Men are just not that excited about skin care

By Adam Tschorn
Sunday, January 2, 2011

LOS ANGELES - Men of America, perhaps you missed the memo, but 2010 was supposed to be the year your grooming ritual was going to expand beyond the morning shave. A decade and a half beyond the advent of the metrosexual in the mid-'90s, graying baby boomers were supposed to lead the charge by embracing anti-aging serums, with the men and boys of generations X and Y finally adopting a skin-care regimen that consisted of something more than a wet washcloth and a bar of Ivory soap.

Trend analysts forecast it. The grooming industry seized the opportunity, and the last year and a half has seen new gender-specific versions of existing products - Dove Men + Care line, Nivea for Men, Neutrogena Men and even Vaseline Men - hit store shelves. In addition, Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand expanded beyond shaving into scrubs, moisturizers and face washes.

And how did men respond? Chicago-based research firm Mintel, which tracks sales of products at the mass-market and drugstore levels, estimates that guys are on track to spend 10.2 percent fewer dollars on skin-care supplies in 2010 than they did in 2009 - making it the worst-performing men's grooming category. (Apparently the money went to their heads - literally - since the same Mintel study found hair-care spending was up 9.9 percent in the same period.)

So what happened? Why aren't men more gung-ho about skin care? Though Mintel's study, released in September, cited the economy as one reason, those in the skin-care trade say there are other factors at work.

"When it comes to something like Dove for men or L'Oreal for men, I've actually had guys say to me: 'Come on - aren't they just changing the color of the packaging or something?' " said J.P. Mastey, owner of L.A.-based Baxter of California, a men's skin-care line that includes oil-free moisturizers, clay masks, scrubs and shaving creams. "The challenge [these brands] face is the connotation that they are marketing products to men that are first and foremost for women."

Thicker skin

Marketing aside, gender-specific products can have science behind them. "Usually male skin has a thicker epidermis and a thicker dermis," said Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer. "The thicker skin and the heavier oil glands make it a much harder target to penetrate, so the products are different, which usually means more highly concentrated."

Lancer said that when a man explores skin-care options for the first time, defaulting to whatever the lady of the house has on hand is better than nothing but won't be as effective as using products for men.

Which brings up another guy-specific problem that Lancer said he encounters in his practice. His experience has been that "men are not as motivated" as women.

"Men want the quick fix, and they don't understand the concept of process," Lancer said. "And men won't follow more than two steps."

That makes the tripartite exfoliate-cleanse-repair regimen that he recommends one step too many. So Lancer said he'll often start guys out with just the first two steps (exfoliate and cleanse) and add the "repair" part after a few weeks.

Since this still constitutes one step beyond what many men are accustomed to doing, what's the single best thing for the average guy who has decided to put his best face forward? Exfoliate, Lancer says.

"If you don't remove the dead skin cells and oxidized debris," he says, "nothing else you do - like moisturizing - can reach its target."

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