The new big beauty spenders?

The idea of male skincare isn’t new. Dating back to as early as 10,000 BCE, men used scented oils and ointments to soften their skin and mask body odour. Ancient Egyptian men used oils and creams for protection against the sun and dry climate.

Since then men’s grooming trends have fluctuated in popularity over the centuries and decades, a case in point being the recent renaissance of beards and barbershops. Male skincare specifically for the past decade has been seeing notable growth, with Asia leading the charge.

A large, growing market

Skincare is often mentioned within the context of the broader male grooming category, which includes toiletries such as deodorants, bath products and haircare, and shaving.

According to Inkwood Research, the total global male grooming product market is estimated to grow by around 5.5 per cent CAGR between 2019 and 2027, and to achieve $223.8 billion by 2027. As at 2015, according to an IBISWorld report, total men’s grooming products in Australia exceeded $500 million a year.

It would appear male skincare is no longer a “dirty secret”, but the scale of usage may surprise some. A 2014 US Mintel report indicated that 58 per cent of men aged 18 to 24 and 63 per cent aged 25 to 34 used a facial moisturiser product. A subsequent 2018 US Mintel study showed nearly two-thirds of men say they used facial skincare.

Even in Australia, a market slower to adopt male skincare due to traditional masculine tropes, a 2016 Roy Morgan study indicated that 3.7 million Australian men aged 14+ purchased at least one skincare product in any given six months, equating to 38 per cent of the age group.

But men’s skincare usage in the US and Australia, as in most Western markets, pales in comparison to some Asian markets, particularly South Korea and China.

South Korea tops the list

Inkwood Research declared the Asia-Pacific region the highest contributor to the global male grooming market in 2017, with close to a 42 per cent share, followed by EMEA and the Americas. Growing demand for anti-aging, face-wash and oil-free cream products in Africa and the Middle East is driving growth in EMEA.

Data varies as to which country is now the planet’s largest market for male skincare, but it’s likely South Korea or China. South Korea certainly leads culturally, with male celebrities such as singer and actor Rain having long endorsed skincare in billboards and television ads, paving the way for broader acceptance.

Over the past decade, South Korean men have become the world’s biggest male spenders on skincare, a market that grew by 44 per cent between 2011 and 2017, according to Euromonitor. K-pop and other cultural influences, such as heavy competition for jobs and an employment crisis in the noughties, which resulted in a cultural backlash by women against stereotypically masculine men, are cited as some reasons.

South Koreans are also the planet’s largest male users of cosmetics. This is a country where, according to a 2018 GlobalData survey, at least once a week about three-quarters of men undertake a beauty or grooming treatment, ranging from salon hair treatments to at-home facials.

However, China looks set to catch the Koreans, at least in market size, with the men’s beauty market there growing two to three times faster than the overall global beauty market for men.

Australia catching up

So, to Australia. A 2017 Mozo lifestyle habits study indicated that Australian men fork out $125 monthly on their looks, not too far behind the women at $167 per month. Further, the study found that one in five Australian men are now purchasing and using cosmetics.

Australia’s harsh climate and perceived “natural” environment and wealth of botanical and mineral ingredients have resulted in the local development of a plethora of home-grown skincare brands, both cosmeceutical (science-based) and natural/organic.  Australia is a world leader in suncare product development.

This has seen a rise of a number of artisan male skincare brands, often with black, upmarket and sciency-looking packaging. A number have mainstream distribution in Myer and Priceline. Brands include Hunter Labs, Man of War, LQD, Klim, Patricks, Charlie Screen, Gentleman’s Brand Co, Milkman Grooming, Groomed Man, Grown Alchemist, Charles+Lee, Black Leopard, Handsome, Uppercut Deluxe, F*ace Skincare for Men. (A sidenote for traditional Aussie blokes: I love their packaging – “wash/save your face mate”).

Online the fastest growing retail channel

The 2017 Inkwood study suggests that for total male grooming, supermarkets/hypermarkets represent 34 per cent of sales, pharmacies are a similar percentage, online  is sub-10 per cent but growing fastest, and other retailers approximating 25 per cent.

According to Euromonitor, bricks-and-mortar currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of total male grooming product sales globally.

Given that one of the stumbling blocks for the category is that department stores and pharmacy chains such as the pink-heavy Australian Priceline aren’t seen as masculine environments, there has been a rise in male beauty specialist retailers.

London-based men’s beauty retailer Beast is one example. Australia’s MensBiz, with stores in Sydney and Melbourne, is another. They provide a range of 1500 products, a vintage barber service and iPads on which shoppers can access online product ratings offered on-site.

Direct to consumer subscription models such as the US-based Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club provide a different model and enable quick scale.

Australia is well positioned to sell male skincare products not only locally, but on the world stage.

Given Australia’s sizeable Korean and Chinese populations, one can imagine that the entire walls of male grooming products that one sees in pharmacies across Asia will be replicated here in the medium term as male skincare marches forth.

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