Is the men’s hair, grooming and skin care segment ready for the spotlight?
The segment has been touted for its potential for years, with many predicting a boom to no avail. But with men’s shifting attitudes toward grooming, that explosion may finally have arrived.
More men’s brands specialized in hair and grooming for all hair types, skin care, personal care, genderless products, makeup, nail polish and even ingestibles are entering the market than ever before. All seem to agree that the men’s segment is red hot and only getting hotter.
The usual suspects still dominate the grooming and men’s hair coloring categories, according to IRI figures for the calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020. Specifically Harry’s, Gillette and Schick for razors accounted for $503.7 million in sales, and Just For Men’s hair dye accounted for $183.9 million of the $193 million in men’s hair coloring sales. Harry’s recently raised $155 million in Series E funding led by Macquarie Capital and Bain Capital, increasing its total valuation to $1.7 billion, and its total funding to date to $652.4 million.
Bevel, Lumin, Huron, Scotch Porter, Stryx, Lesse, Hawthorne, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Fulton & Roark and more brands available direct-to-consumer and/or in retailers reported growth in 2020, with positive holiday season results despite the global pandemic. Brands like Art of Sport and Bravo Sierra have launched at more stores across the U.S.
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Men have established their grooming routine with essential face washes and moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners, and are venturing to new avenues, trying new products like eye creams, face masks, serums, sunscreen, beard products, beauty tools, makeup, hair dye and even supplements.
There are a myriad of reasons for the uptick in demand for men’s personal care products.
Men across the entire U.S, as opposed to men exclusively in urban cities, are buying personal care products for themselves, conversing and reviewing these products with their peers and discussing what ingredients are efficient and beneficial. They’re exploring the efficacy of products that they don’t see immediate results with, like razors and shavers.
Men are also contributing to the removal of stigmas surrounding men’s personal care and self-care and contributing to today’s definition of masculinity that prioritizes physical, mental and emotional wellness and balance.
“We’re only just in the beginning of men exploring the skin care industry,” said Neada Deters, founder of unisex organic skin care brand Lesse. “We’re seeing men just beginning to accept products of a certain quality and price point.”
Men comprise 24 percent of Lesse’s customer base, and the men’s return customer rate is above 47 percent. “We’ve seen an uptick about 5 percent from male-identifying visitors to the site from last year to date,” she said.
Target has been capitalizing on increased interest as well, introducing in 2018 a men’s grooming section in its beauty department.
Ulta Beauty chief merchandising officer Monica Arnaudo said that according to consumer insights, men that identify as beauty enthusiasts has grown 37 percent from 2017 to 2020. “Sixty-five percent of beauty enthusiasts believe there’s an overlap between beauty and wellness and within that, three in four males agree,” she said.
Deters sees a departure from traditional men’s skin care and hair and grooming conventions, including women buying products for the men in their lives and men borrowing products from the women in their lives.
Oars + Alps brand leader Erica LeBlanc said the brand expected women to comprise 70 percent of their purchases, and instead found men made 80 percent of product purchases.
Walker & Company Brands vice president of marketing Tia Cummings observed the same at Bevel, where men comprise the bulk of purchases. “Within our target audience of Black men 18 to 44, the majority of them are not married,” she said. “As the focus on male grooming continues to grow, you’ll see more and more men taking ownership of the products they buy.”
Dr. Barbara Sturm said a quarter of its e-commerce consumers identify as male and more men are joining the brand’s digital Masterclasses and Skin Schools.
Arnaudo noticed a few trends among male consumers, such as skin, hair and grooming needs pertaining to textured hair and razor bumps, and DIY categories like hair and nails.
“Social media has really driven greater inclusivity in skin care and as a result is the fastest-growing beauty category for men,” she added. “The intimate connection to self-care is a key driver and after a year of quarantine, which allowed for greater routines. More men have embraced the category and we anticipate they’ll stay the course.”
Deters also mentioned skin care no longer being an interest reserved exclusively for men in metropolitan cities and urban areas.
“We’re seeing an uptick in areas that aren’t just New York City and Los Angeles,” she said. “In the beginning they were our central markets, but we’ve seen growth across the country and part of that has to do with people moving.”
Fulton & Roark cofounder Kevin Keller shared a similar sentiment about men in suburban and rural cities, as did Gage for Men founder Bennie Pollard, who is based in Louisville, Ky.
“Suburbanites and rural folks don’t get enough credit!” exclaimed Keller. “We see more purchases from rural and suburban zip codes than you might expect. If you look at our sales relative to the population distribution, it mirrors those numbers fairly well across the country.”
Pollard said each region in the U.S. has its own trends. “Each marketplace can have its own flavor, and before, the industry and even fashion in general would look to the coast as trendsetters but with info being so widely available, they develop their own trends.”
Deters added, “It’s an effect of skin care and grooming being something more acceptable now for men without the indulgence of travel and other experiences. The pandemic changed how men spend.”
The pandemic may have accelerated this trend, but this is a storm that’s been brewing for years.
Matt Teri, cofounder and chief development officer of Huron, who also spent several years at the Estée Lauder Cos., said men in the U.S. have been slow to pick up on personal care and grooming compared to countries in Europe and Asia and cites societal and cultural changes and education as the drivers toward skin care. He is also among many cofounders that see skin care as part of men’s fitness and wellness regimes.
Benjamin Bernet, cofounder and co-CEO of Bravo Sierra, a personal care company built and tested for the military community, said the men’s personal care market for the past 15 to 20 years was split between high-end products found in department stores and prestige channels that bet “on the sophistication of men,” he said, and mass brands “selling gallons of gels and large sticks and its value proposition,” he added.
Bernet has participated in the market’s evolution, having expanded the men’s businesses at L’Oréal, Giorgio Armani and Kiehl’s. He also founded multiethnic online beauty e-tailer Doobop. He sees a future for affordable products for men who don’t want “to choose between a private label or a Bloomingdale’s counterbrand.”
Bernet’s Bravo Sierra cofounder and co-CEO Justin Guilbert, also a beauty and personal care industry veteran who led L’Oréal’s marketing in the mid-Aughts, believes the men’s care category will be “rebooted entirely.”
“Men’s care seems like a joke that it’s the fastest growing category, because it’s so small but it never reached its potential,” said Guilbert. He saw over the years what he describes as “dumb care,” or basically men using whatever products they can get their hands on, and its antithesis—men having a very extensive routine à la the character Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”—and borrowing products from women.
“The biggest thing we’re seeing before our eyes is what happened in fashion, style and accessories but in the personal care and skin care space for men,” said Brian Jeong cofounder and CEO of Hawthorne, a men’s personal care brand that tailors its fragrance, hair and skin care offering according to their customer’s preferences.
“Before, there was the term ‘mMetrosexual,’” Jeong continued. “It described guys that cared about the way they dressed and their style, but it’s normal. Male consumers are realizing there is a way to take care of their skin, to look, feel and smell better and it’s something they can now access.”
The term ‘metrosexual,’ which was created in the mid-’90s, was reserved for men that took extra care of their personal appearance and over time it took on a negative connotation. Though men followed style trends over the years, there were stigmas for being very interested in their appearance.
“You can’t ignore that there were stigmas around these kinds of things,” Jeong continued. “Guys talk to each other all the time about music, food, style, but it wasn’t until recently that guys talked about their new Byredo fragrance or the new Aesop hand cream. Byredo, Le Labo and other brands made it as cool as guys talking about Supreme and sneaker drops.”
Men’s wear is one gateway to personal care products. In the late Aughts, men wanted to update their appearance and dress their best, which was enhanced on social media platforms where men shared their contemporary and luxury fashions from Italy and Japan and street style photos. There was the fitness boom also on social media and the desire to enhance their physical wellness through diet and exercise.
Lumin cofounder Darwish Gani correlates personal care and grooming with the healthy eating and exercise trends. “It is a general global movement toward taking care of yourself and wellness,” he said. “Customers are early risers, work really hard, could be CEOs or teachers, but they live active lifestyles and want to do better.”
As men’s motivations have changed, so have brands’ product offerings and marketing and messaging. Today, brands boast natural ingredients and realistic efficacy estimations, and new value propositions that deliver more value for the customer like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, the latter in which saw its business grow 25 percent overall and entered new international markets in 2020 and entered the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium in March.
In addition, brands now deliver messaging that aligns with men’s desire to be their best selves instead of becoming someone else. Gone are the days of men aspiring to be the world’s sexiest man, with advertisements peddling alpha male tropes.
Gillette in 2019 took on toxic masculinity with an ad calling out harassment. The annual Movember event that has been encouraging men to grow their facial hair to raise awareness for men’s health issues since 2003 devoted its 2020 event to men’s mental health, responding to the unprecedented pandemic.
Bevel celebrated Black men in 2020 with their Created for Kings campaign and will continue the homage with its Dads and Grads campaign for Father’s Day and graduations.
Marketing campaigns celebrate men as they are instead of promoting a false ideal that is losing relevance. Brands are also pushing the ingredients and benefits of their essential products to get men in at the ground level and educate them. Also brands like Bevel and Scotch Porter are two of many catering to underserved hair needs among men with textured hair.
Bevel, which reported strong sales across the holiday season, led the way for brands to cater to the needs of Black men and women.
“Since Bevel launched, one significant way the market has changed is that unique beauty needs of the Black men and women are being acknowledged more prominently,” said Cummings. “This has led to several new brand and product launches, as well as broader distribution of said products. Black shoppers no longer have to go to the local beauty supply store to find products made for them because major retailers have focused on expanding their multicultural offerings. This expansion has allowed a brand like Bevel to go from solely being available online to being on shelf at Target and Walmart stores nationwide. It’s a huge win for our consumers and for us as a brand.”
Scotch Porter reported an 80 percent increase in revenue over the prior year. The brand’s beard and hair care products were best-sellers in 2020, due to men growing their hair and beards with barber shops closed, and founder and CEO Calvin Quallis sees textured hair as “a big opportunity,” as well as supplements.
“We’re still in a pandemic and folks are paying much more attention to their health so immunity-boosting is more important than it was in the past,” said Quallis, who was inspired to include supplements to the product offering from his own wellness journey.
Men’s skin care and wellness brand Asystem launched in 2019 with skin care essentials and daily supplements with antioxidants and later launched relief gel roll-on for pain relief.
Then there’s Hims, the telehealth service addressing hair loss, erectile dysfunction, wellness and most recently skin care.
“Men have resoundingly shared they have felt so much relief in being able to access skin care from Hims platform,” said Hims & Hers cofounder and vice president of merchandising, Hilary Coles. “We’ve heard from so many men that they’ve always felt embarrassed to take care of their skin—for example buying products at their local store or visiting a dermatologist in-person—or that they didn’t see anything in the market that was approachable or, frankly, that inspired them to want to try it. We’ve intentionally made it super easy to either purchase skin care products that are right for you, or connect with a high-quality licensed medical professional if you want to learn more about our prescription skin offerings.”
The company’s revenue increased 80 percent over 2019 to $148.8 million in 2020, and revenue in the fourth quarter increased 67 percent year-over-year to $41.5 million.
“When we first launched, the market for men’s wellness was hypermasculine—think loud, black and red packaging, and stereotypical male positioning,” said Coles. “Over the past three years, there’s been an exciting push from more brands that recognize men’s wellness can’t be confined into a 5-in-1 product. It’s so refreshing to see other companies launching portfolios that recognize there are many different types of consumers.”
Lumin cofounder Gani said the traditional men’s skin care market offers essential products like face wash and face moisturizer, but is noticing that men are also gravitating toward unexpected items like Lumin’s dark circle eye cream and anti-wrinkle serum. Lesse founder Deters said her Ritual Serum is most popular with men, and Huron said they restocked their eye stick several times.
Hommeface’s Daily Trio Set & Revitalizing Hydrogel Mask Set have been steady best-sellers according to the vegan and cruelty-free skin care brand. Oars + Alps brand leader LeBlanc, said their face and eye cream and wake-up stick are some of the top sellers alongside their essentials like deodorants, body wash, bar soaps and recently launched hand sanitizer.
Men have also stepped up their beard trimming and styling grooming practices due to barbershops closing. Randall Lemoine, vice president, strategy and consumer understanding at P&G Grooming said they saw upticks in trimming, styling and grooming products. P&G launched King C. Gillette and Gillette Labs for more elevated shaving and styling experiences.
Deters said, “Men are beginning to identify key problems or issues they might have with their skin. Men are starting to understand in the same way that the way they have to do this specific training when it comes to exercise is the same when it comes to skin care.”
Men are also trying nontraditional products for better results. Meejee, a beauty skin cleaning tool, saw an uptick in male buyers. The brand made up for lost sales early in the year by the holiday, and cofounder Ben Segarra said over the holiday, the brand was selling four to five times what they were selling during the year.
Segarra said the next frontier for men is makeup, which is in line with early adopters like Warpaint and Stryx, the latter in which reported its highest revenue months ever last holiday season. “It has since been topped in Q1 of 2021, with each month beating the previous one,” the brand said.
Certainly men could shop brands that have been on the market longer, but brands like Stryx are tailored to men and attempt to simplify cosmetics with a concealer tool to hide blemishes and tinted moisturizer.
“We’re only just scratching the surface of cosmetic and advanced skin care products for men,” said Stryx. “In the coming years, these products for men are only going to become more accessible, acceptable and ubiquitous.”
Frontman, a Gen Z grooming brand founded by Nick Bunn and Annelise Hillmann, gets to the nitty-gritty of acne with its Fade concealer made with salicylic acid. They see Gen Z as the group leading the pack in men’s personal care trends. “We’ve seen Gen Z has the power to affect other generations,” said Hillmann. “Gen Z is leading the larger cultural conversation and impacting all guys in every age demographic.”
So, is the sky the limit for men’s personal care and grooming?
Mordor Intelligence valued the market at $55.22 billion in 2020 and Grand View Research predicts the market will reach $75.8 billion. Those in the space agree the market is set up to grow exponentially, with a broad variety of drivers.
Ulta’s Arnaudo sees the self-care trend driving men’s increased interest in personal care; Harry’s general manager Jaime Crespo expects men to continue expanding their routines.
Scotch Porter founder and CEO Quallis sees textured hair and health and wellness as the next frontier for men’s personal care, and Meejee cofounder Segarra is bullish on men’s cosmetics. Dr. Barbara Sturm sees a 100 percent gender-neutral future for the market—“the future as we see it is not about defining male and female beauty but looking at offering skin care, self-care and wellness that works for everybody, regardless of age or gender,” she said—and Bravo Sierra’s Bernet and Guilbert think the growth will come from innovating existing essential care products. (The brand’s body spray is the first nonflammable plant-based spray that was developed for the needs of the U.S. military).
With so many players in this growing market searching for the golden ticket, it appears the consumer is destined to win out. The increased competition and education will help men make informed decisions starting at their first purchase. More players mean men have access to higher-quality products at several price points, and for different skin types and hair textures.
Young King Hair Care, a natural hair care line for multicultural boys created by Cora and Stefan Miller, are starting the education process and wellness routines early for toddlers, young boys and preteens. “We saw much growth last summer and through the holiday,” said Cora Miller.
As girls are encouraged to take care of their skin and appearance at a young age, boys are not, and Miller feels this created the disconnect we have seen between men and personal care and grooming products.
“Our product proposition is to start at an early age so that when the customer is older they know what to do and what to look for,” said Miller.
“We want to speak to both parents and that older boy to provide those product offerings to help him take care of himself. Men who are now finding themselves and their routines were looking for those solutions. The men’s market is an exciting time right now. As our brand is focusing on young boys and gearing them up, they’ll know what to do when they enter adulthood.”