Men’s grooming has certainly come a long way from the days when the extent of daily self-care was a washdown with whatever soap happened to be lying around.
These days the male grooming market is worth a cool £767m in the UK, with men’s face care products alone accounting for nearly £70m. And though sales took a hit during the pandemic, when bad hair days and iffy skin were the least of our worries, sales are picking back up as the need to be well-groomed returns.
Truth is, if you’re not using something to look after your skin these days – be it with a moisturiser, face scrub or after shave balm – you’re probably in the minority. A good skincare routine, along with sun protection and a well-balanced diet is the best insurance policy against premature ageing too.
But with so many skincare brands out there, where do you begin? To help you narrow the field slightly, we road-tested products from some of the best brands available – from established giants like Nivea and Clarins to smaller Brit brands like The Bluebeard’s Revenge and up-and-coming skincare specialists, Auden.
Whether you’re looking for something affordable to help you coast through the cost of living crisis or fancy splashing out on something a little more luxurious, there’ll be a brand here for you.
We took everything from the size of the range to how the products felt – and smelt – on the skin, to price, value-for-money and appearance (well, a product’s got to look good on the bathroom shelf, right?) into consideration when curating this gude. We looked at big brands, small ones, cult classics to the brands you can shop at your local supermarket and ultimately we decided these are the very best to buy.
Well established men’s skincare brand Lab Series has recently undergone a complete revamp (new packing and in some cases refillable tubes), but its products remain as useful as ever. A bit like having your own skincare expert in a tube, each product is fiercely problem/solution orientated.
We especially rate its oil control range (from £23, Labseries.co.uk) and its instant fix colour correcting moisturiser (£32, Labseries.co.uk) which blurs imperfections and evens out skin tone. Its all-in-one multi action face wash (£23, Labseries.co.uk) which exfoliates as it cleanses is an impressive buy too. The brand also recently brought back its staple electric shave solution (£22, Labseries.co.uk) as well which is great if you’re a fan of electric shavers. The products aren’t the cheapest but we liked pretty much everything we tried.
Although the famous Japanese beauty brand is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, its skincare collection for men remains defiantly under the radar. Whether that’s by accident or design, it remains one of the best premium skincare brands for guys and focusses on tackling the most common signs of skin ageing (wrinkles, sagging, dullness, roughness and lost resilience). It’s especially good for men over 30.
We particularly loved its total revitaliser cream (£75, Shiseido.co.uk), which has a lovely light, non-sticky texture and a barely-there fragrance. Recent additions to the range include a pencil concealer (£33, Shiseido.co.uk) – which featured in our best concealer for men round-up – and an energising moisturiser (£45, Shiseido.co.uk) which is so light it can even be used around the eye area.
For a good introduction to what the brand has to offer though, try the total age defense program pouch set (£74, Shiseido.co.uk) which includes four key products from the range.
The bestselling men’s skincare brand in the US might share a name with a comedy actor, but where skincare’s concerned it’s deadly serious. Jack Black sells products in 25 countries and counting. Its range is huge – straddling everything from shaving products to face, skin and haircare essentials – and the the brand has a reputation for always being on-trend in terms of product innovation and ingredients.
We particularly liked its wrinkle-busting nighttime BAK-up (£50, Getjackblack.uk) which offers an alternative to ingredient-of-the-moment, retinol, while its power peel multi-acid resurfacing pads (£37, Getjackblack.uk) allow you to exfoliate and cleanse skin on the go at any time, are excellent too.
With the idea of having a coherent grooming “regimen” as key, the brand also offers the most amount of sets and bundles than any other brand we tried.
Having started as a premium haircare brand, Aussie brand Patricks is now widely recognised as one of the best luxury grooming brands there is. The hair products remain core to the brand – the M3 matte finish styling product (£38, Patricksproducts.co.uk) is particularly good – but the skincare range is great too.
The range encompasses everything from a face scrub made with crushed diamonds (£58, Mrporter.com) to an award winning, collagen-boosting AM1 anti-ageing moisturiser (£88, Selfridges.com) which made it into our review of the best anti-aging creams for men. Its packaging, meanwhile, is some of the coolest we’ve seen and takes its cues from the world of Formula One (the products are “engineered” rather than formulated), which is appropriate really because the brand is pretty much the sports car of skincare.
A brand that transformed the shaving market when it arrived in the UK in 2017, Harry’s offers an affordable, no-nonsense alternative to spenny razor brands. In recent years the company has rounded out its grooming offering with a range of affordable skin and haircare products.
The daily face lotion with its SPF 15 sunscreen (£6, Boots.com) is especially good value, as is the zit-busting targeted blemish treatment (£7, Harrys.com). But we especially loved the clever post shave mist (£11, Harrys.com). A refreshing alternative to aftershave balms, it instantly calms, soothes and refreshes post-shave skin (though we used it throughout the day whenever we needed to freshen skin too).
With a focus on daily essentials and value-for-money this is the perfect brand to see you through the cost of living crisis.
Tom Ford Men
Let’s be honest, if anyone knows about looking good it’s the immaculately turned-out Texan, whose skin and hair are never anything less than on point. No surprise then that his skincare range for men is all about skin perfection, hence the presence of a complexion enhancing bronzing gel (£40, Tomford.co.uk) and a concealer (£36, Tomford.co.uk).
The conditioning beard oils, infused with Tom Ford signature fragrances like tobacco vanille, f***ing fabulous and oud wood (from £46, Tomford.co.uk) are superb too, and we loved the fragrance ancillaries like the oud wood body moisturiser (£49, Tomford.co.uk) which allow you to layer your fragrance to create an all-over scent signature. The only downside really is that the range is pretty small.
Bulldog was the first mass market men’s skincare brand to prove that efficacy and ethics can go hand-in-hand in men’s skincare. With most of the products made in the UK, using cruelty-free natural ingredients and with packing that focuses on sustainability, it has made a more considered, ethically-minded approach to make skincare open to all.
Star of the range, for us, is the no-frills, great value original moisturiser (£6.39, Boots.com), which recently topped our list of the best moisturisers for men. The brand is also great for basics like face scrub, shave gel and aftershave balm though and its glass handle razors, made of recycled glass (£15, Boots.com) are fun too.
In terms of affordable natural skincare for men you might call it “the dogs” (sorry, we couldn’t resist).
There are plenty of sustainable, natural skincare brands out there now but Weleda has been championing a more ethical approach to skincare since – wait for it – 1921. Experts in its field, the company puts an emphasis on organic ingredients, sustainability and are a certified natural skin care brand (though check the vegan-friendly status of each product as few contain ingredients like beeswax).
It’s a brand loved by celebrities, too, with the likes of Idris Elba, Ed Sheeran and James Norton said to be fans. And while the men’s range is relatively small, it’s all good, with the after shave balm (£11.75, Amazon.co.uk), great smelling active shower gel (£5.87, Amazon.co.uk), and moisture cream for men (£13.30, Amazon.co.uk) all standout products.
Malin + Goetz
A favourite of influencers, grooming editors and skincare aficionados alike, New York based Malin+Goetz is a brand that instantly gives your bathroom cabinet some cred. Its vitamin E moisturizer (£44, Malinandgoetz.co.uk) is a hero product, and we were amazed at how good the 10 per cent sulfur paste (£19, Malinandgoetz.co.uk ) was at getting rid of zits – just one overnight application and the spot we treated was practically gone.
But it’s the brand’s near legendary, award-winning eucalyptus deodorant (£19, Malinandgoetz.co.uk) that’s the standout here. One of the best natural deodorants we’ve ever tried (and we’ve tried a few) it smells great and actually works – something that’s not always a given. The icing on the cake with this acclaimed unisex brand is the minimalist packaging which exemplifies modern apothecary chic.
It says something about a company when those who can take their pick of any brand plump for it over ones that are ten times the price. Functional, fragrance-free, genderless and housed in generously sized, straight-forward packaging, CeraVe has people with dry, easily irritated skin in mind but is useful to all.
The fragrance-free moisturising cream (£16, Boots.com) – packed with skin saving ceramides to help protect the skin’s natural barrier – is an everyday essential while the reparative hand cream (£6, Boots.com) is great for any man who works with his hands. Its SA smoothing cleanser with salicylic acid (£12, Boots.com), meanwhile, is the kind of exfoliating cleanser that should be the bedrock of any man’s grooming routine.
Although a relative newcomer (having launched in 2018), British brand Shakeup Cosmetics has lived up to its name from the start. Challenging gender stereotypes, embracing male beauty over “grooming” and redefining the male skincare market with its host of clever, problem solving products.
Though cosmetics are at the heart of the brand – its eye eye captain under eye concealer and moisturiser (£20, Shakeupcosmetics.com) is a hangover essential – it’s recently expanded the range with a raft of skincare essentials. There’s a serum, moisturiser and face wash, though it’s the innovative hydrate in a hurry (£15, Shakeupcosmetics.com) and you do the mask (£15, Shakeupcosmetics.com) that caught our eye most.
Both come in solid stick form and you apply by slicking them across your face, making them perfect for gym bags, travel bags or office drawers. This is one of those brands where you can’t wait to see what it’ll come up with next.
Adam Grooming Atelier
Nobody knows more about skin and haircare than barbers, so it’s no surprise that the skincare range from premium barbers Adam – with stores across London and in Harrods – is what you might call a “cut above”.
As you might expect the shaving products are top notch, we particularly liked the post shave balm (£18, Humanery.com) with its cooling menthol and the super-creamy classic shaving cream (£25, Humanery.com). But the antioxidant-rich nourishing face oil (£35, Humanery.com) is excellent too, especially if you have dry or easily-irritated skin.
“Old-world craftsmanship and grooming rituals, updated for the modern world” read’s Adam Grooming Atelier’s mission statement and we think this perfectly sums up its approach to skincare.
Visit Humanery.com now
Though not a skincare brand specifically aimed at men, Murad – which prides itself on being “clinical but cool” and which embraces science without being stuffy – is a go-to brand for problem solving. Whatever your issue is – be that greasy skin, spots, dryness, dark spots, wrinkles, manhole sized pores or, well, you name it – this brand will likely have something to help.
We especially rate its city skin age defense broad spectrum SPF 50 (£60, Murad.co.uk) which is a bit like a defence shield for your face as it protects against pollution, UVA, UVB and digital blue light damage. And the bestselling clarifying body spray (£39, Cultbeauty.co.uk) which contains zit-busting salicylic acid and is great for spotty bums, backs and shoulders, is nothing to be sniffed at either.
Founded by a skin therapist back in 1986, Dermalogica is a professional range of skincare products used by over 100,000 skin therapists in more than 100 countries around the world. Since the focus of the brand has always been on providing exceptionally tailored skincare for clients there’s something in the range for every skin type and annoying skin problem.
There’s a fantastic, practical, no-frills approach to the products we really loved. They aren’t the cheapest, but the formulations are excellent, with minimal fragrance and maximum skin-saving ingredients. Especially good are the special cleansing gel (£35, Dermalogica.co.uk) and the skin smoothing cream (£39, Dermalogica.co.uk). Though, in our opinion, the star product is the (now refillable) daily microfoliant (£59, Dermalogica.co.uk) which is a rice-based powder exfoliant that’s gentle enough to be used daily and which makes a great skin prep before shaving.
Visit Dermalogica.co.uk now
One of the best skincare and shaving brands there is (anyone who’s ever been in a supermarket will recognise the range) Nivea’ Men’s offering is at once uncomplicated but efficacious while staying affordable. As a brand, it’s probably best known for its products that tackle skin sensitivity, whether that’s caused by shaving or dryness.
Having rifled through the range we singled out the black and white max protection roll on antiperspirant (£2.99, Superdrug.com), which doesn’t stain clothing, and the bestselling sensitive post shave balm (£6.49, Superdrug.com) as must haves.
We also liked its new sensitive pro ultra-calming range which features skin calming ingredients like hemp seed oil and vitamin E to soothe dry and easily irritated skin. The fragrance is a bit generic but we couldn’t fault any of the products’ performance.
Shop Nivea Men at Superdrug.com now
The Bluebeards Revenge
Founded in 2010, Bluebeards Revenge started as a brand focussed on shaving but has since grown exponentially. It now offers everything from cut-throat razors (go on, be brave) and alum blocks (an old fashioned but still brilliant way to heal shaving nicks) to contemporary essentials like sea salt spray for your barnet and a cool roll-on deodorant (£4.99, Bluebeards-revenge.co.uk).
We were especially impressed by the brand’s eco credentials (recyclable aluminium tins, recycled plastic, cardboard cartons) and its extensive range of refill pouches. And speaking of things that impresses, its award-winning shaving cream (£14.99, Bluebeards-revenge.co.uk) is especially good; not only does it whip up a wicked lather, it smells ace thanks to a blend of vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli and there’s a huge 500ml refill pouch too.
This brand might be known for its fine fragrances, but New York based Le Labo’s skincare products are well worth investigating. As well as a carefully edited six-piece grooming collection, which includes essentials like shaving cream and aftershave balm (all scented with bergamot and lavender), the wider, unisex range features some brilliant skincare products.
As you might expect for a brand famous for fragrance, it’s the smell of the products that elevates them above its competitors. The face lotion (£35, Lelabofragrances.com) is infused with a delicious citrusy verbena while the basil and ginger face scrub (£32, Lelabofragrances.com) smells so good it almost begs you to use it. Pricey, yes, but this is the brand that felt most like a treat to us.
Created by world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone back in 1997, this range puts clinically-proven ingredients and advanced skincare research at its heart. Though a dedicated men’s range was phased out some time ago, the essentially unisex products continue to be popular with those seeking high potency skincare.
We personally like the skin brightening vitamin C ester ccc+ ferulic brightening complex 20% serum (£133, Perriconemd.co.uk), which makes you want to put on a lab coat just to use it. While the multi-functional, fragrance-free cold plasma plus + advanced serum concentrate (£133, Perriconemd.co.uk) tackles the signs of ageing from just about every angle possible.
There’s also a great hypoallergenic CBD sensitive skin therapy ultra-smooth clean shave cream (from £10, Perriconemd.co.uk), in the range which is worth trying too. The only thing that would make the range better would be products names that weren’t such a mouthful.
One of the best-known premium skincare brands for blokes, Clarins Men’s focuses on energizing, firming and wrinkle busting skincare – making it the perfect brand for those over 40. All the products harness the skin-improving benefits of natural botanicals, and include the brand’s signature ingredient, bison grass, for its soothing and energising properties.
The creamy exfoliating cleanser (£23, Clarins.co.uk), which is formulated with lava powder and salicylic acid, was one of the best we tried and its hydra-sculpt resculpting perfector (£45, Clarins.co.uk) which helps firm skin was good too.
The products won’t be for you if you like your skincare unscented (a signature scent runs throughout the men’s range) but if you’re looking for a brand that’s been tried and tested for years then this is the one.
It’s fitting that a brand launched during the pandemic should focus, to a large part, on reawakening dull, tired-looking, stressed out skin and heading off the toll modern life takes on skin. Hence there are products like the anti-fatigue eye serum (£43, Audenskincare.com) which combats dark circles and any excess “ocular luggage” you might have and the super troop night serum, (£50, Audenskincare.com) which repairs skin while you kip.
The product that we really fell in love with though, is the age defence cream SPF30 (£50, Audenskincare.com) which is an all-in-one face cream that protects against UV rays, pollution and the skin-ageing blue light emitted by computer screens and smartphones.
As an added bonus, the brand is cruelty-free, vegan-friendly and has a carbon neutral programme in place, too. It also donates 10 per cent of its profits to charities who reduce poverty-based stress, ensuring you not only look good but your purchase is doing some good too.
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