Men's beard and goatee styles. Scruffed up: male grooming category report 2016, Category Report, The Grocer

Male grooming has a hangover. Like a forlorn drunk checking his bank balance after a heavy night out, the category has less cash than expected with £59.6m wiped off sales [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 24 April 2016]. New style of beard 2016.

Value is down 6.3% on volumes down 4.4%, a fall that is significantly ahead of the 1.9% slip in toiletries as a whole. All subcategories (except shampoo) are down, and the biggest stinkers are are deodorants and blades & razors, which collectively lost £44.7m.

It’s perhaps not surprising, as The Grocer’s exclusive research reveals men are much more lax about personal hygiene than their female counterparts. Only 66% of men claim to always use deodorant compared with 85% of women, while just 60% claim to have a bath or shower on a daily basis [Harris Interactive].

So, are men just embracing the famously scruffy Hangover star Zach Galifianakis as their new style icon? Or, have they truly let themselves go? And, if so, can brands and retailers encourage them to scrub up again?

“Men are more engaged with skincare and grooming than ever before,” says Simon Duffy, founder of Bulldog. But that doesn’t mean we’ll see the return of the clean-shaven metrosexual. He’s definitely a goner.

“It’s probably time to get over these one-size-fits-all labels for how men think about style and grooming. ‘Lumbersexual’ was the last one I heard. It’s all got a bit silly,” says Duffy, who sees less rigidity and more experimentation in the way chaps shop for their toiletries. British men are less interested in personal care – but there is an increasing market for more premium and niche products for those engaged with their beauty routine.

“What we are seeing is a great deal of diversity in the styles men want to adopt, and more freedom and confidence to try different things out. Over the course of a month, most men will adopt different styles of facial hair and grooming depending on the occasion or their mood,” Duffy adds.

That makes blokes less easy to categorise. “Guys are more individual now; more personalised,” says Unilever’s David Titman, marketing manager for Lynx and Dove Men+Care. “They don’t cluster into macro-trends like they once did.”

New look shaving style

Not only has the primped and preened metrosexual vanished, so have the blanket terms for men’s styles. The approach and attitude towards grooming has changed massively in recent years, according to Ben Lambert, creative director for brand agency PB Creative, which counts Lynx among its clients.

“Men are much more informed and open to trying new products than ever before,” says Lambert. “It’s no longer perceived to be un-masculine to have a skincare regime and take pride in your appearance. ”

Lynx, whose sales are down 5.5% on volumes up 0.4% [IRI 52w/e 14 May 2016], is hoping a move away from its laddish image can help with this. In January the brand unveiled three new scents – Signature, Urban and Adrenaline – rolled out in antiperspirant, hairstyling and daily fragrance, and a TV campaign called Find Your Magic, part of a £13m marketing spend.

Unilever, meanwhile, is expected to stake its claim to an even larger part of the UK male grooming market having acquired US razor subscription service Dollar Shave Club in a deal rumoured to be worth $1bn.

But with blades & razor sales in the doldrums (and shaving soaps down 0.9%) it could be a hard sell. Despite claims the beard trend is over, they’re still cool for some cats. Aside from style, beards can offer significant cost savings as well. The most expensive subcategory runs at an average of £6 a pack – and that’s a price fewer geezers are willing to pay.

“For many men, the idea of growing stubble during the working week is a good way to save money and time during the morning rush,” says Duffy. “As workplaces become increasingly casual, it would be wrong to view facial hair as a trend. There has been a permanent structural change towards men shaving less, and it is here to stay.”

Gillette and Wilkinson Sword bore the brunt of this, with sales down 4.8% and 6.7%, respectively. Gillette owner P&G is hoping its “best ever cartridge” can help improve things. The new Gillette Fusion Proshield with Flexball Technology puts lubrication before and after the blades to help protect against irritation.

Best full beard styles

The beard trend, while blunting razors’ growth, has led to a fair amount of innovation in other areas. “The increase in beard oils and similar products on the market has been immense,” claims Below the Belt Grooming co-founder Geoff Percy. “But this is a fashion statement that will come and go.”

While guys don’t fuss with their chops like they once did, they still have many other grooming needs – and those are not being well served, says Percy. “The challenge men face is the limited amount of products available to them. Sure, there are face washes, moisturisers and hair waxes out there, but the choice is very limited, and men do not see innovation targeted at themselves.”

Perhaps that’s why 26% admit to using female grooming products [Harris]. Innovation is key in unlocking the category’s potential, claims Stijn Demeersseman, general manager of commercial operations at L’Oréal consumer product division. His brand just unveiled a five-in-one gel in the Men Expert range.

It’s for body, face, hair, shaving and moisturising – and it’s the latest step in the development of multifunctional products that tap the modern need for convenience while reducing the need for a guy to shell out on a variety of single-purpose products.

“Younger men tend towards multifunctional products, but more generally men are driven towards products with a very clear benefit,” says Demeersseman.

Multi-purpose grooming products are useful though, says Unilever’s Peter Embleton, category strategy manager for toiletries. “Multi-use products often offer convenience and portability and lend themselves to occasions, where space is at a premium – such as at the gym or in a suitcase,” he says. “However, it is important that retailers and brands continue to promote single-use products to encourage men to establish a complete grooming regime.”

At the end of the day, like women, men want to feel empowered by their choices. “Ultimately, it’s about empowering men to create the best version of themselves rather than fitting into the outdated ‘metrosexual’ box,” concludes Lambert. With that mentality, it doesn’t matter whether it’s The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms or Zach Galifianakis that are your style icons.

Nice looking beards

Greasy hair and dandruff aren’t confined to heads. Beards can suffer from the same unsightly complaints, which is why the Norwich-based hipsters at Percy Nobleman produced a wash for whiskers. It’s not cheap – the rsp is £12.99 – but it does have a partner in Face & Stubble Moisturiser (rsp: £16.99). Both products are available via Boots.com, and promise anti-ageing properties and 98% naturally derived ingredients, according to the brand.

If you want high end, you’ve got it. This fancy new soap has an rsp of £17 for 189g. And for that eyewatering price you get oh-so trendy coconut oil, shea butter, cucumber extract and the refreshing scent of grapefruit. What you don’t get are preservatives or plastic microbeads. The exfoliating spheres are made from jojob wax.

Part of L’Oréal’s Men Expert portfolio, this 3-in-1 multi-purpose NPD (for body, face and hair) is part of a six-strong line of “intensely moisturising” shower gels. This variant is targeted at guys who work long hours and stay up all night – which is probably why it contains taurine, more commonly found in energy drinks. Rsp: £2.99/300ml.

Bulldog recently ramped up its product portfolio with two spanking new ranges, one of which was its first beard care products, which include beard oil (rsp: £5.50/30ml), along with a 2-in-1 wash (rsp: £6/200ml) and a balm (rsp: £8/75ml). They are joined on shelf by the brand’s first dedicated line of shaving products.

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