Male grooming is booming

Brands, from global giants like L'Oreal to start-ups like Consonant, are marketing more to men. And it's starting to pay off.

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This story originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Strategy.

It’s not only women buying lotions and potions; men are increasingly interested in practicing self-care. And brands are cashing in.

A report by WGSN predicts the global male grooming products market will surge from USD$57.7 billion in 2017 to $78.6 billion in 2023.

Most of that spend remains in the hands of multinationals like L’Oréal (with Men Expert) and Unilever (with Dove Men+Care) that benefit from mass distribution and existing shelf space. But newer niche players like Schaf, Consonant and Bulldog Skincare going to market, the next gen of men have more grooming options than ever before.


Breaking gender norms
William Baker, founder of Toronto’s Consonant Skincare, believes moisturizers remain the biggest growth opportunity because men are more likely to wash their face with skin-drying soap and tend to enter the category through hydrating creams. But he’s more skeptical about how much attitudes have shifted, as skincare remains a domain “most men don’t seem to be very comfortable in.”

Still, he says the growing acceptance of gender nonconformity will continue to have a positive impact on long-term sales across the category. “It’s becoming socially more acceptable for [men] to not only use beauty products, but to be seen using beauty products.”

Whereas many brands have positioned themselves as intended for men, Consonant doesn’t have a male-specific line. Rather, to reach the growing segment, Consonant (and other minimalist beauty brands like Schaf Skincare) has products that are mostly unscented, not overtly feminine and marketed for all skin types so men won’t feel self-conscious using them.

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Finding eco-friendly solutions
“We’re beginning to see a shift in men seeking products that are ethically made, cruelty-free and made with sustainable, natural ingredients,” says Christine Jew, brand manager for Bulldog Skincare at Edgewell Personal Care, echoing a Mintel report that identified sustainability as the primary trend impacting the beauty industry in 2019.

The U.K.-based men’s skincare brand, which already uses all-natural ingredients in its products, is expanding its selection this year, including a sustainable bamboo razor with packaging made from fully recycled stock. Last year, Bulldog also switched to ethically sourced, sugarcane-based packaging for its entire line, helping to differentiate the brand even further.

Speaking directly to men
Women tend to bring their boyfriends, partners and sons into Consonant’s stores to test the products they buy, says Baker. While Milan Mladjenovic, GM of L’Oréal Paris, says the number of men making their own purchase decisions has significantly increased over the last six years. As a result, Men Expert has shifted its marketing strategy to “target and talk to men where they are and in their own voice.”

This year, it signed singer Adam Levine as a spokesperson for the brand’s first Super Bowl spot. And as men are more likely to buy online, L’Oréal has plans to accelerate the e-commerce presence of the Men Expert line.