Unisex skin care: groom boom & skinimalism

Unisex skin care is in! Keep it simple, says Elsa Krüger. The skin-care routine – even the make-up – that works for her works just as well for him.

When I met my Australian husband many years ago, I called him Crocodile Dundee. Except for a lick of sunscreen, his grooming habits were non-existent. I instantly set about putting him right. My campaign to convert him succeeded beyond expectations – I am a beauty writer, after all! Now he religiously tells me when his eye cream is finished. Or he steals my expensive hair masks. My nail polish is still safe, though.

Growth in the sales of men’s grooming products is one of two major trends seen in the skin-care industry today. The other is ‘skinimalism’, a buzzword that says less is more when it comes to cosmetics.

It’s not surprising that these two trends have come together. Couples are increasingly using the same products, which makes for a less cluttered bathroom shelf and more brands with eco-friendly ingredients that deliver the same efficient unisex results. This dovetails into the ‘buy less, wear less, use less’ mantra of skinimalism. And it’s kind to the environment, following the trend towards a simple way of life rather than a 12-step beauty routine.

In terms of cosmetics, skinimalism blends skin care and multitasking make-up. A minimal amount of do-it-all make-up brings out the condition and natural appearance of the skin while simultaneously delivering skin-care ingredients. According to Town & Country magazine, “[Skinimalism focuses] on simplicity and beneficial ingredients and habits, and quality over quantity.”

But for the manufacturers of skin-care and make-up products there’s a downside. According to retail forecasting company Euromonitor, the luxury skin-care market made more than $8.5 billion in 2020 and the mass skin-care market $12.5 billion in the USA alone. The point of formulating new skin-care and make-up products is, obviously, to sell more, so clearly skinimalism is not great news for the industry.

Enter the groom boom

Men have come a long way from when a quick rinse with any old soap and a spritz of deodorant or aftershave would do. With the emergence of the ‘metro male’, men are enthusiastically visiting spas, nail bars and beauty salons for facials, peeling, plucking and waxing.

Sonette Donker, founder of Skin ID Clinic in Johannesburg, says men can benefit from aesthetic procedures such as superficial chemical peels, micro-needling and Botox. They generally prefer a chemical peel that is not too visible, so the deeper peels are seldom even considered. An intensive course of four peels every two weeks is followed by a month-long period of rest for the skin and then a maintenance treatment plan consisting of a peel every 4–6 weeks.

Micro-needling is extremely popular among Sonette’s male clients. They love the results and they can cope with looking ’sunburnt’ for two days, normally just blaming it on being out in the sun. Botox, too, has become a popular treatment for men.

The growth in men’s grooming, by numbers

Graeme Pitkethly, CFO at Unilever, notes that he expects male grooming to grow as a business “above the personal care average for many years to come”, as globally men spend $6.50 on grooming products per capita, compared with the $58.50 spent by women. Valued at $55.22 billion in 2020, the men’s grooming products market is largest in North America and growing fast in the Asia-Pacific region.

It’s a dynamic market and, according to Allied Market Research, is expected to reach $166 billion by 2022. Meanwhile in Australia, data from market research company Roy Morgan show that 3.7 million men Down Under purchased a skin-care product in a six-month period. Is Crocodile Dundee becoming an endangered species?

And the trend is not slowing. A report by Persistence Market Research reveals the global market for men’s personal care products is expected to grow by 6.4% in 2021 – and by 2031, sales in this sector are likely to double. In the 12 months to the end of June 2019, the UK men’s grooming market was estimated to be worth £500 million, an increase of £2.2 million over the previous year.

The survey also points out that key players in the value chain, including Beiersdorf, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Shiseido, are aggressively broadening their product portfolios to tap new (male) customers and growth trends.

Another report, by Million Insights and distributed by PR Newswire, attests to men worldwide being increasingly aware of the importance of their appearance and spending more money on it, which is driving growth in high-end product categories. “The market was traditionally geared to mass-market personal hygiene and fragrances,” it says, “but more recently skin care has emerged as the highest growth category. Another new growth trend is now male make-up. Although convincing men to wear make-up sounds impossible, this hasn’t stopped the largest beauty players from betting big on it, including US giants Coty and Maybelline.”

So yes, boys: make-up for men is a thing. GQ magazine says so.

In the words of Vismay Sharma, UK managing director of L’Oréal, “The demand for make-up among men is growing fast … the taboos are going; between my generation and my son’s generation, they are very different.”

In terms of fragrances, more new male fragrances are now released each year than female ones. Eye-wateringly expensive perfumes have become a status symbol among male executives, who don’t hesitate to spend R5,000 or more on, for example, a bottle of Tom Ford Fougère Platine EdP. Indeed, fragrance is one of the skinimalist categories in which men and their female partners swap and mix and match their scents. Traditionally men preferred fragrances with notes of oud wood, leather, vetiver and vanilla, but now they’re also reaching for violet, rose and patchouli.

Unisex ranges: Optiphi, Dermalogica, DermaCeutic, Beauté Pacifique Masculinity, Clinique, Dr Hauschka, [Comfort Zone] Skin Regimen, Jo Malone, SVR, Avène, Biomedical Emporium, Eucerin, Nivea, Nuxe Organic, SVR Laboratoire Dermatologique, INOAR Hair Ranges, Team Dr Joseph, Neostrata, Placecol, Innoxa, Skinderm.

How to do skinimalism

Keep it simple, but don’t just wash and go; you still need proper skin care. Your routine has to have four steps to be effective: cleanse, treat, moisturise and protect. This is where investing in multitasking products can be very beneficial. And it’s good to get into the habit of following your routine morning and evening. You will need:

• Multitasking pH balanced cleanser (pH4.5–5.5). Choose one that’s gentle enough for a quick morning cleanse but can also remove SPF at night. Try Dermaceutic Foamer 15, which contains glycolic acid that will exfoliate while cleansing; Lamelle Skin Essence e Clear; Placecol Illuminé Foam Cleanser; Placecol Illuminé Cream Cleanser; Innoxa Everyday Exfoliating Gel Cleanser.

• Antioxidant-rich serum or face oil. According to dermatologists, antioxidants and retinol, along with sunscreen, form ‘the holy trinity of skin care’. Using antioxidants like Vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night is enough for nearly everyone. Try Skin Republic Skin Laboratory Retinoid Complex 1%; Skin Republic Skin Laboratory Vitamin C 6%.

• Moisturiser with hyaluronic acid for hydration. Try Comfort Zone Sublime Skin Cream; Skinderm Living Skin Light Moisturiser.

• Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF20 and higher. Try Heliocare Advanced Gel Sunscreen SPF50.

Good to know: Use gentle products that support skin health. Be consistent and follow your routine every day, or you’ll be wasting money and time.