Men's vs. women's skincare: What is the difference?
Is your precious big splurge moisturiser depleting faster than usual? Don’t worry you’re not going crazy - you probably have a case of the curious hubby. The men’s grooming category is booming with just about every major brand now offering a male sub brand but aside from masculine packaging, are the contents actually that different? Or, are women getting ripped off?
We ask the experts about the differences between men’s and women’s skin and whether products are as interchangeable as he thinks.
The average male’s grooming routine now extends beyond shaving and fragrance, which has led to the emergence of male dedicated product lines. Brands are now tapping into the unmet and growing needs of a previously neglected demographic, namely successful Kiwi brand Triumph & Disaster. Dion Nash, general manager and founder of Triumph & Disaster, attributes the sudden and growing uptake in male grooming to a decrease in barriers to entry. “Online shopping and packaging considerations, which speak better to this audience, means that men now feel much more comfortable buying skincare,” believes Nash. As the concept of masculinity evolves, the stigma surrounding this category fades. “We have moved away from the old fashioned ‘Kiwi bloke’ image and it’s now socially acceptable for men to take care of themselves and their skin,” adds Dr Catherine Stone, founder of Auckland skin clinic The Face Place.
Women vs. Men
Studies show that women's personal care products on average cost more than men’s. So, could we save costs and borrow moisturiser from our man or is there merit in having our own?
It’s a fact – men’s skin is different to women’s, says Caroline Parker, head of education for Dermalogica New Zealand. “Hormones are the biggest difference between our skins, with men producing about ten times more testosterone.” This is a clear distinction that gender-specific products address, which both men and women should be mindful of before merging their stash.
Men don’t just grow thicker facial hair; their skin structure is also thicker overall. “Androgens, like testosterone, cause an increase in skin thickness, which is why a man’s skin is about 25 per cent thicker than a woman’s,” explains Marianna Glucina, founder of Auckland’s first male-only skin clinic About Man. The ageing process also differs, with men’s skin thinning gradually with age, while women’s remains fairly constant until menopause. For this reason, exfoliation is generally only recommended once a week for women with a gentle scrub, while men can tolerate exfoliation every other day.
The physical signs of ageing in adults, such as wrinkles and furrows, are closely related to the collagen content of the skin. “Collagen is a natural type of protein, which is essential for skin support and firmness,” says Parker. Regardless of age, the ratio of collagen to thickness of the skin is always higher in men. “Men have a denser collagen network, which is why a woman of the same age can often look much older.” From around 30 years old, both men and women will lose about one percent of their collagen per year, although during the first five years of menopause women will experience escalated loss. Unfortunately for us women, collagen density and retention combined with thinner skin, means the odds are not in our favour when it comes to ageing. Thankfully, there are skincare ingredients like retinol and collagen supplements to lend us a hand. However extrinsic lifestyle influences such as diet, smoking and sun protection definitely play an integral part. “While a broad stereotype, men typically do get more sun exposure, whether through work or play and are less stringent with protection, which can counterbalance our intrinsic physiology,” says Dr Stone.
On the flipside, men typically have larger oil glands and therefore oilier skin and higher sebum production than women, which makes them far more prone to congestion like blackheads, pimples and acne. While flare ups are more prevalent during puberty due to the influx of testosterone, sebum levels usually remain higher in men overtime, which is why many experience long-lasting acne. Due to this, male products are often a lighter weight formulation with oil-combatting agents such as witch hazel and tea tree oil. On the other hand, women’s skincare tends to be on the heavier side packed full with powerful anti-agers like retinol, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid.
It is estimated that the average man will shave his face at least 19,000 times during his lifetime and the majority will face shaving-related skin problems at some point. Shaving removes the uppermost layer of skin cells, revealing a fragile layer of skin that is more sensitive and susceptible to irritation likes cuts, abrasions and razor burn. The stress of shaving on the skin is a pivotal consideration for men in their skincare, particularly for those who shave daily. Male moisturisers commonly comprise of anti-bacterial and calming properties for skin sensitised by shaving.
The unisex movement
While there are obvious brands that target one particular gender, skin experts are united in the belief that not all skin can be treated equal – there is no universal formula that suits all men and likewise all women. This has given rise to a gender-neutral movement, which removes the ‘fluffy’ language and pretty colours often associated with beauty products and places emphasis on functionality and results.
Nash believes gender concentrated skincare is an “old stale way of thinking” and products shouldn’t necessarily speak to one group. Unisex skincare in an ever-evolving category and there’s now choice where there once wasn’t. “Females are no longer confined to the rose and vanilla moisturiser or likewise males to the smoky, woody scent,” says Nash.
If you want to join the unisex movement try one of these brands - just remember, gender aside, skincare isn’t interchangeable and while sex-specific ranges may cater to common predispositions, any product you decide to use should be specifically suited to your individual skin type and needs.
Do you ever use your partner's skincare products?