Skin in the game

"Fifty two? He's never 52. He’s younger than I am," I said. "Oh yes he is," replied my colleague. "And you can tell."

We were discussing a mutual friend who had recently left our company after three decades of service.

Men’s skin, and bone structure, is generally quite different to women’s

"You can tell," my interlocutor told me, "by looking at his hands and neck. A dead giveaway."

I was, I have to say, sceptical - I thought the old neck/hand thing was confined to those women whose skin is, in some areas, tauter than it really should be for their age, not to men of (I thought) my age who (like me) can thank clean living and good genes for a preternaturally youthful visage.

In fact I was under the impression that men were almost immune to the types of ageing that women seem to spend much of their time worrying about. But no. It appears not. If my colleague is right, men too can have those telltale signs of ageing. Bugger.

I thought I’d consult an expert, so I asked Dr Alicia Teska, a cosmetic physician at the Skin Temple spa in Melbourne, about how men’s skin changes over time. It seems I was half right. Men’s skin does age less quickly - but, like everything I suppose - it does age eventually.

"Men’s skin, and bone structure, is generally quite different to women’s, thanks to the effect of testosterone," she told me. "The skin is thicker, and also tends to be oilier, which generally helps to minimise early wrinkling, although that also depends so much on lifestyle and age factors.

"Most men develop tell tale signs of ageing on their face, but not quite in the same way that women do. Men who lack the protection of hair on their scalp will often develop severe pre-cancerous changes in those areas, and due to their reluctance to use sunscreen on a regular basis on their face, they will also develop precancerous and cancerous changes over widespread parts of the face, neck and backs of hands.

She adds that loss of facial fat and bone mass in men tends to be more subtle until after the age of 45, whereas with child rearing and breast feeding, women will often show facial fat loss and bone reabsorption at a much earlier age, say in their mid 30s, hence the popularity of dermal fillers and anti-wrinkle injections in this age group."

So we’ve got thick skin - and should really use some sunscreen to keep it looking youthful - but the good news for men under 45 (and even some lucky men as old as, say 52) is that our skin, at least, will always be less old-looking than that of our female contemporaries. All thanks to good old Mother Nature.

How old do you look? Is your skin a giveaway, or do you still need to carry ID around?