Beauty for blokes is becoming big business.
In the next couple of months observant men - or the women who shop for them - will spot a host of new skincare options, including several international success stories, vying for attention with local start-ups.
The brands range from budget to boutique, but all are chasing that rare thing these days, a retail market considered to have good growth potential. In recent years, the male skincare sector has surged ahead, whereas times have been tough for the beauty industry generally. So it is no wonder more and more companies are eager to cash in, especially when the market share devoted to men is still just a fraction of total sales.
Get it right and they can do very well. An example is five-year-old Bulldog, which grew 28 per cent in its home country Britain in the year to June. It now out-sells familiar names on supermarket shelves. It launches here next month, with co-founder Simon Duffy saying: "I think Bulldog's straightforward masculine personality will resonate really well with New Zealanders."
With no disrespect to the marketing savvy Brit, the blokeish Bulldog look is of the type which - according to a more upmarket and much smaller brand - assumed that "men are morons".
Teenage boys, and their mothers, might appreciate a 1,2,3 approach to skincare, but there are signs of growing sophistication across all men's skincare sectors. Bulldog for instance has won plaudits for being vegan-friendly while also keeping its eye firmly on mass appeal and affordability. Duffy, who spent five years working for Saatchi & Saatchi in Auckland then time in New York before returning to London with his New Zealand wife, is unapologetic about the keep-it-simple approach. "The big thing that holds back more men from getting into skincare is that's it's marketed for women."
He's hardly alone in this view. When Mike Orange came up with the idea for New Zealand-made Dirty Man skincare he was determined not to take a "feminised" approach. "I felt that the large corporates were missing the point when marketing their products to us Kiwi blokes. We don't need fancy, made-up science and fluffy packaging, just great cost-effective products that work".
Online company Bread and Butter and pharmacy brand Everyman Jack tread similar territory, with small ranges, simple ingredients and easily understood messages. These North American firms have recently become active Downunder. They share a similar approach to Auckland-based Primal Earth, and a number of unisex lines, including local examples Skinfood and Geoskincare.
In October another unisex offering, Yes To, will arrive after quickly growing to become the second biggest natural beauty brand in the United States. Yes To has chosen, like Bulldog, to take its fight for market share to supermarket, saying it is proudly not a prestige line, with economies of scale allowing it to deliver.
Not all the action in the male skincare sector is at the budget end of the spectrum or from traditional retailers. Salon-prescribed skincare and the so-called cosmeceutical industry emphasise individually prescribed efficacy ahead of indulgence.
"Men are often surprised at the choices available on the market today and wish they had come in sooner," says Jude Luke, owner of The Elements medi-spa in Birkenhead. They want an easy daily regime that makes a difference they can see, feel and understand.
Men aged 25 to 45 have good awareness of using suncare, eye cream and moisturiser daily and maybe applying an exfoliant once a week, she says. "The more mature men are still a little slow to ask for help even though they acknowledge the benefit of sun protection." Teenagers are encouragingly aware.
Andrea Dennis, national manager of Advanced Skin Technology, which distributes ranges such as SkinMedica and Aspect Dr, featuring growth factors and vitamin serums, says such medical grade skincare tends to opt for gender-generic packaging.
"We do sell products to loads of men, although it is not something that is talked about nor well-publicised," she says. Most want just a couple of items, but some are product junkies.
As with their attendance at appearance medicine clinics, men looking beyond the long established retail skincare options are also reportedly not averse to the occasional visit to a luxury cosmetic counter. It's hardly as blokey as swinging something marketed as "man's best friend' into the supermarket trolley, but it shows both sexes can sometimes be seduced by the pricey promise of perfection, especially if it comes with swishy high-tech packaging.
Supermarket: Action central at the moment. As well as the new entrants discussed above, established players include Olay, Nivea, L'Oreal and Gillette.
Store: The big beauty brands dominate in department store and pharmacy sales. As in the supermarket sector these companies have vast science as well as marketing resources, making the likes of Shiseido, Lancome, Clarin and the Estee Lauder Group's Lab Series sound choices. Kiehl's now owned by the giant L'Oreal group, is a boutique gone big crossover success. Natural brands are gaining slight traction, but take claims of purity across all price points with a grain of salt. For the real deal, look to our own Living Nature and Trilogy.
Boutique: Specialist beauty stores, upmarket menswear outlets and spots like The Department Store as well as online are where you are most likely to come across cult beauty brands. These can be over-hyped and pricey, but at their best have an authenticity based on originality, ingredients and sometimes heritage values. This is a territory that new skincare line Triumph & Disaster is exploring to good effect and which Australian company Aesop has long mined.
Salon: Few cosmeceutical companies have specific men's ranges, but among them are Murad, Environ and Nimue. Dermalogica does both skincare and shave products which are well tolerated by sensitive skins and JBMan, an off-shoot of the long-established Joyce Blok salon range, is a rare New Zealand line.
Male moisturisers across the price points - Nivea For Men Skin Energy 50ml Moisturiser $14.99, Lab Series 100ml Daily Moisture Defence Lotion SPF15 $90, Kiehl's Facial Fuel 75ml No-Shine Hydrator $50, Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post Shave Lotion $67, Environ C-Boost Clariying Cream $86.70 and Nimue Man 100ml Hydro Balance $119
Stockists: Bulldog from Countdown, Nivea from supermarkets, Lab Series selected department stores and pharmacies, Kiehl's from Smith & Caughey, Aesop from World beauty stores, Environ see retail outlets at environ.co.nz and for Nimue salon stockists see globalbeauty.co.nz