Men’s skincare routine: Which men’s grooming products do you *actually* need?

When it comes to establishing a good men’s skincare routine, there are grooming products you should be using, and products that are useful, but not essential. Below we explain how to know the difference


Men’s grooming products, and the rise of men looking to establish an easy, effective skincare routine has seen the market flooded with brands, skincare and tools in recent months.


Yet while this means there’s a wide range of products to choose from, it also means things can get a little complicated. Do you need to spend more to get more? Is a cleansing balm better than a cleansing foam? What the hell is a serum?


Adding just one or two steps into your men’s skincare routine can boost blood circulation around your face and help de-stress and de-puff your appearance. It helps clear up acne, reduces the signs of wrinkles, gets rid of any red patches, and even makes shaving easier.


Plus, establishing a skincare routine, no matter how basic, not only benefits your skin but also benefits your mental health. Even if it’s 10 minutes in the morning and evening, so-called self-care has been scientifically proven to improve your mood.


To help you get started, we’ve listed what we consider to be the basics of any men’s skincare routine below, with some recommendations to get you started. If you don’t already know your skin type, take a look at the What skin type do I have? guide on our sister site, mamabella. It explains a simple test you can do to find out.


Also, don’t be overwhelmed by this. You can use all of the products if you wise. Or, if you don’t have time, the money or the inclination for anything too complex, we recommend you get at least a cleanser and a moisturiser. A cleanser removes dirt, a moisturiser creates a barrier on your skin to keep it hydrated.


FURTHER READING: Men’s skin vs women’s skin: Are there differences or is it marketing BS?


Men’s skincare routine

Skincare order men how to layer mens skincare routine

The above chart shows you the basic grooming products on offer. There are various other types – essences, night creams, eye creams, face masks, and so on – but those listed above should be standard. Below we explain a bit more about what each one does.


FURTHER READING: Best subscription boxes for men UK for all your skincare, shaving and grooming needs



Men’s grooming products explained


Men’s skincare routine step 1: Cleanser (essential) 


Using a cleanser for your face is a great way to remove dirt, and sebum and freshen up the skin. In the morning, cleansers help clear away any sweat you accumulated during the night. They also remove anything that’s rubbed off from your pillowcase. Even the smallest amount of hair gel, for example, can get on your pillow and as you toss and turn in your sleep, this gets rubbed all over your face.


In the evening, cleansers clear your face and pores of any pollution, dirt, dust, or similar that your face has come into contact with. This includes anything you’ve inadvertently rubbed onto your face from your hands when you’ve scratched your face, adjusted your glasses etc.


Face cleansers shouldn’t leave your skin feeling squeaky clean, in fact, that could mean you’re stripping away the natural oils on your skin. Instead, they should leave your skin fresh but not tight or dry.


If you have normal/dry skin we recommend: CeraVe Hydrating Cream to Foam Cleanser (£12.50)


If you have oily/combination skin we recommend: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel (£18)


CeraVe Hydrating Cream to Foam Cleanser

£12.50 | Buy now from Amazon


Men's skincare routine cleanserCeraVe is the brand to use for no fuss or frills. It just does the job. This cleanser easily removes dirt without stripping away the skin’s natural barrier. It contains three essential ceramides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid.


Ceramides are fatty substances found naturally in the skin, so using skincare with ceramides helps restore the suppleness of your face. Amino acids help to strengthen the immune system, maintain the skin’s hydration, resilience, and make your skin look better.


While hyaluronic acid is a sugar found naturally in cells which can hold 1,000 times its own weight in moisture.


This Hydrating Cream to Foam cleanser is suitable for normal to dry skin and is fragrance and soap-free, meaning you can also use it if your skin is sensitive.


How to use: Wet your face with warm (not hot) water, pump the cleanser in the palm of your hand. Rub it together in your palms, so the cream transforms into foam, and massage gently around the face. Do this for one minute, avoiding your eye area, then rinse your face with warm water and pat dry.



La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel

£9.37 | Buy now from Boots

We’re big fans of La Roche-Posay. Despite its fancy-sounding name, it specialises in simple, straightforward skincare that does as promised.


This is a popular face cleanser for people who have oily skin, and those of us who get spots and blackheads.


It doesn’t need a lot of work to get it to foam up on your skin. You just need a splash of water and small blob of cleanser to cover your whole face and neck. This goes some way towards justifying its relatively high price – a little goes a long way, so this should last you a while.


It gently removes dirt, grime, and sebum that sit on the surface of the skin. It doesn’t leave the skin feeling dry or tight, and it doesn’t have any strong fragrances.


How to use: Wet your hands with warm water, pump into the palm of your hand and work into a lather. Massage around the face (avoiding the eyes) for a minute. Rinse your face with warm water and pat dry.



Men’s skincare routine step 2: Toner (optional)


Toners are often the product many skip in a men’s skincare routine and technically, you can do without it. They’re not as essential as cleansers and moisturisers. However, if you suffer from spots, oily skin, and large pores, we highly recommend adding one in. Even if you only use it once a day.


By using a toner, you get rid of any dead skin cells and impurities you may have missed with your cleanser. It also helps remove any leftover cleanser residue. This is why it’s particularly important for people with acne.


Toners also give the skin a quick blast of moisture and create a clear canvas on which to apply all other skincare products. This means the products taht follow are able to penetrate the skin and work more effectively, so you’re getting better value for money.


If you have normal/dry skin we recommend: Grüum Gösta Rejuvenating Facial Tonic (£7)


If you have oily/combination skin we recommend: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80)


Grüum Gösta Rejuvenating Facial Tonic

£7 | Buy now from Mankind

Toners are always a liquid, and the majority need to be applied to the fact using a cotton pad or similar. Yet, you can get toner mists that are quicker and easier to use. This toner from Grüum falls into the latter category.


It contains witch hazel, which helps tighten and shrink your pores. This then helps reduce oil, and can reduce spots.


It also contains antiseptic chamomile which clears the skin of spots, blemishes, and bacteria. Elsewhere, orange refreshes the skin.


Not only is this misting tonic hugely affordable, at £7, it can also be used as a primer, and as a way to refresh your skin during the day.


Despite its foreign-looking name, this tonic is made in England from 98% naturally derived ingredients and is cruelty-free, free from any nasties that can be harsh on the skin.


How to use: Spray this mist all over the face and let it dry. As it evaporates, it helps tighten your pores and carries gunk away. If you want to make sure it gets where it needs to go, you can still spread it around your face using a cotton pad.



The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

£6.80 | Buy now from Beauty Bay

best toner for a men's skincare routineThe Ordinary is another no-nonsense, gender-neutral brand that produces simple, yet highly effective products for bargain prices. This glycolic acid toner is no exception.


Glycolic acid is what’s known as an alpha-hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate the upper layers of the skin. This means it works to clear pores and get rid of any dead skin cells laying on the surface.


As a result, it’s a must-have for anyone looking to stick to a budget while still achieving amazing results. It helps clear the skin of spots, doesn’t leave your face feeling too tight and brightens your complexion; removing any redness.


It also contains ginseng, and aloe vera, which further reduces redness and irritation.


How to use: Apply to a cotton wool pad, or ball, and wipe gently over your face and neck. You don’t need to rinse. You can also apply this with a soft cloth or flannel.


FURTHER READING: The best skincare products from The Ordinary that will finally sort out your face



Men’s skincare routine step 3: Serum (optional) 


While cleansers, toners, and the best moisturisers are designed to work on the upper layers of the skin, a serum works below the surface. They contain smaller molecules that target the layers you can’t see, using where your skin’s scaffolding is. This is why serums are great for fighting the signs of ageing like wrinkles and fine lines.


Serums are usually concentrated liquids, rather than creams. They also absorb into your skin faster and feel thinner.


The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Face Serum

£5.90 | Buy now from Boots

As with the entire The Ordinary range, its Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum is cheap, cheerful, and just works.


It actually contains three different types of hyaluronic acid. Each one has a different molecular weight meaning they can each target specific layers of the skin. There is also what The Ordinary calls a hyaluronic acid cross-polymer, to offer “multi-depth” hydration.


This helps make the skin look plumper and firmer without drawing water out.


It then also contains Vitamin B5 which leaves your skin feeling softer and less rough.


How to use: Put a drop or two of this serum onto your palms, rub your hands together and then massage into your face. You can also dropper it directly onto your face if you want to reduce any wastage left on your hands.



Men’s skincare routine step 4: Eye cream (optional)


You may not think you need a separate eye cream if you’re already using a cleanser, serum and moisturiser and it’s not an essential grooming product.


However, at some point your eyes will start showing signs of ageing. This usually happens long before you get wrinkles anywhere else on your face, or neck. The reason being that the skin around your eyes is thinner. It also doesn’t contain any oil glands. This means it dries out super quick, and can’t hydrate itself.


If you’ve ever seen a grape shrivel up, you’ll know that a lack of moisturise causes wrinkles and bunching. The same happens to the skin around your eyes. Also, because the skin is thinner, it’s easier to see dark circles underneath, and it’s why you get eye bags.


A word of caution, though. Due to the fact the skin is so much thinner, you have to be gentle with it. Try not to pull the skin or rub creams in too vigorously because you could damage it, and it’s less likely to spring back.


Eye creams are specially formulated to help address all of these issues. In particular, eye serums and creams are a lot lighter than standard moisturisers. This means they sink into the skin better. Serums go deeper than creams but they both help to depuff around the eye area if you’ve had a late night. They keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay and can reduce dark circles.


L’Oreal Paris Men Expert Hydra Energetic Anti-Fatigue Eye Roll-On

£12 | Buy now from Amazon

 This eye serum is fuss-free, its gel-like formula gives an ice-cool sensation to instantly awaken your eye area. A sensation helped by the addition of a metal rollerball.


This roll-on ball makes it very easy to gently roll around the eye area. It helps reduce bags and puffiness and contains Vitamin C.


Vitamin C is great for brightening the skin which, when combined with B5 helps hydrate the entire area.


How to use: Use morning and night. Apply the eye roll-on side gently under the eyes. Use your ring finger (third finger) and pat around the eye orb till the formula is gone.



CeraVe Eye Repair Cream

£12 | Buy now from Amazon

Men's skincare routine eye creamAn eye cream can be slightly heavier than a serum but packs a punch. The key to using eye cream is to not apply too much; a small amount is enough. Remember the skin around the eye is a lot thinner.


Eye cream is best used in the evening, it can help keep the area around the eye hydrated throughout the night and this gives it time to sink in.


This eye cream from CeraVe is simple, clean, and hydrating. It supports your natural skin barrier, keeping the skin hydrated all day or evening. It is also fast-absorbing so there’s no need to hang about for this to sink in if you do choose to use it in the morning.


As its name suggests, it will help repair and care for the skin around your eyes and reduce dark circles and puffiness. All giving the look of a brighter and smoother eye area.


How to use: Apply small dots around the eye area using your ring finger. Pat around the eye orb until fully absorbed. This can be used twice a day.



Men’s skincare routine step 5: Moisturiser (essential) 


Moisturiser is an important, and we think essential, final step in your men’s skincare routine. It seals all the ingredients and vitamins you’ve put on your face during the first parts of your routine in, while protecting your face from the outside world. It also keeps the skin hydrated, smooth and nourished.


Moisturisers come in different forms to help your skin look brighter, smoother and help with fine lines and wrinkles. If you get a moisturiser that contains SPF, you can also kill two birds with one stone, and it’s a great way to protect the skin from UVA and UVB. Plus all the damage that these rays cause to the skin.


FURTHER READING: Best moisturiser for men: The best men’s moisturiser with SPF and for dry, oily or dull skin

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream SPF 30

£26 | Buy now from Feelunique

This moisturiser is an all-in-one. It contains SPF 30 to give you sunscreen protection. It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and we love that it gives the skin great hydration without feeling greasy. What’s more, it doesn’t clog up pores (something known as non-comedogenic), which can often lead to spots.

It also leaves the skin looking balanced and healthy, even in harsh weather conditions. It really is the best moisturiser for men, and works well for women, too.


The downside is that it’s not cheap. Far from it, but a little goes a long way and you’re saving money doubling up with a separate sunscreen.


How to use in a men’s skincare routine: After you’ve applied all your other skincare and grooming products, dot this moisturiser on your cheeks, chin, and forehead and massage it into your face until it’s absorbed. Always massage up, rather than pulling your skin down, to avoid sagging skin.



Indeed Labs Vitamin C24

£16 | Buy now from Amazon

Vitamin C is a little miracle ingredient. It helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, it brightens the skin to even out your skin tone, it gives a youthful and fresh appearance, and helps protect it from wind, pollution, and harsh weather conditions.


What’s more, this product from Indeed Labs is not only a moisturiser, but it’s a serum, too.


Inside is a high concentration (22%) of Vitamin C, plus 2% hyaluronic acid which helps your skin retain water and moisture.


Because it has such high levels of Vitamin C, we suggest using this moisturiser/serum a couple of times a week in your men’s skincare routine to give your skin time to get used to it.


How to use in a men’s skincare routine: After you’ve applied all your other skincare and grooming products, dot this moisturiser on your cheeks, chin, and forehead and massage it into your face until it’s absorbed. Always massage up, rather than pulling your skin down, to avoid sagging skin.



Weekly: Exfoliation


This step in men’s skincare routines should only be done once or twice a week. Exfoliating your skin helps remove any dead skin that is sitting on the surface.


When you exfoliate, it gives other skincare products the chance to work better, which will not only show in your face, but it will help you save money too. If you do it too much though, it can have the opposite effect. You’ll know if you’re over-exfoliating if your forehead looks shiny (if it doesn’t normally).


The Ordinary toner we recommend above has an exfoliating ingredient so also lookout for this if you start to see problems. It could be that you’re over-exfoliating by accident.


Super Facialist Vitamin B3 Invigorating Face Scrub

£9 | Buy now from Amazon

This creamy scrub lifts dead skin, impurities, and unclogs pores. It contains what the brand describes as exfoliating Icelandic Volcanic Sand blends. It’s these which give the scrub its grainy texture.


It also contains hydrating cactus water, Acai, and niacinamide. All great ingredients that help clear your skin without damaging it.


Despite the fact it’s called a scrub, this exfoliator doesn’t leave the skin feeling raw or harsh. And even if it did, it also contains shea butter and almond oil to moisturise the skin. This exfoliator can be used once a week. Once you’ve built up a tolerance for it, you can then use it twice a week.


How to use: Squeeze directly onto your fingertips and use circular movements to gently smooth into a damp face and neck. Massage for around a minute, avoiding the eye area, and rinse well with warm water. Pat skin dry and follow with moisturiser.



Jack Black Face Buff Energizing Scrub

£18.50 | Buy now from Amazon

This face scrub will definitely give your face a lift and zing, thanks to the use of mint. This helps cool and refresh the skin, which reduces inflammation, puffiness, and redness.


It helps unclog pores and prevents ingrown hair. This makes it a great pre-shave cleanser as well as a scrub.


The scrubbing particles are made from eco-friendly, biodegradable ingredients including bamboo powder. It also contains Vitamin C to help brighten the skin and make it feel smooth.


How to use: Once a week to start with, squeeze a penny size on your fingertips and massage gently onto a wet face for one minute. Avoid the eye area. Rinse well with warm water and pat dry. Follow with moisturiser after. You can build up to using this twice a week once your skin is used to it.