From mild redness to full-blown eczema flare-ups, sensitive skin comes in all guises. And for men, the added factor of extra facial and body hair means dealing with sensitive skin can get very real. Here’s what we know…
Whatever your age, ethnicity, gender or skin type, there’s no getting away from the fact that sensitive skin can affect anyone. Of course, one person’s perception of sensitive skin can vary greatly from another’s. But one thing is clear, any kind of redness, itching, flaking, stinging, burning, tightness, or excess dryness points to unhappy, sensitive skin of some description.
Interestingly, women are actually more likely to have skin sensitivities than men, with somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the female population reporting a certain degree of sensitive skin. But men aren’t far behind with a significant number of around 50-60 percent reporting sensitivities (1).
“These lower reported incidences of skin sensitivities in men are often linked to differences in the skin,” explains David A. Mays, PharmD, MBA. “But you also can’t ignore the fact that men are also less likely to see a doctor or healthcare professional (2).”
“Some studies show that men’s skin contains higher measurements of hydration and sebum than women’s. It’s also generally perceived to be thicker and therefore more resilient,” he adds.
And it’s true, men’s skin is a whole different beast to women’s. For starters, the combination of excess sebum and facial hair create the perfect storm for oiliness and breakouts. Then there’s the level in which men care for their skin. Everyone knows know how damaging the sun is and how irritating it can be for sensitive skin. However, men are notoriously bad at applying sunscreen on a regular basis (3), so UV damage and sensitivities to the sun are a big thing for the boys.
If you’re experiencing misbehaving skin right now and you’re not sure a) why, or b) what to do about it, read on for everything we know about men and sensitive skin…
How Exactly Is Men’s Skin Different from Women’s?
First, there’s the obvious facial and body hair. This is thanks to men producing more testosterone from puberty which stimulates the hair follicles to produce darker, thicker hair that’s similar to head hair. Of course, women also produce testosterone – but not to the same extent and generally not enough to produce the same level of dark hair on the face and/or body.
Testosterone not only makes men’s skin more hairy, but it also linked to sebum production which is why male skin is generally oilier and more prone to the perils of breakouts. In fact, according to research carried out by Eucerin, men’s skin produces, on average, twice as much sebum as women’s. It’s also tougher and around 20 percent thicker than female skin thanks to a higher density of collagen and elastin fibres which give it structure, elasticity and resiliency. This is great news for guys because it means that male skin is more hardy to the woes of environmental stressors and thus doesn’t show the obvious signs of visible aging until later on in life. Then again, we revert you back to men being less likely to wear sunscreen on a regular basis, and, well, more on that in a minute…
So, What Does This Mean For Men With Sensitive Skin?
“While men do not perceive the severity of sensitive skin in the same way as women, it can still be a real issue,” says David.
“Common areas are those exposed to the sun or those subject to excessive moisture and friction such as the underarm area, groin and feet,” he adds. “If you are also someone with facial and body hair, certain areas may need additional care.”
And let’s talk about the elephant in the room shall we? Shaving. Shaving can be extremely irritating for the skin and often exacerbates pre-existing sensitivities. Granted, it’s great for exfoliating the skin if you only shave two or three times a week. However, studies show that most men between the ages of 30 and 59 shave every day (3). If you’re a daily shaver, this added friction and stress can be too much for the skin, compromising your important barrier function, exposing newer skin cells that aren’t ready to be exposed, and bam, it’s hello razor rash in no time. Shaving can also cause other kinds of problems like ingrown hairs and dry skin which can make your skin feel even more sensitive and irritated by skincare products. This is why you need to make sure your shaving technique is on point. That means, no shabby razor that’s older than your toothbrush and no chemical-laced, fragranced shaving foams – both of which are guaranteed to cause skin flare-ups after every shave.
Of course, not all men shave off their facial hair. But this can cause problems in itself (hello, beard acne) unless you’re strict about cleansing and exfoliating regularly to remove germs, oil, dirt and dead skin cells that build up underneath all that hair. Pseudofolliculitis barbae (sue-doh-foe-lic-u-light-is barb-aye) (big words I know) is what’s seen in men of African and Asian descent. It’s a chronic inflammatory disorder which can lead to not only acne-like papules and pustules, but also hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin). “Many men I know who have this condition will grow facial hair to cover (hide) the areas of the skin which are impacted. Facial hair can hide scars and even dark patches. Since the skin can be compromised, choosing products that won’t irritate or cause additional sensitivities is very important”, says David.
The keys for men is not dissimilar to women. If you’re a shaver, shave carefully. If you don’t shave, cleanse well and often. When you cleanse, steer clear of hot water to avoid drying out your skin. Avoid scented products. Go slow with strong actives like retinol and glycolic acid. And make sure you always apply a non-pore-clogging moisturizer to balance sebum and help avoid breakouts.
“If you’ve not changed your routine and are suddenly experiencing new skin irritations, it might also be a good idea to look on the back of the bottle of your products,” recommends David.
“Companies don’t always highlight small improvements or changes to a product and as a result, may update the preservative system or alter slightly the concentrations of the surfactant. While you might not notice a difference, your skin can.”
Finally, and most, importantly, if you have known sensitivities to certain ingredients, avoid them by checking the SkinSAFE® wellness markers against your favorite products. SkinSAFE® helps you understand exactly what’s in a product and whether it’s safe for your skin – or not. Aren’t sure what causes your skin grief or trying to get unruly skin back in check? Then stick with products that have been awarded our 100 percent SkinSAFE® Top Allergen Free. This means it’s free of the most common skin allergens and irritants. Simple.
8 Of The Best 100% SkinSAFE® Products For Men With Sensitive Skin
1. The Face Wash: Paula’s Choice PC4 Men Face Wash
Cleansing can be extremely irritating for sensitive skin, so start strong and look after your skin’s barrier function by using this gentle face wash morning and night. It lathers up just enough to give you a good clean but won’t strip all the life from your skin. We call that the ideal balancing act. Use it with warm, rather than hot water to avoid exacerbating redness and dry skin.
2. The Eye Cream: Beau Brummell Men’s Anti-Aging Eye Cream
The skin around the eyes is notoriously thin and fragile, so it needs even more attention than the rest of your face. But that doesn’t mean you should overload it with rich, heavy creams. Three words: asking for trouble. Instead, stick with this light, anti-inflammatory eye treatment that’s fragrance-free and packed with effective ingredients which promise not to cause too much grief to the skin around your eyes.
3. The Face Moisturizer: Clinique For Men Maximum Hydrator
Moisturizing your face and neck is an absolute must. In fact, you really should do it after every time you cleanse your skin – whatever your skin type. And yes, that includes post-gym. Thick, heavy moisturizers are an absolute no-no, however, so thank the grooming gods for this lightweight, oil-free cream-gel that packs a mighty hydrating punch without weighing down your skin or clogging your pores.
4. The Shaving Cream: Solimo 2-in-1 Unscented Shave Cream
Whether you’re a daily shaver or try to shave as little as possible, the unwanted side-effects of face and neck hair removal are real. Redness, itching, swelling, bumpy skin, burning, pimples, you name it, shaving can come with the lot. Do yourself a favor and help your skin dodge shaving rashes by replacing your blade frequently, shaving while your skin is warm and wet, working in the direction of hair growth and prepping your skin first with this kind-to-your-skin, non-foaming shaving cream.
5. The Hand Treatment: Duke Cannon Bloody Knuckles Hand Repair Balm
We love this super intense hand moisturizing balm that’s formulated for ‘workers, fighters and world champions.’ But even if you sit at a desk all day and are a far cry from being a world champ at anything, you can still dream, right? More to the point, the symptoms of dry, cracked hands affect everybody. So, if your mitts are in need of an intense hit of moisture, but you hate feeling like your hands are covered in lotion, this is your guy.
6. The Antiperspirant Deodorant: Speed Stick Power Unscented Antiperspirant Deodorant
Sweat and sensitive skin are often a one-way ticket to sore underarms. And they’re no fun, whatever your gender. Finding an effective antiperspirant, however, that doesn’t serve up a hefty helping of irritation can be tricky business. Not so with this baby which is hypoallergenic but hard working enough to keep you dry and odor-free all day long.
7. The Sunscreen: Banana Boat Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
The sun is responsible for between 80 and 90 percent of skin aging. It’s also a nasty little beast and very serious business when it comes to skin cancers. Men are less likely to wear sunscreen than women, but studies also show that men are more likely than women to get skin cancer (3). So, you do the math. After you’ve done that and realized the importance of sun protection, invest in this sweat-resistant hypoallergenic sunscreen that won’t grease up your skin but will offer you great protection, minus irritation.
8. The Body Lotion: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion
Skin that’s moisturized works like a well-oiled machine to keep water in and allergens out. Cue less irritation and softer, more resilient skin. And this is exactly the same for the skin on your body as it is for your face, so ensure you moisturize from head to toe every time you jump out of the shower. Hate gloopy, fragranced lotions that smell your grandmother, are hard to rub in and sting a little? Ditto. So, try this gentle moisturizer that’s fragrance-free but still packs an effective, moisturizing punch.