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Skin Care for Men: No Longer Taboo

NEW YORK -- Men are once again the object of desire in beauty firms' eyes.

The men's skin care market has historically been an exceedingly tough category to crack, but new efforts are being made to turn the traditional tide of reluctance and...

NEW YORK — Men are once again the object of desire in beauty firms’ eyes.

The men’s skin care market has historically been an exceedingly tough category to crack, but new efforts are being made to turn the traditional tide of reluctance and create enthusiasm with male consumers.

The industry’s hopes are resting with new acid-based items for men like Aramis’s Lift Off, Clinique’s Turnaround Lotion and Avon’s Anew for Men, as well as with brands like Ralph Lauren’s Polo Sport, which has an emphasis on its ancillary line of skin care products.

Men are also being targeted in other ways. Estee Lauder, for example, is marketing Fruition, its blockbuster women’s acid-based product, to men as well. Lauder began running ads in GQ magazine late last year and is continuing the campaign in 1994.

“I think it’s going to be a slow build rather than an explosion,” said Eunice Valdivia, executive vice president of marketing and finance for Clinique. “It’s not as if the business will double by the year 2000.”

According to industry estimates, the men’s treatment business has been growing at a rate of 3.5 percent to 4 percent per year for the last several years. In 1993, total sales were estimated to be around $50 million at wholesale.

“For the last 15 years we’ve all been saying that the men’s treatment market is about to take off,” said Pamela Baxter, vice president of marketing for Aramis. “Obviously, it hasn’t quite gotten there yet, especially given the number of men’s treatment brands that have come and gone throughout the years.”

According to early returns from retailers, the new products and marketing approaches have so far been successful in creating momentum for the men’s movement.

Diane Gates, divisional merchandise manager at The Bon Marche, said Lift Off represents about 30 percent of The Bon’s overall Aramis business.

“People are talking about it,” said Gates.

The Bon’s total men’s fragrance category is up by “strong double digits,” Gates said, noting that “we started off the season [at Valentine’s Day] very strong with the launch of Polo Sport, which was by far the largest men’s fragrance launch we have ever had in terms of sales volume.”

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One of the most surprising elements of the launch was the strong sales of Polo Sport’s ancillary skin care products, called Water Basics.

“The hair-and-body wash, hair gel and lip balm have been very strong. We’ve been really quite surprised by how strong they have been,” Gates said.

Pat Joyce, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Rich’s in Atlanta, also noted strong sales.

“Lift Off took off very fast and has become well accepted, as have the treatment products in Polo Sport,” she said. “We’ve been surprised but pleased to see that men’s products are becoming accepted. Baby boomers are aging, and they’re open to the idea of something to keep them youthful looking.”

Mark Busche, men’s fragrance buyer at I. Magnin, said Lift Off’s success lies in its simplicity.

“Men don’t want to spend a lot of time on the face,” he said. “They want to shave and get out the door. So with three benefits in one quick, easy step, it’s revolutionary.”

“Lift Off is very exciting, because it’s the first time we’ve seen an individual treatment product really take off in the men’s category,” said Bob Wiser, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and accessories at Gottschalks. “We’ve had such success with Lift Off that I believe the customer is now ready for another infusion of treatment products.”

The skin care items in the Polo Sport line have generated equal levels of excitement and the entire line is headed into the Cosmair record books.

Although the company does not break out sales figures, industry sources indicate that the Ralph Lauren division has upgraded its projection for this year from less than $35 million to $40 million. Hitting that target would make Polo Sport Ralph Lauren’s largest fragrance launch.

The Bon wasn’t the only store that gave Polo Sport a strong visual presentation. One retailer noted the bright white, blue and red packaging was like a beacon for winter weary shoppers.

The action-packed sports-oriented TV advertising also coincided with telecasts of the Olympic games.

Jack Wiswall, senior vice president and general manager of Cosmair’s Ralph Lauren Fragrances Division, said the ancillary products accounted for 39 percent of unit sales, roughly doubling original expectations.

One of Cosmair’s strategies in selling skin care to men was pricing. The Face and Body Cream moisturizer is $12.50, compared with what Wiswall estimated at $25 to $30 for an average men’s moisturizer.

The products are packaged in tubes, as opposed to jars, and self-service areas have been installed in stores.

Also, the line was designed as a collection of individual items standing on their own, rather than a regimen demanding adherence. “We are not trying to sell a regimen,” Wiswall said. “We are not taking a women’s line and retooling it.”

Polo Sport also differed from its predecessors in that it was not tied into fashion, like Safari, or lifestyle imagery, like Safari for Men.

Referring to Lauren, Wiswall said, “He allowed this concept to be a product campaign, rather than a fashion or lifestyle campaign.”

In general, the men’s skin care market has never been lucrative. Still, one entrepreneur who made a stab at it and failed claims that the interest was always there on the part of the consumer.

“I had a tremendous response from the beginning,” said Jan Stuart. “Men were always interested in the products. There was no lack of enthusiasm, and they’re even more interested in skin care now.”

Stuart formed his eponymous line in 1978 and eventually brought it into department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, only to be forced to close down in 1990.

“We couldn’t maintain the business when the space we were allotted kept getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “It was never the priority for the stores.”

The Aramis Lab Series line, which was launched in 1986, has tried several different methods to get men hooked into its treatment products.

“We first presented Lab Series as a regimen,” Baxter said. “But men are not accustomed to regimens so it really didn’t work very well.”

Aramis shifted gears and up until January turned to the shaving angle.

“It’s very easy to start a conversation with men about shaving,” Baxter noted.

But when the company launched Lift Off in January, it decided to use that product as a hook into the rest of the line, instead of just shaving. The product, which contains sun protection, alpha-hydroxy acids and moisturizers, sells for $27.50 for a 2-oz. bottle.

“Our research showed us that men spend 38 percent more time in the sun than women and so their risks of getting skin cancer are higher,” Baxter said. “Since men are becoming aware of that, we are positioning Lift Off as giving daily sun protection.”

Industry sources estimated that Lift Off could reach $12 million at wholesale in 1994. And so far, Lift Off sales are taking off; according to Baxter, the company already shipped 50 percent more than it originally forecasted. It has also impacted sales of the other 15 Lab Series items.

“In one of our accounts we have had a 125 percent increase in sales [of Lab Series] during the month of February,” Baxter said.

Clinique is also still waiting for the big boom in men’s skin care.

“Basically we are still selling most of our men’s skin treatment products to women who pass it along to the men,” said Valdivia. “But we are seeing more men at our counters now than in the past, and we are finding that our highest concentration of business is with younger men who seem to be more confident about coming over to our counter.”

Like Aramis, Clinique is featuring a star men’s treatment product this year: Turnaround Lotion for Men, which was launched in March.

A 1.7-oz. tube sells for $23.50. Industry sources estimated that the lotion will do about 20 percent of Turnaround Cream’s business in its first year, which would mean about $5 million.

“You have to speak differently to men,” Valdivia said. “You don’t want to just say that a product will diminish lines on your face. We say that it will give you clearer, better skin and a more comfortable shave.”

Baxter of Aramis agreed that anti-aging isn’t necessarily the future of men’s skin care.

“While men are becoming more concerned with their appearance, I don’t think de-aging the skin will ever be the sole reason they buy a product,” she said. “I think that sun protection is becoming increasingly important and is still the number one way to get a man interested in treatment.”

Meanwhile, direct sales beauty companies have jumped into the men’s skin care game: Avon launches a men’s version of its Anew brand this month, while BeautiControl introduced Regeneration for Men late last year and Mary Kay Cosmetics continues to see growth with its Skin Management products.

“Men basically want products that make shaving easier,” said Carl Schmitt, marketing manager at Avon. “This is the major area where they can experience skin irritation, and they want the experience to be more comfortable. That situation opens up a lot of opportunities.”

The Anew for Men line includes a 4.4-oz. shave gel for $5.50, a 2-oz. Face Complex (with alpha-hydroxy acid) for $15.50 and a 3-oz. Skin Soothing Lotion for $10.50.

“The whole positioning is to build it around an everyday routine,” Schmitt said. “It’s a shaving story, rather than a treatment story. We’re primarily focused on a basic need, and we think that’s the kind of approach that men will welcome.”

The company’s April 20 brochure, which will be distributed to 15 million consumers, contains the first offering of Anew for Men. Across the top of a two-page spread is the slogan, “In 60 Seconds Flat, You Can Begin to Make Shaving More Comfortable. Guaranteed.”

“This is the right time to come out with a men’s product,” said Schmitt. “Men are more aware of skin damage, especially from the sun. They’re more open to these products.

“We also have the benefit of building off the Anew brand,” he continued. “Men will get testimonials from the women in their lives who use Anew, and this is our real advantage, the built-in word of mouth.”

Schmitt said he could not make a sales projection, since men’s skin care was a completely new venture for Avon. The women’s Anew reportedly did $20 million in its first six months.”

“Although we’re confident, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’ve never done this before.”

Mary Kay has had men’s treatment products for 20 years, but the company saw a jump in sales two years ago when it redesigned the line to focus around shaving.

“We saw a nice pop when we simplified the regimen,” said Curran Dandurand, senior vice president for the global marketing group. “Most men do shave in the morning, so it makes sense to fit something into their everyday routine.”

Dandurand said the Mary Kay men’s line, called Skin Management for Men, had a volume of around $10 million at wholesale last year, or around 20 percent of the total men’s skin care market.

The line includes a cleansing bar, shave cream, toner, conditioner, oil controller and blemish control formula, with prices ranging from $5.50 to $13.

“It’s a small market, but it’s growing,” said Dandurand. “Men are a lot more receptive now. The baby boomers are starting to be concerned with the way they look, and norms are changing — it’s not viewed as feminine so much anymore. It’s more acceptable to use these products, and if the benefits are tangible, they’ll keep coming back.”

Dandurand did note that women are still the key to gaining a man’s attention.

“If we can educate women about why their husbands need skin care, that’s a big bonus,” she said. “We have to get the ‘significant other’ involved. There’s a lot more receptivity with men, but the bulk still initially goes through women.”

BeautiControl began shipping Regeneration for Men, a repackaged edition of its women’s Regeneration AHA product, last December.

Ed Huckfeldt, director of product marketing for the company, said at the time of the launch that BeautiControl had “decided to do a men’s version because of the enormous success of the women’s, and we’ve had our consultants telling us there are a lot of men buying the women’s product and a lot of husbands of customers using the women’s.”

Regeneration for women was introduced in August and is projected to reach a volume of $15 million by the end of its first year.

The men’s edition, which is a 2-oz. jar for $28, is expected to top $2 million in its first year.

While the acid formula is the same as in the women’s product, one concession the company made to the men’s market was that the name BeautiControl is not on the jar.

According to Huckfeldt, some men would be reluctant because they find the name BeautiControl too feminine.

Men that buy products from Origins, a company that prides itself on being genderless, often go in to buy Blade Runner, a shaving cream. But very often they leave with a lot more products than they bargained for, according to the company.

“We don’t market anything specifically to men or to women,” said Daria Myers, vice president of marketing for Origins. “But we do seem to have several items that men seem to gravitate toward.”

Myers cited the company’s Skin Care Pairs as being extremely popular with men. Each of the five pairs of products is designed to be used after cleansing to fine-tune the skin. She noted that men are also gravitating toward Starting Over, the company’s alpha-hydroxy acid product. “They are finding that it not only smoothes the skin but helps their shave,” said Myers, who added that in addition to the treatment products, men are also going for some of the company’s body and aromatherapy items.

While the company has not actively cultivated men in the past through advertising or promotion, Myers noted that the company is considering it for the future.

Jami Morse von Heidegger, chief executive officer and co-president of Kiehl’s, said that not only have more men been coming to her company for skin care, they are buying a bigger variety of treatment products.

About 40 percent of Kiehl’s customers are men, von Heidegger said. She attributed part of the company’s strength in the male market to Kiehl’s pharmaceutical-looking, androgynous packaging. Men also like coming into the Kiehl’s store in Manhattan, she said, because it’s filled with motorcycles.

“There wasn’t anything frilly about Kiehl’s,” she said.

Most of Kiehl’s products are unisex, but von Heidegger said some of the bestsellers among men are toners, after shave moisturizers, lip balm, light body moisturizers and products from the sports line.

Over the last three years, von Heidegger noted, men have been buying more and more eye cream. Before then, she said, men bought the anti-aging product “if no one else was around and it was preceded by a giggle.”

As difficult as the men’s category can be, von Heidegger said it’s worth the effort. Men, she said, are not interested in experimenting with different lines; they just want to find products they like.”Finally,” von Heidegger concluded, “it is okay for men to buy things and to feel comfortable doing that.”