When is a moisturiser a 'face protector'?

When it's a male skincare product. Andrew Tuck on why more and more British men are slapping it on
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Indy Lifestyle Online
New lads like lager, footie, Joanne Guest, Loaded - oh, and a dab of moisturiser on their tender faces before they go to bed.

So concludes a new report by consumer analysts Euromonitor into the burgeoning market for men's toiletries (UK sales will reach pounds 753 million this year, and by 2001 are predicted to climb a mighty 17 per cent). One in four men aged 15 to 34 now has the moisturising habit and a staggering 47 per cent confess to possessing "sensitive skin". Bless.

"Paradoxically, it may be the arrival of the so-called lads' mags which have fostered these changes," says report author Karen Weir. "They target younger men who are more likely to be open to new ideas." At Men's Health, the magazine that makes men nervous about oversized paunches and pores, assistant editor Stuart Watt agrees: "Men like the anonymity of a magazine, they can read our grooming pages and see what's good. You really don't want to have to go down the pub and ask your mates what moisturiser they recommend."

Watt believes that while sales are increasing, men are still nervous about coming out of the bathroom closet as buffers and scrubbers. "When James Brown was editing Loaded he once said that 'grooming is something you do to horses', and essentially I think many men still feel the same way."

Watt's views are backed up by Euromonitor's discovery that to sell any grooming product to men, manufacturers have to disguise them as modern scientific wonders and, whatever happens, the "M" word must never be mentioned. For example, there is Aramis Sharp Shooter Vitamin Treatment Complex (moisturiser), Clinique for Men M Shave Aloe Gel (a moisturiser, actually), and Lift Off Alpha-hydroxy Moisture Complex (yep, it's moisturiser).

If there has been a breakthrough in attitude as well as takings at the till, he puts it down to men having to extend their own shelf-lives. "A lot of blokes are single for much longer these days; when they're 35 they're still going out chasing girls on a Saturday night. They need to scrub up, otherwise who's going to look at them?"

Over at the Body Shop (its moisturiser goes by the butch euphemism of "Face Protector"), spokeswoman Blair Palese reveals that its line of products for the boys is enjoying record sales as men realise that they need to look good at work and that pampering is fun. "You work hard all day, you should be able to get something out of it just for yourself. Men are going to the gym, having massages and buying more toiletries - they are personal rewards," she says.

Perhaps the saddest statistic hidden in the report is that despite radical changes in the men's market, Old Spice is still number one in the smellies sector, accounting for a worrying 15 per cent of all sales. Weir attempts to calm the situation: apparently it's mainly older men who allow their wives or girlfriends to do their shopping who get stuck with the Old Spice and Brut, while young blades keen to buy something for themselves are more likely to come home with a bottle of cK be or L'Eau d'Issey. Phew.

Now, all we need is Julian Clary to write a new edition of The Beauty Myth for the boys and men and women will be truly equal.

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