Men are increasingly turning to products originally formulated for women to address their skincare needs. Borrowing, stealing – and even buying – the unisex beauty crossover is boosting sales and indicating a changing male attitude to grooming.

Does skin have gender? It’s something much of the beauty industry has spent several years (and countless millions) trying to convince us of. It’s responsible for the soaring popularity in men’s grooming, on top of a female-specific market worth over £1 billion in the UK alone. Male-orientated products make up just 5 per cent of the global skincare market, according to market research group NPD, based on retailers including John Lewis, Boots, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and The Perfume Shop and covering beauty brands including Clinique, Crème De La Mer, Estée Lauder, Chanel and Clarins. “What’s really interesting is the opportunity within the men’s market of premium beauty,” said June Jensen, Executive Director of NPD, back in 2013, citing that percentile difference as “big potential to boost the number of products for men.”

But what if those products already exist? Because while unisex is touted as the next big thing in the wardrobe, it’s been going on in the bathroom for years. Men have been filching everything from regular moisturiser to specifics like concealer (Yves Saint Laurent’s Touché Éclat, specifically) from their wives and girlfriends – a survey by  estimated that men were costing female partners £230 a year to replace “borrowed” skin-care. That flies in the face of other research, asserting that men’s skin is fundamentally different to women’s  – that the former is oilier, hairier, all-round thicker and ages differently.

Then again, isn’t everyone’s skin different?  “We do not present our collections by gender but by specific need and skin benefit,” says Greg Prodromides, chief marketing officer of La Prairie – the premium skincare line whose cult “skin caviar” sells for just shy of £300 a pop. Apparently, to men. “We know from our beauty advisors that for instance a lot of men are aficionados of our Skin Caviar collection,” continues Prodromides. “The light scent of several of our products, as well as their refined texture make them “wearable” for both men and women…. and I have to say that there is something masculine in the Swiss design of our packaging: simple, sleek, technical.”

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