While women have long sought help from the beauty aisle to tame dry skin, dark circles under the eyes and emerging wrinkles, traditionally men have relied on little more than bar soap and body lotion to stave off the effects of aging. But that's all changing.
Many previously nontraditional grooming practices for men have gone mainstream -- and skin care is the fastest-growing niche in men's grooming products. Guys are snatching up facial cleansers, moisturizers and exfoliants in record numbers, to the tune of $217 million per year, according to market data firm Euromonitor International.
"Men are taking more of an interest in skin care," says Kimberly Pecoraro, co-founder and president of Amenity, a line of specialty skin care products for men. "They are demanding more products developed specifically for their skin type and texture. They don't want to use products their wives or girlfriends are using, and the No. 1 thing they look for is results. If it works, they're hooked."
They may prefer products made for men, but plenty of guys get their start with specialty skin care products by pilfering their partner's supply. Ladies, if you catch your guy sneaking a dab of your best moisturizer or using that high-end exfoliating sugar scrub you keep in the tub, go easy on him. Guys, if you're the one helping yourself to the microbead shower gel and wrinkle cream, you're not alone.
"We recently surveyed the BeautyStat.com community of female beauty-obsessed consumers to find out whether the men in their lives are 'stealing' their beauty products," says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, founder and CEO of BeautyStat.com. "We learned 26 percent of men use their partner's body lotions, moisturizers, bubble bath and shower gels."
The informal survey also revealed that 19 percent of guys take advantage of their partner's face care products, and 11 percent help themselves to their partner's eye cream.
"In the past, I think, men used whatever their wife or girlfriend had in the shower. They appreciated the benefits but probably wouldn't buy anything for themselves," says Greg Griffin, owner of the trendsetting Barber Lounge in San Francisco, a salon, spa and barbershop in one. "Now that cosmetic companies are customizing products, scent and packaging for men, it's easier for them to justify buying high-end products for themselves."
If your guy needs a little push in the right direction, start simple. Keep in mind that you've been browsing the beauty aisles for years, but the vast assortment of products can be overwhelming to the uninitiated -- and though women tend to favor a stocked arsenal of anti-aging weapons, men are more pragmatic. They want results, but they don't want a complicated jumble of products to get them.
"The male consumer is looking for an easy-to-use, multi-beneficial product," Pecoraro says. "However, he is not willing to change his daily regimen and use many different products."
Designer shaving products and high-end eye creams are often the "gateway" products for the modern male.
"Specialty shaving products are huge right now," Griffin says. "Shaving is becoming more of a ritual as it was back in the day, with badger hair shaving brushes, nickel-plated razors, emollient pre-shave oils and luxurious shaving creams."
Think upgrades on old-school products, for example, moisturizing shaving creams, exfoliating facial soaps and dual-action after-shaves with moisturizer. These revamped classics feature high-end ingredients and designer packaging that appeal to male sensibilities -- and target male skin.
"Because a man's skin and scalp differ from women's, it has to be treated differently," Griffin explains. "Men are more prone to irritation, sensitivity, redness, dandruff and excess oil, as well as razor burn."
Wrinkles, puffiness and dark circles under the eyes are also quick to grab a guy's attention.
"Typically, the first area men notice aging is around their eyes, so the first big skin care product for men is usually an eye cream," Pecoraro says. "Men look for a product to combat dark circles from late-night partying or working at the office or to stop lines and wrinkles from forming around the eye area."
When Amenity launched iCream, an anti-aging eye cream for men, it quickly became one of the company's best-sellers. And though they may be getting a push from the women in their lives, men are making many of the purchases themselves.
"Initially, when I launched my brand, I believed women were making the decisions, but I quickly realized I was wrong," Pecoraro says. "Our company uncovered that men buy for themselves. Women influence the men in their lives, but the man is ultimately making the purchase."
"Men are much savvier about products and services," Griffin explains. "Magazines such as Men's Fitness, GQ and Men's Health are reviewing and talking about men's cosmetics. Men know what to look for and what they want without the help of their girlfriend."
Men don't mind spending money on themselves, Griffin says. "I think they are seeing the value in using good products and pampering themselves."