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Are men and women equal when it comes to acne?

Both men and women experience acne, but the causes and treatments can be hugely different. We explore some of the ways the different sexes are irritating their acne, why there are different causes, and what the methods of treatments are.

How are we irritating our acne?

Both men and women put their skin under some abrasive strain that could make acne worse. For women, product overload, makeup, and perfumes all have the potential to irritate skin. For men, shaving can cause razor burn, cuts and spots, as well as irritation.

What role do hormones play in acne?

When our hormone levels are imbalanced, the sebaceous gland, the gland that produces sebum, an oily substance that lubricates our skin, is stimulated. This can lead to clogged pores and new spots.

Unlike men, women’s hormone levels become disrupted when they take the oral contraceptive pill, during the menopause, and also during periods. This is why women experience acne at these times - because more sebum is being produced as a result of the disruption.

Do women or men get acne for longer?

Both men and women can have acne from childhood into adulthood. Although the production of sebum differs in men and women, with men producing more sebum after puberty, both sexes can have acne well into their later years. And it is common for men to have longer lasting acne. The International Dermal Institute, a resource providing news and research from the industry's leading skin health experts, affirms that sebum production differs in men and women. The reason men produce more sebum after puberty is because of androgen secretions. According to the institute, a male sebaceous gland has more positive receptors for androgens, receptors which can bind specifically to androgens, which explains why they produce more sebum.  

Difference in treatments for men and women

Because the cause of acne is sometimes different in men and women, the treatments are also different. Women often try to address the hormonal imbalance with androgen-blocking contraceptive pills. These are pills that limit the amount of androgens, male sex hormones, which are responsible for excess sebum being produced. Men cannot use these treatments and are more likely to use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to get rid of their acne. These are keratolytics, they exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin from the surface, and help to keep pores clear. 

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