When it comes to skincare, one of the most important things to know is the ingredients used to make the skincare product. For men, the skincare ingredients that are beneficial to our skin are not an exact one to one correlation with what is usually highlighted for women. For example, while Retinol is a proven ingredient for both men and women on fighting acne, most men who have never been serious about skincare could have disastrous results using Retinol without extensive skincare knowledge. When thinking about skincare ingredients for men, most of us simply don’t have a strong enough foundation to properly understand the nuances of some of the more powerful skincare ingredients women use that could damage our skin if misused.
So which ingredients should men be looking out for when evaluating skincare products, especially men who have just started their skincare journey? Here are five key skincare ingredients that I’ve found to be essential for men.
#1. Hyaluronic Acid - Skin Type User(s): All Types, Especially Dry Skin
One of the cornerstone ingredients for moisturization, hyaluronic acid is an essential skincare ingredient for any product that promises hydration and moisturization. A humectant, an ingredient that can draw moisture by binding to water, hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient mainly present in the skin. Our naturally occurring hyaluronic acid levels can decrease through continued ultra-violet exposure (the sun) and skin damage. For any man looking to moisturize their skin, hyaluronic acid is an essential ingredient for an effective moisturizer. When looking at skincare product ingredient lists, ensure that hyaluronic acid appears close to the top of the ingredient list. Having it appear in the bottom means that the ingredient is not effective and is only used for marketing purposes.
#2 Salicylic Acid - Skin Type of User(s): Oily Skin (Acne-Prone)
The biggest reason men start caring about skincare tends to be due to extensive acne breakouts. Most of these breakouts tend to happen in our teenage years, primarily through puberty. One of the most effective ingredients for treating acne for men is salicylic acid. The primary cause for acne is producing too much oil (called sebum) that clogs our pores and causes us to break out. Salicylic acid breaks down the dead skin cells on your face and is excellent for clearing up oil and dirt on your skin. Importantly, it fights whiteheads and blackheads when you’re in the middle of a breakout. As someone with a different skin condition, psoriasis, salicylic acid has been part of my arsenal to maintain my skincare regiment for over 5 years.
#3 Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) - Skin Type of User(s) - All Types, Especially Oily Skin (Acne-Prone)
An all-around champion ingredient, niacinamide, is excellent for all types of skin. Like retinol, it helps boost collagen production without the potentially harsh side-effects. Niacinamide also works well to hydrate skin as a moisturizer. Which is why you’ll find that many lotions market that they contain niacinamide or vitamin B3. More importantly, for men with oily skin, unlike products that break down or absorb oil, niacinamide can reduce the amount of oil your skin produces to stop your pores from clogging from excess oil. So with niacinamide, you get the double effect of hydrating your skin by trapping moisture and reducing the potential for breakouts.
#4 Sunscreen - Skin Typer of User(s) - All Types
While technically not just one ingredient, products with sunscreen are a must for men. Men are severely deficient when it comes to sun protection. One of the top reasons we have skin problems is because we don’t protect our skin from the sun. You may not notice right away, but in the long run, UV rays can have significant adverse effects on your skin, with one in five people developing some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, sunscreen prevents that. Not to mention that there are added benefits like reducing wrinkles and saves your skin from feeling like leather. When buying a daily face moisturizer, try to buy a product that has sunscreen as an added effect. If you’re moisturizing your face every day anyway, you may as well also protect it from the harmful effects of the sun.
#5 Charcoal Power - Skin Type of User(s) - Oily Skin (Acne-Prone)
Unlike the other ingredients in this list, charcoal isn’t as straightforward to use. Too much charcoal can seriously dry-up your skin, but I felt obligated to add charcoal as it’s an ingredient primarily marketed in products for men. I guess the word coal in the spelling makes it seem “manlier.” However, even though there is a significant marketing angle to charcoal, it is still a phenomenal skincare ingredient. Its primary purpose is to absorb oil from your skin to stop it from clogging up your pores and preventing breakouts. However, when using charcoal powder, you must use a moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying up. If you leave your skin too dry from charcoal powder usage, your oil glands will react by actually producing more oil. This is why following up with a moisturizer or a product containing moisturizing properties is so important. Something to note here is to always read the ingredient list. Plenty of products claim charcoal, but many don’t have a significant enough amount to be effective. Make sure that charcoal is closer to the top of the ingredient list.
Many ingredients work well for men’s skin, and this list is just the start. However, just like the ingredients above, researching the properties and use-cases of ingredients is important in deciding which skincare products to buy. When it comes to taking care of your skin, the ingredients used in the formulation is far more important than the marketing.