Hey, guy—you’re getting old. No, really, it’s a fact: Starting at at age 20, the body reduces its collagen production one percent every year. This process, called intrinsic aging, causes the skin to gradually appear thinner and less resilient, oil glands to decrease their production of skin-softening sebum, and an overall loss of firmness. This all leads to the infamous “signs of aging,” which include those fine lines that start to creep up at the corners of your eyes, that brownish discoloration that doesn’t fade with your summer tan, and those ever-deepening forehead lines that make you look a little more “full of wisdom” in your selfies.
There are also extrinsic aging factors that include certain lifestyle choices like sun exposure, smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of sleep, all of which can further contribute to these telltale signs of aging.
But there’s no reason to fear: There are plenty of preventive and corrective measures you can take to lessen these symptoms of the inevitable, starting with an easy-to-follow skincare routine. “In addition to simply keeping your skin hydrated and healthy on a daily basis, a skincare routine helps prevent damage before it begins and reduce signs of aging later in life, so your skin looks younger for longer,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic.
To help us find the best anti-aging skincare for men, we rounded up two industry experts, Engelman and Kristine Kellner, a BABOR Expert Esthetician, to give us the facts about aging and the products and ingredients that can truly make a difference.
Meet the Expert
- Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic and a member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board.
- Kristine Kellner is a BABOR Expert Esthetician.
Aging and Male Skin
Several key factors can affect how male skin ages. Engelman explains that androgens (testosterone) cause men’s skin to be 25% thicker than women’s, which leads to a higher concentration of collagen and elastin—and therefore firmer skin that tends to look more youthful in older age. Kellner also points out that the muscle structure beneath male-aligned skin may create stronger facial expressions that can cause deeper lines and wrinkles as time goes on.
Another concern is shaving. While the regular exfoliation provided by shaving turns out to be a good thing for most guys, Engelman says there are still just as many who are doing it improperly, which causes irritation that can harm skin over time by compromising its protective barrier. To remedy this, she advises putting more effort into pre-shave prep.
What Ingredients Should You Be Looking For?
Just because a product has the words “anti-aging” on the label doesn’t guarantee it actually does anything to address signs of aging. However, there are a few proven ingredients that can make a difference if used correctly.
- Retinoids: Engelman highly recommends retinoids for her patients dealing with the first signs of aging. “It is the active form of vitamin A in the body, and it combats fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the skin’s collagen," she says. "By stimulating the production of blood vessels underneath the skin, retinoids help to balance skin color and get rid of unwanted hyperpigmentation.”
- Vitamin C: As a powerful antioxidant, Kellner explains how vitamin C keeps skin looking firm, healthy, and vibrant by neutralizing free radical damage from sun exposure and environmental irritants and lightening hyperpigmentation and melanin displacement. Engelman also points out that vitamin C is an effective exfoliant that triggers cell turnover, which causes skin to think it’s being “damaged,” sending collagen production into overdrive.
- Niacinamide: A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is enjoying a wave of popularity at the moment as a jack-of-all-trades ingredient. Engelman explains how niacinamide helps to fortify the skin’s natural barrier—similar to retinoids, but without irritation, so it may be a good choice for those with sensitive skin, while acting as an antioxidant to fight free radical damage and reduce redness and irritation.
- Hyaluronic Acid: A carbohydrate naturally occurring throughout the body, hyaluronic acid is able to hold 1,000 times its weight in water, Engelman says, which comes in handy as we age and skin loses its moisture. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid locks in moisture and improves texture, creating a protective barrier for the skin for a plumper, more supple (and therefore wrinkle-less) appearance.
- AHAs and BHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids aid the skin’s natural exfoliation process on both the surface and deeper levels, helping skin to appear brighter and smoother while ensuring better penetration of effective skincare ingredients.
Building the Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine for Men
The good news is that you don’t need a ton of products, Kellner explained. “A simple preventive routine will help maintain a youthful looking complexion, but once you start experiencing signs of aging, it is time to start stepping up your routine.”
Step 1: Cleanse
Wash your face using a gentle, basic cleanser that suits your skin type and needs, and make sure the water isn't too hot, which can strip moisture from your skin.
Engelman recommends CeraVe for its simple formula and effective results.
If you’re acne-prone, stick with a cleanser containing salicylic acid to tame oil production and keep blemishes at bay.
Step 2: Apply Vitamin C Serum
A daily dose of vitamin C applied topically will help protect skin from free radical damage while promoting a brighter, firmer complexion.
GloSkin’s take on daily vitamin C also protects against environmental pollution and blue light damage from phone and computer screens.
This budget vitamin C serum from TruSkin is one Amazon click away and is famous for its radiance-boosting abilities.
Step 3: Moisturize
Keep skin hydrated with a lightweight yet nourishing moisturizer to preserve its natural moisture balance.
Babor’s Detox Vitamin Cream helps further fight environmental damage and boosts skin’s regeneration process.
This everyday lotion from The Ordinary is packed with hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated and supple.
Step 4: Apply SPF
When it comes to the aging process, the sun is public enemy #1, so always keep covered—even on cloudy days.
This simple SPF provides all-day protection and contains antioxidants to umbrella your face from all the elements.
Step 1: Double Cleanse
Engelman recommends double cleansing with a cleansing oil, followed by your usual facial cleanser, to thoroughly remove your SPF and any grime that may have built up during the day.
Tatcha’s cleansing oil is thick and nourishing yet light and refreshing at the same time.
Three Ships’ cleansing oil is fortified with tea tree oil, making it great for the oily and acne-prone.
Step 2: Apply Retinol Treatment
Retinol can cause dryness and irritation at first, so Engelman recommends starting with just once or twice per week and increasing as your skin becomes more tolerant.
She recommends Elizabeth Arden’s capsule-based retinol, as it’s 76% more effective than un-encapsulated retinol and it's biodegradable packaging is environmentally friendly.
Neutrogena’s retinol-laced cream is a drugstore superstar and contains hyaluronic acid for extra hydration while you sleep.
Treatments (1–2 Times a Week)
To help give skin an extra glow and boost its renewal process, treat yourself to an exfoliating treatment 1–2 times a week.
GloSkin’s GlyPro kit is like a facial in a box, delivering professional chemical peel results such as diminished fine lines and smoother texture, from the comfort of home.
The luxurious foam from this Babor cleanser contains enzymes that gently buff away dead cells without being rough on your skin. It also contains vitamin C for extra brightening action.
The Final Takeaway
Both of our experts agreed that there’s no such thing as the fountain of youth, but that the power to look and feel your best in the face of aging lies within. The best anti-aging for men solution comes down to effort, a fact Kellner sums up by saying, “If you want to see results, you need to do the work. Think of it like going to the gym, but for your skin. The better you take care of it, the better the results.”