Male Skin Education
by Sam Pick
When it comes to skin care, men, just like women, have to deal with issues like acne, sensitivity, dryness and aging. However, just as there remain profound differences between such conditions, the contributing factors behind them can differ from gender to gender. The principal difference stems from hormones—mainly, testosterone. Although women produce it too, adult males produce around 10 times more.
Androgenic effects of testosterone
Masculine characteristics are referred to as androgenic effects, as opposed to the commonly known term anabolic, which refers to muscle growth and development. Beginning with an obvious difference, men have the ability to grow a beard. Testosterone drives hair growth, triggering the production of terminal—thick, long and dark—hair. Women only develop vellus—short, fine, light-colored—facial hair, which are less coarse and pigmented, and take up much less surface area of the skin.
The ability for a man to grow a beard, discounting SPF sunscreen, remains his best protection against harmful UV rays. UV rays are unable to penetrate through a beard to the dermis, hence greatly decreasing collagen degradation. Evolutionary reasons suggest this stems from man’s extended periods of time spent outdoors hunting, exposed to the elements, with the need for greater protection. Whatever the reason may be, it’s not surprise then that along with fair-skinned and finer haired males, like women, shaving greatly enhances the chances of UV damage and premature aging.
In addition to collagen protection, androgens, including testosterone, yield a denser network of collagen fibers than found in female skin. Couple the collagen network with terminal hair follicles, and men have much thicker skin. Traditionally then, men are less inclined to worry about skin aging and moisturizers in the early stages of their life. What’s worrying about this however is that despite their thicker skins, American men have much higher incidence and death rates of melanoma than women. Take the graph below, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates the incidence rates of melanoma among men and women between 1999 and 2009.
These alarming figures indicate that despite possessing thicker skin, men need much greater skin care protection. This should begin with education, as well as having specific products and treatments to help target their skin.
Generally, you would think that thicker skin would lend itself to better protection. Yet the very reason for the difference in skin thickness, testosterone, may be the instigator for some of the most common skin issues and diseases.
The epidermal barrier, a tissue within the body that prevents dehydration, absorption of harmful substances and infection from foreign organisms, effectively maintains the body’s perfect balance. Once disrupted, signals are sent to automatically replenish the barrier and remove foreign material. Studies have shown that estrogen, higher in women, accelerates barrier maturation, while testosterone can inhibit the functionality of the epidermal barrier. It’s believed that diseases associated to barrier abnormalities, such as psoriasis, are more common in men than women. Even without such diseases, barrier repair and recovery from something like a cut is greatly slowed because of testosterone. This is significant when you consider men who shave regularly and can often cut themselves. This leads to greater time spent healing wounds, and therefore a need for specific products formulated to assist men’s skin repair.
Although puberty marks the transition period into manhood, the effects of the increase in testosterone can often outweigh the excitement. Testosterone increases oil secretion all over the body, and although it can act as a natural moisturizer, it also acts as a poor-clogger and the provider of the perfect breeding ground for acne. During puberty, the rate of this oil production is far greater than the rate of secretion, hence as often evident over the face, acne in young men can be more severe and long-lasting than in females. Although acne is not a life-long condition, it isn’t until a man reaches adulthood that the rate of oil production normalizes.
Article posted 1/16/2013.