When we think about skincare and treating different skin types, we typically think about dry, sensitive, oily and combination skin. And this is a great place to start, because no matter who you are or where you come from, these factors are all relevant.
However, when exploring, learning about and formulating for specific skin types it is all too easy to forget about the importance of gender. When formulating your own natural skincare products for men you need to know the differences between men and women’s skincare.
Is men’s skin different to women’s skin?
We’re trying not to generalize because, strictly speaking, one person’s skin is different to the next person, no matter who they are, how old they are, where they come from and whether they identify as male or female.
That said, it is well documented that several physiological and anatomical differences between men and women do exist. This is primarily attributed to the fact that hormones differ in men and women, which affects our physiology and anatomy. Our skin, which is our body’s largest organ, is no exception – hormone secretions not only have an effect on the body, they also have an effect on skin physiology1,2.
All of the following differences in skin physiology (sebum, hormones, skin pH, collagen) affect the microorganisms that are naturally present on our skin – the skin microflora. A delicate balance of different bacterial and yeast species is a recent topic in scientific research, but it is well established that it affects skin health, condition and scent. Microflora on male skin is different to microflora on female skin, and can be responsible for some of the observable differences of the skin.
Do men produce more sebum than women?
Sebum is an oily substance secreted onto our skin by the sebaceous glands. It helps to prevent moisture loss, as well as soften and hydrate the skin. Both men and women produce and secrete sebum. Men, however, tend to have more sebaceous glands than women, which means they are more likely to produce more sebum than women.
Additionally, there are androgenic hormones – chemicals secreted by the body – that increase the activity of sebum production. These hormones are found in men and women, but men produce higher amounts of androgenic hormones, which leads to more sebum production.
Women have other hormones (that men do not have) that balance the activity of the androgenic hormones and can reduce sebum production.
Put simply, men tend to produce more sebum than women. This is both good and bad news for men.
The good news is that, generally speaking, due to sebum being produced in higher quantities in men than women, male skin is much less prone to dryness and moisture loss, and it is better protected from environmental factors and elasticity loss. Men also tend to experience sensitive skin much less often.
The bad news is that overproduction of sebum (as well as larger pores in men) increases the risk of acne formation – this is easily observable in puberty where males are more prone to acne than females.
If your skin produces too much sebum, you are prone to oily skin and acne, and if your skin produces too little sebum, you are prone to dry or dehydrated skin. So having the right levels of sebum production is an important part of having healthy, vibrant and glowing skin.
Do men have a different skin surface pH than women??
The pH of men’s skin also differs from the pH of women’s skin.
While there are variations in the pH of the skin’s surface between different individuals, whether male or female, generally speaking men have a slightly higher (more alkaline) pH than women do. However, when measuring the pH inside the epidermis, men have a lower pH (more acidic) then women.
This means that men’s skin can behave slightly differently and it can be more prone to viral and bacterial infections. The pH of skincare products is an essential component of formulating effective skincare products but in the DIY world of natural skincare formulation, it is usually not taken into account.
Do men have more collagen than women?
Collagen is a structural protein present in many connective tissues in our body. In skin, we find an abundance of collagen in the dermis layer. Together with elastin, it gives structure, strength, elasticity and suppleness. It also retains moisture, giving our skin a healthy plump appearance.
As we age our skin gets thinner, especially after the age of 45, which is mainly due to collagen loss. The effects are visible on the skin as fine lines, wrinkle formation and a loss of elasticity.
Men’s skin gets thinner to a lesser extent compared to women’s skin. This is not necessarily because men have more collagen, but because they either have stronger collagen or they lose collagen at a lower rate compared to women. For this reason, men tend to experience fine lines and wrinkles at a later age than women.
What skin conditions typically affect men more than women?
Several skin conditions can affect men and women equally. These include eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis and impetigo. However, there are a handful of conditions that affect men’s skin more than women’s.
Due to thicker facial hair and shaving, men commonly experience razor rash – small, irritated bumps. The bumps, especially in men of color, can get inflamed; a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae.
When exercising, men also tend to sweat more – they normally perspire almost twice as much as women. Whilst this might not have a dramatic effect on the quality, health and vitality of the skin, it is an important point to note because it can add to or increase unpleasant body odors.
This can be addressed in the skincare products men use.
If we consider men’s lifestyle, environment and climate, which in many cases differ significantly to women’s, we discover these can have an impact on the skin’s needs.
The world of construction, laboring, engineering, manufacturing, armed forces/combat and fishing, for example, tend to be dominated by men. Of course there are many women in these professions and many men in others, but in these industries we tend to find more men who are exposed to the weather, climate, the sun’s rays, potential pollutants, hazardous conditions and dangerous tools, etc. These can all have an effect on the health and vitality of skin.
What is also worth mentioning is that men seem to be more prone to skin cancer than women and it is difficult to determine why.
It is suggested that this is more likely due to behavior and lifestyle than physiological or anatomical differences.
For example; men typically don’t tend to get their skin checked as often as women, more men have outdoor jobs and are thus exposed to the sun more and for longer, men are less likely to wear sun protection and it could be argued that men don’t examine their skin as much as women.
If we don’t care for our skin properly, over time it can lead to some very troubling conditions and experiences.
What is the best natural skincare for men?
Due to the aforementioned characteristics of male skin, skincare products intended for men are usually hydrating with a light skin feel. Even though men are less prone to dry skin, their skin can still show signs of dehydration, so moisturizing products with humectants can be very useful.
If the sebaceous glands are too active – leading to oily skin and acne formation – products that balance sebum production (eg niacinamide) are an effective choice. In acne-prone skin, soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as calendula and green tea extract, are beneficial.
Chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) can help a lot with clogged and enlarged pores, as well as with pseudofolliculitis barbae.
Post-shave products are often used, and those tend to contain soothing, astringent and antimicrobial ingredients to prevent infection and calm down irritated skin. A typical ingredient in aftershave lotions is alcohol, which functions as an astringent and antibacterial agent.
A befitting natural skincare routine for men
We all have different preferences when it comes to skincare, and it is hard to talk about ‘typical’ male skincare products. In many cases, men prefer light skincare products that are easy to use, quick to absorb and are not oily, sticky or heavy.
Generally speaking, long and complicated skincare routines are usually not preferred by men, so products that do more tasks at the same time, can come in handy, ie a ‘2-in-1 aftershave and moisturizer’, or similar.
Branding men’s natural skincare products
While many different marketing strategies exist, more often than not cosmetic products intended for men have different branding and appearance than those intended for women.
That doesn’t mean that all men’s skincare products need to be packaged in dark containers and have a woody scent, but it does mean it is important to know your target customers and their preferences.
Very feminine designs and typically feminine scents (powdery, floral) are probably not the best options, but there are many other choices when it comes to scents, appearance and branding.
A good strategy is to ensure different properties of the product follow the same line – for example, a relaxing body wash intended to be used in the evenings can have softer looking packaging and use calming scents; an aftershave that is used in the morning could have an overall brighter, stronger look and a more uplifting scent, and so on.
It’s also important to know that even though men’s skin has some differences compared to women’s skin, the vast majority of physiological processes are still the same.
Just like women, men also show signs of aging and they can experience sensitive or dry skin. So, when making natural skincare products for men these problems should also be addressed, not just the physiological and anatomical differences, or simply men’s needs, preferences and branding.
Consider the type of product you want to make, the typical differences and concerns that men face, or skin problems they might experience, the look and feel of the product, the preferences around smell, viscosity, texture and visual appearance, as well as the branding.
These are all things you need to think about when formulating natural skincare products for any person, but for men in particular, the considerations are different to formulating products for women.
How to make natural skincare products for men?
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Alternatively, if you are looking to make products to sell, you’ll want to develop the art, science and practice of skincare formulation! If that’s you, you’ll want to join our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation. Our course will teach you how to create your own natural skincare products from scratch like a professional without following recipes, and it will teach you what you need to do to ensure you can sell your products and comply with regional cosmetic regulations. Click here to find out more.
If you’re not quite ready for that yet, you can start with our free natural beauty recipe book! It has some delicious natural skincare recipes and might be a good way to try a few simple recipes and techniques out before you get stuck into an online course or program.
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- Giacomoni, P.U., Mammone, T. & Teri, M. (2009). Gender-linked differences in human skin, Journal of Dermatological Science, 55(3), 144-149.
- Leveque, J.L., Corcuff, P., De Rigal, J. & Agache, P. (1984). In vivo studies of the evolution of physical properties of the human skin with age, International Journal of Dermatology, 23 (5), 322.
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