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Is there really any difference between skin care products aimed at men or women?

man applying moisturizer to face

Q. Is there really any difference between skin care products aimed at men versus women? I’m a man – if I use my wife’s face cream, is that bad for my skin?

To answer this question, we spoke with Dr. Brittany Waller, community dermatologist and former Sunnybrook clinical fellow.

Here’s her reply:

Before we can discuss topical products, we need to understand the physiological differences between male and female skin. In general, males tend to have 25 per cent thicker skin than females. In males, the outer layer of the skin’s epidermis, known as the stratum corneum, tends to be quite dense, which can lead to uneven texture. Male skin is also firmer with a higher concentration of collagen, the main protein that provides skin’s structure. With higher concentrations of androgens, aka male hormones, men tend to have oilier complexions.

Men have more dark, coarse facial hair, which can lead to significant irritation with shaving. Using a hydrating shave cream to protect the skin while allowing the blade to glide smoothly is very important. Given the increased oil production, men tend to be more acne-prone and need lighter moisturizers. Heavy creams, which may be needed by women with drier skin, can lead to breakouts in men.

Trans patients taking gender-affirming hormones may experience changes that align with more masculine skin if taking testosterone and more feminine skin if on estrogen and androgen-blocking medications. Please speak with your primary care provider and/or dermatologist if you are taking these hormones and have any questions or concerns.

The number one most important skin care product for everyone is sunscreen. In addition to preventing sunburn, sunscreens prevent repetitive UV damage, something directly linked to skin cancer development. Sunscreens also protect against pigmentation changes/uneven tone and fine lines/wrinkles, so they have both health and cosmetic benefits. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA/UVB rays. An SPF of minimum 30 or higher is also important too.

So to answer your question, using your wife’s face cream won’t likely do much harm, but consider picking up a product that’s right for your own personal skin care needs.

Keep it simple for both of you and look for non-scented, gentle products free of perfumes and fragrances. The Canada Dermatology Association has some great recommendations listed on their website. Check it out, and protect the skin you’re in.

About the author

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Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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