The male beauty in­dus­try is boom­ing, but what, why and how are we buy­ing?


Fill your face (and your shop­ping bas­ket) with these manly prod­ucts

“IHATE THE WORD GROOM­ING,” says Spencer Wal­lace, found­ing part­ner of Beast, a store and as­so­ci­ated web­site ded­i­cated to the finer side of male-only cos­met­ics. “Groom­ing is for dogs. What’s wrong with male beauty? Why can’t you have beauty for guys?”

The store it­self is cer­tainly a thing of… beauty. Ex­posed brick, un­var­nished floor­boards and soft morn­ing light nour­ish a trendy col­lec­tion of win­dow-fac­ing plant life. Sham­poos and shav­ing balms from small-batch Scan­di­na­vian brands such as Bad Nor­we­gian and Palm stand on plinths, il­lu­mi­nated by bold type­faces and spot­lights like berg­amot, lin­seed and co­paiba-bal­sam­in­fused tro­phies. If a man wanted to feel “beau­ti­ful”, here would cer­tainly be a good place to start.

“Un­til re­cently you had few op­tions as a guy,” says Wal­lace. “Beauty con­ces­sions in depart­ment stores that are bi­ased as they’re paid for by brands, or high street phar­ma­cies and su­per­mar­kets. For cool, as­pi­ra­tional guys, is that re­ally it?

“Men don’t like to queue, so we don’t have a big till at the back. We found men like to shop by cat­e­gories rather than la­bels, so ev­ery­thing’s in cat­e­gories. Some men hate prod­ucts with pumps be­cause they’re un­re­li­able, so we have op­tions with­out. On­line only ac­counts for about 20 per­cent of our sales; men want to see it and smell it first. When it comes to fra­grance, mois­tur­is­ing and beauty, guys are def­i­nitely catch­ing up.”

Catch­ing up they cer­tainly are. The male groom­ing in­dus­try is, ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Times, worth an es­ti­mated AED200 bil­lion an­nu­ally and West­ern Europe ac­counts for AED28 bil­lion of sales, the most of any sin­gle re­gion in the world.

“The in­dus­try is chang­ing all the time,” says Wal­lace. “We’ve seen that with the retro bar­ber ob­ses­sion that is start­ing to fade. We could have opened the store with guys in aprons and selvedge jeans, but you’re on the back of another trend.

“We needed the hy­per-stylised bar­ber shop aes­thetic to hap­pen for us to ar­rive here in a more bal­anced place. Men are mov­ing away from heavy fra­grances to­wards more nat­u­ral, cit­rusy scents. They’re not shav­ing ev­ery day, but they’re also not grow­ing enor­mous, ob­sessed-over beards. Sea-salt hair spray is a huge seller. Rules are less rigid now and guys are more will­ing to have a con­ver­sa­tion about what they want. A night cream five years ago? No way. Now? Much more likely.”

Even brands like Lynx that have loomed large and ubiq­ui­tous over many a young man’s over-scented jour­ney to adult­hood (close your eyes and smell Africa), have taken no­tice of the more “re­fined” Beast model. It took a res­i­dency in the store’s base­ment space for its most re­cent prod­uct launch in 2017 (“They have to keep evolv­ing too,” says Wal­lace). Lux­ury depart­ment stores in Lon­don and Paris have sent en­voys to re­search what Beast stocks; brands that in­clude Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic’s epony­mous (of course) cos­metic range

(“We were cyn­i­cal but they’re good qual­ity prod­ucts”), and Grown Al­chemist, a new con­cept from two for­mer high-ups at Ae­sop.

Even can­dles, once at most a pan­icbuy for your mum’s birth­day, are gain­ing trac­tion among men who, Wal­lace says, “Are start­ing to value well­be­ing, which in­cludes their liv­ing space.”

“Don’t get me wrong, AED250 for a sham­poo is be­yond most peo­ple,” he says, his hand on a bot­tle of Sacha­juan Nor­mal­is­ing Sham­poo with sea al­gae and Ocean Silk Tech­nol­ogy, “but back in the day, it was elec­tric-blue shower gel, sil­ver supermarket de­odor­ant and the cheap­est tooth­paste. We’re hop­ing to el­e­vate things a bit, be­cause, as we’ve seen first-hand, mod­ern guys def­i­nitely care.”

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