Manity: a changing landscape for modern men’s skin care

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A good marketing campaign rarely breaks the fourth wall but when we, the consumer, are attuned to the manipulation behind the scheme it invites casual criticism. Packaging a man’s product seems pretty easy: take the normal product, make it dark, add “man” somewhere and you’ve got a lucrative new product line. It is of course not that simple especially in the world of skincare, where product turnaround is high, where best practices are still highly individually specific, and where men are usually not the target audience.


Procter & Gamble won a contract to supply the Union Army with soap during the American Civil War. At this period in time, skin care meant being clean and nothing more.

A burgeoning market

The men’s grooming market in the US has usually centered around beard maintenance and shaving; however, in 2013, the market shifted, with a majority of men actually having spent money on ‘male-specific’ personal toiletries than on shaving products. In CNBC’s tongue-in-cheek title for one of their articles, “Real men don’t cry – but they are exfoliating,” we can see the rather eyerollingly obvious dissonance between men and personal care. Traditional western masculinity just does not paint a picture of a pretty boy who maintains himself with creams and gels, or at least it didn’t use to; Mintel, a London-based market research firm, says that men’s personal care market is one of the fastest-growing segments of the beauty industry. In fact, the idea that real men wouldn’t care about skin care is just false considering that men are more likely than woman are to search for and buy toiletries online. Esquire magazine hosts articles on their webpage with titles like “Maintenance: Time to Start Using Oils”, “Should You Try Moisturizer with Stem Cells In It?”“Should You Be Using Toner?”, and “Should You Be Using Eye Cream?”, that clearly represent a changing attitude towards personal maintenance among men of all ages. This in turn, means that there is an increased need for a better product, better packaging design, and a memorable brand. Kiehl’s does a good job for marketing for men with their hyper traditionalist apothecary style text:


Kiehl’s “Age Defender” moisturizer sports a nazi-esque war cream theme that apparently tested well with focus groups.


Kiehl’s “Facial Fuel” moisture treatment, because fuel = car and car = fast and fast = man.

Design challenges remain in that in general, men and women actually do have different skin, but a good skincare routine is so specific, that that distinction in my opinion is useless in informing actual product design so let’s stick to the packaging. Give “mampering” a shot. Even if it doesn’t help your skin, studies show that using skincare products actually had a positive effect on [even] men’s moods. While one could see male skin care packaging as perpetuating masculine stereotypes, I find that the increased usage of such products is a symbol of the changing times and that encourages me.

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