Premium skincare has never looked so good

The rise in sales of prestige skincare products, especially among men, is creating online and offline opportunities.

Expensive anti-ageing serums, eye creams and high-end spa products might crowd some women’s bathroom cabinets but new research finds that men are also buying these types of prestige beauty products, and there is huge potential for growth in this area.

In the UK, sales of men’s prestige skincare products is worth £26m a year, having grown by nearly 4 per cent in the year ending August 2013, according to NPD Group.

“What’s really interesting is the opportunity within the men’s market of premium beauty,” says June Jensen, executive director at NPD. “Women’s skincare products account for 95 per cent of the market and men’s skincare 5 per cent. That’s big potential to boost the number of products for men.

“Women love to indulge themselves. Their spend on super premium skincare – £100 or more per product – is still the main driver for growth in the women’s skincare market, which has increased by 15 per cent year on year.

“Men, on the other hand, are spending more on skincare, but compared to women it is the mass market that is taking a higher share of this value.”

NPD tracked sales of prestige beauty products at a range of retailers to find out how the men’s prestige skincare market is evolving.

Jensen attributes growth in the sector to a variety of factors. There has been an increase in in-store activity showcasing men’s prestige beauty products, she says.

There is also more editorial coverage of skincare in men’s magazines. Fashion designer Tom Ford, for example, recently launched a skincare range for men, after the success of his women’s beauty range in 2011. It features nine skincare and grooming products, including a face cleanser, eye treatment and purifying mud mask.

Men are also more likely to visit spas now than in the past, says Jensen.

“The growth in popularity of spas has helped drive interest in premium skincare brands for men and women,” she says. “This trend has been maximised by department stores, including John Lewis, House of Fraser and Harrods. Some of them provide spa rooms with the support of prestige brands. This is an opportunity to educate women and men about skincare routines and products.”

The rise in popularity of spas has helped drive interest in premium skincare brands for men and women

Moisturiser is the most popular skincare product for men in the UK in terms of value sales, followed by shaving treatments, anti-ageing creams, facial cleansers and exfoliators and hygiene products, such as shower gel and deodorants.

Growth in facial cleansers is up 9.3 per cent, while facial moisturisers are up 2.7 per cent and SPF protection products up 11.5 per cent in the year to August 2013, according to the study.

The research also reveals a difference in men’s and women’s preference for skincare products. Men tend to want basic moisturising, with anti-ageing accounting for 12.7 per cent of men’s facial skincare, compared with 31.6 per cent for basic moisturisers. However, anti-ageing products are a faster growing market than moisturisers.

“Men think about wrinkles but I think that comes later,” explains Emilie Erktan, senior account manager at NPD Group. “Women look at prevention. Even if we are younger than 30 years old, we will probably be using some kind of anti-ageing product because we want to prevent ageing.

“Men use moisturiser for longer because [they feel that ageing is] less of a concern,” she says. “Also, men using skincare products may be younger, so perhaps this trend will gain momentum, as they get older.”

The research also reveals that men and women have different preferences for skincare product textures, with lightweight products more popular with men and richer formulas, such as creams more popular with women.

Men account for 25 per cent of sales at Kiehl’s and the rate is growing at 34 per cent in the year to date

“Most men don’t like skincare products to feel sticky and women tend to have drier skin,” explains Erktan.

“It also relates to the biology of male skin. It’s more acidic and oilier, more prone to shininess,” adds Jensen. “Men just want something they can apply that is right medically, that makes their skin feel soft but without the effects of the oil of a cream.”

The serum format is the strongest growing texture for men at 51.1 per cent value change year on year to August 2013. However, serum represents only a 3.2 per cent share of the total men’s skincare market. This contrasts with gel, which enjoys a 23 per cent share of the total men’s skincare market.

The strong growth in the serum format for men’s skincare is being driven by product launches linked with existing women’s skincare franchises, such as Clinique Dark Spot Corrector for Men and Biotherm Homme Force Supreme.

“For men it’s a bit more difficult to add one more product into their routine. Serum is doing well but it’s still based on a very small number,” says Erktan.

“A few years ago, there was a boom around serums that really boosted the market,” she says. “Now that all the big brands have their main serum, they are looking for something new and this summer we have seen a lot of BB (Blemish Balm) and CC (Colour Control or Colour Correcting) cream type products.”

The research shows that online platforms are more important than before for prestige skincare product sales, representing 6 per cent of the prestige skincare market and are a key driving force behind the market growth, up 31 per cent versus 5 per cent for bricks and mortar.

Men’s skincare online is growing by 26 per cent compared to women’s skincare at 31 per cent.

“There is an opportunity to educate men more and perhaps this could be online,” believes Jensen. “There could be a male portal or information page for men specifically that will educate them about the various skincare steps or products.”

Marketers’ viewpoint


James Rickards
General manager 
Kiehl’s, Clarisonic, Biotherm, Shu Uemura, L’Oréal UK & Ireland

Kiehl’s has an important men’s business. About a quarter of our sales is from men and it’s growing by 34 per cent year on year. They are buying products targeted at men but also unisex products. About 40 per cent of our business is moisturisers and 10 per cent anti-ageing products, but anti-ageing product sales are growing faster than moisturisers. I agree with the findings on texture. Men go for lightweight formulas because many of them have oily to combination skin. 

From our own and our retailers’ websites, online accounts for 7 per cent of our total business. For men, the online part of the business is even more important. Men are creatures of habit, but often they don’t like to spend time shopping unnecessarily.


Brendan Murdock
Murdock London

As men become more confident in their shopping habits, spaces specifically for them to shop are being created in beauty departments. At Murdock, men can experience products from the comfort of the barber’s chair. Grooming is being placed back in men’s departments, or in independent men’s stores, so there are more relevant retail environments for them to shop. Regarding texture preference, this is only true because men are relatively new to buying for themselves – 60 per cent of men’s purchases have historically been made by women – so the product deflection is narrower. That said, men as a group want straightforward products that are clear in what they do. Weights of face creams are often created not out of need but marketing.


Global market research company NPD Group tracks sales of beauty products using long-standing partnerships with manufacturers and retailers. Ten retailers participated in the research, including John Lewis, Boots, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and The Perfume Shop; data represents 85 per cent of the UK beauty market. Prestige beauty brands covered in the research include Clinique, Crème De La Mer, Estée Lauder, Chanel and Clarins. 



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