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 The 5-Step Pared-Down Skincare Routine That Delivers a Consistently Good Complexion

Photo: Ziga Mihelcic

Does your skincare routine still consist of a two-in-one shower gel-shampoo, a splash of aftershave, and a once-over with a soapy flannel? If so, it’s time to upgrade to a dedicated one that’s just as simple but pays dividends in looking well-groomed. “Skincare isn’t just for an aesthetic reason, but for keeping your skin in good health,” says Lydia Espin, founder of Essa Men, a Dubai-based men’s boutique salon. “One of the main functions of the skin is protection, so we need to do what we can to help by maintaining a basic skincare routine that can fight off pollution, sun damage, and dehydration, which inevitably lead to aging, sensitivity, and other concerns.” A solid regimen doesn’t need a bathroom cupboard full of products, however, with time and commitment making the greatest impact.

“The biggest skincare mistake I see men making is lack of consistency and multiple rotations of different products being applied, therefore not allowing a product time to show results,” says celebrity grooming and beauty expert Michael Brown. “You cannot expect results by skipping a few days, then looking tired and packing it on hoping for a quick fix. Give a new product at least four weeks to show its true results and skin benefits.” Espin adds, “When I explain skincare to my clients, I compare it to the gym or a fitness routine. You need to commit to it for several weeks or months to see an improvement.”

Step 1: Cleanse

Serum Infused Foaming Cleanser, Yehwadam Hwansaenggo

Cleansing is an obvious, yet crucial first step to rinse away any dirt and oil from the skin’s surface. “It’s important for guys to put on any other products they use on fresh, clean skin for best efficacy,” says Brown. “Large pores can be an issue for men, so cleansing daily helps reduce the appearance and rebalance the skin.” Cleanse first thing in the morning, and again at night; choose a gel formula for oilier skin types, or a cream wash for dry skin, and rinse off with warm – not hot – water. Worked out? Double cleanse by repeating the same step.

Step 2: Target

10% Pure Vitamin C Serum, La Roche-Posay

Supercharge a skincare regimen by targeting issues like pigmentation, acne, uneven tone, flaky dry patches, and dullness. A serum containing active ingredients can turn around a complexion in a month of use. When applying on clean skin following cleansing, choose a specialized product for the two separate times of day, or opt for more of a catch-all serum. “The two most effective actives for men, in my opinion, are vitamin C and retinol,” says Brown. “Vitamin C works on brightening skin tone and is a great antioxidant. Retinol should only be used at night and works on smoothing skin texture.” Espin adds, “Salicylic acid is great for oily skin; lactic for dry skin.”

Step 3: Hydrate

Vinoperfect Brightening Day Moisturizer, Caudalie

A simple moisturizer will act as a humectant, trapping the potent actives beneath for optimal absorbency and efficacy. A good rule of thumb when layering products is to apply thick over thin, in this case with the lighter treatment layer being topped by the thicker moisturizer. While the same moisturizer can be used for morning and evening, some men opt for formulas that wick away oil for daytime use. “If you like a more shine-free look during the day, you might choose a slightly more mattifying cream or something containing niacinamide, which is great for smoothing pores,” says Brown.

Step 4: Protect

City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50, Murad

The science is clear – wearing sunscreen is non-negotiable when it comes to skin health. “Even wearing something as simple as SPF will reduce aging compared to men who don’t wear it daily,” says Brown. “SPF is one step you absolutely shouldn’t be skipping, especially in the Middle East as we can’t really avoid sun exposure here,” says Espin. “Always make sure to apply your SPF in the morning to give you the protection you need to start your day.” Innovations in formulation mean sunscreen is now easily absorbed and undetectable on the skin, so there’s no excuse not to apply.

Step 5: Treat

Clarifying Mask, Tata Harper

Add in a weekly exfoliation, Brown says, to help tune up the complexion. “Whether it’s a manual exfoliating scrub or chemical exfoliation product with a BHA that’s best for oily skin, or an AHA for combination skin, this step will improve cell turnover and remove dead skin.” A monthly facial will enhance results, with extractions, peels, and light therapy maximizing a daily routine’s output. Espin says there is no one-size-fits-all solution, with the treatment dependent on the individual’s needs.

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Vogue Man Arabia

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