Jarische Frances S. Lao-Ang, MD, FPDS
Skincare is for everyone, but is it different between men and women? We’re all familiar with the saying “skincare is for all ages”, but how about skincare for all gender?
To find out, let’s first know the structural differences between male and female skin.
- Oil/sebum production
- Men have greater oil production. Androgen, known as the “male hormones”, increases the size of oil glands & stimulates oil secretion.
- Due to increased oil, the male skin is more prone to impaired barrier function. Excess sebum is also associated with appearance of larger pores.
- This also makes men less fond of applying skincare products due to the sticky feeling on the face as compared to women.
- Sweat production
- Men perspire more and have greater sweat production
- The sweat glands found in the axilla and genital areas are subjected to hormonal influences and become active just before puberty.
- Though sweat is odourless, the bacteria microflora in the skin is responsible for odor production
- In men, the increase in sweat production makes them prone to harbour bacteria. So, they develop body odor more as compared to women
- Skin thickness
- Men have thicker skin in general, but a gradual decrease in thickness can be observed starting at 40 years old.
- Due to hormonal changes from menopause, women have less hydroxyl-proline content that causes decrease in collagen. With collagen breakdown, the skin becomes thinner in women.
- Given men’s thicker skin, a higher strength and a more potent formulation of skincare products may be needed for better penetration
- Hair growth
- Hair growth on face & axilla (but no on eyebrows and eyelashes) is affected by male hormones. Hence, men have thicker and more hair on these areas.
- Facial hair removal differs tremendously. Men perform facial hair shaving more often than women. This regular mechanical exfoliation can make their skin prone to skin trauma or irritation.
- Hence, men must have proper pre- and post-shaving care.
- Skin tone
- Skin tone is influenced mainly by melanin (main pigment responsible for skin color). Though melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) do not differ among gender, the melanin produced is suggested to be higher in men.
- Aside from melanin, skin color is also affected by haemoglobin (blood pigment). Based on studies, men have more haemoglobin. Both these factors contribute to men’s darker skin tone
- These structural variations also explain why men retain pigmentation after sun exposure longer than women
Now that we know the structural differences between men & women, must there be a difference when it comes to skincare?
- In terms of routine
- Men and women have the same basic skincare must haves– cleanser, moisturizer and sun protection
- In terms of formulation
- Lightweight formulation gel-based or foam-based products can be more suited for men given their oilier skin type.
- As for female, the type of formulation depends on their skin type (oily vs dry vs combination skin).
- This applies to choice of cleanser, moisturizer & sunscreen
- Some but not all men tends to be reluctant to apply skincare due to the sticky feeling, hence, formulation matters.
- In terms of actives
- The need for actives depend on the skincare concern
- Acne is a common enemy for both gender due to hormonal influences especially when puberty starts. So, starting on retinoids early can be helpful in controlling and managing zits
Unique skincare need for men: Facial hair
- Shaving facial hair (reference: AAD)
- Shave regularly to avoid irritation and bacterial growth
- Apply shaving cream, oil or gel before shaving
- Clean razors right after use
- Change razor blade every 5-7 shaves
- Apply moisturizer after shaving
- Washing facial hair
- For short facial hair- may stick to facial cleanser
- For long and thick beard – use shampoo to wash