Mythbusting: Is Men’s Skin Different To Women’s Skin?

The times, they are a-changin’ and it is more socially acceptable for men to use skincare and makeup than it has ever been before… Not that it matters if it is socially acceptable, be real and be you, always.

Yonka have a range geared towards men, Ronan O’Gara is the Clarins Men Irish ambassador and hordes of brands have shifted towards non-gendered branding (think The Ordinary, Murad or IMAGE Skincare).

So is men’s skin actually different to women’s skin? Do they NEED their own skincare ranges or should men technically be able to use the same products as women?

Is men's skin different to women's skin? 

Men have thicker skin; When you tell them they could use a bit more skin hydration, they do not get offended… I jest! Men literally have thicker skin, 25% thicker than women’s skin.

This contributes to them not ageing as easily and is why a man may appear more “ageless” when standing beside his female counterpart. Arguably, this is negated if SPF usage is neglected, if you are a smoker or if you do not keep your skin hydrated.

Men have more collagen too and the majority of them probably don’t care about this little fact… what a waste. On top of this, men’s skin has bigger pores and way more of them, and they produce more sebum.

The differences between men and women’s skin are caused by hormones, specifically testosterone. Androgens such as testosterone affect the thickness of the skin and how much sebum the skin’s sebaceous glands produce and seeing as men have a whole shedload of testosterone, their skin is both thicker and oilier than women’s.

This means that as a man you may be more likely to get spots and blackheads. If you love the lumberjack look but find that your beard breaks you out, it could be due to the fact that you’re basically creating a little covering that keeps your oil hovering on your skin!

Logically, this difference seems to suggest that men can’t use “regular” skincare. Actually, this is not true. Regardless of these differences, for the most part, the concerns that women have about their skin and the concerns that men have about their skin are the same and can be treated in the same way.

For example, if spots are a concern, the skin still needs salicylic acid. The difference would be that men may be able to use stronger products more often due to the thickness of their skin - ie. a woman having a consult for her problems with congestion may be recommended the IMAGE Clear Cell Cleanser (€37.00) twice a week in the evening but a man may be able to use it 4 or 5 times a week.

In the same way that salicylic gets into the pores of women’s skin and clears out the dead skin cells and sebum, it works the same way for men’s pores.

I tend to be of the opinion that men should be using the exact same routine as women: cleanser in the morning and at night, serum and SPF and anything else their specific skin may need. A mask wouldn’t go awry the odd time either, as men deserve a nice pampering sesh too.

Men should also NOT use mechanical exfoliators (like scrubs, brushes or tools) and should exfoliate using acids like glycolic or lactic acid - yes, the skin is thicker but grits can still cause damage to the surface of the epidermis that will last for much longer than that initial smooth, post-grit feeling does.

Men's skincare ranges... Why?

There’s Clarins Men, Shiseido Men, Nuxe Men, Yonka for Men, Bulldog Skincare, Clinique for Men, Tom Ford… The list goes on and on but these products usually don’t contain anything that you couldn’t find in more general or “women’s” skincare.

The thing that these have in common is branding and marketing - never underestimate how powerful this is. These products come in the broad and exciting colour scheme of black, off-black, slate grey and deep navy. They are specifically targeting the men who do not feel comfortable using what MAY be considered to be “women’s” skincare.

Is this a bad thing? I vote no. I’ve found from having male clients and from speaking with the men in my life that they need more education and more coaxing when it comes to skincare and if slapping a bit of manly grey onto the packaging coaxes a man into using skincare, so be it!

My issue is that a lot of men’s skincare is overly fragrant and chockfull of drying and sensitising ingredients. Shaving products are the main culprit when it comes to this. Shaving balm is usually just silicone (not always bad when used with beneficial ingredients), drying alcohols, fragrances and preservatives and THIS is what men are told to put onto their skin after causing mild trauma to their skin through shaving?! Ehm… NO!

Shaving strips the skin and may cause damage to the barrier, which is why you should not be slapping on a concoction of drying and stripping ingredients on top of this!

Yon-Ka for Men Lotion YK (€35.00) is an aftershave tonic full of essential citrus oils and Yon-Ka’s signature Quintessence Yon-Ka blend of soothing essential oils. The reason why I’d suggest this (admittedly, without having ever used it) is due to the fact that it is alcohol-free so it will not dehydrate the skin and strip it of the barrier function which protects the skin.

Don’t even get me started on shaving foam. There’s a reason that the vast majority of shaving foams smell like an off-licence and this is due to (quelle surprise) a very high alcohol content!

Marram Co is a shaving company founded by an Ireland-based couple who wanted to harken back to the days of the traditional shave and provide men with skin-friendly shaving tools.

They have a wide range of shave creams that are formulated with carefully-selected essential oils and are alcohol-free. A 100ml Marram Co Shave Cream retails at €20.00 - it is not the most cost-effective of products, this is true, but it is your face and you only have one!

What men's skin needs

I believe men should be using the same things as everyone else. Men’s skin needs peptides, vitamin A, antioxidants, hydrating ingredients, omegas and acids just as every other skin does. However, when I’m talking men and skincare, I put a focus on SPF usage. I know better than anyone that getting people to wear SPF can be like getting children to eat broccoli but I’m very aware that men are much less likely to wear it.

Using sunscreen is not about aesthetics (although daily usage is key to prevent speedy skin ageing) - skin cancer and melanoma can be killers. Wearing a broad spectrum SPF, AKA one that protects from both UVA and UVB rays, everyday on areas exposed to light can help to protect the skin from the damage that causes skin cancer.

Check your moles and freckles by using the A B C D E technique (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolving) and go to your GP if anything seems out of the ordinary.

If you are a man who is looking for true results from a skincare routine, get yourself a consult in a local clinic or salon (or with us over the magical forces that are Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp).

The Nerdie Recap

  • Men’s skin is thicker than women’s, has more collagen, larger pores and produces more oil
  • Men’s skin needs the exact same things that women’s skin does
  • Shaving foams, aftershaves and shaving balms can dehydrate the skin and strip it of its barrier function
  • SPF is key, for all and everyone, all the time, all year round, ALWAYS!