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Evolving Gender Stereotypes Drive Growth in Asian Men’s Personal Care

By: Liz Grubow and Alan Kastner
Posted: November 30, 2011, from the December 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Skin-whitening products are a common aspect of a male’s daily skin care routine too, often included within multifunctional formulations that also offer sun protection or anti-aging benefits. For Asian men, particularly in countries such as Indonesia, fragrance is also driving category growth as more men seek to prevent body odor and smell attractive as a key aspect of grooming. Associated with personal hygiene and health, scent is becoming an important driver at shelf to reaffirm the efficacy of a product, from deodorants to shampoos to skin creams.

Formulations that elevate the sensory experience of the beauty routine, such as menthol within shampoos, are becoming increasingly widespread, moving from prestige to more brands at mass.

Asian men are also more likely to experiment with new products and enjoy participating in the beauty experience, seeking professional help from spas and salons. Men and women will often share in the beauty experience together, frequenting beauty counters and enjoying beauty treatments. Products such as Olay Professional, which has a counter presence in department stores, appeal to both men and women and offer both sexes consultations regarding regimens and product selection. This is a marked difference from shopping patterns exhibited by men in Western Europe and the U.S., who tend to frequent convenience stores and seek efficiency within the shopping experience.

In Asia as well, spouses, girlfriends and mothers take an active role in the beauty routine of their male counterparts, with women still accounting for half of all male beauty purchases. Some of this behavior can be attributed to China’s one-child policy, which has numerous sociocultural implications in which the Chinese male is often placed on a pedestal within the household, entitled to luxuries and access to more of the disposable income.

These so-called “Flower Boys” are an important segment for the future of the beauty industry in Asia. Young, 20-something males embrace fashion and cosmetics with smooth skin and expressive hairstyles. They crave individuality and shun conformity, a quality prized in their parents’ generation. The staid appearance of their fathers, guided by Western culture’s values and preferences, is increasingly irrelevant to Flower Boys, who tend to display themselves as more distinctly and proudly Asian. Additionally, as men continue to outpace women in the overall population, particularly in younger generations, there is more pressure for these Flower Boys to distinguish themselves from the competition for potential partners and professional opportunities.

International Implications