Acne is a common skin condition that occurs in both males and females, but did you know that there are actually distinct differences between the two, brought about largely due to variances in the skin?
Despite the differences, one thing is for sure – all acne sufferers want to know how to get rid of their pesky skin condition for good. In this article, we share exactly why it is pertinent to know the differences between the two in order to come up with an effective acne treatment plan!
Male vs. Female skin
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and its main function is to provide a protective physical barrier that absorbs harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation and prevents harmful microorganism invasion.
There has been an increasing amount of studies being conducted in studying gender differences in the skin and their implications to diseases including acne, eczema and skin cancer. This is partly to derive better treatments, and by further understanding these biological differences – we may hopefully be one step closer to finding a cure for acne.
The key differences in male and female skin is primarily due to the presence of the primary male sex hormone, testosterone in the body. It is responsible in determining the masculine features in men, and while present in both genders – men typically have higher levels (10 times as much as women), which impacts how acne presents itself and its characteristics.
Below we outline 4 fundamental differences:
– Men tend to have oilier skin, while women are more likely to have drier skin.
– Men have much higher quantities of androgens and active sebaceous glands, which increases the levels of sebum in the skin.
– The skin pH level in men tends to be lower than that of women – and in addition to more active sweat glands – skin is more prone to impurities. On the flipside, a lower skin pH level provides a more ideal breeding ground for acne bacteria in women.
– Men have 25% thicker skin than women, with a thicker texture that tends to age slower. This means that men need to exfoliate and cleanse more often.
Given these differences in both male and female skin, it makes sense that the underlying causes, characteristics and treatment of acne are also different.
Male vs. Female acne
There are currently more women affected by acne (85%) than men (15%).
If you can recall, acne is an inflammatory condition that is primarily a hormone-driven process, i.e., an excess activity of testosterone triggers the excess oil productions that clogs up the skin, causing inflammation and overgrowth of the dreadful P. acnes bacteria in the affected area.
In the same sense, the primary factors responsible for causing acne are the same for both genders – excess oil, a buildup of dead skin cells, proliferation of acne-causing bacteria and inflammation. However, there are still slight differences:
– Women are more likely to develop adult onset acne.
– Men are more likely to have longer-lasting acne, and suffer from cystic acne.
– Women tend to have more unpredictable acne symptoms, due to their more complex hormonal makeup than men.
In addition, the lifestyles of both men and women vary – for women, the result of product and makeup overload and perfumes, and for men – shaving that causes razor burns, ingrown hairs, cuts and abrasions all can lead to the potential of irritating and aggravating acne flare-ups.
Should treatment options then be gender-specific?
Unfortunately, male and female acne cannot be cured – but there are treatment options that can seek to manage and control the symptoms.
There are 5 types of acne treatment, including:
1) Topical retinoids– creams, lotions and gels with Vitamin A derivatives that help reduce breakouts.
2) Oral retinoids– e.g. Isotretinoin is the medication of choice in effectively treating more severe cases of adult acne in men. It works to treat cystic acne and remove acne scars by killing acne-causing bacteria, unclogging pores and reducing sebum production and inflammation – and has been shown to be successful in treating acne in both genders equally.
3) Oral contraceptives and anti-androgens– e.g. Spironolactone helps regulate hormonal fluctuations that contribute to breakouts; however, is almost never prescribed to men and more effective in women.
4) Antibiotics– while effective, both doctors and patients in recent years have become increasingly aware of the adverse side effects that come with continued long-term use.
5) Laser and light therapy– e.g. Q-switch and Vbeam laser treatment for acne used at our clinic is ideal for treating mild to moderate inflammatory acne. It is a non-invasive and reliable solution that can see results as early as the first session, with minimal downtime.
For women, treatment goals are aimed towards stabilizing the level of hormones to block the effects of testosterone, while acne treatment in men focuses mostly on sebum reduction.
This is why doctors typically prescribe more anti-androgens to female patients, and focus more on oral retinoids for male patients. Despite the fact that antibiotics and isotretinoin can be useful in treating acne for both genders, there are risks, as well as contraindications that can hinder the progress and make treatment less effective – making laser treatment for acne a much better choice for both genders.
Gender differences in the body’s physiological, chemical and biophysical responses require doctors to develop both gender-specific and individual-specific treatment plans. This is why it is important to seek help from a doctor that is experienced and competent in treating both genders. In addition to gender differences, there are many other factors that come into play when treating acne – including a complex mix of genetics, environmental conditions, metabolic conditions, stress, diet, injury, medications and lifestyle.
With more than 18 years of providing acne treatment in Singapore, our clinic is well-primed to cater to a diverse range of patients – crafting a personalized, comprehensive acne treatment and skincare regime to help you attain that clear, flawless skin!