Dr. Kopelson is a Board Certified dermatologist. He has been in private practice in Beverly Hills, California since 1993, where he is known for his loyal following of both male and female A-listers.
Why is it that so many men can get away with simply washing their face with soap (if they wash it at all) while women often have multiple-step skincare regimens to keep their complexions looking young and vibrant? Well, as interesting as it would be to do so, we won’t delve into the cultural expectations that drive these differences in behavior. But we can tell you that men’s skin differs from women’s skin in a few ways that help them weather the aging process more easily. We interviewed Beverly Hills dermatologist Peter Kopelson, MD, to learn more about this fascinating (and somewhat jealousy-inducing) state of affairs.
Be sure to also read Choosing Skincare Products for Men, in which Dr. Kopelson shares some simple skincare tips for men who are thinking about tossing aside the bar of soap and stepping it up a notch.
AYLA: Is men’s skin really that different from women’s skin?
DR. KOPELSON: Yes. To begin with, it’s much thicker—men’s skin is about 20% thicker than women’s skin. Compared to the layers within women’s skin, men’s have more collagen & elastic fibers. This explains why, in general, men’s skin ages a little bit better than women’s skin. Men’s skin also has a richer blood supply, so there’s more oxygen available to promote collagen growth, which keeps skin firm.
AYLA: Hmph! That seems kind of unfair.
DR. KOPELSON: Well, on the other hand, men’s skin tends to have larger pores, which are not easy to deal with—you can only make them appear smaller, you can’t actually shrink them.
Men also generally have oilier skin: due to the influence of testosterone, their sebaceous (oil) glands tend to produce more sebum (oil).
Men’s skin is often more sensitive than women’s, too. This is especially true for men who shave every day: we all have a protective oily layer on our skin, and when you strip it (with soaps, cleansers that are too harsh, scrubs that are too harsh, or shaving), you remove that protective layer. That can cause microscopic scrapes in the skin, which can cause some inflammation and blotchiness.
Finally, men seem to have a higher incidence of skin cancer on the face and neck—nobody knows why that is. Some theories suggest that perhaps men’s skin doesn’t have as much antioxidant action in it as women’s skin does, so women may be better protected from the damage to DNA that can cause skin cancer.
AYLA: What types of facial skin concerns do you often hear from your male patients?
DR. KOPELSON: Here’s a big one: ingrown hairs. Almost all of my male patients have some problem with ingrown hairs and bumps that are caused by the inflammation of hair follicles from shaving, unless they have sparse beard growth. I see this especially on the neck, where hairs often are coarser and become ingrown very easily.
I get a lot of complaints about oiliness, which is one of the reasons why men’s skin ages a little better. When women complain about oiliness, I tell them they should be thankful! But since men have more sebaceous glands, even though they tend to be smaller than women’s, they can get something called sebaceous gland hyperplasia—tiny, 1-2mm bumps with little holes in them. This is much more common in men than in women, especially around the eyes and forehead. They’re benign growths that everyone gets eventually, but they’re much more prominent in men.
I also see a lot of red and blotchy skin with my male patients. While women tend to get melasma—brown, blotchy skin that seems to be related to the influence of estrogen—men get red, blotchy, scaly patches. This seems to happen because, by shaving, they’re constantly removing that layer that should be on the skin for protection. And there’s often a component of seborrheic dermatitis involved (a condition which is more common in men, probably because of their sebaceous glands).
I hear a lot of concerns about acne, but I hear that just as often from women. The difference is that men often only come in if their significant others make them come in, so often men are not concerned or don’t know that they can actually treat these things on their faces.
About Dr. Kopelson: Peter is a Board Certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic procedures and laser treatments. He has been in private practice in Beverly Hills, California since 1993, where he is known for his loyal following of both male and female Hollywood A-listers. Peter is well-respected by his peers for his extensive training and experience and valued by his patients in the entertainment business for his trust and discretion. Dr. Kopelson has been featured in top print publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and W. Learn more about Dr. Kopelson's impressive background here.
Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.