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Men’s Skincare: A Necessity or Gimmick?

According to Euromonitor International, a market research company, the value of men’s skincare industry is rising steadily since 2010. In 2015, retail sales of beauty products such as cleansers, moisturisers and serums, designed especially for men hit S$15 million. Compared to 5 years ago, we saw a sharp increase of 30%. Euromonitor International projected that retails sales for men’s skincare range will continue to be on an uptrend in the next few years.

South Korea is the world’s top per-capita consumers of skincare products. In 2015, Korean men swept up the shelves for anti-aging serums, masks and moisturizers. Riding on this strong demand in recent years, skincare companies are channeling substantial investments to design skincare range for men. 

The world has developed such that men are also start to pay more attention to their personal grooming. However, most men are not willing to use products that are packaged for women. They are even willing to pay a premium for the same product – but packaged differently, supposedly tailored to suit their skin type and their active lifestyle. 

So, what are the differences between men’s and women’s skincare products? Is it really necessary to have a separate range of men’s skincare products?

Skincare products for men

In an age where looks play a significant role on how others treat you, it is no wonder that men are starting to take their personal grooming more seriously. Mampering– is a new word coined in recent times to describe how men are adopting the same skincare routines as women. 

In the past, men’s skincare products were limited to only antiperspirants, fragrance, shaving creams, and deodorants. Over the last ten years, cosmetic companies have progressively introduced a wider range of skincare products such as anti-aging creams, BB creams, and moisturizers.

Men’s and women’s products: What are the differences?

If you walk down the beauty products aisle in the supermarket, you see products with packaging and product names that are targeted specifically for each sex. For example, household brands such as Head & Shoulders Shampoo and Clear Shampoo have manufactured gender-specific products designed to appeal to each sex. Men’s products tend to be bottled in larger, darker-colored containers while women’s packages tend to be brighter and slightly smaller. 

Another observation is that men’s product designs tend to lean towards scientific imagery and scientific keywords such as ‘antioxidant-rich’, ‘mineral-rich’, ‘ion’, ‘dermatologist-recommended’ etc. Products targeting female consumers have themes surrounding keywords such as ‘floral’, ‘revitalizing’, ‘botanical’, ‘silky’ etc. This is evident in the advertising materials for Head & Shoulders. In the advertisement to promote the shampoo for females, the tagline was “Shine – 365 days a year”, whereas the advertisement targeting the males, the tagline was “It’s not just the flakes we wash out. It’s what we wash in.” 

Are the ingredients different?

If you look closely and compare the ingredient lists of beauty products for men and women, you will see they are not very different. Both contain similar ingredients and offer similar benefits. The only difference is the fragrance and the cost. 

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. commented that aside from a difference of sheer volume, there is often very little that separates what men and women are using in their bathrooms. 

For example, SK II Facial Treatment Essence contains the following ingredients: 

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate**, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Aqua (Water), Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben, Sorbic Acid

SK II Facial Treatment Essence for Men contains the following ingredients:

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Water, Glycereth 25 Pca Isostearate, Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben, Menthoxypropanediol, Sorbic Acid. 

The extra ingredient that can be found in the men’s concoction is the presence of Glycereth 25 Pca Isostearate. Glycereth 25 Pca Isostearate is an ester of a mixture of isostearic acid and PCA with apolyethylene glycol ether of glycerin. It is essentially only a skin-conditioning agent. 

Price point for men’s and women’s skincare products

How much you pay for your skincare products depend on the brand, not gender-specific products. In fact, most of the men’s and women’s skincare products had the similar price point. For example, SK II Facial Treatment Essence and SK II Facial Treatment Essence for Men cost S$99 for 75ml. 

How about the scent?

If you are partial to certain fragrances in your beauty products, you may find yourself falling prey to the cosmetic companies’ marketing ploy. 

Women’s skincare products often smell flowery, and the heavy perfume lingers for hours. On the other hand, men’s beauty products have woodsy base of amber and musk. That is not to say that the only difference in gender-specific products is the fragrance. It is noted in some studies that many female-oriented products may have added botanical ingredients like green tea, white tea, coffeeberry, and chamomile – simply because women tend to pay more attention to holistic skincare ingredients than most men do. Dr. Bobby Buka, a New York based dermatologist said “They’re certainly scented differently, but in terms of the ingredients for male skin … versus female skin, it’s really identical”. He added that male and female skin problems and solutions are indistinguishable. 

Image courtesy of queenbeepagosa.com

We also note that there is an increased number of products with a unisex fragrance, or no fragrance at all. 

Psychology behind men’s beauty products

men skincare

Traditionally, men are uncomfortable with the idea of dolling themselves up as buying cosmetic products have been women’s prerogative. Selling beauty products to men requires an entirely different language as compared to selling to women. Cosmetic companies are evoking the notion of health and science-backed studies as a selling point to men. 

There are several reasons why men are spending more on skincare products. Men are no longer the sole breadwinners of the family and gender roles are no longer distinct. There is a convergence of masculine and feminine ideals. 

Social media has done many wonderful things for us. It gives us avenue to read articles with different viewpoints, reporting happenings and events that newspapers and magazines do not cover. But it is precisely because of social media that made people, especially the millennials more conscious of their appearance more than ever. It has put huge pressure on young people to look their best and be camera-ready at all times. Men and women need to pay attention to their clothes, hair and skin every day. 

Men’s skincare products – Is it just a marketing gimmick?

Cosmetic companies see a huge potential in this market with the rising demand of men’s skincare lines. They have started to invest time and energy to introduce a line of men’s skincare range to capture the growing market.

We discovered that the ingredients of similar product type supposedly made for each gender have almost identical active ingredients. The only difference is the fragrance. Most skincare companies appeal to men by making the product smell more musky to make it more “manly” or “macho”. They repackage it into some macho-looking containers to appeal to men. Men’s products are sometimes priced a little lower than the corresponding female version to encourage the men to part with their money. 

The products are also given more manly names with terms such as “strong”, “sport”, “cool”, or “menthol”. The entire branding and its concept from the content to the packaging exude vigour, strength, and ruggedness to ensure that buying skincare products are no longer seen as compromising their masculinity.  Bear in mind though – You are likely using the same products as your wife or girlfriend. 

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