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Male Grooming — Beauty’s Final Frontier? (Part 1 of 3)


We are delighted to be able to share the publication of this three-part male grooming report written by industry veterans Louise Barfield and Imogen Matthews.

“The men’s grooming industry sells men beauty by not calling it beauty”

Kristen Barber
Author of ‘Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in Men’s Grooming’

For young men and more mature males, life has never been so visible. From interviews and work presentations to mobile dating and Instagram posts, physical appearance has become an increasingly important part of building a personal brand. As Mintel forecasts the market for gym membership to grow by 20% in the next five years (1) and amid changing attitudes to gender, it would be safe to assume that this category is poised for significant growth. However, despite the growth of barber shops on the UK high street and of brands such as Bulldog, Tom Ford and Aesop, mainstream product sales have in fact remained flat in recent years, down by 2% across the category according to Euromonitor (2). London based brand and design consultancy Two by Two has explored this market, to uncover both the barriers to growth and untapped opportunities in the UK market and further afield.

In this new report for 2017, we’ve compiled interviews with experts and examined current trends, developing ideas to fuel further discussions and learnings. Our aim is to address the following question:

If the concept of male beauty is the last bastion for brands in the industry, what’s needed to bring male consumers into this category?

In the forthcoming sections, we look at 3 key areas:

• Market context
• Emerging behaviours and groups
• New opportunities and propositions

“Every man should have a magnifying mirror. If you look good magnified, you’re set to go”

Tom Ford

Online survey findings

In early 2017, we invited a group of beauty industry experts, influencers and marketing professionals to respond to 5 key questions on developments in this category. This highlighted the importance of partners and peers, anticipated growth of male cosmetics and potential demand for ‘special occasion’ products.

Market context

Since the early 1990s, the men’s grooming market has been tipped for explosive growth. Yet despite the best efforts by marketing brands and retailers, men have, on the whole, remained a cautious lot, content to use a basic routine based around shaving and personal hygiene, occasionally borrowing from their partner’s bathroom shelf or make up bag. Euromonitor report sales growth in the male grooming market of slowing to 3.1 per cent in 2016 from a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 per cent in the five years to 2015.

The mass market – land grab?

With a market value of £617M (3) the UK male grooming market has evolved from basics of shaving, showering, deodorising and haircare into skincare, as brands such as L’Oréal Men Expert, Dove and Nivea Men have developed wider product ranges.

Category language traditionally focuses on the 3 P’s: Power, Performance and Problem-solving, whilst brand ambassador endorsement from the world of rugby, Formula 1 and celebrity are still considered a ‘must’ when pushing male-centric product values. However, recent changes in brand positioning reflect changing attitudes to masculinity. From Lynx/Axe’s focus on individuality to Dove Men + Care’s ‘Real Strength’ campaigns, brands have targeted the life stages and emotional triggers of modern males.

Global market trends

In growth hotspots of Asia, South America and India, men are more regular users of body shaving products, skin enhancement and cosmetics.

Whilst some of these innovative trends have the potential to impact the UK and Europe male grooming markets, brand marketers in UK and Europe face a dual challenge of creating innovative new products and the new grooming rituals to match.

The ‘Ideal Man’ Around the World In 2015, an experiment called ‘Perceptions of Perfection’ by Superdrug (4) invited a group of designers in different countries to photoshop a man’s image to reflect the idea of the ‘ideal’ body shape and face to their part of the world. The results were intriguing—from skin tone and facial features to body shape and hair—with an emphasis on media advertising.

A similarly unscientific, but in-depth, study from Buzzfeed (5) demonstrated the visual heroes of 12 different cities also focused on the expected behaviours and attitudes to male beauty, from ‘macho’ vanity in Mexico to body hair removal of Turkish soap stars.

Click here for part 2 of “Male Grooming – Beauty’s Final Frontier?”

(3) Source: Kantar WorldPanel

Thanks to all those who’ve contributed to and helped with this report: Tracey Woodward, Abigail James, Stirling Murray, Antony Hawman, Liz Pugh, Charlie McCorry, Chris Calvert, Marianne Morrison, Herbie Dayal, Ali Azeem, Will King, Kelly Kovack & Helen Miller

About the authors of the report

Two by Two

Two by Two is a UK brand and design consultancy founded in 1996 whose clients have included L’Oreal, Elemis and P&G. To discuss further insight from the findings or to book a workshop to explore the key themes, please contact Louise Barfield at or call 020 7278 1122 @twobytwodesign

Imogen Matthews

Imogen is a market researcher, journalist and strategic communications consultant. She writes for a wide number of UK and international beauty trade publications and specialist websites. Imogen is the author of The Premium Market Report {published annually}, which provides beauty executives with analysis and expert opinion on the UK premium cosmetics, skincare and fragrance markets.  @PremBeauty

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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