There was a time when all men had to worry about with their skin was when they shaved. It was a rite of passage. You watched your father shave when you were a little boy and then anxiously awaited that first hair to sprout out on your chin. Sometimes it was a macho thing. I remember my grandfather used water and an old Gillette safety razor to scrape the hair off of his face. No lather, no after shave, just water. My uncle, on the other hand was a little more in step with the times, he used shaving soap with a brush and patted his face with a liberal amount of Old Spice. I remember the distinct pungent, spicy smell whenever we visited his house. Later, he would even go as far as using an electric razor.
Up until 1895, most everyone shaved with a straight razor. Them a man with the strange name of King Camp Gillette came up with the brilliant idea of developing a razor that was safe and inexpensive with a disposable blade. At first they told him that it couldn’t be done. It would be impossible to produce steel that was hard and thin enough to be used for that purpose. Then in 1901, a graduate of MIT named William Nikerson began working on a process to make the steel. By 1903, he had succeeded and the Gillette Safety Razor Company started operations. If King Camp Gillette were around today, he would be amazed and bedraggled by what men’s skin care has evolved into.
Now you can waltz into your local Walgreen’s drugstore and not only pick up the latest battery-powered razor with 5 blades, but also get a bottle of Men’s Expert Vita Lift with SPF 15 from L’Oreal of Paris. The bottle describes the product as an “anti-wrinkle and firming moisturizer.”
According to many leading department and drugstore chains, men’s skin care products and treatments is the fastest growing segment of their cosmetics departments. Market research firm Datamonitor reports that 19 percent of all cosmetics sales in the U.S. last year were for men. CVS Pharmacy reports that they have quadrupled the shelf space in their cosmetics department with products for men. And it doesn’t stop there. Some local spas here in St. Louis say that men account for some 25-30 percent of their clients getting facials.
Men are becoming more and more concerned about taking care of their skin, but it seems to be more of a health concern for them than a fluff and pampering thing. News that exposure to the sun can cause cancer and premature aging may be a large contributing factor that makes men be more open about the care of their skin.
And massive advertising campaigns by cosmetic companies like L’Oreal and Lancome haven’t hurt either. Fructis even has a lime-green racing car making its way around the NASCAR circuit.
Researchers say that skin care is part of the new attitude that men have about their health. They go to the gym to make their bodies look better, so why not take care of the face? Somehow I think it would have been a hard sell to convince my grandfather though.