Males vs Females: The differences when it comes to skin and hair.
As a teenager I was always perplexed and envious of my male muso friends who were able to grow their hair so long and shiny. This curiosity and envy was once again sparked recently when I was listening to some 80’s glam rock whilst doing some house cleaning. How is it that these guys attained such enviable, long luscious hair and smooth complexions to paint their bold makeup onto?
So as I was tidying up my son’s Lego assault course whilst listening to these glamorous beasts, with my scarecrow hair and fragile skin, it got me thinking: what are the scientific differences between males and females when it comes to skin and hair?
I once questioned one of my head banging friends in high school who had long, thick shiny hair comparable to a lady from a 90’s Pantene commercial, I asked him ”what’s your secret to getting your hair to grow so long and shiny?” His answer was (in his voice that was similar to Otto’s from The Simpson’s) “It’s the cheese, man! You gotta eat lots of milk and cheese.” I did this for a while, but it really just aggravated my hormonal acne. So to fill in the gaps for my teenage self, I bring to you this blog with some insights into a few various differences between XY and XX when it comes to skin and hair.
It is mostly common knowledge now that our skin and hair is predetermined mostly by genetics and is influenced by sex hormones, lifestyle factors, ethnicity, and living/working environment. Whilst there are differences between males and females, your genes (i.e. ethnicity, medical predispositions etc.) will give you the strongest indication of your skin and hair outcome, whilst sex hormones merely just influence these genetic predispositions.
Women have a reputation for being more emotional, sensitive, and vengeful than our male counterparts, well this may be due to the face that females are simply just thinner skinned! Males have higher levels of androgens (e.g. testosterone) which means their skin is on average 25% thicker than female skin, which gradually starts thinning beginning at age 20. Women whilst having naturally thinner skin, maintain their levels steadily until approximately age 50, where a drop in sex hormones contribute to the skin beginning to thin.
Males appear to have slightly more hydrated skin than females. This has been hypothesized to be linked with the fact that males produce more lactic acid than females, and also sweat twice as much as females due to having a slightly warmer body temperature – these together may result in increased moisture on the skin. Another logical explanation is that males produce more sebum than females. Whilst sebum often gets a bad wrap due to its correlation with acne, sebum is an important moisturising agent to the skin. Skin hydration for both sexes naturally declines with age.
Females have lighter, more reflective skin. Several studies on a range of diverse populations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America, have shown that female skin reflectance is 2 to 3 percentage points above that of male skin (having a higher reflectance means having paler skin).
Men naturally have higher amounts of collagen, which means their skin does not age as rapidly as women, however this may not always be evident in older aged individual due to women in general taking better care of their skin in relation to hydration and sun exposure. Women's lower collagen density is said to be one of the reasons why women's skin ages more rapidly than men. This is ofcourse subject to individual circumstances and is not always the case.
You are born with all the hair follicles you’ll ever have and your scalp houses around 100,000 follicles. The thickness of your hair and growth rate is largely determined by your genetics, however males do have a faster rate of hair growth. This is because testosterone has a tendency to make hair thicker, and thick hair grows faster than thin hair. But why does your hair only grow to a certain length you may ask? Hair length is a matter of genetics and not sex, your genetics determine how long your hair will grow – unfortunately it’s not about the cheese, man.
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(Naturopath & Skincare Geek)