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Men's Skin Care Products Clean Up

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NEW YORK -- Skin care products for men are going mainstream, thanks to social and business pressure for men to look better (and younger), the ''metrosexual'' trend and new product lines that are more affordable.

Sure, department store beauty counters have sold expensive men's skin products for years.

But now Joe Average, while he's shopping for razor blades and toilet paper at the drugstore, can also buy a Neutrogena Men Power Scrub Deodorant Bar -- soap with a scrubby cover that removes dead skin.

Or Nivea for Men Revitalizing Lotion with Q10 for ''maintaining skin's vitality and elasticity.''

Or Daily Energizing Face Wash or Cooling After Shave Balm from the Adidas Active Skincare Line, introduced in September.

''No longer do men have to make a special trip to a department store where it may be more conspicuous to buy the product,'' says Anne Sawbridge, marketing head for Neutrogena, which introduced Neutrogena Men in 2002. ''It normalizes the category.''

And starting Dec. 1, CVS, which currently sells many of these products, is adding to 2,500 stores an exclusive line of British products that mix skin care and cosmetics called XCD (pronounced ''exceed''). ''Don't just look good, look great,'' say the ads.

Men's product sales are up double digits this year at CVS. Shelf space will double to eight feet with XCD.

Though metrosexuals -- the label given to urban heterosexual men equally at ease getting a manicure or lifting weights -- may be most open to products that exfoliate, rejuvenate or moisturize, other guys appear to be buying in. They helped push sales of toiletries (excluding razors, shampoos and fragrances), which had been flat since 1996, up 4% in 2002 to $1.3 billion, according to retail tracker Mintel Reports.

Some who've been using such products for a while are suspicious of the rush to create ''men's'' versions. Brian Colby, 31, shopping for razors recently at a CVS store in New York, says he uses women's moisturizers and hair color. ''I trust women's products more.''

But either way, there is a growing male interest in help for looking good. Michael Flocker, author of The Metrosexual Guide: A Handbook for the Modern Man, blames stylish soccer great David Beckham and ''the barrage of media imagery and a slew of male celebrities doing ads for fashion and grooming products.''

That's key, Flocker says: ''Fathers tend not to teach sons about these things as mothers teach daughters. Men teach sons how to shave and call it a day.''

Now, those sons are getting much-needed makeovers on Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Also fueling the trend:

* The price is right. Department stores have sold men's products for years -- at an average price north of $20. The new mass retail items average $6. ''The same thing happened 20 years ago with women's face care,'' says Catherine Lair, director of marketing at Nivea. ''Everything in department stores went to the mass market.'' Nivea for Men sales have risen 20% annually since its 2001 rollout.

* I saw it in Maxim. ''The magazine gives (men) permission to focus on their appearance and talk about it,'' says Candace Corlett, president of consultants WSL Strategic Retail.

* Manly messages. Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor is in Neutrogena Men ads. ''He's proving it's OK for even tough guys to look good and have soft skin,'' says Neutrogena's Sawbridge. New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd will be in XCD ads in January men's magazines. And the ads are informative. ''If it isn't simple and doesn't tell them exactly how it works, they are never going to buy into it,'' says Will King, XCD creator.

* It's not what you know, it's how you look. Older baby boomers are under pressure competing with women and younger men for jobs. ''Guys like to joke around and be Joe Average, but in the end, everyone wants to make a good impression,'' Flocker says.

King thinks that means men are ready for the kind of cosmetic help XCD offers, such as Reviver eye cream. Or Improver, an SPF-15 fortified moisturizer that resembles foundation. Or Enhancer stealth moisturizer that you apply at night to wake up tanned.

''They don't just solve problems, they actually make your face look better,'' King says. ''You don't have to accept your white, pasty, pallid appearance every day, but you don't want to look like an idiot with an orange face or look like George Hamilton.''

All this is nothing new for some guys. Bob Price, 44, of Boca Raton, Fla., has been using Aveda moisturizer on his body and Body Shop Vitamin E moisturizer on his face for six years. ''It's perfect for my face. It's not gunky. It feels really good.''

The furniture executive says he uses the products to look good -- and younger; the average age of his customers is 25 to 30. He doesn't consider himself a metrosexual. He's had a pedicure ''just once'' and tried a facial mask but ''never told anyone about it.''

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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