Men’s and women’s skin differs in certain aspects such as hair growth, sweat rate, oil production, pH and other factors. Until the age of 50 years, men’s ‘transepidermal water loss’ (invisible water evaporation via the skin) for example is significantly lower than that of women of the same age. That means the skin’s barrier function is better in men, which means men have less tendency for dryness. Makes sense?
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 age. That means that men have a higher tendency for acne, while women have more of a tendency for dry skin. Also, women tend to have a higher skin surface pH than men, which may further contribute to impaired barrier function and dry skin.
For all these reasons, men’s skin tends to be more robust than women’s (apart from maybe the beard area which might suffer with irritation from frequent shaving). That means that male skin usually tolerates a higher concentration of potentially irritating active ingredients such as vitamin A, although generally, both benefit from the same type of active ingredients such as antioxidant serum and SPF in the morning; and a repair cream containing a collagen stimulator such as vitamin A in the evening.
There might however be certain more gender specific concerns, which warrant specialised products. Men for example have a higher tendency for mechanical irritation from shaving and of course might suffer with ingrown hair and folliculitis in the beard area, which will benefit from specialised products preventing these issues.
Women on the other hand have a higher risk of hormone-related irregular pigmentation such as melasma, so female skincare products often contain more skin lightening ingredients than those targeted for men. However, if a male patient comes to see me with irregular pigmentation, I would treat them the same way as a woman.
… and then there is another difference between male and female skincare! In my 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 quite happy to layer several products diligently. I therefore tend to select products for my male patients, which are 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 really appreciate that.
Men also often 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.
Having said all this, the vast majority of good cosmeceutical skincare products are actually perfectly fine to use for men AND women (especially if they are non-scented…). If you ask me, many of the specialised male grooming lines on the market are more of a branding exercise than true biological necessity, but who doesn’t like ‘personalised’ products…