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Skin Physiology - Layers and Parameters

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Men and women are different physically and hormonally due to their skin physiology. Read below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At November 1, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 8, 2022

Introduction

Skin is the body's largest organ and has many roles to play; it helps to protect us from trauma, microorganisms, and ultraviolet radiation and provides a sensation of cold, heat, pain, and pressure. It allows for the regulation of body temperature. Cells present in the skin give immunity to the body, and also skin helps in the removal of waste from the body in the form of sweat and sebum. It helps in the absorption of vitamin D from the sun, absorption of oxygen, and prevents loss of essential minerals and nutrients and water loss. These roles are the same for living beings; the difference is only the hormonal, chemical, and bio-physiological functioning affecting gender-based skin changes.

What Are the Layers of the Skin?

The skin has two important layers, the epidermis and the dermis. Another layer, the hypodermis, is considered an extension of the skin by some studies.

1. The Epidermis - It has five layers and is avascular. Its thickness varies depending on the location; for example, it is thick on the heels and thin on the eyelids. It does not have a nerve supply but has an extended free nerve ending from the dermis. The five layers of the epidermis include:

  • Stratum Corneum - This layer has a high concentration of keratin, providing a waterproof barrier for the skin, hair, and nails.

  • Stratum Lucidum - It is found only in areas of thick skin, such as the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

  • Stratum Granulosum - This is the most superficial layer of the epidermis containing the living cells.

  • Stratum Spinosum - This layer contains lymphocytes which are a part of the immune system.

  • Stratum Basale - This layer undergoes continuous division to produce new cells. Melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) are also produced in this layer.

2. The Dermis - It is located under the epidermis and contains blood vessels and nerve supply. It has two layers. They are:

  • Papillary Layer - This layer contains fibroblast, which is responsible for the production of elastin, collagen, and proteins. It also contains mast cells, leukocytes, and macrophages. Mast cells help in the production of histamine and heparin, which are important for blood clot formation. Macrophages play an important role in the immune system. Leukocytes are important for clearing infection and wound healing.

  • Reticular Layer - This layer is situated between the papillary layer and the hypodermis. It is made up of blood vessels, nerves, collagen, hair follicles, and T-cells.

3. The Hypodermis - This layer is situated below the dermis and has subcutaneous tissue. It is made up of loose connective tissue and has a proper blood supply. This layer is responsible for the attachment of the skin to the muscles and the bones.

What Are the Differences in Gender-Based Skin Parameters?

Recent studies have shown that males tend to have higher pigmentation, increased transepidermal water loss, excess sweat and sebum, and thick skin compared to females, whereas females have high skin pH. These parameters can change in different parts of the body for both men and women and can also change with environment and lifestyle. Many skin diseases are associated with hormonal changes and can lead to skin disorders, pigmentation allergy, and hair loss. Skin infections in women are majorly due to changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle.

  • Skin Hydration - Chinese studies have shown skin hydration was not significant in younger people but was significant in older women showing low hydration on the forehead and dorsal surface of the hand in comparison to men of the same age. A German study showed that young males showed high skin hydration compared to women. Skin hydration gradually increases in women during their lifetime but decreases in men over time. Skin hydration on the forehead decreased for both old genders compared to young genders.
  • Sebum Production - A study showed that transepidermal water loss in both genders was equal with age; it was reduced in males, and with increasing age, transepidermal water loss on the forehead, cheek, and neck was higher in females. As per some studies, sebum production is equal in men and women. Some studies showed a higher level of sebum production and large pore size in men on different parts of the body, impaired skin barrier function, and poor skincare routine. Whereas in females, a high level of sebum was found on the forehead, which gradually decreased with age.
  • Skin Thickness - Men have thicker skin than women; skin thickness in men decreases with age, whereas it remains the same in women until age 50 because of the hormonal imbalance due to menopause. Studies showed that estrogen therapy thickens the skin, which indicates that hormone plays an important role in skin thickness.
  • Skin pH - Men have acidic pH, and females’ pH is less acidic. Studies show that pH is high on cheeks in both genders and lowest on the female forehead and the hands of males. Studies showed that sex and sex hormone do not play any role in the effects of skin pH. pH can also vary with the use of cosmetic products. Studies have shown a decrease in pH levels in postnatal, for one week, which gradually decreases to three weeks.
  • Melanin Production - Studies have shown that melanin in pigmentation is higher in males, and in female skin, reflectance is 2 to 3 percent higher than in male skin due to reflectance skin showing a lighter appearance. The elasticity is higher in females than in males; the elasticity of the skin gradually decreases with age because of the less production of collagen fibers making skin stiff. Studies have shown that skin friction on canthus and the dorsal surface of the skin is maximum in women around the age of 40. Men tend to have a more rough skin texture in comparison. The sagging of skin in the upper and lower cheeks was almost the same in young males and females, but after middle age, men showed sagging skin near the eye region. In the older age group, women showed more wrinkles than males, but in some people, it can be different due to exposure to the sun which can cause fine lines and wrinkles on the face.
  • Collagen Production - With age and environmental damage, the natural production of collagen decreases. The density of collagen present in the skin is lower in females leading to early signs of aging than in men; in men, the production of androgen collagen density is increased. In young females, subcutaneous fat is more, and the accumulation of fat is different for men and women. Men tend to accumulate more fat on the abdomen and other parts of the body, whereas, in women, accumulation is more on the lower part of the body. Studies showed that the body fat ratio was higher in women.
  • Skin Diseases - Studies show that men are more susceptible to bacterial and viral infection and skin cancer, while women are more prone to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus. In addition, men have lower healing properties than women of all ages because of a decrease in keratinocytes due to the production of androgen.

How Are Hormones Linked to Skin-Associated Changes?

Hormonal changes in females can cause acne. It also depends on the quality of life. Other factors like anxiety, depression, and stress can also impact causing acne; females are more prone to acne than men. Hair follicles are formed from birth, and the types of hair are different in every part of the body. The growth of hair depends on sex hormones except for the eyebrows and eyelashes. Production of testosterone is linked to hair growth in males with thick hair on the beard and mustache due to the production of testosterone. Due to the production of testosterone, some females tend to have thick hair on their faces.

Conclusion

Skin physiology changes with genetic and hormonal differences, which can vary in men and women and with age. It also depends on the external factors and lifestyle of the person, which can lead to skin disease; because of the change, the treatment may also vary for both genders. Women tend to take more care of their skin by using cosmetic treatments for acne, anti-aging, and wrinkles and following an active skincare routine that helps them maintain skin health.

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Venereology

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