As male consumers develop increasingly sophisticated skin-care routines, the female-centered beauty industry is hoping to branch out.
Gender-neutral skin-care brand Non Gender Specific is set to launch a new face cream exclusively at clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty on Tuesday, adding a fifth product to its lineup that includes its cult serum. According to Allied Market Research, men’s personal care will be worth $166 billion by 2022. Catering to men, who are interested and willing to add more skin-care products to their regimen, offers an emerging growth opportunity when beauty sales have been hit hard by the pandemic. While skin-care remains stronger than color cosmetics, its sales still decreased by 18% in the second quarter of 2020, according to new data from NPD Group.
“We’ve definitely seen huge growth in the clean beauty space with our male customers,” said Andrew Glass, founder of Non Gender Specific. But, he noted, clean beauty is “still dominated by a female audience.” NGS currently sells to 60% women, 40% men. Glass founded the brand in January 2018 after serving as the global brand manager for EvolutionMan, the men’s beauty brand known for the nail polish worn by Johnny Depp.
“We couldn’t sell it anywhere because it was geared toward men, which is how I came up with the idea for a genderless brand,” said Glass. But he has seen significant change in the industry since then. Male beauty is “definitely becoming more popular, especially with the rise of social media,” he said. “Before, men maybe were too embarrassed to at least admit they’re using skin-care items and even makeup.” A 2018 Euromonitor survey found that over 56% of males in the U.S. said they had used a facial cosmetic such as foundation or concealer. Men’s skin-care sales grew by 7% in 2018, according to NPD Group.
“I would say maybe four years ago, it was still LAB Series and Zirh — the real manly-man brands — that were dominating,” said Glass. “And now we’ve seen a shift into more gender-inclusive skin care that is just skin care for everybody.”
Gender-neutral beauty — including both skin-care and makeup — has made its way to the mainstream via traditional companies, as of late. Rihanna’s new Fenty Skin, which is spun out of LVMH, is gender-neutral. Male beauty vloggers have also brought male beauty to the forefront. Case in point: The new color cosmetics brand One/Size by Patrick Starrr incubated by Luxury Brand Partners is sold at Sephora and identifies as gender-neutral.
While the beauty industry is seeing a growing number of new brands with both gender-neutral and male-specific branding, retailers in the clean sector tend to stick with the gender-neutral approach when targeting men. The Detox Market, for example, has no men’s section on its site but offers a “Unisex” category, while the brands in Credo Beauty’s “For Him” section are mostly gender-neutral.
“We’ve experienced a ton of growth within the gender-neutral category,” said Michelle Connelly, vp of merchandising and planning at Credo Beauty. The “majority of our new brands aim to be gender neutral, as a larger story to be inclusive to everyone. Some of our fastest-growing brands like Ursa Major and Non Gender Specific have made this their goal from the beginning, and I believe we will see this trend continue.” She also expects the clean makeup category to become more gender-inclusive in the future.
The only brand Credo stocks that is specifically for men is Marie Veronique’s Louis Pierre line. Several clean beauty brands also offer men-specific products — Herbivore Botanicals, Ursa Major and Olio E Osso have shaving-related products, for example.
But marketing skin care to men is still nascent.
“To date, Credo hasn’t tested any significant marketing geared toward men,” said Lydia Kandel, the senior director of marketing at Credo Beauty. “For our future campaigns, as early as this fall, we’re being deliberate about celebrating gender fluidity and inclusivity, which results in bringing more men into our marketing.”
According to both Connelly and Glass, men are often introduced to clean beauty by the women in their lives.
Brands have been in the process of figuring out the right messaging to reach men over the past several years. Evan Slater, the co-founder and chief creative officer of hybrid creative studio Caveat, previously worked with Kiehl’s in 2014 on its extensive marketing efforts toward men.
“The initial sense was to really focus on the formulation that was specifically built for men and the product innovation,” he said. “But frankly, it used a lot of language that men weren’t particularly familiar with,” such as detailed descriptions of how the product was efficacious and the effects on the skin. Instead, the brand opted for a different approach: to literally “launch” a new set of products by sending them into space.
“It’s really about figuring out what they’re interested in and what they actually care about, and using that as the opportunity,” said Slater. “[It’s not about] trying really hard to convince them to care about what it is that [the beauty industry] cares about.”
Gender-neutral may be the future of getting men into skin-care. A Euromonitor survey found that the percentage of men saying they needed a skin-care product suited to their gender decreased from 18% in 2016 to 10% in 2019.
This also brings up the question of what kind of branding counts as “gender-neutral,” compared to seeming more masculine or feminine.
“Oftentimes, gender-neutral ends up leaning a little bit more toward men,” said Slater. “I think one of the things unfortunately on the gender-neutral side is you end up erring on the side of slightly more ‘male’ language, because that tends to be less alienating.”
The key in the clean category, said Connelly, will be more education for male consumers.
“Everyone cares once they have the information about potentially harmful ingredients, but there has not been much education targeted directly at the male consumer,” she said. “There is a big opportunity to educate male-identifying customers.”