Japan's cosmetics firms meeting men's needs

Japanese cosmetics companies are rolling out new lines of skincare products aimed at men after wives and girlfriends got tired of sharing their moisturizers, toners and lotions.

Personal care companies have until recent years focused their male grooming products on the haircare sector - Japanese men pay just as much attention to their hair as women do - with styling products popular among younger generations and lines designed to stem hair loss and greying the key segment among older men.

But the demand for skincare products is a far more recent trend and in the first six month of 2010, total sales in terms of value were up 119.96 percent on the previous year, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

And with that sector worth a healthy Y9.8 billion (€85.44 million), cosmetics firms here are looking to expand their product ranges.

On September 11, the local venture between Germany's Nivea brand and Japanese cosmetics giant Kao Co. released new skincare products for men, including an extra moisturizer balm that is designed to reduce dry and rough skin and a moisturizing shaving foam.

"Men's skin is likely to be damaged due to abrasion from shaving, leading to reduced moisture content and higher sebum secretion," Nivea-Kao Co., Ltd. said in a statement. "This skin problem is different from problems experienced by women.

"Nivea for Men products have been specifically applied to these skin problems, helping men cultivate more sophisticated face care habits beyond simply using aftershave."

In a study, fully 60 percent of Japanese men who do not use skincare products say they are unhappy with the condition of their skin, with dry skin the top concern.

Unsurprisingly, Japanese men have turned to their partners for advice on the best way to protect their faces, with more than 90 percent of the companies with booths on the cosmetics floor of the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo's Shinjuku district reporting having male as well as female customers.

The majority are aged between 20 and 40 and, because they have not previously paid much attention to their skin, generally have more damage to repair. Toners and lotions are the most popular products among male customers, although they are also buying skin-whitening lotions.

"Men feel comfortable about themselves when their skin condition is good," Megumi Kinukawa, a spokeswoman for Shiseido Co., told Relaxnews. "They are aware of their own appearance, as well as the impression that makes on other people."

Shiseido Men was first launched in Japan in 2004 - one year after the lines were released in Germany and Italy to meet demand caused by the "metrosexual boom," according to Kinukawa. Today, the best-selling product on the domestic market is the hydrating lotion, which sells for Y3,000 (€26.16).

"Sales of Shiseido Men in Japan recorded double-digit growth every year until 2009," she said. "Nowadays, Japanese men have no hesitation to going to the cosmetics counter at a department store."

JR

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