Men embrace idea of healthy skin

Cosmetics product lines, spa treatments have broken the gender barrier

February 11, 2007|By Gail Appleson | Gail Appleson,Mcclatchy-Tribune

Tim Fisk is a 61-year-old farmer and probably one of the last men you'd expect to find looking for skin-care products from L'Oreal Paris, maker of Endless Kissable lipstick, Volume Shocking mascara and Feria shimmering hair color.

But Fisk turned into a L'Oreal fan during a visit to his local Walgreens, where he discovered Men's Expert Vita Lift with SPF 15. The label describes the L'Oreal product as an "anti-wrinkle and firming moisturizer."

"I've been out in the sun my whole life. I went without a shirt for 30 years," said Fisk. "But everyone wants to postpone getting old."

And that's as true for men as it is for women. Indeed, a range of retailers from drugstore chains to department stores report that the demand for men's skin-care products and treatments is rising rapidly.

"It's the fastest-growing segment of our cosmetics," said Tina Hodak, creative merchandising manager for St. Louis-based Macy's Midwest.

And it's not just women buying for their men. The Clinique counter at the downtown St. Louis Macy's, surrounded by law and financial services firms, draws a steady clientele of male shoppers, said Burnice Glasco, a saleswoman there.

"A man is a different customer," said Glasco, who has sold cosmetics for more than 30 years. "He buys in bulk. If he can't get a larger size, he'll buy two or three at one time."

Drugstore chains Walgreen Co. and CVS Corp., based in Deerfield, Ill., and Woonsocket, R.I., respectively, have also seen a boom in the category.

Market research firm Datamonitor reports that about 19 percent of skin-care products sold in 2003 in the United States were for men. While Datamonitor hasn't updated its gender statistics since then, evidence suggests the men's share is growing.

Overall, skin-care sales are expected to grow to $5 billion in 2010 from $4.3 billion in 2005, an 18 percent increase. But several sub-categories with high male appeal are expected to see even faster growth over that time. Anti-aging products, for example, will see 30 percent growth to nearly $2.6 billion in 2010, according to Datamonitor.

Sandra Doty, the St. Louis area cosmetic supervisor for Walgreens, said the number of products aimed at men has been growing over the last few years, and that the demand began to "skyrocket" last summer.

"We quadrupled our shelf space for men's grooming in 2006," said Erin Pensa, CVS spokeswoman.

Accent on health

And it doesn't stop there. Men are boldly going where mostly women have gone before: day spas.

Peggy Mitchusson, owner of Face & the Body Day Spas in suburban St. Louis, said men now account for between 25 and 30 percent of her clients getting facials.

"They want to know how to take care of their skin," she said. In describing facials to men, Mitchusson said estheticians stress that the process removes impurities.

"We try to create an environment that's about health, not about fluff or pampering," she said. "But once they have one [facial], a lot of men learn to like it because it's relaxing."

Actually, men's concern about their skin has been going on for years, but what is new is their openness about it and their assertiveness in seeking out moisturizers with sun protection and wrinkle-fighting ingredients. Indeed, retailers believe that men secretly had been sneaking into the medicine cabinet for years and using skin-care products belonging to their wives and significant others.

So why have men come out of the medicine cabinet?

Fear of skin cancer is one key reason.

"It's about health," said Mitchusson. "Men think they are infallible, that nothing will happen to them. But skin cancer gives them permission to care about their skin."

"I think that's huge," agreed Pensa. "It's all tied to health."

More acceptance

Accessibility is a big part of the story as a steady stream of new products specifically for men has made skin care more appealing to males. And these offerings are at all price points, starting at less-expensive private-label drugstore lines to new offerings from long-existing upscale labels like Clinique and Lab Series.

Meanwhile, Nivea, Neutrogena and L'Oreal, all of which have a huge female following at drugstores and mass merchandisers, have added men's lines.

When L'Oreal introduced Men's Expert in 2005, an executive told Women's Wear Daily that 20 percent of all men were using skin care at that time and another one-third of men were "on the cusp." That meant about half the male population was either using or considering using skin care, presenting a huge opportunity to cosmetic companies.

So, along with product launches have come heavy advertising on television and in men's magazines and even Sunday insert coupons. And just this month, Lancome announced that British actor Clive Owen will be the face in the upscale cosmetic company's ads for its new men's grooming products including an anti-aging skin-care line. Owen stars in the movie Children of Men.

"Advertising has really made it socially acceptable. Men don't have to feel embarrassed to use them anymore," said Doty.

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