include:
- Oily: Your skin appears shiny throughout the day
- Dry: Your skin lacks oil and possibly flakes
- Sensitive: Your skin feels tight and uncomfortable
- Combination: You have areas of oily skin (typically your T-zone).
Then, you can have skin conditions on top of that (though these typically fit into the above categories too). The most common skin conditions are:
- Acne: Persistent breakouts that present with whiteheads and cysts, redness and scarring
- Rosacea: An inflammatory condition leading to redness (or purple-ish skin in darker skin tones), breakouts, and thickened skin
- Eczema: An inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy, cracked skin
- Psoriasis: An autoimmune disorder causing a build-up of skin cells, presenting as flakey patches of skin.
A simple morning skincare routine for men
The best way to begin a skincare routine for anyone is to keep it simple. You won’t catch us doing 12 skincare steps over here. This way, you’ll get to know your skin type better, what products work best and what products you like.
Morning and evening, just three quick steps are required (four if you want to step it up a notch).
A morning routine is all about protecting your skin for the day ahead.
Step one: Cleanse
Cleansing in the morning is a super simple quick step. The aim is just to remove any sweat from the night before and start with a clean canvas.
Step two: Moisturise
Ideally, you should moisturise daily regardless of your skin type. People with dry skin might need a thicker cream and those with combination skin might do best with a gel-like texture. If you have super oily skin, you might want to skip moisturiser and just use your sunscreen.
Step three: Sunscreen
Whether the sun is shining or not, sunscreen is the most important step of all. It protects against sun damage from UVA and UVB rays (which are responsible for ageing and burning respectively), which in turn, prevents skin cancer as well as premature ageing.
UV rays can still cause premature ageing, even if it's cloudy.
Sunscreen is king
When it comes to ageing prevention, effective sun protection is especially important if you’ve got hyperpigmentation as this can accelerate further damage.
Essentially, any money you’re spending on smart serums and prescriptive skincare is a little redundant if you’re not protecting your skin against the sun’s strong rays. Plus, ingredients like retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. So, just wear sunscreen, OK?
A straightforward men's skincare routine in the evening
Your evening routine is all about removing the grime your skin has accumulated from the day ahead and letting your smart treatments work while you sleep.
Step one: Gentle cleanser
Cleansers come in a variety of textures (oil, cream, foam) to suit your skin type and mostly your preference.
Once you’ve chosen which one you like, apply to dry skin so you’ve covered your whole face, then add some water to emulsify. Gently work into your skin in circular motions for 60 seconds and rinse.
Step two: Customised treatment
The customised treatment is where you tackle your skin concerns. This is the step in which you’d apply your bespoke Pilot prescription treatment, which targets a skin concern like acne, ageing or pigmentation.
Pilot's personalised skin formulas are custom compounded for your skin type. Simply take the online quiz and a Pilot skin expert will create your very own formula, which is delivered straight to your door.
When you first start your new routine, you likely won’t need to apply your serum or treatment every single night. This is because your skin needs to get used to the prescription-strength treatments. Starting once a week and building up is typically the best way to go.
Our top tip would be to wait a minute or so after applying your prescription cream before moving on to your moisturiser.
Step three: Eye cream (optional)
Eye cream is optional but if you do choose to use one, it's always best to apply it prior to moisturising. This is so you get the powerful ingredients locked in where you want them and also prevents something called milia.
Milia are tiny white bumps, often under the eye area that can be caused by thick moisturiser on the delicate skin.
Step four: Moisturiser
Locking in that hydration makes sure that your skin won’t dry out from your treatment. Choosing a moisturiser depends on your skin type. If you have oily skin, you’ll likely prefer a lightweight gel cream. Those with drier skin might prefer a thicker night cream texture.
If you're dealing with dry skin caused by your custom formula, which is a common side effect of the prescription ingredients, you can try the 'moisture sandwich' technique to alleviate flaky skin.
This technique involves applying moisturiser after cleaning, letting it sink into the skin for 10 to 15 minutes and then applying your custom Pilot formula before applying another layer of moisturiser.
This helps create a barrier between your skin and the product, helping to reduce dryness and irritation.
How to use exfoliating products
Exfoliating products are where things can get a little confusing, but it’s worth wrapping your head around because they can change your skincare game for the better.
A good exfoliation once a week can help speed up cell renewal, slough off dead skin cells, and reveal a brighter complexion. There are two types of exfoliating products: chemical and physical.
Chemical exfoliators work by removing dead skin cells using smart ingredients and formulations. The level of exfoliation really depends on the type and strength of the ingredient.
There are three types of chemical exfoliators: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and poly hydroxy acids.
Each of them works slightly differently but has the same goal of breaking down the "glue" holding dead skin cells together, unclogging pores, treating pigmentation and preventing breakouts.
Alpha hydroxy acids
AHAs are water-soluble with a small molecule, meaning it can penetrate deep into the skin. In doing this, it can get to work breaking down dead skin cells, unclogging pores and generally giving you a brighter complexion.
AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid to name a few) can be found in cleansers, serums and even pimple patches to target stubborn pimples.
Since AHAs have a small molecule, they’re considered the strongest acid of the group. For this reason, it’s best to build up your skin’s tolerance slowly so you don’t disrupt your skin barrier (more on that later).
AHAs are great for treating congestion, oily skin and uneven skin tones.
Beta hydroxy acids
BHAs are oil-soluble, which makes it a great option to work on unclogging those pores deep within the skin. Unlike the others with multiple acids per group, there’s actually just one BHA and that’s salicylic acid. It has a larger molecule size so is tolerated by most skin types.
Using a product like Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash a few times a week can prevent these breakouts and treat stubborn pigmentation left behind from spots.
Top tip: you can also use this as a body wash on areas of your body that get congested like your back and chest.
BHAS are great for those with acne-prone skin (blackheads and whiteheads) as well as congestion and oily skin.
Poly hydroxy acids
Known as the acid suited best for sensitive skin, PHAs (galactose and lactobionic) have the biggest molecule of them all, meaning it can’t penetrate as deep into the skin as the others and in turn, cause less irritation.
It works by sloughing off the top layer of dead skin cells to reduce congestion. This gentle exfoliation can also help with improving fine lines and evening out your skin tone.
PHAs are great for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin types that still experience congestion.
You can also find exfoliators that contain fruit enzymes, which work in the same way but often a little more gently. These aren’t labelled in the same way that acids are so can require a little more trial and error to find one that suits your skin type.
Physical exfoliators are what they say on the bottle. These formulas contain tiny (non-plastic) grains that help physically scrub off dead skin from the surface.
Whilst these sound like the best way to get the job done, they aren’t always superior to chemical exfoliators. If you have an oily, more resilient skin type you’ll likely get on well with physical exfoliators. For sensitive skin types, it’s typically best to stick to chemical exfoliators; specifically PHAs.
Start by using an exfoliating product once a week and increasing to a maximum of three times a week if you feel like you need it. More sensitive skin types will likely only need to use an exfoliating product once a week.
As a general rule, you want to avoid over-exfoliating where at all possible as it can lead to an impaired skin barrier. This means that your skin isn't working as well to keep good bacteria in and bad bacteria out.
This can make skin conditions much worse and even create issues such as dermatitis and lead to skin dryness and even peeling. In short: it’s just bad news for your complexion.
How to tackle acne-prone skin
Tackling acne-prone skin isn’t a one size fits all approach, which is exactly why Pilot’s acne treatment is so ideal. Although it’s tempting to throw every product at your skin and scrub as hard as humanly possible, actually treating acne gently is the best approach.
Having acne means that your skin is likely quite sensitive so any harsh treatments and overzealous application can aggravate it and make redness, inflammation and blemishes worse.
Key ingredients like prescription retinoids, azelaic acid and niacinamide can help to speed up cell turnover, fight acne-causing bacteria and calm inflammation.
With acne, it really is best to get a specific, tailor-made treatment versus going the trial and error approach — especially given the key to managing acne is consistency with the right products.
It can take around six weeks to see a visible difference, but for some people, it may take a little longer to reach your desired skin goals so don’t be tempted to chop and change products as your skin needs time to adjust.
A good way to manage breakouts that pop up in this period is with pimple patches. Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches penetrate zits to kill off acne-causing bacteria and reduce the size of the breakout in just two hours.
If your acne is severe, you may need the added help of prescribed oral antibiotics.
How to update your skincare routine on shaving days
A good skincare routine will also set you up for a good shaving routine. The two definitely go hand in hand and having consistency will prevent dreaded razor bumps.
Razor bumps — medically known as pseudofolliculitis barbae — can be caused by ingrown hairs that create irritation and have a rash-like appearance. Razor bumps are far more common in Black men.
Step one: Prep
Start by cleansing your face, making sure to pay extra attention to your facial hair. While people often think this helps to 'open pores' and unclog them, pores don't actually open and close.
Instead, this step ensures that you're removing any grime, dirt, oil or sweat on the skin, while also helping to soften the hairs on your face.
Step two: Exfoliate
If you want to exfoliate after cleaning, it's best to do this prior to shaving versus after shaving.
However, you shouldn’t (and don’t need to) exfoliate every day, even if you shave every day. It's also not a good idea to use a physical exfoliator as it can cause micro-irritations, so stick to a chemical exfoliant.
Step three: Shaving cream
It’s always a good idea to shave with shaving cream to give a good slip and decrease the chance of friction, which can lead to irritation and redness.
Step four: Moisturiser
Moisturising after shaving is always a good idea. It can help calm inflammation, add hydration and help to protect the surface of your skin.
Step five: SPF
If you’re shaving in the morning, be sure to apply sunscreen afterwards. It might take a little trial and error to find out which one doesn’t irritate your skin, but generally, a formula that is alcohol and fragrance-free will work well.
It’s also important to ensure that you’re using a sharp razor, making sure to change the blade regularly.
Still a little bit confused when it comes to skin treatments? We got you. Software’s tailor-made skincare treatment is sent straight to your door to take the guesswork out of navigating ingredients.