Is there a difference between male and female skincare products?

Is there a difference between male and female skincare products?

Men’s and women’s skins are known to differ in hormone metabolism, hair growth, sweat rate, sebum production, skin surface pH and other factors. Until the age of 50 years, men’s transepidermal water loss for example is significantly lower than that of women of the same age (ie the skin’s barrier function is better in men, which means men have less tendency for dryness of the skin). Sebum (oil) production in men is also higher than in women and stays stable with increasing age, whereas sebum production in women progressively decreases with increasing age. That means that men tend to have a higher tendency for acne, while women have a higher tendency for dry skin.

For all these reasons, men’s skin is on average more robust than women’s skin (apart from maybe the beard area which might suffer with irritation from frequent shaving), while women’s skin is often more delicate. That means that men’s skin can often tolerate a higher concentration of a strong active ingredient such as vitamin A, which is an advantage. That means that men can usually use female skincare without any trouble (while I advice women not to use male skincare in most cases).

However, in my personal and professional experience men tend to be less compliant when it comes to skincare and much prefer using fewer products, compared to women, who are usually happy to diligently layer several products. For that reason, I tend to select products for my male patients, which as multi-functional as possible, with the aim to limit the number of products they have to apply each day. Most of my male patients appreciate that.

There might also be more specific concerns, which might warrant specialised products. Men for example tend to have a higher tendency for mechanical irritation (from shaving) and might suffer with ingrown hair and folliculitis in the beard area. Women on the other hand tend to have a higher risk of hormone-related irregular pigmentation such as melasma (related to female hormones such as oestrogens), so female products often contain more skin lightening ingredients than those targeted for men. Men also usually prefer their skincare to be light in consistency, quick to absorb and non-greasy, while many women, especially those with drier skin prefer richer formulations.

So there might be reasons to have separate products for men and women in certain cases. However, having said that, the vast majority of good cosmeceutical skincare products are perfectly fine to use for men AND women (especially if they are non-scented). In fact, in my professional opinion, many of the specialised male grooming lines on the market are more of a branding exercise than true biological necessity. So my advice is to make an appointment with an experienced aesthetic dermatologist to get a tailored skincare regime done specifically for your skin with its unique concerns.

Don’t try to second guess, the skincare market is a jungle and even experienced customers will not be able to distinguish good marketing from evidence based effectiveness and safety.

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