Why was it important to you to launch a line dedicated to men's skincare?
Most importantly, men’s skincare speaks to a health issue which is at the magnitude of a public health issue. Men’s skin differs from women’s to the extent of giving rise to a set of very important issues, especially around sun exposure. In the male population we see:
- Higher cancer rates. The ADA reports that men between the ages of 15 to 39 are more than twice as likely to die of melanoma as compared to their female peers.
- Immunosuppression rates. Men are immunosuppressed by ssUV doses three times lower than those required to immunosuppress women.
- Lower sperm counts. A 15-year study of 5,000 Danish men with an average age of 19 revealed that only 25% had a healthy sperm count.
Here’s a conundrum: while dermatologists theorize that reluctance to wear sunscreen is part of the higher cancer rate, Professor Jorgensen, one of the researchers in the Danish study, goes so far as to tell men not to wear sunscreen because it is lowering the number of their little swimmers. This is where our skin care’s devious plan to save men from themselves comes in. To Professor Jorgensen’s point, yes, chemical sunscreens with ingredients like oxybenzone can disrupt hormones. But big swimmers wearing a zinc oxide-based sunscreen are protecting their skin without harming their little swimmers, as I am sure Professor Jorgensen will agree.
As for higher rates of skin cancer for men; the problem may not be sunscreen avoidance but immunosuppression. A deterrent there is to add niacinamide serum to your zinc oxide sunscreen, as it has photoprotective effects against immune suppression.
Overall, men are vain and quite like the idea of wrinkle reduction, though they don’t necessarily want to admit it. They also tend to be rather indifferent to health issues—well, I am too, truth be told. But I am frankly anti-wrinkle. So, the trick to making skin care appealing to men is to gift-wrap it as a health issue, thereby secretly appealing to the thing they really care about. You can lead a man to skin care as long as he doesn’t have to think.
Are these products able to be used by both men and women?
Absolutely. Skin needs vary according to the individual, and we work with people all day long giving skin advice that will address their individual skin concerns.
Many woman use the Mildly Foaming Shaving Oil to shave other areas of the body. What is the same for everyone is the need for daily sun protection, as long as it’s zinc oxide only.
What are the differences between men and women's skin?
Structurally there’s not much difference, but at puberty you really start to see the functional/operational differences. More testosterone may give adolescent males more acne, but later on they reap the testosterone advantage of thicker skin and fewer wrinkles. The skin age gap between men and women’s skin is about 15 years.
The other major difference, besides dermal thickness, is the stratum corneum or top layer of the skin. This protective layer of the skin can be compromised by shaving (men) or use of harsh products (women). Many men have problems with folliculitis, which starts in the hair follicle. Keeping the follicles clear with daily washing with cleansers or pre-shave preps containing beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid helps. Many men have problems with congestion and plugged pores, and heavy beards are a good place for pathogens like staph aureus to settle in. Men with oily skin, beards and acne find that it helps to cleanse with salicylic acid washes and shave preps before shaving. Finishing with a good oil blend will keep barrier function optimal. Women on the other hand need to be careful that they don’t overexfoliate, which can compromise water barrier protection, especially as they get older when they are not producing the epidermal oils they need to keep skin hydrated. Using good oil blends that contain ceramides is also helpful.
There’s not much research yet in terms of gender skin microbiome differences, but some have been noted. One study tells us that “females’ microbiomes on the skin are less diversified than those of males, which makes females at a higher risk of skin diseases such as allergic dermatitis.”
This assumes that allergic contact dermatitis is linked to lack of biodiversity, and that has not been established yet. While we do know that using harsh products can disrupt microbial balance, and we suspect that females use a range of exfoliants and other products that disturb microbial balance at higher rates than men, compromised barrier function is the more obvious inference to make dermatitis issues than lack of microbial biodiversity. It is a wider issue that speaks to water barrier function rather than simply microbiome involvement. Anyway, our advice to both genders is to be dutiful about maintaining adequate barrier function. Women need to be more careful regarding overexfoliation than men, as they lack the protection afforded by a thicker epidermis. Men with folliculitis related problems do need to exfoliate though, in order to avoid overcolonization of Staph aureus, especially in thickly bearded areas.
Have you seen a rise in men interested in skin health?
Absolutely. The amount of male clients we work with directly has really increased over the past 2 years. Not sure if this means there is an actual rise of symptomatic skin in men or if they are just starting to pay more attention. Because of the biology of men's skin, one common pattern is that men have teenage acne and once they hit their 20s it resolves naturally and they forget all about it. Then once they hit their 40's they start to see that their once resilient skin is starting to show signs of aging and begin to look for products/support. Another, newer one, is men showing symptoms such as dermatitis or eczema- perhaps due to stress, dietary habits/gut imbalances, or autoimmune disorders (which are all on the rise) all at a much younger age (20's). For both cases we always turn to supporting barrier function and sun protection which both are often overlooked for men.
If a man isn't interested in a complex routine, what would you recommend?
It absolutely does not need to be complex, starting simple is great. What we tend to prioritize for a (non symptomatic) male client are the fundamentals for skin health and aging, Vitamin C, A and SPF (Vitamins C+E+Ferulic Serum, Gentle Retinol Night Serum, and a zinc oxide SPF depending on their preferences and activity level). Most men don't really need a moisturizer so making sure they get the essential vitamins and nutrients daily is a huge step. Also, daily sun protection. If they are on the dry side or showing signs of barrier dysfunction or stressed skin, add Barrier Restore Serum or simply start with that alone. That in time will really change their skin and often inspires them to implement a little more of a regimen.