When it comes to skin ageing, who do you think fares better – men or women? Anecdotally, there seems to be a general perception that men have a bit of an advantage. But is this all down to gendered perceptions of ageing – especially in a society that tends to be more critical of an older woman’s appearance compared to a man her age?
While being overly critical of how a woman looks is still an issue in this day and age, it seems there’s a sliver of truth to the fact that men might have it easier in the ageing skin department.
According to Dr Eileen Tan of Eileen Tan Skin Clinic & Associates at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, men possess certain biological advantages over women in terms of skin ageing. She explains how gender can play a contributing role in the rate of the ageing process (subject to non-biological factors, of course).
MEN VERSUS WOMEN
While skin, no matter which gender, is essentially the same (meaning it is composed of layers including the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layers) – the characteristics of men’s skin are actually different from that of women's in multiple ways.
Men’s skin is firmer and also around 20 to 30 per cent thicker than women’s skin.
One obvious difference is that men’s skin tends to be oilier than women's, due to the fact that it has more sebaceous glands and a richer blood supply running through it. This may cause more incidents of acne, said Dr Tan, but added that this has no impact on the ageing debate.
However, she also pointed out that men’s skin is firmer and also around 20 to 30 per cent thicker than women’s skin. This is where one of the biological advantages pertaining to skin ageing that men enjoy lies. The above-mentioned qualities exist alongside higher collagen and elastin levels in their skin, as compared to those found in women’s skin.
Depletion of both collagen and elastin in the skin are directly linked to the appearance of the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and skin-sagging, which explains why they could take a longer time to show up on a guy’s face.
GOING SEPARATE WAYS
Physiologically speaking, the way men age is also different from how women do. Women experience bigger hormonal changes in their lifetime than men – especially during pregnancy and menopause. According to Dr Tan, these fluctuations have a significant impact on the skin.
“The collagen content in men’s skin declines at a consistent rate, whereas skin ageing in women is accelerated by hormonal decline – particularly after menopause or in situations such as when a woman experiences premature ovarian failure or removal," she said.
"Female skin-thinning occurs at a significant pace after menopause. Hence, signs of skin ageing in older women are generally more pronounced as compared to men in the same age group.”
The collagen content in men’s skin declines at a consistent rate, whereas skin ageing in women is accelerated by hormonal decline.
On top of skin-thinning, menopausal and postmenopausal women are likely to experience other ageing symptoms on their faces. Studies have shown that the decline in oestrogen levels accelerate age-related deterioration such as an increase in the number and depth of wrinkles, increased skin dryness, a decrease in skin elasticity and increased risk of pigmentation.
It’s not all bad news for women though. Even though the signs of ageing only tend to appear later on men’s skin, some of these do show up much worse on a guy’s face, as opposed to how they appear on a woman’s.
“Skin sagging and wrinkles on male skin tend to be more pronounced. Men have stronger muscles and they are more likely to develop dynamic wrinkles (facials lines that are developed due to muscular action). Wrinkles on men also tend to be deeply grooved,” said Dr Tan.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SKINCARE
While biological factors place men in a more favourable position than women in terms of skin-ageing, it doesn’t mean that men simply get to enjoy the perks of it, without putting any effort into taking care of their skin.
At the same time, there is also such a thing as simply having good or bad genes, regardless of your gender, which will also affect the appearance of your skin and how it ages.
“Besides gender consideration, other factors that are environmental and genetic may have an interplay with the ageing process. For example, years of sun exposure will speed up the photo-ageing process, accelerating the onset of signs such as pigmentation, wrinkles, and such. In my experience, women do place greater emphasis on skincare, which helps to cushion the impact of the physiological ageing process,” Dr Tan shared.
This explains why basic skincare is fundamental to delaying skin-ageing and how it can benefit both women and men. “Regular photo-protection is a crucial skincare component that will delay photo-ageing. It’s important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields skin against both UVA and UVB rays daily,” advised Dr Tan.
Basic skincare is fundamental to delaying skin-ageing and how it can benefit both women and men.
“In my opinion, skincare is genderless. An individual should choose skincare products based on his or her needs and concerns. For example, choose products based on your skin type such as normal, oily or sensitive. Existing medical problems, such as eczema and acne, are also important considerations,” she added.
A basic skincare regimen should comprise cleansing, moisturising and sun protection. Those who are over 30 should also incorporate products that are targeted at skin repair and age prevention.
Dr Tan recommended going for ingredients including vitamin C and retinol, which are clinically proven to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, even out rough spots, diminish pigmentation and bring clarity to the skin. On top of that, a healthy lifestyle will also help you retain your youthful visage for longer.
That goes for both men and women.