If you are in the aesthetics business you already know that men’s skin and women’s skin are different. This is a biological fact. It is something that every single man and every single woman, and all of the TSLMS members and SCALE Music City participants face. It is why products made for men and women, as well as procedures designed for men and women are different – because what is good for women is likely ineffective for men and what works for men is likely overkill for women.
The Basics of Men’s Skin
This topic has begun to get recognition among dermatologists. In 2014, Dermatology World presented a pretty comprehensive overview of these differences and those of us in the TSLMS world started to take serious note:
Typical male dermis is about 20 percent thicker than female dermis, but thicker is not necessarily tougher. A thicker dermis means that men have fewer and less pronounced superficial wrinkles compared to women, Dr. Camacho noted. But men also have more robust skeletal musculature. That larger muscle mass translates into deeper expression lines compared to women. Dermatologists must consider those differences in wrinkles and expression lines when planning procedures.
There also are pronounced functional differences between male and female skin. Although men have thicker skin, their thicker dermal layer is actually more sensitive to environmental conditions than thinner female skin. Men have drier skin than women and have a greater need to moisturize, Dr. Camacho said. Male skin also is more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation than female skin. “Remember that ultraviolet radiation is the single most important risk factor for both the aging of the skin and the development of skin cancers,” he said. “Because men are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, they have higher incidences of both nonmelanoma [basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma] and melanoma skin cancers. Not only do men have a higher incidence of these cancers, they also have a higher mortality rate. If you are a man with melanoma, your risk of mortality is about two times higher than a woman with similar disease. The reality goes against every idea we have of men’s skin being tougher and more resilient when it is actually more sensitive.”
Men produce about four times more sebum than women. That means men are more prone to develop large pores and related problems such as acne and secondarily scarring from acne. Differences in hormonal secretion, specifically the excess of androgen over estrogen seen in men, drive differences in hair growth. Men are far more susceptible to androgenic alopecia than women. But androgens also drive hair growth on other parts of the body, which makes men more likely to grow unwanted hair and be great candidates for hair removal treatments.
Immune responses also differ between the genders. Not only do men have distinct dermal microflora, they are more prone to both bacterial and viral infections of the skin. Part of that increased susceptibility to infection is related to their grooming routines. The repetitive, often daily, trauma during shaving can lead to patterns of skin inflammation and infection rarely seen in women.
Recovery from wounds and other dermal trauma also is slower in men than in women. This slower healing in men is due largely to androgen production and its effect in healing, Dr. Camacho said. Not only does slower wound-healing play a role in grooming and skin care routines, it is an important factor in recovery from almost any medical or cosmetic treatment.
The Value of Skin Is Not Just Beauty
Our skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is intricately involved in our health and well being, linked to our circulatory and lymphatic systems, and provides an environmental barrier to protect us against the elements. We spend a lot of time altering the skin’s look to make people more beautiful, but how often do we stop and think about the skin as part of the body’s physiology. As the National Institutes of Health reminds us:
The skin is the largest multifunctional organ in the body. It functions as a protective physical barrier by absorbing ultraviolet radiation and preventing microorganism invasion and chemical penetration. The skin also controls the passage of water and electrolytes and has a major role in thermoregulation of the body, in addition to its immunological, sensory, and autonomic function. Understanding the physiological, chemical, and biophysical characteristics of the skin helps us develop a proper approach for the management of skin diseases. However, the influence of genetic and environmental factors on the skin is also critical to consider.
Researchers assessed skin parameters in different parts of the body in men and women separately. The knowledge of sex-linked cutaneous differences might help in study planning and the development of female- versus male-specific products for more appropriate dermatological treatments or cosmetic interventions.
There are sex-related differences in anatomy, physiology, epidemiology, and the manifestations of several diseases. With regard to skin disorders, infectious diseases are presented more in men but psychosomatic problems, pigmentary disorders, certain hair diseases, and autoimmune and allergic diseases are more common in women. Indeed, there are more sex-associated dermatoses in women and the occurrence and prognosis of certain skin malignancies are related to sex-related differences.
Some of us see a lot of clients with skin disorders and diseases, or skin that is impacted by non-skin diseases. It behooves us all to pay attention to the biological gender of the person we are treating and tailor our treatments to them specifically.
Transgender Skin Is Unique
Further complicating matters is skin on a person not clearly male or female. Many practices see people who are transgender – some who are transitioning genders. Hormones affect the skin and its ability to respond to different treatments. The Huffington Post wrote about this recently. In their piece “Here’s How Hormone Replacement Therapy Affects Your Skin While You Are Transitioning,” they interviewed a number of doctors who all agreed that taking estrogen or testosterone causes side effects that most people do not think about. If you are treating a patient or client that is transitioning or has transitioned, it is important to think about their unique skin needs and deal with it accordingly.
Overall there are a lot of things to consider when treating people’s skin – whether for aesthetic purposes or for disease and disorders. Hopefully this piece gives you enough of a basis to start continuing your education on the topic.