Skin’s Battle of the Sexes

Men and women are different physiological beings in many ways, not excluding skin.  While the infrastructure of skin is the same for both sexes, there are biological and lifestyle differences that lead to differing trends in skin for men and women. 

Whether we’re from Mars or Venus, for the most part, our skin is affected by the same factors.  Hormones, diet, sun exposure, environment, fat accumulation, hair growth, stress and skin health practices all play a role in the appearance and wellbeing of our skin.  Some of these are out of our control, and others are well within our ability to protect and care for our skin.  Most of these variables determine differences we see in skin between the sexes. 

Hormones are one of the largest factors in skin quality and aging.  The endocrine system regulates hormones used for a variety of metabolic, reproductive, immune, and growth functions in the body.  As we age, hormones change and usually slow, which impacts skin greatly.  Estrogen, found more abundantly in women, is the most impactful hormone affecting skin because it contributes to epidermal thickness and hydration.  Contrary to what many women believe, estrogen keeps us youthful.  But when estrogen becomes off balance during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, post-partum and menopause, it mixes with male hormones called androgens and creates issues for a woman’s skin.  Because this encompasses a substantial amount of a woman’s life, many women experience worse skin problems, especially during these specific times.  

Testosterone is the male hormone that causes men to have thicker facial hair, oilier skin and thicker skin overall.  While men do tend to have thicker skin, the age-related thinning of skin and loss of collagen happens to both men and women equally.  Outside of puberty and the normal aging process, men are less affected by hormone changes in their lives.  However, extra thick hair and oil can cause more blemishes and acne as pores are harder to clean and treat. 

The thyroid is another hormone that affects skin in both men and women.  The thyroid is largely responsible for the metabolism, which is essential for the immune system as well.  A balance of thyroid hormones is crucial to maintaining a healthy metabolic process and immune function.  Skin cells require a strong immune system to prevent foreign substances for entering the body through the surface of skin.  Plus skin that is not protected can be easily damaged by environmental factors including the sun and pollution.  Additionally, without a properly functioning thyroid, fat accumulation can store more toxins and lead to diseases.  As men and women tend to accumulate fat differently, skin is affected differently in these areas. 

Lifestyle factors based on personal interests, vanity and social norms play a part in different skin care practices between genders.  Women are more likely to participate in a daily skin care routine of cleaning and moisturizing than men, and are more conscious of a skin-healthy diet.  Women are also more likely to wear sunscreen.  A study reported in Live Science determined that young men are 55% more likely to die of melanoma (skin cancer) than women.  Although they only made up 40% of melanoma cases, they accounted for 64% of deaths.  Researchers believe that behavioral factors make a difference when it comes to skin cancer as women may be more vigilant of their skin health and more likely to see a dermatologist regularly or when an issue arises.

However, the additional skin care and personal care products that women use, including cosmetics, may contribute to more toxins being absorbed through their skin.  This can have other health repercussions than purely the appearance of skin.  Also, men and women tend to handle stress differently, which can be a major cause of skin issues.  Women often internalize stressors more than men who are less affected by them.  Additionally, those whose jobs include physical labor and exposure to chemicals or factory smoke may have skin damage.  Depending on the culture, these jobs are more often associated with men.

The gender differences in skin go much further than skin deep.  At our core, our biology, lay many factors that will determine the characteristics of our skin. Still, men and women both have the ability to care for skin and treat their individual skin concerns.  Between a natural skin care regimen and consultations with a dermatologist, skin conditions are manageable for both sexes equally.

Erin Stieglitz
Erin Stieglitz