Dr Nina Naidu explains the vast differences between male and female skin
It’s a universal tale. You go to bed after applying your carefully curated, expensive selection of skincare, expecting to wake up glowy, only to be met with a newly formed spot. Your boyfriend, however, who uses a two-in-one scrub that you would never even think of touching, and wakes up with the skin of a billboard model. What’s the science behind this? We asked Dr Nina Naidu, founder of natural skincare brand Anokha, to tell us more…
Is there an exact science behind the differences in male and female skin?
Most of the differences in women’s and men’s skin do come down to hormones. The naturally higher levels of testosterone in male skin generally make it thicker and oilier with a tendency to age better. From a scientific level, males and females also differ in terms of skin hydration levels, transepidermal water loss, sebum production and pH.
Why can men use products that seem to cause issues for female skin, without seeing negative results?
Ah yes, so these would be the harsh scrubs (it’s rarely recommended to use a physical exfoliant), products loaded with fragrance and anything that contains parabens. These will, a lot of the time, cause issues for women —- especially for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Men do have thicker skin, but in many cases their skin barrier is also simply stronger as a result of not having used overly aggressive ingredients in the past.
Could it be that some women are overloading their skin?
Women are not necessarily ‘overloading’ their skin, but some do tend to be too aggressive. Chemical peels, harsh exfoliation and high levels of retinoids used in a quest to achieve translucent skin can damage the skin’s natural barrier, resulting in inflamed and sensitive skin. The key is to understand what your own skin needs and give it just that, rather than slavishly following a ten-step routine promoted on social media.
What are the most typical skin complaints you see from women?
Typically, sensitive or inflamed skin, fine wrinkles, pigmentation and dark circles.
And how about the most typical skin complaints from men?
Men have cited the following issues as their primary skincare concerns: breakouts, ingrown hairs, dryness, discoloration and dark circles beneath the eyes.
How should men’s and women’s skincare routines differ?
Most men just need to begin with a simple three-step routine (cleanse, tone, moisturise). Once that’s an established habit, they can assess for any additional needs, such as an eye cream or mask.
Women typically have the basic routine already established and are ready to add to these as needed. Night creams and a clarifying mask are frequently included in this group. Since many women wear makeup, double cleansing should also play more of a role.
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What products would you recommend as part of a basic skincare routine, for both men and women?
For both men and women, keeping it simple is key. Basic skincare begins with cleansing. Whether that involves a double cleanse or just one layer, thorough cleansing twice a day makes a tremendous difference to the clarity of your skin.
Follow with a toner to remove excess cleanser and balance pH, and finish with a moisturiser of your choice. During the day, add an SPF of 30 or higher.
What inspired you to make a skincare collection for men?
When registering our products in the UK/EU a few years ago, the authorities pointed out to me that our essential oil levels at that time were acceptable for use on female skin, but not male skin, as freshly shaved facial skin can absorb more allergens.
This finding, in conjunction with the increasing number of men purchasing from our website, led me to explore the possibility of formulating products specifically for male skin.
What were your main areas of consideration you had to think about when creating your men’s collection?
The main area of concern in male skincare is the higher level of sensitivity given their tendency to shave daily. Therefore, gentle ingredients need to be selected very carefully, and used at levels that will not lead to irritation. We also included ingredients such as allantoin which can be helpful in reducing irritation from cuts sustained during shaving.
How does this differ from your collection for women?
There are a number of similarities in both collections in that only ingredients with scientifically documented safety and efficacy are used. However, we have a bit more latitude with essential oils in the products created for women since we don’t have the issue of sensitisation and absorption following facial shaving.
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