Face of change

Asian women aren’t the only ones looking to put their best face forward, writes Euan McKirdy.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2012, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 8:07am


Back in the day, all a man needed when he stepped in the bathroom was a bar of carbolic soap and some no-nonsense shampoo. But the past decade has seen a remarkable change in men’s attitudes towards taking care of their skin, hair and general appearance – and nowhere more so than in Asia.

The term “metrosexual” goes back to the early part of the 2000s and ushered in a new era of grooming care for men. 

Famous faces – including metrosexuality’s unofficial ambassador and soccer icon David Beckham – allowed legions of men to embrace a side of their personality that might otherwise have remained hidden.

“I believe there’s a great deal more competition generally, whether it be at the workplace, for love or something that is more deep-seated and sub-conscious, and therefore any edge helps,” says Olivier Bonnefoy, founder and owner of Gentlemen’s Tonic, the men’s spa in The Landmark.

The growing social acceptance of men’s grooming – hand in hand with the multibillion dollar cosmetics industry – has led to an upswing in consumer interest  across the board. And, with the release last month of documentarian Morgan Spurlock’s film, Mansome, men’s grooming finally has hit the mainstream.

“I think what you start to realise is that men have been made to feel just as insecure as women have for decades,” the director told Time magazine when promoting the film.

While Mansome focuses on international trends, the phenomenon is particularly making its presence known in Asia. Today, says Harriet Lee, general manager of Joyce Beauty, the region is the fastest-growing market for men’s grooming products.

“[Asian] men are more educated and wellinformed than ever,” she says. “They now realise looking great and feeling good are closely interlinked. Their appearance is an integral part of their personal wellbeing.

“Men’s grooming demands have expanded significantly from the traditional shaving products and deodorants to a widespread range of products from skincare, hair care, bath and body care and sun protection to cosmetics,” she adds. “Men are increasingly demanding products specifically targeted at them, shopping for and using their own products instead of borrowing from their spouses.”

Since its launch last year, Joyce Grooming’s best-selling men’s skincare products have been Omorovicza’s Queen of Hungary facial mist, Kyoku for Men’s Daily Facial Cleanser, Milk & Co Facial Moisturiser and Perricone MD Advanced Eye Area Therapy.

Other popular items include Truefitt & Hill’s Pre-shave Oil and 1805 Shaving Cream. 

Among its treatments, the most popular have been the Rejoice Signature Facials and the Eyebrow Shaping Service.

South Korea tops the world rankings in the men’s skincare market, according to a survey by global market-research firm Euromonitor International. Koreans account for 18 per cent of global sales in a steadily growing market, and industry figures suggest that the Korean men’s skincare market will continue to grow, following a pattern of seven per cent year-on-year growth over the past decade or so.

In terms of net spend, Korean men invested almost HK$3 billion in skincare in 2010. The huge potential of the Chinese market is also becoming a factor, and is the second-largest worldwide, with young Chinese men spending HK$2.3 billion on looking good. Rounding out the top three, Japan’s males splurged around 
HK$1.8 billion on skincare products.

In Asia, men’s make-up is also gaining popularity – Joyce Grooming promotes Laura Mercier primers, concealers and eyebrow definers to its male customers. Biotherm Homme has also launched men’s version of the popular BB cream with a hint of colour to even the complexion.

While men’s make-up may still be considered on the fringe, there is an increasingly diversified skincare product market along with shaving products, hair care and fragrances. Many international brands have spent years developing men’s skincare and this significant investment is beginning to bear fruit.

Japanese luxury brand SK-II recently launched SK-II Men – initially in South Korea – to target the high-end market in Asia. It features the brand’s signature Pitera ingredient in a cleanser, treatment essence and anti-ageing moisturiser.

Some Asian brands, such as South Korea’s Laneige, have fully developed men’s lines and the skincare and beauty regimen is as complicated, or complete, as their female counterparts.

“This trend will grow bigger as men are more concerned with their appearance,” says Yuji Tong, assistant training manager at Laneige. 

Laneige Homme’s collection includes moisturisers, oil-control emulsions and sunprotection products, but its best-seller is the antiageing Dual Wrinkle Manager. The combination eye and face cream is targeted to the busy modern man.

Another established brand, Lab Series Skincare for Men recently introduced a complete line of brightening products including a spray, serum and eye balm to counter the ageing effects of sun damage.

And in a sign of things to come, former WBC world welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz announced in April that he will be launching an anti-ageing skincare line, while Australian cricketing great Shane Warne is said to be considering his own collection after admitting he borrows moisturisers from girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley.

Bonnefoy says: “Actors, sportsmen, politicians alike all seem to be promoting a message that you need to work and play hard, and look good doing it.”