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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have a question about our blog content and how it may apply to your own skin concerns? Email us here to get personalized advice from our on-call estheticians, or browse our Product Recommendations here.