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Father’s Day is near. Can men use skin care products designed for women? Should they?

We all know (!) that age makes women wiser and men more handsome. I don’t think this has to do with differences in skin anatomy but rather with cultural expectations.  The skin of men ages just as much of that of women.  If anything, as men tend to wear their hair short, they even lack the protection than longer hair gives to the back of women’ necks have.  At the back of the neck, solar elastosis (thickened, dry, wrinkled, reddish skin) is usually limited to men.

Do men need skin care at all?  YES.   We accept men’s aging skin not because it looks or works better than that of a woman but because we (society) judges men by other standards that how smooth their skin is.

If men do need skin care, do they need skin care especially designed for them? NO.   Why do men need skin care? Because skin care is not just a matter of beauty but also health. You can’t wait until things get bad to go to a dermatologist for a lesion that may be skin cancer. You need to prevent damage and reverse skin aging if you want your skin to feel comfortable and be able to do its job: protect your body from the elements and infection.

How different are the skin of men and women?

I looked at available research on differences between the skin of men and women. The fist thing that came to my mind is hormone receptors, estrogen receptors are important to skin metabolism. Both men and women have similar hormone receptors in their skin, both to “male” and “female” hormones: the skin of both man and women has estrogen receptors; the same is true for androgen receptors. Clearly, there are other factors at work, and skin is thicker in men for most areas of the body, but this is not caused by a difference in receptors.

Chronological ageing has clear effects on skin wound healing, falling estrogen levels are the principle mediator of these effects. Indeed, HRT and topical estrogen replacement accelerate healing in elderly humans. Receptors in the nuclei of fibroblasts and keratinocytes bind estrogens, get activated and, in turn, stimulate the synthesis of a variety of proteins, among them enzymes that are crucial to skin structure, like those involved in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid. Estrogen decreases the activity of metalloproteinases that degrade dermis matrix proteins, so it ends up both stimulating synthesis of skin components and inhibiting their degradation. Just as important, estradiol binds to receptors in the keratinocytes, stimulating proliferation.   It is easy to see that menopause, i.e. when ovaries stop producing estrogen, is a huge event for women’s skin, while for men there is no such a sharp transition.

That’s it for the differences. How about the similarities? There is no difference as far as the effect of environmental stress is concerned. This is true for UV and sun damage, for pollution (reactive oxygen species and more), for endogenous aging related to mitochondria function, etc. etc. What I am trying to say is that there are differences but the similarities are overwhelming.

At Skin Actives, we have few products that are best left to women, because they contain phytoestrogens, chemicals present in some plants that have some affinity for estrogen receptors. These products were formulated especially for women in post and peri menopause, but even these, should help men because men’s skin have estrogen receptors. Moreover, the chances of any of these phytohormones to get to the blood stream are minimal.

Despite the similarities in the effect of aging on the skin and scalp of bothe men and women, advertising presents them as different species that require different products. We ate Skin Actives seem to be falling in the same trap: from our own website, we say this on the Skin Actives collagen serum

This multi-dimensional skin serum is perfect for women of all ages who want to delay, prevent or reduce multiple signs of aging while providing maximum moisture and nutrients to support overall skin health.

Why women? The collagen serum is also great for men!

From one of our newsletters, written by a forum member, Mark in Brighton:

Many men’s products contain fragrances to make them smell more masculine. These are often quite unpleasant, overpowering and possibly irritating. SAS actives and products do not contain fragrances.

Sea kelp bioferment mixed with the mild detergent makes an excellent shaving gel. You only need a very small amount as well (don’t need a separate cleanser).

Marine nutrient serum (MNS) is an excellent post-shave healer; add a layer of moisturizer like our ELS if you have dry skin. Alcohol-based aftershaves will dry your skin, bad idea!

An observation is that women are better able to hide poorer skin, eye bags etc using makeup. Perhaps it is even more important for men to make sure their skin is in tip top condition because it is less acceptable for men to use makeup and/or concealers.

I don’t know if its true but many companies say that men need to exfoliate to make it easier to shave and to prevent in-growing hairs the alpha and beta exfoliator (don’t use straight after shaving) and pumpkin enzyme peel will be great for this.

What Skin Actives products do I recommend for men? The same products that I recommend for women.

We have a separate line, Tombstone, for men’s beards. The hair products in Tomsbstone have the same ingredients that Skin Actives.

For the man in your life, what to get?

For acne prone skin: Zit Ender and Flawless kit
For aging skin:  Ageless Kit.
For sensitive skin: Calm and Soothe kit
For dry skin: Hydrating kit
And remember that the older the skin, the more it will benefit from our products.  This is true especially for men because they do neglect tgheir skin.

Emmerson, Elaine, Hardman,Matthew (2012) The role of estrogen deficiency in skin ageing and wound healing. Biogerontology, 13: 3-20.