Men's cosmetics booming Skin-care products' packaging avoids look of 'makeup'

Marquez Briggs, 30, uses a foaming scrub cleanser during his morning routine. Men's grooming products are gaining popularity.

LOS ANGELES — Like most guys, Eric Lugo wants to look handsome. But he doesn’t want to be caught applying makeup.

So the 26-year-old uses skin-care products with names such as Kiehl’s Facial Fuel and Lab Series’ Power Brightening Serum.

“I want to keep myself up and maintain my looks, but I’d never use anything that looks like it’s made for my girlfriend,” the Los Angeles banker said. “This stuff looks like it’s for guys, not girlie at all, so I feel OK using it.”

Retailers are seeing a booming market in cosmetics and skin care for men. But they face one big challenge: Most guys are squeamish about products that seem too feminine.

So skin-care firms have come up with a variety of products with creatively masculine names, packaged in cigar boxes and containers mimicking liquor bottles.

The terminology and instructions also are suitably manly. The colors pink and gold — staples of women’s cosmetics — are out. And the word “makeup” is verboten.

“We don’t say the ‘M’ word. It’s taboo,” said Michele Probst, founder of Menaji, a high-end men’s line carried at Nordstrom.com and department stores.

That smart packaging seems to be doing the trick.

Men’s grooming is one of the fastest growing segments in the beauty business. Chicago-based research firm Mintel forecasts that sales of men’s toiletries will hit $3.2 billion by 2016, up from an estimated $2.6 billion this year and $2.2 billion in 2006.

Companies are eagerly staking territory in this burgeoning market. According to research firm NPD Group, only 1 in 4 guys uses some kind of facial skin-care product, and male shoppers tend to be more brand loyal than women.

The popularity of men’s grooming is driven by baby boomers eager for an edge in the workplace and younger fellows influenced by changing standards of male beauty. It’s not just deodorant and after-shave — these guys are reaching for powders, concealers, anti-aging creams and tinted moisturizers.

“It’s become more socially acceptable for men to put effort into looking and feeling good,” said Damon Jones, a spokesman at Proctor & Gamble, whose brands include the Art of Shaving and Gillette. “The whole metrosexual trend has gone more mainstream.”

Although men across all demographics are dabbling, those under 35 and over 50 are diving most enthusiastically into grooming products, said Karen Grant, a beauty analyst at NPD Group.

“Mature men are trying to be competitive in the workplace, and for those who are online dating, there is a desire to be as vibrant looking as possible,” Grant said. “The younger generation has grown up with Mom slathering sunblock on their face, so they are coming up aware of facial skin care.”