The Difference between Male and Female Skin
The primary differences between male and female skin all result from hormonal differences between the sexes. Ultimately, male and female skin characteristics are determined by the higher incidence of androgens in men. Androgens are known as male sex hormones of which the most well-known is testosterone but also include the more potent dihydrotestosterone as well as androstenedione.
During the early stages of development, testosterone levels in childhood remain fairly consistent until a significant surge occurs during puberty. After which, adult males produce roughly ten times the testosterone that women produce and have stronger androgen receptor activity generally. The consistently elevated androgen levels in adult males lead to the typically masculine characteristics of their anatomy and physiology which include marked dermal variations.
The most obvious difference between male and female skin is the presence of darker, coarse terminal hair on the face. Whilst women do exhibit some facial hair this hair is typically vellus hair, also known as ‘peach fuzz’. The presence of terminal hair on male faces develops during puberty as a result of the surge of testosterone that occurs during this period. Paradoxically, the hormone responsible for facial hair in men is also the cause of male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. The presence of the potent dihydrotestosterone can cause the hair follicles on the scalp to shrink and eventually die leading to hair loss. The degree of hair loss depends on the androgen sensitivity of the individual.
Pores & Sebum
Another characteristic of male skin which often makes itself apparent during puberty is larger pores and increased sebum production. Men have larger sebaceous glands and the glands themselves have more positive androgen receptors i.e. they are activated more by the presence of androgens. This results in oilier skin and more visible pores.
Men are also known to sweat much more than women (thought to be almost twice as much). This is related to androgen activity but not in a slightly different way. Men have just as many active sweat glands as women, however, they produce more sweat per gland than women. Whilst it might be thought that androgens are responsible for increased perspiration, experiments with androgen treatment did not promote perspiration. As such, it is thought that androgens initiate the development of certain factors during puberty which ultimately leads to the different sweat secretion between men and women. For example, androgen activity leads to increased muscle mass in men and increased mass leads to a higher body temperature which in turn promotes perspiration. The composition of male sweat is also different; male sweat typically contains slightly more lactic acid making its pH marginally lower than female sweat.
Men’s skin is also 20-25% thicker than women’s skin, with the dermis, in particular, about 20% thicker. Male skin also tends to have less subcutaneous fat than female skin because estrogen promotes the accumulation of subcutaneous fat whilst dihydrotestosterone impedes subcutaneous fat growth. Relatedly, male collagen density (the ratio of collagen to skin thickness) is higher than that of women at all ages because androgens yield a dense network of collagen fibres.
The same factors which contribute to male skin thickness and collagen density also impact male skin’s ability to heal itself in a process known as re-epithelialisation. It has been observed more generally that androgens have a suppressive effect on immune functions in a wide variety of diseases. What’s more, testosterone has been shown to inhibit wound healing by interfering with the accumulation of structural proteins which are required to repair damage to the dermis. Testosterone levels are also associated with enhanced inflammatory response in male skin.
The final difference between male and female dermal characteristics is the development of pigmentation and hyperpigmentation. The mechanism by which skin develops its pigment (melanogenesis) is the same for both sexes. However, certain pigment conditions, such as melasma, are typically thought to be caused by hormonal imbalances which are more common for women during pregnancy and menopause, for example. Although much less typical, these hormonal imbalances can still occur in men, leading to hyperpigmentation in male skin.
The primary pigmentation concern for men comes as a result of the increased inflammatory response caused by testosterone leading to Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. This typically occurs following breakouts or as a result of shaving-related cuts.
Male Skin Concerns
For the majority of men shaving is part of the daily male grooming routine. While shaving provides some superficial exfoliation for the skin, it is also a major culprit in disrupting the integrity of the skin’s essential barrier. Cuts, nicks and general razor irritation can be compounded by a lack of proper skin care leading to water loss (TEWL) and dehydration. It is especially crucial to repair the skin barrier post-shave given that androgens effect a slower rate of epithelialisation (wound-healing) in male skin.
For skin barrier protection and repair, we recommend...
The iconic Serum Repair, formulated with Hyaluronic Acid and a Micro-Molecular Collagen Peptide which make it a perfect post-shave balm.
For men with sensitive skin or skin that has been sensitised by shaving, Rose de Vie Serum’s anti-inflammatory biotech ingredient Symcalmin soothes any irritation whilst its high fatty acid content restores the lipid matrix so essential to the skin’s barrier function.
High Maintenance Cream with Ceramide-Like (obtained from biotechnology from stabilised Omega 6) and Linoleic Acid to replenish and create a moisture-locking barrier on the skin.
For more on skin barrier repair, check out our dedicated edition of Skin Secrets.
Shaving can also give rise to ingrown hairs and blocked hair follicles which can lead to unsightly blemishes and eventually Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). This is especially common in men due to the increased inflammatory response caused by testosterone. Inflammation triggers the pigment-producing cells in our skin (melanocytes) to release more pigmented organelles which darken and discolour the wounded area and which remain long after the wound has healed.
To treat Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation and other types of pigmentation we recommend:
Incorporating AHA-based Deep Exfoliating Mask into your routine. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids speed up skin cell turnover which dramatically reduces the occurrence of ingrown hairs. It will also help to achieve a closer, smoother shave.
Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream to dramatically reduce the appearance of pigmentation. It can be mixed with serums, creams, applied directly to areas of pigmentation or mixed with Deep Exfoliating Mask for a potent anti-pigmentation treatment.
For more stubborn marks, visit The Dr Sebagh Clinic for laser treatment such as Fraxel which uses tiny pinpoint laser beams that penetrate beneath the skin’s surface to eliminate old, damaged and pigmented skin cells, replacing them with fresh, glowing healthy skin.
It is the activity of an androgen known as dihydrotestosterone which is responsible for the condition known as male-patterned baldness. Whilst genetic factors can limit the effectiveness of certain interventions, The Dr Sebagh Clinic has a variety of non-surgical treatments with minimal downtime that have been proven to be effective in treating the signs of premature hair loss, as long as the condition is identified early and treatment commences quickly.
PRF hair loss treatments utilise the latest scientific advancements in cellular regeneration to repair hair follicles, reverse hair loss, and grow thicker hair. PRF works to stimulate the scalp, improving hair vitality and colour while slowing hair loss and activating new growth.
PRF therapy has been clinically proven to be effective in reversing both male and female pattern hair loss and baldness (androgenic alopecia). PRF can also treat thinning hair resulting from iron deficiency, metabolic causes, telogen effluvium and medication. PRF treatments can also restore hair growth of the beard or eyebrows in some patients.
100% natural, minimally invasive PRF hair loss treatment is also ideal for people whose hair is thinning but who can’t or don’t want to take hair loss medication due to the risk of side effects. It can be used as both a preventative treatment and a regenerative treatment, with no downtime.
Read more about PRF here.
Because men have larger, more active sebaceous glands their skin is more prone to congestion. Acne formation typically results from excessive sebum formation and is accompanied by excessive inflammation and infections in the hair follicle. Both sebum production and inflammation are exacerbated by androgens.
Congestion is also more common amongst men due to more frequent and acidic perspiration. Whilst the lactic acid present in male sweat helps to keep skin hydrated, it lowers the skin’s pH level which can increase the risk of acne and inflammatory skin conditions.
The Two-Step Skin Prep Kit used 2-3 times per week to prevent congestion. Deep Exfoliating Mask melts away dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, allowing Skin Perfecting Mask to truly penetrate the skin and deep-clean the pores by absorbing any excess sebum whilst minimising pores.
For those suffering with more severe acne, The Dr Sebagh Clinic offers a combined laser treatment in the state-of-the-art laser room, which sterilizes and controls hyperactive sebaceous glands, minimising breakouts.
For those with unsightly scars left over from acne and comedones, RadioFrequency with micro-needling (Morpheus8, Scarlet, Explore etc.) is a fantastic treatment for skin resurfacing, minimising large pores and reducing scar tissue.
Where excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) is causing, not only congestion, but also issues with self-esteem, a targeted application of Botulinum Toxin (or Botox) can be an effective treatment. Botox is a neurotoxin that disrupts the nerve signalling process, preventing the uptake of certain chemical messengers by nerve endings. When treating hyperhidrosis, Botox blocks the nerve signals which trigger the sweat glands to produce perspiration.
Androgens promote the formation of a thicker dermis and denser collagen fibres, which means that wrinkles form differently in men and women. Unlike female skin, male skin tends to form less superficial wrinkles as a result of its thick, collagen-dense structure. Male skin is also kept more hydrated by the increased presence of sebum. Where women are affected by fine, expression lines which begin to form from their mid-twenties, men are more prone to deep expression lines as well as more prominent sagging in the under-eye area.
Both men and women experience a decrease in collagen and skin thickness as they age. However, for men collagen degradation is much more linear, gradually declining from mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. While collagen production also slows for women from roughly the same time, the degradation of the skin’s structural matrix in women is affected by the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout their lifetime but especially during menopause. Read more on female collagen degradation here.
Introducing a retinoid into your skincare routine can be highly effective at reducing collagen degradation. Dr Sebagh’s Retinol Night Repair was formulated to be suitable even for sensitive skin types, meaning that it can be applied at night, even if you shaved that morning.
The vital combination of three anti-ageing peptides in Supreme Maintenance Youth Serum works to stimulate, repair and strengthen the collagen matrix and improve skin renewal. What’s more, its formula contains the collagen-stimulating, ingredient Vitamin C. For an even bigger collagen boost, sprinkle in some Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream.
To target sagging in the under-eye area reach for Supreme Eye Serum. Its powerful formula illuminates and tightens the under-eye area. It contains ingredients which activate the elimination of waste products which cause puffiness and dark circles and its peptide-based LDH complex improves firmness and elasticity.
Botox is an effective preventative measure against the formation of wrinkles. Once wrinkles have formed The Dr Sebagh Clinic can either use traditional Hyaluronic Acid-based Dermal Fillers or new e-PRF ‘bio-filler’ to reduce the appearance of deep frown lines and forehead wrinkles.
For more pronounced under-eye sagging, the exclusive Ultralift Eye treatment enables Dr Sebagh and his team to work effectively on the upper and lower eyelids, tightening the loose orbicularis oculi muscle, to lift and firm the delicate eye contour area.
Studies have shown that men are more likely to develop skin cancer and their skin is more susceptible to damage by UV radiation. This is either attributed to the slower rates of wound healing and increased inflammation in male skin or due to lifestyle factors.
Men are less prone to the fine lines and pigmentation associated with photoageing due to UV exposure. They also may be less concerned with the visible effects of photoageing, not only because they are less likely to develop them, but also because of societal factors which encourage a gender divide when it comes to attitudes towards skin care and protection. Whilst we have come a long way from the days when skincare was ‘for girls’, the higher incidence of skin cancers in men remains. As such, it is even more important to include not only UVB but also UVA protection in a male grooming routine.
To protect your skin against UV damage...
Dr Sebagh recommends Vitamin C Brightening Primer with SPF15. Don't be put off by its name - it is so much more than a primer! This lightweight day cream provides skin with up to 92% protection from UV rays and the inclusion of Vitamin C in its formula boosts the efficacy of its Sun Protection Factor (SPF).