Male Clientele: A Growth Opportunity

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The trend spans over a generation and solidifies. As years pass, an increasing percentage of men value the benefits of skin care products and many seek spa services. Demographics support that men’s use of products and more frequent bookings of spa visits represent significant business growth opportunities in cosmetic retail and to the professional aesthetics industry. Changing attitudes towards the importance of one’s appearance take men’s skin care from a niche market to mainstream. Some businesses are very successful at getting sales.


Men’s skin care is not a niche market anymore. It is no longer embarrassing for men to use skin care products or get a facial. A man no longer reaches for his wife’s jar of cream when his skin feels uncomfortably dry. Men are aware that skin care products help them look and feel better, and the past stigma is gone. In a competitive work environment, healthy skin becomes a competitive advantage. Most men purchase skin care products for themselves; they seek information, check brands online, fill out questionnaires about their skin concerns, and get feedback. It goes beyond razor burn solutions: The old aftershave is out and moisturizer is now in. Some men search for spas or beauty retailers on the Internet and then purchase products; more motivated men visit the spa for facials or to get product recommendations. While the women in their lives still act as influencers, for the most part, men now decide about their skin care. Furthermore, women no longer have to talk men into using skin care products and the old debate when men used to doubt the need for skin care was settled. This is a departure from the time women used to do all the skin care shopping.


Research by the New Product Development (NPD) Group reveals that men continue to discover the benefits of keeping up appearances. Ninety percent of men (ages 18 and older) in the United States are using some sort of grooming product today. One out of three men says he is concerned about dry skin and signs of aging. In addition, four out of 10 men use a facial cleanser daily instead of soap or shower pic 2gels, one out of four uses a scrub, and one out of five uses anti-aging products and eye gels. Multiple product use, while being on the rise, is still not yet the norm; only one quarter of men are currently using facial cleansers, moisturizers, lip and eye products, and anti-aging treatments. There is tremendous growth opportunity in this category of products and as men use more and more “skin care programs,” including three to five products morning and night, growth potential is huge.

More detailed research shows that six out of 10 American men say personal care products boost their self-esteem. This is a great motivator to go shopping! According to Euromonitor, “sales of men’s beauty and personal care products are progressing at a steady pace. The global men’s grooming market grew by 7.4 percent from 2009 to 2010, to reach $29.6 billion in retail value, but all male grooming categories are not equal. For instance, the market for shaving products and razors has remained largely stagnant in developed markets.” According to Mintel, sales in these segments remained essentially stagnant and growth comes from skin care products.

The men’s skin care market continues to grow at a rapid pace, but a brand’s success depends on its ability to adapt to new customers who are still reluctant to enter in outlets perceived as a women’s-only zone and whose practices are evolving rapidly. If your business or website intends to attract a male clientele, the look and feel must be gender-neutral to attract both genders or feature masculine decorations to attract men (like high-end barber shop retailing skin care).

To further support the above statements, a recent study by Kline & Company reports that “the male skin care market has nothing of a niche market anymore. In this context, even the term “metrosexual” – a word that throughout the first decade of the century symbolized men’s new behavior of towards beauty – has turned obsolete. It used to imply a certain niche group, whereas in 2012, all types of men in urban and suburban areas are using male grooming products,” explains Nancy Mills, consumer practice industry manager at Kline & Company. All surveys point to the same phenomenon: the global market for men’s skin care is booming.


Skin care products used to be solely sold in drugstores and department stores. The shelves and sections featuring those products were clearly “feminine looking.” In drugstores, they were usually placed close to the feminine hygiene section, not a place men want to be seen. Drugstore products used to be low priced and packaged in simple no-frills packaging, most often in bland colors generally without a box to cut costs. Recent market opportunities have caused drugstores to change their skin care mix. They still have shelves with inexpensive products, but have opened new sections of stores that look nothing like the old drugstores. Several drugstore chains have opened “Look Boutiques” in upscale markets. They feature beautiful displays, niche brands, high-priced products, and trained advisors wearing white lab coats.

Skin care products sold in department stores used to be packaged in very feminine packaging with pink, burgundy, or iridescent colors and gold accents. The feminine and overly-decorated styles used to fit the house decorations of the 1970s and 1980s and jars of cream decorated the bathroom vanity. In short, men felt excluded from skin care; it was not for them. Nowadays department stores have more offerings appealing to a male clientele. Nevertheless, the department store’s atmosphere is still not enticing to many men because it is hard to walk through the cosmetic department without being stopped multiple times; hard-sell tactics are not appealing to men.

Starting in the 1990s, a number of day spas, especially larger ones or the ones managed by business people, attracted men by selling gift certificates to their wives and girlfriends, opened couples massage rooms, and adopted more gender-neutral décor. Nevertheless, the majority of day spas still kept feminine-looking décor and catered to women only – until recently when new design styles and colors and popular television shows featuring neutral designs became the new normal. Despite decoration changes, many day spas are not attracting a male clientele, but several spa chains do because their advertising and websites have messages that resonate with both genders. They have large displays of retail products, testers, and keep things focused and simple by carrying one skin care brand, usually a brand not sold at too many nearby competitors; they offer an experience and a casual, elegant place to spend time. It is okay to use electronics and it is not intimidating to enter those spas because their reception does not double as a retail environment. Some spas allow clients to book appointments or purchase products on a tablet without talking to an employee. Getting a facial on Friday night before meeting friends for dinner is the new normal – this type of environment appeals to many men, especially millenniums.

Destination Spas
Destination spas started catering to men on vacations starting about 20 years ago; they concentrated on body massages, not facials and retail skin care products. This may explain why massages are more popular than facials in destination spas and in some day spa chains. pic 3This looks like a lost opportunity to engage men into skin care, but it is actually a golden opportunity for spas to communicate that to have healthy-looking skin, clients need skin care products morning and night. Aestheticians and well-trained sales associates can sell products in the spa’s retail area by educating men on how to correct skin conditions with homecare.

Day Spas
Day spas get the short end of the stick. Why do so many men not go to day spas after having services at a destination spa? On one hand, it resides with the fact that when men are on vacation, they want to try new things – be it a massage or bungee jumping – but they may not be in a state of mind to commit to a new lifestyle habit and skin care is for life. This type of commitment can be made when one finds the right place to go to in one’s neighborhood, not 3,000 miles away on an exotic island. Male clients prefer local offerings. The therapists in resorts do not educate their clients and do not correct skin conditions; they focus on offering a nice experience in a beautiful environment. And because only a small percentage of men see the need for regular services when they get back home, the local day spas will not get many male clients to book services even if they went to a spa on vacation.

On the other hand, day spas tend to focus on services and sell retail products after a facial, not when the client enters the spa without an appointment or more importantly, on their website – the first communication one gets from the spa. Almost everyone checks a business’ website before patronizing the business. If the website does not educate on homecare, does not feature products used and sold at the spa, and does not invite people to chat online or come in and talk about their skin, one will not think of going to a spa to buy products. They will think of patronizing beauty retailers instead. The same goes for the phone. It is typical for spa staff to try to talk a client into booking a service first, instead of selling skin care products. They emphasize the benefits of regular services. Regular facials are a commitment similar to committing to an exercise program with long-term goals to improve one’s quality of life. It may take more than a first phone conversation or entering the reception area of a spa to get a client to commit. Clients need to be convinced of the need and value first and this takes time and education. At a second stage, once trust has been established with products that deliver results, those who have skin conditions that could further benefit from skin care services might be more open to book appointments because they will understand the value better. And they might be willing to listen to the aesthetician.

Retail chains capture a large part of the skin care retail dollars for both men and women. The store displays are focused, easy to navigate, and the staff is available if needed but they do not grab customers as they pass, as is done in department stores. This type of environment pic 4feels non-threatening to men. Stores carry gender-neutral product lines that focus on solving skin conditions and men-only lines for those who feel a little shy about taking the plunge. Other business models focus on health such as the Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacies chain-based in Colorado. They offer natural skin care lines chosen for their benefits and non-toxic ingredients, packaged in gender-neutral packaging along with natural supplements, toiletries, and a pharmacy that offers both allopathic and integrative medicine. They employ aestheticians and nutritionists as sales people. Furthermore, their business model focuses on education. They conduct mini seminars on a variety of subjects from digestive health to dry skin. These types of companies have healthy sales to men and continue to grow.

Last, but not least, data and empirical experience supports that men are very loyal to a product and do not seek something new unless they are dissatisfied or the product is hard to get. Women are deemed less loyal and more attracted to novelties, special offers, to what their friend’s recommendations, social media advertisements, and what products celebrities use. Furthermore, men are deemed less price-resistant than women.

Men’s interest in improving their skin’s appearance and comfort is here to stay; for businesses to grow and gain market share, it is imperative that spas position themselves as go-to places for men.

headshotCatherine Atzen takes a progressive approach to skin care and product ideation. Her inspiration stems from her upbringing in a “green” French spa town and the creativity of the San Francisco Bay Area where she resides. A talented product developer, she formulated ATZEN Superior to Organic skin care line (, which was chosen for the Academy Award’s celebrity gift box. She also developed the LymphMed® device for lymphatic drainage. Atzen holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, an MBA from Columbia University, NY, a CIDESCO diploma, and is NCEA certified. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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