Male grooming in Latin America – the art of discretion

The male grooming market is booming in Latin America, says Pacifica Goddard, but it still needs to be masculine

The male grooming market is booming in Latin America, says Pacifica Goddard, but it still needs to be masculine

Latin American men like to think they are known for good looks, machismo and self-confidence. And these consumers are today turning to cosmetics to sustain and accentuate this image. The Latin American market for male grooming products and services is now one of the most dynamic in the world.

Between 2004-09, the annual male grooming market in Latin America (Mexico, central America and south America) grew from US$2.44bn to $4.87bn, or 99.6% (with a compound annual growth rate of 14.8%), according to Euromonitor International. Comparatively, the US (the world’s biggest single national market for cosmetics), grew from $3.93bn to $4.83bn, or 22.8%, while global growth in this segment was 43.8%, up from $18.49bn to $26.59bn. So not only does Latin America already represent 18.3% of the global male grooming market, up from 13.2% in 2004, the value of this market grew more than twice as fast as the global average in this period.

“Latin America is jumping,” says Michele Probst, ceo and founder of US-based Menaji Skincare, a cosmetics line developed exclusively for men. “It’s a huge target market for us. It looks like on average they are spending $50 a month on skin care.”

Not only are men in Latin America buying more grooming products, they are often upgrading from generic unisex products to those designed specifically for men’s needs. In addition, buying habits are changing as they take more interest in obtaining these products themselves. “A total of 80% of Latin American men are buying cosmetics for themselves now,” says Probst. “Typically in the past a woman would buy for them whether it was their mother, their sister, their girlfriend or their wife. But they are buying it for themselves now – they don’t want to use women’s products anymore, they want their own stuff.”

International brands such as L’Oréal, Revlon, Neutrogena, Nivea, Lancôme, Clarins and Aramis Lab Series have launched men’s lines in Latin America to cater to this demand.

Locally, Laboratorios de Cosméticos Vogue SA of Colombia offers three fragrances for men: Adventure, Men’s Club and Protagonist. Sapien Men by Surya Brasil is a men’s line offering shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, styling gel, shave cream, after-shave and a facial scrub. Brazil’s Basic Hair has a male targeted shampoo and conditioner, made from ginger and lupulo. Argentine brand Algabo offers shaving foam and roll-on deodorant for men. And Argentine company Saint Julien offers Equus Pampa for men (cologne, deodorant and soap) and Petit Prince for boys (cologne, deodorant and shampoo).

The region is on the whole an appearance conscious culture and the desire to enhance one’s appearance has been fuelled by the culture of competition in the workplace. “The working life is ferociously competitive,” wrote Colombian plastic surgeon Claudia Patricia Nieto, recently in Colombian newspaper El Universal. “Today it seems an enviable professional resumé isn’t enough; the appearance has come to occupy a key place in the requirements. This, added to the changing image of the ‘macho’ (still very masculine but with a healthy and meticulous appearance), has resulted in the pressure for men to follow a daily beauty routine.”

And while plastic surgery is becoming more popular in the region, Probst says the average Latin American man would prefer to avoid going under the knife. “If there are any preventative techniques like taking care of their skin with something that is easy to use, they’re going to go there.”

Probst says there are three simple qualities Latin American men need from a product: ease of use; immediate results; undetectable. “If you can provide that for a man, they are going to use it and continue to use it.”

Classics such as deodorant, shampoo and shaving tools still make up the majority of regional sales in this segment. “Shaving is overwhelmingly popular for hair removal as it’s globally accepted as being a typically natural male grooming habit,” says Camila Toledo, Latin America trend director for Stylesight, an online provider of trends, tools and technology for creative professionals in the fashion and style industries. But Brazilians and other Latino men are beginning to take razors beyond their faces to other parts of the body for a sleeker look. “Inspiration and approval for hair removal came from Olympic swimming pools. If popular athletes like Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo are shaving their bodies and can be sexually desirable and beautiful without looking girly, why can’t macho Latin American men shave their bodies as well?”

Newer products like male-targeted anti-ageing creams, self-tanners, sunblock, cleansers and exfoliants are currently even more dynamic than classic grooming tools. “Both fragrance and self-tanning are part of the art of seduction in Latin America, so these markets are large and highly competitive,” says Toledo. “Sunscreen is also of course fully acceptable, especially during the strong daytime sun. Latin American men understand the importance of taking care of the skin, not only for looking good but also for keeping up with their health.”

However there is still a lot of stigma attached to men using cosmetics in this region. “Latin American men are aware of the need to take care of their appearance – they are just doubtful and insecure about how to go about it without looking un-masculine. Many may not be proud to use beauty products, and definitely don’t publicise their grooming secrets among friends. Beauty care is an issue treated with the highest discretion,” says Toledo.