Whilst skin is skin and biological effects, functions and processes do not differ between men and woman, there are a couple of considerations to take into account. These can affect day to day maintenance whilst creating an entirely new category of problems and challenges to be solved, treated or managed.
Due to higher production levels of androgen hormones (such as testosterone, androstene diol 314 and dihydrotestosterone), men’s skin tends to be oilier. The release of these hormones during puberty create larger sebaceous glands which in turn can produce higher amounts of sebum. This can lead to the occurrence of seborrhoea (an excessively oily skin) and other complications such as acne. The sebum produced by male skin tends to be thicker in consistency which can lead to clogging and congestion within the follicle. The same hormones responsible for this oil production are also behind the growth of beard hair and body hair (also called terminal hair). For this reason, the hair on men tends to be thicker in size and darker in colour. Men of course also have hairier skin than women.
Men have thicker skin. This is due to a number of factors including a more substantial stratum corneum. As 86% of men in Australia on average shave at least 5 times a week, the physical mechanism of hair removal also can remove surface skin cells in the process. To reduce impaired barrier function and irritation, the skin creates its own defence system by increasing density of this skin layer. Think of the skin on the backs of your heals or on the soles of your feet, these areas also have a thicker stratum corneum for added protection and comfort. Men also have a thicker dermis with up to 25% greater collagen density than females. The degradation of collagen in this layer typically depletes at a consistent rate of 1.7% a year from the age of 20 for most men. Degradation for females however tends to occur more rapidly during menopause, creating a comparatively thinner and more translucent skin. It is for this reason that men’s skin tends to age at a slower rate than females. As sebum also contains photo-protective vitamin E and co-enzyme Q10, the oilier skin of men arguably also possesses greater SPF potential against ultra violet radiation.
Men have twice as many sweat glands as females. This not only means that men sweat more, but in conjunction with increased sebum production, they also retain better skin hydration. The uric and lactic acid found in sweat are potent water-binders and subsequently contribute to a thicker skin with better water retention.
Taking the above factors into consideration, it is no surprise that acne, blackheads and ingrown hairs affect males more than females. This is also the case with open pores, post-acne scarring and phymatous rosacea. This last condition is characterised by the thickening of peri-nasal skin and the growth of the nose, chin and cheeks. As such, there are a couple of tricks to maintain the quality and integrity of healthy male skin.
1. Always shave with and across the grain of beard growth – never against. Whilst shaving against the grain guarantees a longer lasting shave and the feel of smoother skin, it almost guarantees the occurrence of ingrown hairs and razor rash. Always shave after a shower, when the combination of steam and water can soften beard growth for an easier shave with less irritation. Shave in the direction of hair growth then across. This way as the hair grows back, it will not get trapped forming ingrowns, lumps and bumps. For the average male, beard hair grows in a downward direction on the face and upwards on the neck. Prep and prime beard hair for an easier shave by exfoliating with Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14%, 2-3 times per week in the shower. This scrub also helps to visibly reduce blackheads, congestion and pimples.
2. Always wet-shave with an appropriate gliding medium. Soap is too drying and many shave foams do not provide adequate skin conditioning. To cushion razor blades and to prevent nicks, cuts and irritation, apply a couple drops of Skinstitut Multi-Active Oil under your usual shave cream or mousse. The non-clogging oil will form a lubricating layer of protection that softens beard hair for a closer and more comfortable shave.
3. Never apply alcohol based after-shave lotions on freshly shaved skin, they will simply burn and dry the skin out. Try an oil-free gel such as ASAP Soothing Gel. This not only reduces post-shave inflammation, but promotes increased hydration, comfort and protection. To reduce the signs of fatigue and puffiness, try layering on a thicker layer of this energising gel for 5-10 minutes as an energising skin salve. The skin never feels greasy, heavy or slimy.
4. Treat acne and ingrowns with a salicylic acid based gel. ASAP Clearskin Body Gel can be used on face and body breakouts. The salicylic acid gently disinfects whilst clearing clogging and congestion. For more aggressive signs of acne and oiliness, why not apply every day immediately after shaving. For stubborn ingowns, a zap of laser can release the trapped hair enabling faster removal. It can also thin the hair density for easier growth out of the follicle.
5. Remove unwanted body hair on the cheeks, shoulders, back and buttocks with permanent laser hair removal. Just 6 sessions can deliver 90% permanent hair removal for visibly softer and smother skin.
Both men and woman require the daily application of a sunscreen. This preserves skin integrity whilst preventing premature ageing and breakdown. For a daily moisturiser and SPF in one, try Aspect Envirostat Dry Touch SPF 50. This weightless formula is non-greasy, applies invisibly and leaves no shiny residue.
By: Andrew R. Christie
Beauty & Skin Industry Specialist