Skin Care for Men: Common Actives, Explained

There is a plethora of information out there on skincare. Unfortunately, many of the beauty blogs available are aimed at women. Men need helpful resources to help them learn how to take care of their skin and create beauty routines, too. The good news is many helpful tips you’ll read on beauty blogs can help improve men’s skin as well as women’s. However, men have facial hair and other concerns that beauty blogs for women don’t consider. 

Whether you’ve always been someone who enjoys taking care of his skin or you’re just now learning how great it feels to pamper yourself, there’s one word you might come across many times when doing research: actives. In this article, we’ll discuss what actives are and what common actives are found in men’s skincare so you can make the best skincare decisions for you. 

What Are Actives?

The word “active” is short for the active ingredient, which is the main ingredient in a skincare product that addresses your concern. If you want to find the active ingredient in your men’s acne treatment, you have to look at the bottle or packaging. The active ingredient in such a skin treatment is the ingredient (chemical or molecule) that treats acne.

Actives are lab-tested and proven to change the skin in some way or another. However, not every product will work the way you want it to. For example, if you grab a skincare product that helps moisturize dry skin, it may not always work, depending on your type of skin. 

You may also come across products that don’t contain an active ingredient, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Inactive ingredients can also be important in addressing specific skin concerns. 

Common Actives

If your skincare goal is to address a concern, such as aging, dry skin, or acne, then you’ll need to know which actives can help you achieve your goals for a better complexion. Here are some of the most common types of actives and what they can do for your skin. 

Alpha Hydroxy Acis (AHAs)

AHAs are chemical exfoliants that can aid in dead skin removal so new skin cells can generate. AHAs are typically found in anti-aging and acne products and are known to brighten skin tone for a smoother texture.  The two most common AHAs are lactic acid and glycolic acid because they’re gentle exfoliants that are water-soluble and ideal for all skin types, including sensitive skin. 

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

BHAs are most commonly known as salicylic acid and are another chemical exfoliant ideal for removing dead skin cells. BHAs are typically used in products that treat acne-prone skin and are effective at removing blackheads. BHAs are oil-soluble, which means they can penetrate below the skin’s surface, making them best at clearing pores and reducing oil. BHAs are typically best for those with oily skin or clogged pores and may not be suitable for sensitive skin. 


Ceramides are fat molecules that provide a smoother complexion by plumping up the skin and protecting the skin from pollution and debris. Your skin naturally produces ceramides, but they become depleted as you age. Skin products containing ceramides help restore moisture for a more supple, youthful appearance, making them one of the most common types of actives found in anti-aging skincare. 

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin without leaving a greasy feel of film behind and has become one of the most popular natural skincare products in recent years. This active absorbs moisture that’s already present within the skin to keep it soft and supple. Your body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, but production diminishes as we age. Hyaluronic acid can be found in many different skincare products, from moisturizing creams to anti-aging lotions. 


Niacinimide is an inflammation-fighting ingredient that is found in many different types of skincare treatments. Ideal for fighting acne, hyperpigmentation, and even rosacea, niacinamide is ideal for removing redness. As a vitamin B3 derivative, it also improves elasticity for plumper, more supple-looking skin. 


Peptides from proteins (the building blocks of skin) by linking together. Peptides can penetrate the skin and signal the need for the body to produce more collagen, which can prevent saggy skin. Because peptides ultimately help your body produce more collagen, they’re typically found in anti-aging products, but they may also be found in other types of skincare that aim to increase moisture. 


Retinol is a popular anti-aging active that’s a derivative of vitamin A. By putting retinol on your skin, you can boost cell turnover, which helps your skin naturally renew itself so you can have healthy-looking skin no matter what. Retinol is one of the most powerful actives due to its ability to fight acne and signs of aging while brightening skin. 

That being said, it’s important to be careful using products that contain retinol. If the skin product’s formulation is too strong for your skin, it can become irritated. 

Vitamin C

You might take a vitamin C supplement to give your immune system a boost, but it’s also great for your skin. When vitamin C is applied typically, it can stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can make your skin feel more firm. It can also protect your skin from free radicals and pollution while giving you a brighter, more even complexion. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another popular active that you might already take in supplement form. You might not know that Vitamin E occurs in many chemical forms, with the most commonly used in skincare being tocopheryl acetate and tocopherol. As potent antioxidants, these actives protect the skin from pollution while offering anti-inflammatory properties, making them ideal for dry, damaged skin.

Choosing the Right Skincare Products

Now that you know a little bit more about actives and which ingredients can address specific skin concerns, you can choose your products a little more wisely. However, if you need help finding the right skincare products for you, it’s always best to visit a dermatologist that can assess your skin and help you find the best solution. 

Marné Amoguis

Marné Amoguis holds a B.A. in International Business from UC San Diego. She is a contributing writer at where she loves sharing her passion for digital marketing. Outside of writing, she loves traveling, playing music, and hiking.