There was a time when most men couldn't tell an exfoliator from an elbow - but no longer. The mainstream popularity of TV makeover shows directed at guys - with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy leading the charge - has released men from fears about appearing vain or 'unmanly' by showing an interest in skin care. But can a man share his partner's products (assuming, of course, he agrees to replenish them), or does men's skin differ too greatly from women's? Last year, German scientists from the Freidrich Schiller University and the Fraunhofer Institute of Biomedical Technology reported that women's skin ages faster than men's, due to the fact that women lose collagen faster as they age. But why? Collagen is a protein that acts as connective tissue and gives skin its strength and elasticity. It resides in the dermis, the layer of the skin just beneath the epidermis, the outermost layer. Androgens, or male hormones, stimulate the production of collagen, making the dermis thicker, less delicate and more resistant to ageing. So does this mean that today's men can do without skin care products, just as so many of their fathers and grandfathers did? Not if they want to maximise their skin's potential. While men's skin may age more slowly than women's, that does not mean that men are immune to the ravaging effects of time - and most men, like women, would welcome the chance to preserve their youthful appearance for as long as possible (whether they care to admit it is another matter). All of us - men and women - are to a certain extent at the mercy of our genes. Some people age better than others, just as some people are more prone to developing certain diseases than others. When it comes to those factors we can control, however, protecting ourselves from the elements tops the list of ways to reduce the visible signs of ageing. Most dermatologists agree that the single most important tool in the fight against skin ageing is sunscreen. Even when it isn't sunny or even warm, the sun's UV rays penetrate our skin and create damaging free radicals, which in turn cause fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. And because it can take up to 20 years for the effects of sun damage to manifest themselves, it's important to take preventative measures now. When it comes to ageing from the sun, it is little surprise that people with fair skin are most susceptible. This is one of the reasons why, on average, Caucasian skin is more prone to ageing than Asian skin. Asian skin is also much more prone than Caucasian skin to develop uneven tones, hyperpigmentation and age spots, which explains the popularity of skin whitening and brightening products in the region. Apart from protecting ourselves from the sun, it is vital to ensure that our skin remains sufficiently hydrated - desert dwellers look older than the rest of us for a reason. Whether a harsh climate or dry skin type are to blame, the more moisture our skin loses, the faster it will age. Kyan Douglas, Queer Eye's grooming specialist, has done more than most to educate men about maintaining their looks - and soap and water just won't cut it. In his book Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better and Living Better (available at Page One) which he co-authored with his co-hosts from the hit show, he says that soap is too harsh for the delicate skin on the face, and it is much better to use a gentle cleaner with no fragrance and detergent, designed for the face. Then there is moisturising, which many men avoid with the misconception that it would add oil to the skin and make it prone to breakouts. Men's skin is on average oilier than women's (besides increasing collagen production, androgens are also responsible for increased production of sebum or oil by glands in the skin). Choose the right moisturiser, says Douglas: regular for normal and combination skin, cream for dry skin and oil-free for oily skin and only oily skin. To know whether you're using the right product, pay attention to how your skin reacts and how it feels afterwards. Your skin should 'drink' the moisture applied to it without leaving a greasy film behind. If your skin looks oily or has a rubbery feel after moisturising, switch to a lighter product. Oil-free moisturisers are not for everyone, but the specific characteristics of male skin mean they are usually right for men. Specialised night creams, which tend to be rich with a high oil content, should be avoided. Because their skin is less delicate than women's, men can also benefit from using a stronger exfoliator. Use common sense here too, as everyone's skin is unique. Unlike cleansing and moisturising, exfoliating should not be a daily ritual. Douglas recommends once a week, but warns that there should be no exfoliation around the eyes. Exfoliation is important for removing dead skin cells and impurities that cause blemishes. It also helps create the optimal conditions for a close, smooth shave. Men can also use a stronger cleanser or soap (choose one that is pH-balanced to the skin) than women. Again, go by how your skin feels to determine what's right for you. If it feels dry or tight after cleansing, look for a milder product. On top of a cleanser, moisturiser and exfoliator, men also need an aftershave. This should be applied immediately after shaving and before any other product. An aftershave should be soothing, balancing and hydrating, so avoid harsh, alcohol-based products. Shaving is rougher on skin than men realise - although the exfoliation that occurs as a by-product of the ritual has done many skin-careless men a world of good. Dermatology Insight, a publication by the American Academy of Dermatology, offers some tips on how to make shaving less abrasive to the skin. These include using a sharp blade and avoiding shaving dry skin; shaving after a warm bath or shower; applying a cream or lotion a few minutes before shaving; shaving in the direction of the hair growth and stroking an area no more than twice.