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Shedding Light on Men’s Skin Care Products

Written by James E. Upperman and Laura L. Root, CST, CIDESCO Diplomate

It sounds relatively simple, doesn’t it? A cleanser, an aftershave balm, a sun protection product, possibly a lip balm. But what makes a product line distinctly male-oriented versus “unisex” can be elusive and much of the distinction lies in observing the male creature, as well as in the marketing and promotion of the products. A hard look at men and women’s skin care habits reveals very different routines, leaving a significant departure in the aspect of product acceptance by men.

The dilemma is exposed when one researches the sales numbers, retail selection, and presentation of male-only products for the spa market. Indeed, men still remain a somewhat elusive target in the spa, not to mention the fact that not all professionals are able take advantage of the opportunity to market to the “metrosexual” market.

Men vs. Women
Women are inherently (could it be genetic?) willing to utilize as many as four to six steps in their skin care regimen: cleanser, a serum for hyperpigmentation, a serum for anti-aging, an eye treatment product, a moisturizer, and most definitely sun protection. Even ladies who are “bare bones” will use a sun protection product after cleansing. Men, on the other hand, like to swipe their bar of soap in the shower over their face, through their hair, lather up, rinse, and call it a day after the possibility of slapping aftershave onto their now-irritated skin. The challenge to the manufacturer – and thus the retailer – is to provide products with key ingredients that will improve the skin in as few steps as possible, while keeping the change to men’s daily habits to a minimum. This is one of the many reasons why men’s skin care product lines are somewhat under-represented in the marketplace, compared to product lines with a focus on women – men for the most part just don’t want to “mess” with all that effort.
A further observation of men’s skin care product retail sales reveals an important surprise: Most initial purchases of men’s products are gifts. As a result, the opportunity to give your staff the opening to provide skin care instructions to men is minimal at best. Perhaps you are now beginning to see why fewer skin care product options exist for men.
It is all about habits and the availability for an opportunity. Menu items such as “Sports Facials” may draw some male clients in for deep-cleaning facial treatments, or even the possibility of gift certificate sales for the lady’s “significant other” - and this then provides the true professional opportunity to both use and sell products to men.

Skin Care Objectives for Men
The professional must remember that whether shaving with a more traditional shave cream and razor or with an electric shaver, men have one thing in common. They are exfoliating on a daily basis – and you will recall what occurs after microdermabrasion when it is followed by strongly acidic products – so aggressive exfoliants in cleansers should be used with caution.
Supplying hydration and some exfoliation assistance is necessary, while providing antioxidant protection, as well as tissue regeneration for anti-aging. Frequently we find a focus on low levels of glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acid represented in men’s products to encourage cellular turnover, and deep hydration is created by hyaluronic acid. Anti-inflammatory botanicals, such as galbanum, boswellia serrata, and hmp seed, help to calm post-shave irritation. Light formulations including Shea Butter also help to boost antioxidant protection. For an almost-fool-proof initial product introduction, the professional may direct the client (either the male client or female client looking for a special gift) to the new biotechnology peptides, which are some of the safest anti-aging ingredients provided in products today. If the potential client has a tendency to ingrown hair (PFB), then the selection of products that include the extremely anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and lypophyllic salicylic acid is very appropriate for the prevention and maintenance of that skin condition.

“Just the Facts, Ma’am”
Using this information, we are able to ascertain what men are willing to do in a daily skin care regimen. They cleanse their faces, shave, and (hopefully) use sunscreen or a moisturizer after shaving. The products that can qualify as replacements for soap and water and shave cream are only the products that do what the user is willing and accustomed to doing. Recognizing this, why don’t we combine some of the functions and utilize the ingredient technologies beneficial to the skin by focusing on function and adding treatment products to the basic functionality of what men will use:

1. Cleanser with Dual Purpose
The most utilitarian option is a cleanser containing lactic acid that also works as a shaving gel for the blade-shaving gentlemen. This cleanser can be used as a simple cleanser by those using electric razors. Lactic acid will provide a gentle, moisturizing cleanse, while allowing the gel to lather sufficiently for a blade-shaver. Thinking this through to the logical conclusion, if they don’t shave, most likely they are probably not gracing you with their presence at all. Other ingredients that should be considered in a men’s cleanser are galbanum extract to promote cellular regeneration, married with hemp seed oil, for their soothing components.

2. After Shave with Dual Purpose
The after shave balm class of products is a practical option for the inclusion of performance ingredients, while substituting for the after shave lotion that most men are accustomed to using. Keep in mind that the first purchase is usually a gift, so this product needs to have broad application, and avoid a skin classification conflict. In reviewing your own experience with men’s professional services, there will likely be universal agreement that pore congestion and exfoliation are the two needs you observe during those services. An additional need will be for an anti-aging regimen, which has nothing to do, of course, with gender!

3. Ancillary Men’s Skin Care Products that sell well
Lip Balm with SPF can be an “impulse” purchase with benefits – if it is an outstanding product, men could be enticed to seek out more of the same! Sun protection for men is a moral sales objective – as it should be for the ladies, as well. The dilemma in retailing sun protection is in finding an outstanding product that men won’t find objectionable because of its fragrance or consistency – a light gel or lotion with little to no scent is important if they are going to purchase and actually use the product!
A spot-treatment salicylic acid product is extremely utilitarian for those clients with acne or pseudo-folliculitis barbaei, and if its product contains anti-inflammatory botanicals with a pleasing, not-too-fluffy scent, all the better – especially for the teenage male client.

Now the Obvious
Men want products that look like their own, not the opposite sex’s. Therefore, packaging becomes extremely important and its presentation on your shelf equally so. Men are very reluctant to openly use their wife’s products, but may well use them surreptitiously a time or two. For those targeted outcome treatment products that you want to add to a men’s skin care regimen presentation, you will want to seek out unisex packaging for cross-over sales. The closet cosmeceutical client, a business will not make, but properly packaged and results-targeted product can build your men’s product sales.

The Reward
In recent years, men’s product sales have been growing, because men appear to have a stronger brand loyalty because of their tendency to maintain a set routine. Women will see an intriguing product and try it on a whim, but men generally do not make impulse purchases. However, because men have a much more ingrained “habit” instinct, the professional will begin to appreciate this, because once a routine is set with a men’s product, the sales are more likely to be repeat sales.
When marketing men’s products, the retail space and associated presentation must be closely considered, and the best way to provide an introductory offer is through gift presentation promotions. When picking a line of products for your male clientele, balancing products with broad interest with ingredient technologies to match the client’s needs that frequent your spa is important because you may not have the opportunity to actually provide a skin analysis. Keeping in mind that the majority of men’s products are first purchased as gifts, but if they work and if they use them, the rewards are long lived.

Licensed in aesthetics in both Arizona and Oregon, Laura L. Root is a Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist and CIDESCO Diplomate. She also consults with physicians and other professionals in formulating skin care products. A multi-modality training manual co-authored with Jim E. Upperman will be available this fall. Root’s most recent publication is The Skin Care Professional’s Chemistry and Ingredient Handbook. For more information, Laura may be contacted via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through www.estheticeducationresource.com

James E. Upperman is a Physician’s Assistant with a B.S. in Medical Science, who expanded his training by specializing in Ear, Nose, and Throat; and Plastic Surgery, in addition to taking Medical Administrative courses. He has also worked as a supervisory Physician’s Assistant and Medical Administrator. Upperman has collaborated with Root to develop Antiqua Prima, a professional skin care line to address the needs of clients with inflammatory and acneic conditions. He may be contacted via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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