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Style : Looks : Wise Guys And Skin Smarts

August 22, 1993|LESA SAWAHATA

Remember the Oil of Olay that lurked behind the Noxzema shave cream in your dad's side of the medicine cabinet? It was an indication that real men have always cared about their skin, even if they have had to hide the impulse. In the '90s, though, thanks to aggressive marketing and a more educated population, men's skin care is definitely out of the medicine cabinet and onto the bathroom counter.

Men in their 30s and 40s are focused on looking better longer; men in their teens and 20s have grown up in an atmosphere where skin care is considered acceptable, even a status symbol. A more athletic, outdoorsy lifestyle has also had an impact. "I think we've all been sensitized to the idea that sun can damage skin," says Jeffrey Marcus of Human-Kind, the Culver City manufacturer of Gruene sun, hair, face and body products. Moisturizing, Marcus says, now seems more like a wise self-maintenance program than narcissistic folly.

This is not to say that men everywhere are jumping on the cleanser-toner-moisturizer bandwagon, but there is an upward trend. When Clinique launched its men's line, Skin Supplies for Men, in 1976, 80% of purchases were made by women for men. "Now, a little over 50% of products are bought by men for themselves," says Sandy Cataldo, vice president of marketing for Clinique.

A man is a very different consumer from a woman. Women will often try anything promising younger, smoother skin; they believe in the long-term, positive effects of skin care. "Men are skeptical about long-term benefits," Cataldo says. "They want to see a difference now. " Often, the difference they want to see is related to shaving. According to Pamela Baxter, vice president of marketing for Aramis, 75% of men who shop for grooming products at the Aramis counter are concerned with bumps, dryness and ingrown hairs.

Alleviating these problems is the entree to more serious skin care for many men. In fact, it's one way to soften men's greatest argument against skin care--time. "When you start taking products out of the case, a man will say, 'I don't have time for that,' " Baxter says. "You have to explain that it's practical. Do they use soap? Then you give them a good-quality product to replace their Dial."

Once convinced, men (unlike women) "are incredibly brand-loyal," Marcus says. "They'll use the same product for decades."

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