In the past, it was unthinkable that men would consider certain cosmetic products that have traditionally been only for women. But now, especially considering how traditional gender norms are changing, men are more open to using products that were only used by women in the past. Matt Teri, Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer at men’s brand Huron, put it this way: “Traditional values of modern masculinity have changed. Views on gender roles and stereotypes are evolving and … wellbeing … looking and feeling good, are … part of everyday consciousness.”
Research conducted by data companies Ipsos and Spate in preparation for the Personalized Beauty conference taking place in San Francisco next week shows more precisely how men’s attitudes have changed. Wendy Wallner, Ipsos SVP and Senior Client Officer, said, “There is considerable openness to males of all ages using cosmetic products than we’ve observed historically. This has been fueled by the anonymity of the ecommerce buying environment, the recent surge in zoom calls as well as concern about social media appearance.”
A majority of men said skin appearance is the #1 reason they would consider adding new grooming products to their routine. The men surveyed were 18-65 and, not surprisingly, the older they were, the more they were focused on skincare to help them look younger. Younger men aged 18-34 were also motivated by skincare and agreed strongly with the statement that they’d “use cosmetics to hide my blemishes.” The most likely products that men would consider adding to their routine are BB or CC cream. (BB is “blemish balm” that is sheer, can conceal minor blemishes and has a “no makeup” look. CC is “color control,” or “complexion corrector” which improves discoloration and redness.)
The data indicate that skincare could be a gateway to other kinds of less traditional cosmetic products for men. Close on the heels of skin creams as products men would consider is eyeliner and a majority of men 18-34 are open to using cosmetics in a professional setting. According to Spate, Google searches for men’s eyeliner are up 14% year-over-year. Younger men are also more likely to agree that “cosmetic products would improve my social life” or “be a fun way to express myself.”
It’s not just skincare where interest is increasing. Spate data shows that men’s google searches about nails are up more than 35% year-over-year. The most important increases in interest were in pedicures, nail art and nail designs.
How Brands Could Do It
Ipsos says that when they changed the conversation topic from “grooming and skincare” to “cosmetics” there was an immediate, significant, and negative change in men’s attitudes and perceptions. The older the consumer, the more pronounced the change but even among men 18-34, 37% would not even consider using any cosmetics (71% of men 51 and older felt the same). Jon Shanahan, Co-Founder and CMO of men’s cosmetic brand Stryx, said, “70+% of our customers have never purchased a cosmetic before.”
With those headwinds, how can men’s cosmetics brands make inroads?
First, they have to consider the brand. Men of every age are more likely to buy cosmetics from a men’s brand than a women’s brand and that tendency increases with age. Second, making products that relate to skincare but have other features is a way to lead men into other classes of product that start with skincare. Shanahan of Stryx says that older customers are excited to “have a men’s-focused brand for products they have previously used, like concealer and tinted moisturizer.”
While more than 2/3 of men 18-34 would be somewhat or very comfortable going to a makeup store to learn, try or buy products, that tendency diminishes with only about 1/3 of men over 51 feeling the same way. To be successful, brands need to have different marketing approaches for different age segments. Shanahan of Stryx says the company focuses its messages by age group, highlighting acne, breakouts and redness for younger men and rosacea, dark circles and wrinkles for older men.
Next Steps In The Journey
Jeff Raider, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of men’s brand Harry’s, told me that “in many cases, the journey starts with using a partner’s products. Brittania Boey, Chief Commercial Officer at Harry’s said that men are “early in the journey and more focused on their natural best self … [and not on] major transformations.”Both brands and consumers are evolving in the way they approach cosmetics for men.
Based on the data, the best strategy for brands appears to be picking a product strategy, an age segment and a message that is very focused. The data indicate that by starting with skincare and expanding out into products that have skincare features like wrinkle improvement or sun protection, brands can entice men to increase their grooming and cosmetic product usage. But the data also show that segmenting messages to different age groups and targeting outbound marketing accordingly will be important for success.
The challenge is that creating a successful brand is not just about making a good product and putting it out into the market. Like so much in consumer products right now, a highly specific message marketed effectively to the right audience is critical.
That’s a lot of skills to have in one company and eventually, there will be brands that grow into major brands as they figure it out. But because it’s so complex there will likely be many brands failing along the way before the winners emerge. Patrick Kidd, Founder of men’s grooming brand Patrick’s, told me, “it’s a combination of educating guys about active ingredients, addressing real problems guys have and then making the products look like something they’d be proud to have in their bathroom. Above all … the products have to actually work.” Conceptually simple, practically very complicated.