Facing Facts: It's Time to Talk About Men's Skin Health

by Marie Veronique



Over the years we’ve had countless women shopping for the men in their lives (and even the occasional man) inquire about which of our regimens are best suited to male skin. It seems that men’s skin care options remain limited to chemical-laden products and higher-end products with questionable efficaciousness. Somewhere between a lack of products designed to fit into a man’s lifestyle and an absence of education around men’s skin health, most men either don’t know—or think they’re not supposed to care—about their skin.

Many of us may have long assumed that skin is skin, but actually, men’s skin differs from women’s in a number of ways, mainly due to hormonal differences. During puberty, a sharp rise in androgens such as testosterone stimulate oil gland activity. Though males and females can experience problems with acne as teenagers, severe or cystic acne is almost exclusively a male hormone, androgen-related problem. Once the pubertal crisis has been weathered men produce testosterone in amounts that pay off in adulthood by keeping their skin relatively pimple and wrinkle-free.

Men’s Skin vs. Women’s Skin

  • Men’s skin is thicker than women’s—by about 25%. A man’s skin thins with age, whereas a woman’s skin maintains a consistent thickness until after menopause, at which point her skin starts to thin as well.
  • Whatever their age, men have a higher collagen density than women. Men lose a little ground in the collagen production department with age, but so do women, so females never overcome the male’s initial advantage. In fact, the difference in the rate of skin aging becomes more noticeable as we age thanks to collagen density: women’s skin is older—by about 15 years—than men’s. If you notice that your male counterparts aren’t wrinkling up at the same rate as you and your female friends, it’s not your imagination—it’s programming. It really does make you think that whoever was responsible for our design must have been male—because their advantage in the skin department doesn’t stop there.
  • In terms of hydration, men’s skin texture is rougher than women’s (we can thank estrogen for our soft, smooth skin) but sebum production, also testosterone-dependent, lubricates skin and imparts excellent water barrier properties. When they sweat, men also produce more lactic acid, a natural humectant, so their levels of tissue hydration improve with exercise.

Adult Acne, Razor Bumps and Rosacea

In fairness, though, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for men. Let’s take a look at some of the skin issues that are exclusively male.

Adult Acne

Hormonal differences go a long way in explaining why men and women experience acne differently. The cells in a man’s sebaceous glands have more androgen receptors, which leads to greater sebum production. When men struggle with acne after their teens it is probably due to excess sebum production. (This is an ongoing event, so men's adult acne is usually chronic.) Men also have more sebaceous glands, so their acne tends to be either all over the face or all over the back and neck. Women, by contrast, generally have periodic breakouts often limited to single areas like the jawline, cheeks and chin.

Razor Bumps

Two types of testosterone, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), govern beard growth; testosterone primes the hair follicle and DHT promotes linear growth of the hair within the follicle. Given the connection between sebum production and testosterone, it is not surprising that men with heavy beards often experience beard acne—pimples that may or may not show under the beard. Acne can make beard maintenance difficult and shaving even more problematic.

Sore red bumps that appear after shaving may look like acne but could actually be folliculitis—AKA razor bumps, shaving rash or barber’s itch. These are a common occurrence following improper waxing or shaving, increasing the numbers of damaged follicles and/or ingrown hairs. The good news is that male acne and razor bumps often respond well to treatments with salicylic acid. SA dissolves matter in blocked pores from the outside in, so it works whether the congestion is a result of acneic comedos or ingrown hairs.

If bearded, defend your skin against beard acne by washing with a salicylic acid cleanser twice a day. If clean-shaven, prep the skin before shaving with SA, and follow with a SA aftershave tonic.

Rosacea

Sebaceous glands are also at play in a type of rosacea that only affects men called rhinophyma. In this the type of rosacea the skin of the nose thickens and the nose becomes bulbous and bright red. W.C. Fields had it, Bill Clinton has it—but it is not, as was previously thought, related to drinking alcohol. It is conjectured that this condition is, like sebum production, controlled by androgen.

For men with chronic facial redness due to rosacea, a zinc oxide only sunscreen can make all the difference. 80% of rosacea flare-ups (the sudden flushing that turns the skin bright red and seems to take forever to recede) are caused by sun exposure, so sunscreen is your best bet for minimizing flushing episodes. Zinc oxide is anti-inflammatory and often you can feel the relief immediately.

Men and Melanoma

These Skin Cancer Foundation statistics paint a grim picture of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. They are especially disturbing when it comes to men. Men between the ages of 15 to 39 are more than twice as likely to die of melanoma as their female peers, and the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that this year, melanoma will kill 6,470 men—and half as many women. However, using a sunscreen of SPF 15 daily reduces melanoma risk by 50%. No doubt, the single most important thing that men can—and should—do daily for their skin is use a sunscreen.

Additional facts

  • Men age 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer.
  • The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 55. One in 27 white men and one in 42 white women will develop melanoma in their lifetimes.
  • Since 2008 the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed annually has increased by 53%.
  • One person dies of melanoma every hour.
  • The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. On average, a person's risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

This all goes to show that skin health—especially sun protection—should be a very real priority for both men and women. By learning to understand their skin’s needs and incorporating safe, effective products and practices, men can change their skin health—and their health in general.

Louis Pierre | Marie Veronique

As clients seeking male-focused skin care came in throughout the years, Marie began formulating small batch products for them—and they kept coming back for more. And thus, Louis Pierre was born. The approach is straightforward: five essential products that are designed specifically for men’s skin needs and easily integrated into their lifestyle.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Don’t strip your skin—Cleanse with SHAVE PREP+DAILY WASH
    This lightly foaming cleanser cleanses skin on the face + body without stripping or drying. It removes dirt and excess oil, softens hair follicles and lightly exfoliates to counteract congestion and dull texture—and is essential for prepping the skin for a close, comfortable shave. Since it’s appropriate for the whole body, it can live in the shower and be easily incorporated into a daily routine.
  2. Don’t lather up with toxic foams—Shave with MILDLY FOAMING SHAVING OIL
    A new and unique product to the market, this formula does not come from a can like the widely used (and highly toxic) traditional shaving foams, but it produces a similar lathering effect—without all the chemicals. It softens the hair follicle and coats the skin with a light lather high in essential fatty acids to create a smooth shaving surface, which helps to reduce irritation, folliculitis (aka razor rash) and ingrown hairs.
  3. Don’t destroy your microbiome—Nourish it with AFTERSHAVE TONIC
    Essential for calming the skin and diminishing razor bumps, this tonic is refreshing post-shave, but it also works to bring overall balance to the face—whether or not it’s freshly shaved—by addressing hydration, inflammation + barrier function.
  4. Don’t weigh yourself down with a cream—Moisturize with FINISHING OIL
    Shaving strips layers from the skin, resulting in compromised barrier function and depleted skin health. This oil replaces the essential components of the outer layer of the skin to restore optimal performance of the epidermal and barrier layers. Formulated with sandalwood seed oil, it enhances dermal microcirculation, which increases nutrient delivery to the entire skin system. Lightweight and non-greasy, it penetrates deeply to build healthier skin with increased elasticity.
  5. Don’t skip daily sunscreen—Protect with COLOR FREE DAILY SUNSCREEN
    This zinc-oxide only broad-spectrum sunscreen disappears completely into the skin with no residue, making it a good option for men.

 


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