The new face of British men and their £1.3bn habit

Have they fragrance? Lashings of it. Have they moisturiser? More than ever before. In fact, British men are now Europe's biggest spenders on male grooming products. Maxine Frith reports
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They spend £200 a month on facials and moisturisers and love nothing more than talking to the girls in the Mayfair beauty salon about the state of their skin.

But they are not middle-aged ladies who lunch or models with too much time on their hands - they are the biggest spenders of a new breed of image-conscious men whose quest for personal pampering has led to a massive boom in the male grooming industry.

According to a report by the market analyst company Datamonitor published last week, the UK male personal care market is now worth £1.3bn.

Men spend £65m on skincare products alone each year, as well as £88m on fragrances and £278m on hair grooming.

Men aged between 20 and 40 spend an average of £111 a year on beauty products - only £27 less than women from the same age group.

Separate research by the business information group Mintel has found that sales of male skincare products increased by 560 per cent between 1998 and 2003.

British men are the keenest users of male grooming products in Europe, the Mintel study found.

One man in four now uses moisturiser, one in three applies mousse to his hair every day and more than seven out of 10 wear aftershave.

David Beckham's enthusiasm for male grooming and the growth of men's health and grooming magazines have fuelled the boom in the market, industry analysts say.

Television makeover shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which gay men give heterosexual volunteers fashion and beauty tips, have also made male grooming more acceptable.

Earlier this month, Britain's first men-only beauty salon company, The Refinery, opened a third branch in London.

The Refinery opened five years ago in the heart of Mayfair, with a second branch added in the City of London.

Its latest salon, in Harrods, comes complete with plasma screens showing DVDs and fast-service "pit stops" offering 15-minute treatments for clients in a hurry. Laith Waines, co-founder of the company, said: "We have seen the business grow by about 30 per cent every year since we opened and it is continuing on that upward trend.

"It is a combination of factors. The Beckham effect has obviously helped, but I think attitudes have changed quite substantially over the last five or ten years.

"Men are much more into their image and how they look, and are prepared to pay for it, and the huge growth in men's magazines has also boosted the whole market."

Gone are the days of a gruff order for a short back and sides and a 10-minute stint in the barber's chair.

The average client at The Refinery will spend more than £100 a time on a range of treatments, from eyelash tinting to non-surgical face-lifts.

Back waxing is one of the most popular procedures, and the salons will be offering the wrinkle-busting Botox injections from next year.

"Our clients' ages range from 25 to over 50 and come from all backgrounds," Mr Waines said.

"We get media people in the Mayfair salon, bankers and lawyers in our Bishopsgate branch and tourists and local residents in Harrods."

One keen client of The Refinery's ministrations is Roger Sanders, a 40-year-old IT specialist who works in the City.

He estimates that he spends around £200 a month on top-end skin care products such as Dermalogica, as well as regular facials and massages at The Refinery in Bishopsgate.

"I have only started using things like cleansers and moisturisers in the last few years," he says.

"As you get older, you begin to notice these things but also in recent years it has been much easier to buy good-quality products in high street stores like Boots rather than having to go to the skin counters in department stores, which always make me feel uncomfortable as there are female shop assistants always trying to spray stuff on you.

"I think there is less stigma about these things now.

"Other men I know also have facials and things. I will come back to work and say that I've just been down to The Refinery, and they know what I'm talking about.

"I talk to the girls in the salon about the products they have and I get lots of information from them about what I should be doing."

Other top toiletry companies which have traditionally stuck to women's products are also cashing in on the boom in male grooming.

The perfume and skincare giant Aramis has recently launched its impressive-sounding Ab Rescue Body Sculpting Gel in an effort to persuade the male market of the joys of body moisturisers, while Versace, Clinique and Clarins have also extended their ranges for men.

Last year also saw the launch of XCD (pronounced exceed) - by the company King of Shaves.

XCD is described as a "male image enhancement regime for men" - in effect, make-up for guys.

Products on offer in the range include tinted moisturiser, "mattifying gel" to cover up blemishes and reviving eye cream.

The company has deliberately used more masculine terms to describe its products and their uses to appeal to its market.

The range's publicity blurb says: "XCD has been designed in response to the growing demand from metrosexual man - a lager-sipping lad with a fat wallet and a penchant for looking his best.

"XCD promises to enhance (beautify) camouflage (conceal) and defend (protect), thus defining a male enhancement (beauty) vocabulary that every man can relate to - make-up for boys, not girls!"

Other products in development include lip gloss for men.

Hiten Dayal, chairman of the company, said: "It is really the story of how people started selling perfume to men in the 1950s - they made it more masculine by calling it aftershave.

"With XCD, we have focused on a different vocabulary that speaks to me in their own language. Now, we accept moisturisers. In four or five years, we'll accept cosmetics."

So will the day come when the male lavatories in bars are full of men checking the state of their lipstick, and the talk during half-time in the football is about the latest pec-toner on the market?

Mr Sanders says: "I don't think men will ever get to the same state as women about it.

"We prefer to be more discreet about what we do."

PRODUCT 2003 SALES (1998 sales in brackets)

Shaving gels £33m (£25m)
Shaving foams £24m (£31m)
Shaving oils £5m (£2m)
Shaving creams £1m (£2m)
Shaving sticks £1m (£2m)
Shaving systems £143m (£102m)
Disposable razors £47m (£39m)
Replacement blades £18m (£17m)
Deodorants £85m (£75m)
Bodysprays £67m (£80m)
Shower products £44m (£26m)
Skincare £42m (£7m)
Haircare £34m (£27m)
Talc £4m (£8m)
Fine fragrances £208m (£180m)
Mass fragrances £71m (£90m)

[of which aftershave £15m (£28m)