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Do Men and Women Really Need Different Skincare Products?

A man and woman washing their faces looking in the bathroom mirror.
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Check the skincare aisle in any drugstore, and you’ll find a striking difference between women’s and men’s products. The labels, the colors, and even the price vary significantly. Is it all marketing nonsense or do you really need the men’s or women’s version?

Whether it’s moisturizer or face wash, many brands will have separate product lines for men and women, with the latter usually costing much more than the former, even compared to generic products. If you’ve ever wondered if the extra cost is worth it or been tempted to buy the cheaper Deep Woods Musk (Now with More Manly Scent!) body wash to save a buck, here’s what you need to know.

Are There Differences Between Men and Women’s Skin?

It might not seem like men and women have different skin, but when you drill down and look at the differences closely there are more than a few. Men have thicker skin (around 25% thicker) with more collagen, and as a result, it takes longer to show signs of aging (lucky them!).

As a side note, men tend to be less religious about sunscreen application and typically don’t wear makeup (many makeup brands have sunscreen included), which means despite the edge they get in the anti-aging department, they sometimes blow it by not protecting their skin from sun damage. Make a note here, guys: sunscreen is the secret to not looking like a grandpa before your time.

In addition to thicker skin, they also have more hair follicles (hello, beard), which translates to more sebaceous glands. This explains why men tend to have oily skin.

Women’s skin is thinner and has less collagen, which is why we tend to develop wrinkles earlier in life. Also, as we have less facial hair, we have fewer oil glands, which explains why we tend to have drier skin.

It’s not absolute and there are, for sure, men with really dry skin and women with super oily skin, but in aggregate there are differences.

Should Men and Women Buy Different Skincare Products?

Blue and pink skincare products on a table.
FotoDuets/Shutterstock

So if there are differences, men and women should buy different skin products, right? Not necessarily. While there are, in fact, some differences between men and women’s skin, they’re not dramatic enough to require specialized products.

If you were to use a moisturizer or an eye cream, for example, made for the opposite sex, you wouldn’t notice a difference, except maybe for the fragrance. In fact, it’s mostly all marketing. The core ingredients are generally the same.

The best strategy is to search for products by skin type—you can’t go wrong with that! And don’t forget that there are neutral brands, too, so you don’t have to limit your search to sex-specific products.

Gender-Neutral Skincare Recommendations

tri-fold header of skincare products with EltaMD sunscreen on the left, Youth to the People face wash in the middle, and Cetaphil moisturizer on the right.
EltaMD, Youth to the People, Cetaphil.

In general everybody, male or female, should aim to have three basic products in their skincare routine: face wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen. These staples are the building blocks of good skincare: you clean your skin, you seal in moisture, and you protect it from sun damage with a good sunscreen.

Face Wash

A face wash should be gentle on your skin but effective enough to remove makeup, dirt, excess oil, and dead skin cells from your face. This vegan face cleanser from Youth To The People will get the job done, regardless of how oily or dry your skin is.

Youth People Kale Superfood Cleanser

This cleanser is packed with skin-friendly nutrients and sulfate-free.

If you have oily skin, you should try this foaming facial cleanser by Clean & Clear. It can effectively remove all dirt from your face while at the same time nourishing it with glycerin, a gentle humectant that helps maintain hydration.

Clean & Clear Oil Free Cleanser

Say goodbye to greasy skin and hello to a clean and hydrated face.

The list isn’t complete without mentioning another gem by Cetaphil. there’s a reason why their facial cleanser is a best-seller: it’s fragrance-free, it’s hypoallergenic, and it was specifically designed for people with sensitive skin.

Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser

Can't go wrong with this all-time-favorite by good ol' Cetaphil.

Whichever face wash you choose, make sure it doesn’t leave your face feeling too dry or irritated.

Moisturizer

A good moisturizer should leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated throughout the day, especially in drier climates and during the winter. If you’re unsure about your skin type, going for a time-tested option from a reliable brand is always a good option, like this moisturizer from Cetaphil.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion

Light and non-greasy, it's a great fit for people who hate putting moisturizer on but still want the benefits.

Alternatively, this one by Cerave will do the trick just as well. Not only is this moisturizer easily absorbed into the skin, which is one of the most desirable qualities in an everyday skincare staple, but it also contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides, two major components that help the skin remain hydrated and protected against environmental factors.

CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion

Nourish and protect your skin with this dermatologist-recommended moisturizer.

While you can generally use these lotions as part of both your day and nighttime routine, you can also choose to find more targeted creams, like a reliable nighttime moisturizer to suit your needs. If you’re unsure as to where to begin your search, check out this piece on the best overnight moisturizers for your skin type.

Sunscreen

Lastly, a good sunscreen is necessary to protect your skin from sun damage and prevent the early appearance of wrinkles. This sunscreen by EltaMD offers an SPF of 40, and it’s non-greasy, which is what everybody looks for in this kind of product.

EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen Moisturizer

It keeps the UV rays and the wrinkles away!

A common complaint when it comes to sunscreen is that its thick consistency often results in causing breakouts, which leads many to skip this step of their morning skincare routine. As such, you should look for non-comedogenic options that won’t obstruct your pores like this ultra-light sunscreen by Neutrogena.

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen

Protect your skin with this oil-free sunscreen and forget about breakouts!

If you’re looking for an environmentally green option, worry not as there are plenty of options for you to try. Check out this piece on the best green and clean sunblocks you can buy online or at your local drugstore.


So ultimately, differences aside, what really matters is shopping for your skin type. Blue, gray, pink, or white, the packaging of the product doesn’t matter as much as whether or not the product gets the job done!

Carla Cometto Carla Cometto
Carla has been writing professionally for five years and blogging for many more. She's worked as a journalist, photographer, and translator. She's also an avid traveler who hopes to inspire a sense of curiosity and adventure in others through her writing. Read Full Bio »

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