Man’s well-being is also a matter of skin.
Prof. Luca Valgimigli
The hasty attitude of men towards their skin belongs to the past and men have now understood that also the well-being of their skin is an important element of self-care. However, male and female skin have important differences that must be considered in order to choose the right product and get the best results.
It might have happened to many men (as it has happened to me) to wear an excellent moisturizer designed for women and to find it “heavy”, to start sweating or to have the impression that it was “too much” for their skin. The reason for these sensations lies in the differences between female and male skin.
What are the differences between male and female skin?
Given that men’s and women’s skin have the same structure and are mostly the same, there are specific differences related to the different balance of sex hormones and the different habits between men and women.
The male sex hormone, testosterone, prevails in men having levels about 10 times higher than in women, in which estrogens prevails, being, together with progestins, the female hormones. Testosterone and estrogens differently affect the development of the skin and its annexes, as well as its metabolism, explaining the differences.
Due to testosterone, men’s skin is about 20% thicker than women’s and ages differently. In fact, human skin contains more collagen and elastin, proteins that give the skin its mechanical properties, resistance and elasticity. Man’s skin therefore ages more slowly. However, the thickness gradually decreases over time after the age of 20, unlike what happens in women, in which it remains fairly constant until menopause, and then drops due to the sudden drop in the level of estrogens.
But beware: men’s skin also undergoes aging! Wrinkles appear later but when they begin to appear they deepen much faster than in women and become more pronounced. Therefore, it is also important for men to treat the skin with effective anti-aging products as long as there is time!
Among the main differences in men’s skin, testosterone induces greater sebaceous secretion, which after the age of 20 is, on average, twice as much in men’s skin as in women’s. The greater presence of sebum leads to a different composition of the hydrolipidic film in man, which on the one hand offers valid protection to the skin, on the other hand it makes it “intolerant” to treatments too rich in low diffusivity oils, or rich in waxes, which are perceived as “heavy” or occluding, and which are much appreciated by individuals with little sebaceous skin. The greater secretion of sebum can also lead to greater exposure to acne in man before the age of 20 and, later on, to folliculitis.
Another difference between the two sexes is the pH of the skin. In men, due to the greater secretion of lactic acid, the average value is around 4.5 – 5, so it is a little more acidic than in women, where it is around 5.5-6. This defends men’s skin from bacterial infections, compensating for the greater immuno-stimulating effect guaranteed in women by estrogens. However, the higher acidity also makes men’s skin more sensitive to irritation, also favored by shaving.
How do different habits affect the characteristics of men’s skin compared to women’s?
The male habit that most affects the skin, at least that of the face, is shaving. Shaving is an aggressive operation that causes a daily mechanical removal of a part of the hydrolipidic barrier, as well as causing small lesions and abrasions of the skin.
If performed in the traditional way with shaving foam, this can have a very high pH, even 10 or higher, and can profoundly alter the acid pH of the skin which, especially in man, is an important defense element. Shaving makes the skin vulnerable, repeatedly exposing it to inflammation and infections, which should not be overlooked.
A second important element, as pointed out by the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) is the minor habit of man to use moisturizing products after cleansing or showering with soaps or products that can raise the pH or be too aggressive, removing a part of the protective hydrolipidic film. In other words, man physiologically has a greater production of protective elements, but takes less care of them than women do, paradoxically becoming more exposed to dehydration.
Which treatments are best suited to man’s skin?
Starting from shaving, which is a critical factor, it is advisable to use a shaving foam that does not significantly alter skin pH, such as BeC Schiuma da barba (shaving foam), rich in moisturizing components and formulated in 100% aloe gel, to immediately soothe redness and irritations.
After shaving, even for those who use the electric razor instead of foam and razor blade, it is important to restore the hydrolipidic film and soothe any irritation with a product that has a light and non-occluding texture such as VelvE’, which also helps repair small wounds and skin hygiene by protecting against infections. Instead, old alcohol-based aftershaves should be abolished.
Since men have a greater production of sebum, resulting in oily or combination skin, non-greasy and rapidly absorbed products are required, which do not give a feeling of occlusion. At the same time, measurements of TEWL (trans epidermal water loss) indicate that in men the need for hydration is similar to that of women, who compensate, thanks to estrogens, with the higher lipid content of the dermis.
An ideal product for daily hydration could be the organic PuraBi cream, based on witch hazel water or, the Crema Balsamo C.R.B., which also has an effective sebum-regulating action, reducing excessive sebaceous secretions. These are particularly indicated even at a young age, to treat acne-prone skin, or in case of folliculitis. To contain excessive sebaceous secretions, a skin-purifying and oxygenating mask is recommended at least once a week, for example using Nuova Maschera by BeC.
Male skin has a duller complexion than female skin due to less cell renewal; therefore, the use of Crema Balsamo C.R.B. that favors the renewal of the epidermis could be doubly useful.
As we have seen, men’s skin also ages and does so differently from women’s skin. It is therefore important to treat it in time with a product designed specifically for the characteristics of men’s skin, such as Titanyum which provides everything necessary to reduce wrinkles (and prevent them), improve elasticity and hydration, while having a light, dry and non-occluding touch, with rapid absorption that makes it perfect for the needs of men’s skin.
Cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase and the inflammatory process
Cyclooxygenase and lipooxygenase are the two families of enzymes that are commonly involved in the inflammatory process, through a complex of reactions which is called arachidonic acid cascade. This complex of reactions develops as follows: a first enzyme, a phospholipase cleaves the phospholipids of biological membranes, releasing arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms (eicosa-5Z,8Z,11Z,14Z-tetraenoic acid ; C20:4; ω-6). The arachidonic acid is then transformed by two parallel enzymatic pathways, that is, by two families of enzymes: the cyclooxygenase which transforms it into prostaglandins and thromboxanes and the lipooxygenase which transforms it into hydroperoxides which in turn transform into leukotrienes .
There are two cyclooxygenase isoforms indicated with type 1 and type 2, briefly COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is the enzyme present in most cells (except red blood cells), and is constitutive, that is, it is always present. COX-2 is an inducible cyclooxygenase isoform: it is constitutively present in some organs such as brain, liver, kidney, stomach, heart and vascular system, while it can be induced (i.e. developed if necessary) following inflammatory stimuli on the skin, white blood cells and muscles.
There are various types of lipooxygenase that lead to different products, the most important in the inflammatory process is 5-lipooxygenase, 5-LOX.
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes are chemical messengers or mediators, that is, molecules that bring a message to specific cells and activate or deactivate metabolic responses in these cells. They, therefore, have a function similar to hormones, only that, unlike what hormones do, the chemical message is carried only at a short distance, that is, only to the cells that are in the vicinity of the place where the mediators were produced. There are different prostaglandins, different thromboxanes and different leukotrienes that carry specific messages. In many cases these act as mediators of the inflammatory process , therefore they trigger all the events that are involved in inflammation:
– vasodilation with consequent blood supply (redness),
– increased capillary permeability with consequent fluid exudation (swelling or edema),
– stimulation of nociceptive nerve signals (pain),
– on-site recall of immune system cells that attack a possible invader (chemotactic action)
– activation of the biosynthesis of fibrous tissue to strengthen or repair the affected part (even if there is no need)
– generations of free radicals that can chemically destroy an invader (but also damage our tissues, i.e. they just “shoot in the middle”).
Prostaglandins and thromboxanes, however, also play important physiological roles in normal conditions, i.e. in the absence of inflammation. For example, they regulate the secretion of mucus that protects the walls of the stomach, they regulate the biosynthesis of cartilages and synovial fluid in the joints, they regulate vasodilation, hence the correct flow of blood in the various local districts, and more.
Triglycerides are the main components of most oils and fats. These are heavy, non-volatile and little polar molecules, insoluble in water, made up of glycerol (or glycerin) esterified with three molecules of fatty acids: therefore, it is a tri-ester of glycerin, from which the name derives. Each fatty acid contains 8 to 22 carbon atoms (commonly 16 to 18) and can be saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated. The size of the fatty acids and their saturation determines the physical and sensorial properties of the triglycerides, which can appear as oils (liquids at room temperature) or fats (solid or semi-solid) and can have greater or less greasiness and smoothness on the skin. Unsaturated triglycerides or with shorter fatty acids are more fluid and have greater flowability.
Fatty acids (saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated)
The name fatty acids is commonly used to indicate those organic acids that are found in the composition of lipids, that is, in animal and vegetable oils and fats, both in the free form and in the form of esters with glycerol (e.g. in triglycerides), or they are esterified with “fatty” alcohols, that is, long chain alcohols, to form waxes. Fatty acids are carboxylic acids (formula R-COOH) which have a long carbon chain (R), unlike common organic acids such as acetic acid and propionic acid, which have 2 or 3 carbon atoms in total, respectively. Fatty acids are defined as saturatedif they do not have double carbon-carbon bonds, (called “unsaturations”), they are defined mono-unsaturated if they have only one, they are defined mono-unsaturatedpoly-unsaturated if they have two or more double bonds (see figure). The term omega-3 (ω-3) or omega-6 (ω-3), refers to the position of the first double bond starting from the bottom of the chain of carbon atoms: if the first double bond is encountered after 3 carbon atoms the fatty acid is classified as omega-3 , if after six carbon atoms omega-6 , as shown in the figure. The most common saturated fatty acids are palmitic acid (16 carbon atoms and no double bond, C16: 0) and stearic acid (18 carbon atoms, 18: 0), the most common mono-unsaturated is the oleic acid, typical of olive oil (18 carbon atoms and 1 double bond in position 9, C18: 1; ω-9), while the most common poly-unsaturated are linoleic acid and linolenic acid, progenitors respectively omega-6 and omega-3 (see figure).
Terpenes and terpenoids
Terpenes or terpenoids are a large family of natural molecules, typically containing 10 to 30 carbon atoms, which are biosynthesized from a common “brick”, isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP), containing 5 carbon atoms (see figure). The discovery that the repetitive brick consists of 5 carbon atoms is relatively recent, while it was once assumed that the entire family was created by repeating a brick of 10 carbon atoms, which was called “terpene”. Therefore, the molecules with 10 carbon atoms (such as limonene, see figure) were called mono-terpenes, i.e. composed of a single brick, diterpenes those with 20 carbon atoms (e.g. the cafestol that gives the aroma to the coffee), triterpenes those with 30 carbon atoms (e.g. beta-carotene). Since molecules made from 15 carbon atoms were also found (such as bisabolol), it was thought they contained a terpene and a half, and were called sesquiterpenes (from the Latin semis = half + atque = and). Today it is known that the repetitive unit is composed of 5 carbon atoms, therefore it is easy to understand how mono-terpenes contain two (see figure), sesquiterpenes three, diterpenes four, triterpenes six.