Men get serious about saving face

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He has a complex and rather expensive six-step daily facial routine. Think cleanser, toner, anti-ageing concentrate (for eyes and face), pore-reducing serum and moisturiser.

Mr Shawn Lim, a 21-year-old barista, has become so attached to his skincare products - he spends $500 every other month - that he "can't imagine going back to a time without them".

Once thought of as a woman-centric industry, skincare is going to the men in a big way.

A recent Washington Post article revealed that sales of men's skincare products ballooned substantially in South Korea.

The cosmetics industry there, which boasts annual sales of US$10 billion (S$13.47 billion), says men are now "buying into the beauty obsession (and) boosting the nation's cosmetics business."


Singapore is moving in the same direction, thanks in part to the South Korean pop culture wave that swept through Asia.

A spokesman from Nivea says its "men's skincare is projected to grow especially with the increasing popularity of South Korean boy bands".

A spokesman for Korean beauty brand Innisfree, says it has more male customers now but women still dominate.

Its men's skincare range contributes just 5 per cent of total sales.

"They are more open to trying masks like the Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask and The Green Tea Seed Serum," says the spokesman.

Dermatologists too say more men are looking to improve their skin condition.

"We are definitely seeing more men seeking aesthetic procedures over the past few years, increasing at least 20 to 30 per cent year-on-year," says Dr Low Chai Ling of The Sloane Clinic.

She adds: "Most of my male patients tend to want treatments that they can see instant results, do not need to be repeated over several sessions and need little maintenance."

Mr Victor Seah, a finance manager who declined to reveal his age, says he has noticed more women approaching him at the office after he started on a new routine.

"I used to have dark eye circles and a wrinkly forehead and I never had many women approach me at work," he says. "Just like everybody else, I want to look young."

He says his three-step routine helped him gain confidence. He adds he has gone on more dates, "so I don't regret paying more attention to my skin".

Mr Teo Chee Siong, a treasury executive, says he is now hooked to male skincare products after being influenced by his girlfriend, who works in the beauty industry. "She told me to try it," says Mr Teo, 28.

"I liked it and I definitely see the benefits of using products specific to one's skin type especially because of our humid weather," he adds.

While he prefers a fuss-free and straightforward routine comprising cleanser, toner and moisturiser, he says he is open to trying masks and essences.

"Not many people will admit it but if it's a trend that everyone is talking about and it's said to work some sort of miracle, then why wouldn't I try," says Mr Teo, who buys Biotherm Homme.

"I know I am not just falling for a marketing campaign because when I am outfield during reservist and I have no time or space to pack facial products, there is definitely a big difference in the state of my skin. "It starts becoming oily and I'll start breaking out."

Dr Low expects this trend to continue as men become more aware of the benefits of skincare regimens.

"Personal grooming is becoming more important to men as they recognise the importance of looking good both socially and at their workplace.

"There are also more options for men now than ever before as companies tailor their products and treatments to target this demographic.

"Furthermore, there is less stigma associated to grooming and aesthetic treatments for men, and this has opened the doors for them."

Lose beauty sleep for better skin

My task was simple: Spend two weeks using men's facial products and check the results.

At first, I rubbished the notion because I thought my editors were poking fun at my horrible complexion.

Not that I was offended.

For years, my parents, and now my girlfriend, have said my skin has a desert-like arid quality - it "prefers" to be completely dry.

It just so happened that last month, I came across an "all natural" camouflage cream made by a Korean cosmetic company and meant for our national servicemen. "It is quite popular," a salesgirl at the Plaza Singapura shop told me.

According to my colleagues, it is no longer surprising for men to delve into the arcane world of cosmetics and skincare. Men are now willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on products that claim to keep our skin soft and supple, I am told.

So I took on the challenge. How hard could it be, right? While it sounded like an easy assignment, the steps were not.

Twice every day, I had to slather on a deep cleansing, oil-eliminating facial wash.

Next, I sprayed a liberal amount of shine-control toner followed by an anti-ageing serum around my eyes and another coating of facial moisturiser.

I also had to put on sunscreen before heading out for the day and an anti-blemish cream before sleeping at night.

This beauty regimen interrupted my morning and night routines for two weeks, robbing me daily of half an hour that could have been spent sleeping.

My editors noticed my grouchiness but laughed it off and insisted I continue the experiment.

Well, the joke was on them! Towards the later part of the experiment, I might have left out a few steps.


It started off with excuses I gave myself.

"I am 26. I don't think I am that old," I thought. Okay, no need for the anti-ageing serum.

"The sun isn't very bright today." No need for the sunscreen too.

In the end, the five-step process shrunk to two steps - only because the toner came in a spray bottle and took a second to apply.

Did this affect the results of the experiment?

I don't know but my girlfriend says my skin feels "super good" to the touch since I started using the products. My colleagues also say I look "fresher".

My take is that if you commit to the multi-step process, even in theory rather than in practice, it can only be a good thing.

This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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