You’ve finally nailed down whether your skin type is dry, oily or combination but do we also need to be taking note of skincare ranges geared primarily towards men? Are there really distinct differences? Isn’t skin just – well – skin?
It turns out that increased testosterone does in fact make a difference: from increased facial hair to more oil production, a lower skin pH and on average a 20-25% thicker skin with a tougher texture compared to women predisposing men to particular skincare complaints.
1. Pseudofolliculitis barbae (AKA razor bumps/ shave bumps/ barber’s bumps)
This refers to those itchy pimples over the beard area after shaving resulting from shortened, curved hairs curling in on themselves and either curving into the skin or getting trapped beneath the surface of the skin resulting in a foreign body reaction and inflammation. Men with coarser, curlier hair are more prone to this particular issue.
Dermatologist tip #1: Grow your beard: When you stop shaving, the short hairs grow and spring out of your skin. Once the trapped hairs grow out, your problem will be solved: You should see fewer razor bumps within one month. The bumps should be gone after three months.
Dermatologist tip #2: Never pull or stretch your skin while shaving and never pluck a hair inside a razor bump: You want to avoid shaving closely or putting much pressure on your skin.
Dermatologist tip #3: Figure out which direction your beard hairs grow and shave in the same direction: Work out the direction of your hair follicle growth by pulling tightly on the skin in your beard area and just observing. If your facial hair grows in various directions, use a clean, unused soft-bristle toothbrush to gently brush your hairs in one direction. Doing this daily will train your beard hair to grow in one direction, which can reduce new razor bumps significantly.
Dermatologist tip #4: shave daily — or at least every 2 to 3 days: When you shave less often, you give hairs time to grow long enough to curve into your skin.
Dermatologist tip #5: Use a gentle exfoliating cleanser – removing the ‘dead’ skin cells from the surface of the skin can reduce the number of hairs that curve back into your skin.
Dermatologist tip #6: Hold a warm compress on your beard area for five minutes before shaving— or shave at the end of your shower. The warmth and moisture cause the hairs to swell, so they’re less likely to curve into your skin after shaving.
Dermatologist tip #7: Apply a moisturizing shaving cream, even when using an electric razor. Let the shaving cream sit on your skin for one or two minutes. Before you pick up your razor, make sure the shaving cream is wet. If it dries out before you shave, rinse your face. Then reapply, using more cream this time to prevent the cream from drying.
Dermatologist tip #8: Watch your shaving technique: Use short strokes, and never go over an area more than twice.
Dermatologist tip #9: Use a sharp razor blade or a trimmer: A dull blade greatly increases the risk of razor bumps. Change the blade on a single-blade razor after 5 to 7 shaves (or throw away a disposable razor)
Dermatologist tip #10: Soothe the skin after shaving to reduce inflammation. Place a cool compress on your skin after shaving. To make a cool compress, hold a clean washcloth underneath cool water. Once the washcloth is wet, place it on your just-shaved skin and leave it in place for five minutes. Then apply a soothing aftershave.
Dermatologist tip #11: Watch your razor hygiene: When using a single-blade razor, rinse the blade after each swipe. After shaving, dry your razor and store it in a dry place. This prevents bacteria from growing on your razor. Never leave your razor in the shower or on a wet sink.
Dermatologist tip #12: If you continue to get razor bumps after you change your shaving technique, it’s time to see your dermatologist. From topical corticosteroids after shaving to laser hair removal to reduce the coarseness of the hair (without actually stopping the hair from growing) – we have many solutions to this common problem.
2. Razor burn/ rashes
Shaving is essentially exfoliating your skin daily! When you consider that we recommend minimizing exfoliation to once or twice weekly and we certainly wouldn’t consider dermaplaning every day – you can understand why frequent shaving can sensitize the skin and disrupt the skin barrier. On average, men who shave, subject their skin to 16 000 shaves in a lifetime. For some men, multi-blade razors can work too well or shave too closely to your skin. If you often experience razor burn, use a single- or double-blade razor instead and do not stretch your skin taut while shaving. Following the shaving tips above will help too.
Sebum (oil) production in men is double that of women (driven by testosterone), and they have more and larger pores. This means that not only is male skin oilier and shinier than female skin, but that they are also more prone to acne and less prone to dry skin.
- Avoid harsh soap – If you think that a bar of soap is your best daily grooming friend, guess again. Soaps with harsh surfactants strip your skin of natural fatty oils which will prompt more oil production. Stick to gel cleansers with gentle surfactants. Bonus if your cleanser contains salicylic acid.
- Try oil absorbing preparations –Mud and clay masks can be very effective in reducing oil deep inside pores without causing the drying damage of regular soap use. Look for mattifying formulations often containing silica to soak up the oil.
- Regulate oil production with ingredients such as niacinamide or retinoids.
- Exfoliate your skin – Because a major complication of oily skin is clogged pores, anything that helps keep them open limits the opportunity for blemishes like whiteheads, blackheads and acne to develop. Salicylic acid can do a deep dive into the hair follicles to break up the debri and prevent breakouts.
- Use a moisturizer – People make the mistake of thinking that oily skin doesn’t need to be moisturized but an oily skin can be dehydrated (lacking water) too!
- Skip the whey protein and creatine: They can raise IGF-1 levels which can increase androgen hormones, specifically the “male” hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). These can increase the production of sebum, the natural oil in your skin that can clog your pores and trigger breakouts.
4. Androgenetic alopecia
Male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) is an inherited condition (with susceptibility genes from BOTH parents), caused by a genetically determined sensitivity to the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in some areas of the scalp. DHT is believed to shorten the growth, or anagen, phase of the hair cycle together with miniaturisation of the follicle to ‘peach fuzz’. This translates into progressively fewer and finer hairs. Treatments include topical minoxidil, oral finasteride or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
5. Seborrheic dermatitis
Seb derm – a condition more commonly present in men (but common in women too)- presents as red patches with a greasy scale and stubborn dandruff on the scalp together with flaking over the oilier areas of the body such as over the eyebrows, sides of the nose, beard area, central chest, groin and under the arms.
Related to the yeast, Malassezia, treatment options include using ketoconazole or prescription shampoos to reduce the Malassezia population together with topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors.
Healthy and younger looking skin is not gender specific. If you or someone you know has a skin condition that needs to be addressed, schedule a consultation with your dermatologist today.