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Face it, guys: You can work out your abs and biceps like a beast — but if you’re a mess from the neck up, that’s what people are going to notice.
Investing in a good face wash and establishing a regular face-washing routine can keep you looking healthy. And (if you’re wearing a face mask for COVID-19 prevention) it can also help you avoid an outbreak of “maskne.”
“Stress, maskne, extra blue light exposure from nonstop Zoom meetings — it’s all taking a toll on our skin,” says Iva Teixeira, co-founder and CEO of The Good Face Project.
You know that old saying about having thick skin? It’s literally true: men have thicker skin than women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
But the skin on your face is thinner than that on other parts of your body, no matter your gender. Therefore, it takes a lot more time and attention to maintain a healthy-looking face.
Skin type varies from person to person. Your face may have skin that’s dry, oily, sensitive, or a combination of all, so choosing the right kind of face wash is important.
“If you are sensitive, stick to micellar water,” New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner says. “If you have dry skin, use a hydrating cleanser. If you have oily skin look for a foaming wash. If you are acne-prone, choose a cleanser that contains salicylic acid.”
The AAD also recommends a moisturizing face wash if you’re prone to razor bumps, razor burns, or ingrown hairs.
If you have acne- (or maskne) prone skin, look for face cleansers labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” — these won’t clog your pores, dermatologists say.
Some anti-acne products also contain exfoliants like charcoal to help remove dirt and oil from the pores of the skin.
“Men tend to be more prone to blackheads and ingrown hairs, so a cleanser that exfoliates is key to use several times a week to keep them in check,” says celebrity makeup artist Suzy Gerstein.
Not to get cheeky, but soap isn’t dope. It may clean your face, but it also robs it of its moisture.
“True soaps have an alkaline pH and can disrupt the other skin layer,” said Zeichner. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, the outer skin layer functions best at a pH of around 5.5. Gentle skin cleansers are different from true soaps and cleanse the skin using a more pH-balanced surfactant system.”
As great as it might be to carry a whiff of Axe or Old Spice with you, beware of face wash that contains fragrances. If you have sensitive skin, they can irritate or dry your skin out. Even some face washes labeled “unscented” may contain masking fragrances, so switch products if your skin starts to get irritated.
Face wash comes in a variety of forms including gels, creams, and foams.
“If you have oily skin, you’re probably better off with gel cleansers, but if you have dry and sensitive skin, a creamy hydrating cleanser will be a better option,” dermatologist Peterson Pierre of Thousand Oaks, California, based Pierre Skin Care, told Greatist.
Finally, don’t let anyone tell you you’re being lazy if you don’t wash your face every morning. Too much face washing actually can rob your skin of its natural oils.
It’s better to just wash off any accumulated dirt nightly, which also helps to stretch your budget by making your bottle of face wash last longer.
We chose our top face wash products for men based on some skin-tight criteria, including:
Ingredients. Real ingredients that deliver on the promises made on the outside of the bottle.
Online reviews. Preference went to products that were widely reviewed by consumers and skin care experts and got positive ratings.
Availability and affordability. Even the greatest face wash product won’t help you if you can’t get your hands on it, so we sought out options that are easily available and easy on your wallet.
$ = under $10
$$ = $10–$20
$$$ = over $20
Here’s a rundown of the best men’s face wash by category.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
The nonfoaming CeraVe cleans and hydrates dry to normal skin with a formula that includes hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and three types of ceramides — a class of moisturizing lipids found naturally in the skin.
And while the 16-ounce bottle sells in the mid-teens, the per-ounce price is very reasonably set at under $1.
Kiehl’s Ultra Face Cleanser
Formulated for use on all skin types, Kiehl’s Ultra Face Cleanser is an all-purpose, Ph-balanced foaming liquid containing squalane (a saturated version of squalene, a fat made by human oil glands that hydrates the skin), apricot kernel oil, vitamin E (which helps prevent dry skin), and avocado oil.
At just 60 cents per ounce, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more budget-friendly face wash than classic Cetaphil. While it’s not specifically made for men, it has a pH-balanced, fragrance-free, nonfoaming formula for gentle cleaning and moisturizing.
Dove Men+Care Face Wash Hydrate Plus
Dove is owned by consumer product giant Unilever, meaning that you can find Dove Men+Care Face Wash Hydrate Plus at practically any supermarket, big-box store, or pharmacy in the country.
But don’t mistake the familiarity and low price (under $1 an ounce) for low quality. This mild, moisturizing face wash gets high marks from users and contains some of the same natural hydrating lipids found in more expensive products.
Neutrogena Men’s Invigorating Daily Foaming Gel Face Wash
A foaming gel cleanser that removes excess oil without clogging pores — the “invigorating” part comes from the addition of menthol.
Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Facial Cleanser
Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Facial Cleanser hits zits with a blend of 1 percent salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin and clean pores and natural charcoal, which helps draw dirt and oil out of pores. The formula is oil-free, which makes sense since it’s designed for use on skin that’s already oily.
L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Facial Cleanser with Charcoal
L’Oreal Paris may be known primarily for its women’s cosmetics, but its acne-fighting face wash goes all in on every face. What starts out as a charcoal-black gel lathers up into a white foam that cleans pores and removes excess oils.
Nivea Men Sensitive Skin
This alcohol-free face wash cleans without drying skin, using a mix of vitamin E, chamomile, and witch hazel extract. Bearded bros can also use it to soften skin before shaving.
Brickell Men’s Purifying Charcoal Face Wash for Men
We’re not saying things like panthenol, tocopheryl acetate, and butylene glycol are necessarily bad for you, but if you want to skip the chemistry lesson while cleaning your mug, give 100 percent organic Brickell Men’s Purifying Charcoal Face Wash a try.
For the premium price, you’ll be putting natural antioxidants, cleaners, and moisturizers on your face, including aloe leaf juice, green tea extract, and eucalyptus leaf oil. Formulated for men with dry, sensitive, and normal skin.
Bulldog Oil Control Face Wash
Bulldog Oil Control Face Wash removes oil with witch hazel, not alcohol, so it’s gentle on skin, and also includes juniper oil to soothe facial irritation and rashes.
Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser
No, not the actor Jack Black. This clay-based cleanser can be used for daily washing or be applied as a mask to purify skin. Kaolin clay draws out excess oils and dirt, while volcanic ash exfoliates and glycolic acid removes dead skin cells and prevents ingrown hairs.
Era Organic Men’s Face & Body Cleanser
Men with dry skin will benefit from this USDA certified organic face wash, which includes moisturizing coconut oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter.
Plus, it has chamomile to soothe skin, jojoba and orange oil to combat acne, rosehip seed oil for reducing blemishes, and antioxidant rosemary to prevent skin damage.
Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Moisture Treatment for Men
This treatment promises to moisturize fatigued and dull skin with antioxidants like chestnut tree extract and vitamin C. It also contains vitamin E for moisturizing and caffeine to wake your face up in the morning.
Unlike soap, which can dry out your skin, face wash is specially formulated for cleaning and moisturizing the skin on your face. Choose a wash that best matches your skin type, and cleanse just often enough to keep your skin supple and moisturized.