Frazzled by all the sea of social media notifications, you forgot to hit the drugstore last night and refill your skincare basics. In a pinch, can you use your boyfriend’s moisturizer that’s apparently only for real men™? We look at the difference between men’s skin and women’s skin, and how that might translate into skincare product choices.
Can I use my boyfriend’s skincare/haircare products and vice versa?
Short answer, yes. Go ahead and share all your skincare products if you wish.
I think most people can figure out that using a “male product” isn’t going to result in suddenly growing coarse facial hair.
What is the main difference between men’s and women’s products?
In a word, marketing.1 There are also some other properties like scents and texture choices and packaging that may come into play but there is very little substantial difference between men’s and women’s products. If we look at how the marketing demarcates the products into gendered categories though, it begs the next question:
Are there differences between men’s skin and women’s skin?
Yes, there are numerous and significant differences between men’s and women’s skin. Some differences are biological. There are also some differences that arise as a result of environmental or cultural norms.
- Men have thicker skin (yes, literally) by about 20% to 25%.2 The texture of men’s skin is rougher.
- Men grow more facial hair, have larger hair follicles, produce more sebum (skin oil), and have more collagen.3
- Men shave frequently as part of grooming, which has the effect of irritating the facial skin.
- Generally, men take less care of their skin. They are less likely to apply sunscreen, as well as moisturizers.4
It turns out that men and women differ quite a bit in terms of skin biology. The main and most obvious difference is facial hair – but there are also other less visible differences as well. Men also have thicker skin and more collagen – this translates into different ways in which men and women show signs of aging, in particular, wrinkle formation.
If there are real differences, why doesn’t that translate into different products?
First, it’s important to understand that individual differences are going to trump general trends every time. While it’s true that on average, men have oilier skin, there are plenty of men with dry skin, and plenty of women with oily skin. It’s better to choose a product by skin type, rather than by gender, for example. Just like there aren’t “foods for men” vs “foods for women,” it’s hard to segregate skincare products. There might, however, be very general advice for men and skincare that you could find useful.
What we do know, is that more and more men are taking better care of their skin and overall health, so there is a huge expanding market for men’s skincare, and you can expect to see more skincare products aimed at men. We also know that men don’t react well to traditional skincare marketing for women – so you can expect gendered marketing to continue for some time. It will likely be far into the future before there are going to be substantive differences in men’s and women’s skincare products.
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1More guns and black colors; less unicorns and pink colors on the labels.
3The collagen density that men have, give them an edge when it comes to aging. Women’s skin will tend to age faster for this reason.
4To be fair, this is changing and quickly. The fact that Men’s Skincare is a thing is a testament to this.