It comes as no surprise to say that men are not the largest demographic in personal care. Even in today’s modern era, the vast majority of TV, radio, magazine, and social media ads are geared towards women.
However, there’s a surprising reality when it comes to gender and personal care: guys are more into their appearance than we think. A 2019 MINDBODY Wellness Index Report found that 39% of men prioritized grooming and self-care — compared to 40% of women. What’s more, the Average Joe only spends $6 less a month than women do on personal care products.1
Men’s grooming is expected to grow to more than $29 billion by 2024,2 which underscores a major market opportunity for personal care companies. Recognizing this, the industry’s top brands are seriously focusing their energy on this growing demographic.
Successfully capturing market share however, involves more than just selling women’s products to men. To be truly effective, products need to address the nuances of men’s care and be formulated specifically for the Y chromosome. Men have 25% thicker skin, bigger pores, and more collagen. Testosterone affects the production of the sebaceous glands, leading to oilier skin. Their daily routines are a mix of gym sessions, business meetings, and late nights.
Plus, a guy’s priorities differ from women and their personal care products need to reflect that. The brands that appeal to men address a simplified routine, easy-to-understand ingredients, and an on-the-go attitude. Guys might be interested in hydrating their skin, but they don’t want it to be a lot of work.
To truly understand where a man’s interest is in personal care, you have to look beyond the dopp kit. A guy’s grooming habits go hand in hand with his sense of style, influenced by the experiences around him. He visits whiskey bars, gets his hair trimmed at a barbershop, and socializes over pickup basketball. All of these influences contribute to his mindset of what makes a man.
Responding to this, we’re seeing a proliferation of SKUs entering the market, each going beyond the basics of soap and shampoo. There’s a deodorant for work and another for play, pomades hydrate as much as they hold, and beard oils are formulated with enough care to make an apothecary blush.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Even if they’re hitting the right notes, and despite a boom in the men’s care industry, the success of many brands comes with some serious hurdles. Men are creatures of habit, and introducing new ones into the mix can be a hairy situation. To succeed in the long term, a brand needs to get guys to break with their routines.
Take for example, the most universal of men’s grooming habits: shaving. Despite beards’ regained popularity, 75% of men shave every day.3 The practice is so universal, guys view it as a major milestone in their journey towards manhood. Even learning how to shave is a sacred ritual, something that is passed down from father to son like a gold pocket watch.
This highlights the need for brands to explain ‘the why’ when introducing something like a new beard care product guys didn’t know they needed.
Brands from L to R: Helmm, Layrite, Blackwood for Men, Gillette, Herbivore, Lumin, Bull Dog, Kiehl’s, Brickell
The Next Generation of Men’s Care
Historically, men’s care has been driven by the basics — shaving, body wash, deodorant, hair styling — where today’s top brands have dominated since the industry began. Recently though, emerging brands have attempted to upend the market, remodeling the old game from the ground up. Their aim is to steal market share by combating the myth that these things are just for women. Men might not be looking to get pampered, but they still want to look good.
Pioneer disruptors include companies looking to introduce old concepts to a group that has traditionally dismissed them. Moisturizing, face mask treatments, manicures and pedicures, and even makeup — these are all self-care practices that aren’t commonplace among men but have the potential to be.
Of course new products aren’t going to be effective streams of revenue if guys aren’t open to using them. This goes back to the concept of being able to overcome habitual biases and break old routines. To help achieve this, brands are shifting their marketing from the classic ‘what gets a girl’ messaging to one that showcases the benefits of good grooming, how it fits into a man’s lifestyle, how personal care is self-care, and why it needs to be a part of one’s daily routine (right there next to shaving).
Influencers are playing a big part in this coaching, particularly among the younger generations that spend hours on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Vloggers like Aaron Marino (@aaronmarino), Joseph Andrews (@blumaan), and Alex Costa (@alexcosta) cover a range of personal care topics, from product reviews to home workouts, and the best sneakers to pair with that hand-stitched Cubano shirt.
BluMaan’s YouTube channel boasts 1.6 million subscribers and offers product reviews and hairstyling tutorials
Instagrammer Alex Costa promotes the combination of fitness, style, and grooming as elements that make a man
Even though they come from a virtual connection, these referrals have the influence of a personal connection. They are extremely successful at introducing new ideas (like a weekly face mask treatment) and getting men to try products they previously overlooked. Furthermore, introducing new personal care trends over Instagram encourages consumers to share their own experience on the same platform, turning themselves into spokespeople to their own social circles.
Getting a Routine to Stick
Formulating a great product and getting men to want to use it are lofty first steps, but they won’t create a revolution on their own unless guys stick with them. Keeping up with a new routine is critical in building men’s grooming into that $26 billion dollar empire.
Subscription services tend to be something that fits well with men’s care products because they offer both the ability to discover new product types and brands, but also offer the convenience of scheduled delivery and that no-hassle approach guys love.
Even better, services like Birchbox and Bespoke Post — ones that focus on clothing and lifestyle products in addition to personal care brands — can more effectively tie in the connection between style, appearance, and social life.
Brands Making an Impression
These personal care names are blazing the path forward in men’s grooming.
Stryx has taken concealer to a totally geek level and it’s awesome. Recognizing that men too have blemishes they need to cover up (and again, a guy’s skin has unique needs) they created a concealer pen that’s almost as cool-looking as it is functional.
Their product line also includes tinted moisturizer, and both products work to hide pimples, dark circles, scars, and other skin imperfections. Everything is designed for an on-the-go lifestyle because ease-of-use is critical in a guy’s routine.
Huron is about getting serious with proper skin and hair care for every type of guy — the bartender, the barber, the mechanic, and the everyday man. Recognizing that a lot of guys don’t know what products to use and when, they built a product line designed to ‘brave the bathroom and look after yourself.’
Their brand extends beyond the products they sell, to resources on styling, how to improve your personal hygiene, and the ingredients that make up a man.
Consistently ranked as one of the best pomades on the market, Suavecito has given an old idea a modern makeover. Tapping into the barbershop culture, the company’s pomades, waxes, clays, gels, beard oils, and mustache wax are formulated to fit a guy’s lifestyle (and provide superior results with easy-to-wash-out ingredients).
Suavecito takes their branding a step further, touting initiatives like their Firme Club, which promotes the idea that fitness and great hair are a match made in heaven.
Founded as a single apothecary-style shop in Chelsea, Malin + Goetz is a skincare brand that focuses on sensitive skin backed by science and has grown into a complete line of face, body, hair, and fragrance products.
Technically formulated for all genders, the brand is on a mission to simplify skincare. Their wide range of SKUs typically consist of a two-step routine (cleanser + moisturizer) with additional products specific to one’s problem areas.
It’s clear that men’s care is on an upward trend, but there are still a lot of questions to answer before we truly get a sense of where this market will end up. As consumers and CPGs engage in conversations about personal care, as they set out to redefine masculinity, and as they introduce new (and sometimes genderless) concepts, we will gain a better understanding of the industry’s potential.
In the meantime, brands that embrace change and novel ideas will find themselves in a better position to lead men’s personal care into the next era. Guys are absolutely looking beyond the functional when it comes to their personal care products and how they integrate into their respective self-care routines. This isn’t an anomaly brands are working around — it’s a seismic shift rebranding the industry.