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As it turns out, men’s skin is more different than you’d think. It’s about 25% thicker and tougher. This is because men have more androgens, which are male hormones, the most commonly know being testosterone.
Androgens are the hormones that cause hair growth, deeper voice, and a tendency toward more aggressive behavior (The International Dermal Institute). These hormones not only cause the skin to become thicker and tougher, they also cause a greater secretion of sebum, meaning that men (on average) tend to have oilier skin and may have more acne (Dermalogica).
It’s also not in your head that the man in your life is aging more slowly than you do: Men (those lucky ducks!) also have a higher collagen density (Skin Inc). This means that the adage that men fair the perils of aging better than women is true and may explain why men aren’t as interested in skin care under the age of 30.
Do Men Need Different Products?
Nope! Well, not entirely anyway.
Men have some different needs, such as shaving, that require different products. Overall, however,their skin doesn’t require anything drastically different.
In general, men need to exfoliate less than women. This is because shaving effectively sloughs off the uppermost layer of the skin. In fact, exfoliating before or after shaving can lead to irritation over time – in general, it’s overkill more than once per week.
How Are Men’s Products Different?
However, men also have skin that is 25% thicker than women’s, and hence more resistant to products. Thus, stronger products with penetration enhancers like glycols or thinning agents like alcohols may be of interest to help products to better penetrate the skin. Due to their oilier skin and no-fuss approach to grooming, men also tend to seek out fast-absorbing gel or lotion formulas rather than creams. Men’s product lines are also more streamlined, with fewer products. (No Erno Laszlo line with 7-9 products for the deeper-voiced gender!) But that’s about it.
Still, men are becoming increasingly interested in skin care, and so companies are beginning to make products specifically male skin care buyers (New York Times). Many times, however, the differences stem from bold labeling, dark square-cornered packaging, and highly masculine aromas. Sometimes within the same brand, you can see nearly identical formulations packaged for either men or women! So don’t expect these products to deliver different results than the women’s products do. As with people, it’s what is on the inside that counts – and right now, the best products on the market I’ve found are from gender-neutral lines. As always, I love highly-concentrated products with top-notch delivery systems, like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($103.70, Amazon.com) with 15% L-ascorbic acid and 1% vitamin E and our own FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 ($55.00, Shop.FutureDerm.com). If you are the rarified male with dry skin, try Atopalm MLE Intensive Moisturizing Cream ($16.45, Amazon.com), with the perfect blend of a number of my favorite hydrators.
Men Develop More Skin Cancer
Gentlemen, this has nothing to do with the actual makeup of your skin. As it turns out, men are twice as likely to develop basal and squamous cell skin cancer, because they spend more time out in the sun but wear less sunscreen (Skin Cancer Foundation). Many doctors and dermatologists are calling for men to think more about sun protection.
A study done by the National Sun Protection Advisory Council found that men spend an average of 10 hours more per week in the sun than women. They are also less likely to avoid the sun — 39% of women shun rays as compared to 25% of men. Add to that the fact that men have less hair to act as protection, are less likely to seek medical attention for problems, and are overall less likely to use sun protection of any sort. Men are less likely to do self-exams to check themselves for strange-looking moles.
So, men, be sure to wear sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF and other sun protection such as UV protective clothing. While men don’t need different products, they do need to use products in general that will help keep them healthy.
I’ll admit, I went a little Seth Godin on you here and gave this post an attention-grabbing title. Truth be told, as with women’s products, some are more effective than others. However, it is true that men don’t need different products. They have thicker, tougher skin with more sebum and higher collagen density, meaning that they benefit somewhat from lines with more penetration enhancers and thinning agents. But they don’t “need” them.
What’s more, men’s skin does age more slowly than women’s. This may explain why men historically haven’t been as interested in skin care products. (More collagen = firmer skin for longer!) But with 43% of the population in the U.S. aged 50 or over by 2014, we may start to see men buying skin care products like hotcakes.
Our warning? Don’t be deceived by the squared-off packaging with its dark colors and hefty weight. Gentlemen, nine times out of ten, you’d be better off borrowing product from the woman in your life. If you are concerned about signs of aging, make sure you use formulas with high concentrations of independently-proven ingredients like retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids, niacinamide, peptides, and sunscreen in stable packaging with proven delivery systems. I have yet to see an exclusive men’s line with the highest concentrations and best delivery systems available. You really don’t need your own products to do this – just share the best products with the woman in your life! Two I recommend for everyone are Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($103.70, Amazon.com) with 15% L-ascorbic acid and 1% vitamin E under sunscreen for day, and our own FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 ($55.00, Shop.FutureDerm.com) for night.