Is Male Grooming Beauty’s Final Frontier?


As long as I’ve been researching the male grooming market, it's been on the cusp of a revolution.

But in 30 years, it’s never happened.

Every few years, there’s been a new moniker to describe enlightened men and their grooming habits.

In the early 1990s, there was New Man, followed by Metrosexuals (forever associated with David Beckham).

These men, we were told, were starting to take grooming seriously and were incorporating a whole host of shaving, personal hygiene and skincare products into their routine.

The reality was that relatively few, mainly young, men did, and that their routines were still pretty limited when compared to women’s.

More recently, a whole new vocabulary has emerged, such as Spornosexual and Lumbersexual, settling on Hipsters in 2016. Yes, these men’s choice of products still revolved mainly around a fairly basic shaving/personal hygiene routine, sometimes borrowing from their partner’s stash.

Frankly, the idea of putting men into such rigid categories has done little to help the evolution of the category.

Yet, for all the excitement over men’s grooming, most men haven’t really changed their grooming habits that much, even though awareness and attitudes towards personal appearance have.

So what's really going on?It’s a question I’ve been exploring with brand design consultancy, Two by Two, and we’ve collaborated on a report entitled: Male Grooming: Beauty’s Final Frontier?*

The idea came from a conversation Two by Two had with a client on the concept of how “male vanity” is changing amongst consumers.

Louise Barfield, head of marketing at Two by Two, comments: “This got us thinking about what’s missing and the untapped opportunities for men in skincare, grooming and beyond.”

In addition, Ashwin Shaw, director, Two by Two, said: “We were really surprised that the clichés associated with male grooming are still there.

“We’re interested in breaking down some of the barriers and creating new thinking for brands.”

What the Experts Think about the Men’s Grooming Category

Two by Two ran an online consumer survey amongst beauty industry experts, influencers and marketing professionals (Feb-April 2017) to find out the direction they think men’s grooming is taking.

Skincare is the category that has received the greatest investment in terms of new product development, but few brands have ventured beyond skincare into new territories.Here are some stats:

  • When considering skincare products other than moisturisers, 35% of respondents believe men ask friends and family and 27% say they turn to their partner. This suggests that men rely on people they know for new product recommendations, rather than searching for information online or turning to bloggers or vloggers.

  • Facial enhancement and cosmetics is deemed to be the category most lacking in products, but has the potential for growth, believe 54% of respondents.

  • By 2020, tinted moisturisers and concealers will be bathroom staples, according to 39% and 31% of respondents. However, none of those surveyed thought that the use of brow gel will be widespread - yet this is an area that has been receiving a lot of attention in terms of new product development.

Before change can happen, men’s brands need to break away from hackneyed category language and “for men” clichés. It will require a new mindset…is the industry prepared for it?

Examining New Ways to Engage Men

The research showed us that it’s not just about men’s attitudes towards their looks, but other issues: masculinity, emotional and physical wellbeing and identity.

Louise maintains that the sheet diversity of millennials and mature execs to bikers and gym “palestrati” calls for fresh thinking and clearer insight. “You can’t just assume that each group has the same needs,” she claims.

Men’s grooming, or however it will end up being described, is a work-in-progress.Join in the conversation below and on twitter to be part of the change.

* To receive a summary of the report (full report available at the end of June), contact Louise Barfield at