Men are investing more than ever in grooming products; the global market was valued at more than €68 billion ($73 billion) in 2022, and is predicted to grow to €76 billion ($81 billion) by 2024, according to market and consumer data provider Statista. While women drive the vast majority of consumer purchasing decisions and, essentially, “buy more stuff” than men do, the incredibly lucrative mass and luxury beauty markets are adapting to facilitate the needs of an increasingly discerning male consumer.
Men’s grooming products (we don’t say “beauty” because we’re all pretending that beauty is “just for girls”) used to be bought mostly by women. Choice was limited, with products largely restricted to utilitarian items such as shaving foam and shampoo, and maybe – only for the daring outlier willing to risk accusations of effeminacy for wanting to smell like, for example, sandalwood rather than something natural and manly, like the interior of a well-used Dublin cab – a fragrance.
Because The Irish Times has a legacy of hard-hitting, intrepid reporting, I wanted to put boots on the ground to seek answers on behalf of the reader. I embarked on a mission to discover whether this new consumption trend was playing out in the men around me. I did what I imagine David Frost would have done if he’d had an iPhone in advance of talking to Richard Nixon. I conducted an open-source intelligence investigation. That is to say, I googled stuff and Whatsapped some male friends one afternoon to ask them questions about their beauty consumption. These included “What do you find off-putting about skincare?” I can’t wait to spend my Pulitzer prize money.
What came back was interesting, and I think, suggests that male beauty consumers are simultaneously patronised and insufficiently informed by the brands that claim to cater to them. A friend replied, “Things aren’t explained to stupid men like me very well. What is a serum? Why is acid? Who is toner? Where is sanity?” Another friend in his 30s made a very astute point which, at first sight, might seem otherwise. “I just don’t find the scent of any skincare product appealing. They all seem to be in the perfumed-medicinal spectrum somewhere.” I considered this in light of products targeted at men and realised he’s quite right. So often, men’s skincare is aggressively scented with “male-coded” fragrance and placed in navy or black packaging, as though to reassure the user that his masculinity remains intact no matter how well moisturised he may be.
The answer to this problem is to ignore those brands, and use affordable gender neutral pharmacy brands like CeraVe. CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser (€14 at Boots) and CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF50 (€15 at pharmacies nationwide) are perfect for men who aren’t skincare enthusiasts but want effective products. The wash can be left in the shower, gently serving both face and body, and the SPF moisturiser is excellent and forgoes the need for separate SPF.
“I work out a lot and sweat a lot and some of the SPF stuff goes in my eyes and stings,” another friend commented. Less product on your skin means less product travelling when you sweat. If you’re not a skincare buff, you may overlook these brands as the packaging doesn’t roar “I’m for anyone to use, not just women”.
For a hard-hitting night serum to tackle pigmentation, fine lines and texture, try Dr Sam’s Flawless Nightly Pro 5% Retinoid Serum (€68 at drsambunting.com). This is another excellent gender-neutral brand for everyone. For men who do enjoy scent and horrify those around them by washing both hair and body with the same product, you can at least upgrade the scent and formula. The Handmade Soap Co Bitter Orange & Pink Pepper Hair and Body Wash (€14 at thehandmadesoapcompany.ie) smells lovely and feels luxe (though it’s still a good idea to buy a dedicated shampoo).