Of course, men and women are different. But just how different our skin is may surprise you. If you are a woman wanting to look as young as possible, the differences may infuriate you. So just know that while women have some disadvantages, we are often much better at caring for our skin than our male counterparts. We just have to use this information to reinforce our resolve to take care of ourselves and thus our skin. And if you are a male reading this, imagine the possibilities if you seriously care for and protect your skin.
Before getting into the differences, we need a quick recap on collagen. Collagen is what gives the skin a firm, smooth appearance. Reduced collagen results in volume loss, sagging skin and wrinkles, giving skin an aged appearance. Collagen loss is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic ageing refers to the naturally occurring process of age-related collagen loss that is out of our control. Extrinsic ageing refers to preventable factors that hasten the process, such as poor diet, smoking, stress and ultraviolet light exposure.
Now let’s get to the differences.
Amount of collagen. Women have thinner skin. Men just start with more collagen, resulting in skin that is 20-25% thicker.
Ageing. The rate of collagen breakdown is different between men and women. Collagen remains relatively stable in women until menopause, compared to male collagen, which reduces at a constant rate starting around age 20. Thus, collagen loss in women often appears to be more dramatic, because it happens over a shorter period of time. Studies show women lose 30% of their remaining collagen in the 5 years after menopause.
Menopause. As if reducing collagen was not enough, menopause leads to many other negative changes in female skin. Hormone changes may lead to acne. The pH of the skin changes, leading to increased sensitivity to products. Slower wound healing is a consequence of reduced estrogen. The skin is less able to hold moisture in and there is reduced skin elasticity. Hormone replacement therapy may mitigate some of these effects.
Hydration. Men tend to hold moisture in the skin better than women, which may have a plumping effect.
Oil Production. Women have fewer oil glands and produce less oil in the skin, reducing risk of acne but increasing potential for dry skin.
Pores. Women have fewer, less prominent pores than men.
Skin Care Habits. Women do tend to better protect themselves from sun exposure, and more often have a skin care regimen that addresses some of our skin shortcomings. However, facial shaving is one personal care habit that men really benefit from. Essentially, shaving exfoliates surface skin cells, which helps any products used penetrate better, increasing effectiveness. This exfoliation likely also stimulates collagen production. There are many women who shave their faces or utilize dermaplaning to reap these benefits.
What can we learn from these differences? It really is all about the collagen. Protect it at all costs with strict sun protection and healthy living (minimizing stress and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, for example). Consider using a topical retinoid and incorporating procedures that improve collagen with your dermatologist. Women should be addressing skin hydration daily, which only becomes more important with age.