Do men and women really need different skincare products?

Words By Randa Zaid


Let’s talk about sex. And why it shouldn’t have anything to do with skincare.

Men’s skin is around 20 – 25 per cent thicker than women’s skin. It contains more collagen and elastin and tends to produce more oil due to the amount of testosterone in the male body. But women also have certain levels of this hormone, it’s not exclusive to men. So, there are some minor differences, but human skin has almost the same structure regardless of gender.

Yet, wander down the aisles of the health and beauty sections of large stores and supermarkets and a different picture is painted as the packaging palette morphs from flowery pastel to darker, monochromatic, where ‘suitable for men’ labels appear.

(image by Jernej Grej)

In ancient Egypt, beauty held significant value, and x and y chromosomes were neither known about nor had any influence over the products used for self-care. Both men and women went to great lengths with their skincare routines with the emphasis on cleanliness. Taking care of the body was necessary for good health and the same products have been found in the graves of both men and women.

In modern society we have tended to view self-care as being just for women and many men haven’t wanted to be seen taking that sort of care for themselves. But that is changing. We need to get away from the idea that taking care of our skin is about preventing wrinkles or focusing on anti-ageing. It’s not about vanity, it’s about nourishing our skin and taking care of ourselves. It’s less about gender and more about being holistic. Today’s men and women are more likely to be focused on greener, cleaner formulas than gender.

(Image by Curology)

There have been concerns in the past that male skin would be sensitised due to shaving which has led to products for men being branded as lighter. But it’s unnecessary to differentiate in this way and these traditional views are rapidly disappearing. The American Academy of Dermatology has found there is no medical or scientific reason for products to be divided by gender. Products should be all about feeding the skin, regardless of gender.

The focus in any skincare routine should be the needs of your skin and not your gender. Is your skin oily, dry, sensitive or a combination? Your gender doesn’t determine your skin type and by specifying products in this way, many people might be missing out on optimising their skincare routines. Men and women eat the same food after all. They might prefer some different flavours, and some might eat more than others but many ingredients are the same and enjoyed by both. We don’t market food to feed male and female bodies differently so why do we do it when it comes to feeding our skin?

(Image by Christopher Campbell) 

GlobalData, which provides expert analysis for companies in the world’s biggest industries, reports that rising expectations from consumers are now driving up the transition to gender-neutral products and smart retailers are already re-designing their stores in a shift away from the traditional male and female sections.

Start with products that suit your skin type. Keep it simple. We really don’t need hundreds of different products. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. The days of husbands and boyfriends having to be coerced into using a face wash or moisturiser are diminishing in our enlightened world, but if men are embracing a skincare routine for the first time it makes sense to look for natural products. Don’t make the leap from never using skincare to suddenly slapping on something with a harsh retinol base. The key ingredients to look out for are products with antioxidants and vitamins, especially A, C, D and E as well as B12 for hydration. The fewer the ingredients the better. A gentle cleanser with milk and honey or an olive oil soap won’t strip away the skin’s natural oils. A high-factor sunscreen in the morning should set you up for the day. Overnight an oil-based moisturiser will calm and nourish. And that is all anyone really needs, with perhaps a serum boost a couple of times a week for added hydration.

 (Image by Hisu Lee)


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