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Men's Beauty


By: Simone Bolotin (group leader), Colleen Celentano (co-leader), Renee Bukowski, Alexandra de Lara and Michael Kremer
Posted: June 4, 2014

Editor’s note: The 2014 graduates of the cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management master's degree program at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York presented their Capstone presentations at “The Changing Face of the Beauty Consumer,” event, sponsored by Unilever U.S., at FIT’s Morris W. and Fannie B. Haft Auditorium on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. This year, students presented on a theme that dives into the challenges shaping the way beauty companies operate from economics to gender to ethnicity.

The following white paper, “Men’s Beauty,” accompanied the presentation from group leaders Simone Bolotin (Coty Prestige) and co-leader Colleen Celentano (L'Oréal), as well as Renee Bukowski (IFF), Alexandra de Lara (The Estée Lauder Companies) and Michael Kremer (L'Oréal).

“To men a man is but a mind. Who cares what face he carries or what he wears? But woman’s body is the woman.”
—Ambrose Bierce, 1958


Over the past decade, men’s grooming has been dubbed “the final frontier” of beauty, poised to take the industry by storm. With over 138 million men in the United States comprising about 50% of the population (Census.gov, 2014), it presents a true goldmine of untapped users. But have brands been able to crack the men’s code?

Men’s grooming is a $35 billion global industry, with the U.S. holding a 17% share. The $5.7 billion U.S. men’s grooming market has grown by 7% in the past five years, with a focus on basic needs products such as deodorant, shampoo, and bar soap. Meanwhile, the global men’s market has grown at 23%, more than three times faster than the U.S. during the same five-year span (Euromonitor, 2014). South Korea has grown at 67% and China at a staggering 157%, driven primarily by sophisticated categories such as skin care. If the U.S. grooming market had matched global growth, it would already be a $7 billion industry today.

While historically it has been a challenge to engage U.S. men in the categories that enjoy success abroad, the economic crisis of 2008 has fueled major shifts in gender roles, behaviors, and attitudes among men. Men were most affected by the recession, with a job loss rate nearly 50% higher than that of women, an economic phenomenon coined “the mancession” (Investopedia, 2009). The current marketing model does not reflect the authentic needs or values of the modern U.S. male consumer.

This paper will highlight opportunities to leverage the changing roles, changing views, and changing faces of the modern man to grow a more sophisticated men’s grooming market. It will also outline a new model that will capture men’s interest and loyalty, including key pillars critical for the growth of this opportunity-rich category.


While the U.S. market has enjoyed success in selling men’s basic needs products, attempts to move into more sophisticated categories have proved challenging. In order to move forward, the industry first needs to understand why attempts to break through this barrier have been unsuccessful.

Historically, men have taken a need-based, utilitarian approach to their personal care products. Today, the categories with highest use among men are those that are essential for maintaining basic hygiene. Once men have identified a problem, they want a simple and quick solution. For example, deodorant is the most commonly used product among men, with 92% reporting that they use it regularly to protect themselves from odor and perspiration. Shampoo is the second most widely used category at 86%, followed by bar soap at 70%, and shaving cream at 61% (Mintel, 2014). The U.S. men’s grooming industry has done an exceptional job of building these basic need categories, with a 38% dollar share of the global men’s bath and shower market, thanks to popular launches and advertising by Old Spice, Axe, and Dove Men+CARE.

Aside from the practical uses, these categories have cultural significance as well. While most women in the U.S. grew up learning how to apply lipstick and set their hair in curlers from their mothers and grandmothers, most boys grew up learning about deodorant and basic hygiene in health class at school, or teaching themselves to shave after observing their fathers and grandfathers. As a result, getting men interested in products beyond the basics has been challenging, since they inherently do not think seriously about a sophisticated grooming routine.

Men’s lack of interest in grooming can also be linked to evolutionary factors. Biologists explain that historically for women, physical beauty was an evolutionary advantage that could lead to biological success by attracting a mate. In her book, The Male Brain, neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine explains that “men have been biologically selected over millions of years to focus on fertile females,” with traits that indicate youth and health (Brizendine, 2010). For men, however, biological success was based on their ability to provide food for their mate. “The males who showed they were willing to provide food got more sexual access to the females, increasing their chances of paternity” (Brizendine, 2010). While women have an innate biological motivation for beautifying, for men, money, power and other indicators of their ability to provide can often take the place of good looks in the mating game.

As a society, our depictions of men in advertising and popular culture have not historically contributed to an environment ripe for changing the male mindset. In The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf uses the stereotypical depiction of a standard evening news team to highlight the disparities between the accepted appearance of men and women, describing “that double image—the older man, lined and distinguished, seated beside a nubile, heavily made-up female junior” (Wolf, 2002). In the grooming industry, messaging has traditionally reinforced prevalent gender stereotypes. From Axe, to Old Spice, to the now defunct TAG Body Spray brand, hyper-masculine or over sexualized images have long been used to sell basic needs products to men.

While using stereotypes in advertising has proven effective for basic needs categories, we are hitting a wall. In the past five years, the U.S. deodorant market was flat and the total shave category grew by only 2% (Euromonitor, 2014). The limitations of the U.S. market’s current approach is also apparent in its global share of men’s skin care at only 8%, ten share points less than any other U.S male category (Euromonitor, 2014). Globally, skin care represents the biggest opportunity for men’s grooming, with 73% growth in the past five years alone. Currently, China leads the charge with 30% share, followed by Western Europe at 21%, and South Korea at 19% (Euromonitor, 2014).

These facts are not surprising considering how men’s skin care has traditionally been launched in the U.S. Brands often try to recreate their women’s lines in a more masculine form, using similar product offerings and retail distribution models. While marketers are comfortable having the standard moisturizer, eye product, cleanser, toner, and serum in the range, this strategy often proves overwhelming to men. This is clear by the number of complicated men’s skin care lines that have not succeeded in the U.S., including Gillette’s first attempt in 2004, Old Spice in 2005, and even Biotherm Homme, the number one brand globally, in 2006.