Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cosmetics Contemplations: The 'Coke Zero' of Beauty?

Men's makeup and skincare has long been on the rise; the days when your average modern man under the age of thirty would just run out of the door having only splashed his face with soap and water (soap - what's that?), or maybe even nothing at all, are arguably long gone. But as the male grooming market becomes more and more valuable, even in the midst of economic recession, one does wonder: is this just another way for companies to make money in times of feduciary hardship? Is "men's skincare" just the Coke Zero of beauty?

There are two schools of thought on this. One is the 'yes' camp, which states that men's products are exactly the same as women's products - just in different packaging. One product guilty of this is Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish, which, when the ingredients are compared to the women's version, prove to be exactly the same. The proportions may be slightly different (said on the basis that the ingredients are presented in a marginally different order), but that's all. And I find it difficult to believe that the men's version of Yves St Laurent's Touche Eclat is really different to the original. The upshot of it is that men are simply often too embarrassed to buy a product that doesn't look manly enough, and maybe a shiny gold pen-like item just doesn't cut it in the masculine stakes.

However, there is plenty of credible evidence to suggest that men's skin really is different to women's and thus does need different care (meaning that men's skin care is not so much the Coke Zero to the female/original "Coke", but is more like Lucozade in comparison). Men's skin is 20-25% thicker than women's and is higher in collagen and elastin levels; it also has higher levels of sebum, and bigger pores. In addition to this, most men also have to shave daily, meaning that despite the tendency towards oily skin, they also have to regularly combat the perils of dry and dehydrated skin, which all means seeking out products that are tailored to these circumstances.

Naturally some of these concerns overlap between male and female skin; women suffer from dry skin too, and many also have oily skin and large pores. It's therefore only right that some products would be unisex, and that a separate male product should not be needed, with the only change being one of packaging. This is not to mention that it's just nice, sometimes, for men to have concealers and cleansers of their own and not to always feel like they're nicking our stuff: Baxter of California, Lab Series, and Nickel, along with websites such as Mankind and LookManTastic, all cater for men without giving women a look-in.

Marketing, then, should not be considered so superficial in this debate: the same is true of many other products, including, especially, books. If changing such things means that a company will sell more of a product, then it ends up being pretty important, even if it does make a subset of the market seem more like the Coke Zero of beauty.


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