But Made for a Man

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Forget that tired dispute about leaving the toilet seat up. A whole new bathroom battle is about to begin. At unprecedented rates, men are using cosmetic products that were once considered taboo. The argument now: "That's my mud mask!"

According to a recent study by NPD, department store sales of men's fragrance and cosmetic products topped $44 million in 1998, an increase of 3 percent in 1997. Those products include items like deodorant, scented soaps, shower gels, and facial and body scrubs. Climbing even faster are sales of men's gift sets, which totaled $296 million in 1998, an 11 percent jump. Such sets introduce men to an assortment of fragrances and matching products. But guys aren't just receiving these sets from their wives or girlfriends. Forty-three percent of men told NPD that they purchased gift sets last year, and 75 percent of those self-purchases were self-enjoyed.

"We're perched on the edge of a major boom in the men's cosmetics industry," says Susan Akkad, executive director for marketing at Clinique Laboratories, Inc. Clinique launched its men's line in 1976 and has watched it blossom into a $28.3 million business. Younger men are driving today's market, Akkad says. "[They] are very receptive to taking control of their personal appearance and grooming ritual. But the trend is occurring among men in general," she adds.

The NPD study bears that out: 26 percent of men between the ages of 15 and 24 say they use bath and shower gels regularly, while only 16 percent of men aged 25 to 49 and 13 percent of men 50 to 64 have traded their soap on a rope for a loofa and scented gel.

"The line is clearly drawn along generational lines," says Veronica Lawrence, director of fragrances at NPD. "If you show younger men a benefit to using a product, they'll try it. Older men are more traditional."

But traditionalist attitudes won't stop cosmetics makers from trying to attract more male customers of every age. "There's nothing prissy or girly about them," claims a brochure featuring a men's line from Origins, an Estee Lauder company. Gracing the cover of Origins' "Male Call" pamphlet is a shirtless man, face smeared with shaving cream. Nearly one-third of men now use shaving products from prestige cosmetic lines, according to NPD, second only to scented deodorants (47 percent). And it's those whiskers that companies are banking on to lure men to their product lines. Next to a picture of Origins' Blade Runner Emerging Shave Cream you'll find Swept Away Gentle Slougher for use before shaving, and Fire Fighter after-shave. Clinique's best-selling product for men is Face Scrub, an exfoliating wash.

"Men are actually using a lot of products outside of our men's line," Akkad adds. Clinique, which operates counters in fragrance and cosmetics sections of major department stores nationwide, has consultants on hand to assist men in choosing appropriate products for their daily regimen from their entire line, everything from soap to anti-aging eye cream. Still, Clinique reports that most guys first try many of their products by borrowing them from the women in their lives.

Clinique hopes to eliminate the middle-woman and appeal more directly to men in the coming year. Its Web site, www.clinique.com, features a "for men only" area where guys can get a skin-type analysis, find information on recommended products, and take a quiz for a free sample of Happy, a new cologne. Print ads for Happy are planned for Men's Health, Details, People en Espanol, and Teen People.

M-A-C Cosmetics takes a slightly different approach when it comes to marketing to men. Its slogan, "All ages, all races, all sexes," has been used by the company since it started 16 years ago, and with the exception of shaving cream, there is no men's line, per se. "We are a make-up brand that has products available for [any] reason, whether it's for cover-up or glam rock," says John Demsey, president of M-A-C. The company's best-sellers to men include a tinted moisturizer, blot powder, shaving cream, and concealer. "Younger men are more comfortable in using make-up for fantasy or role play," Demsey says, but "men will also use make-up products to correct and polish themselves."

Akkad believes it's survival of the fittest that's drawing men into the world of cosmetics. "You want to do everything you can to show that you're a winner," she says. And chances are, those winners will be the ones who get into the bathroom first every morning.

For more information on NPD's annual Fragrance Track report, contact Leslie Singer at (516) 625-2302.

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