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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Drawing a line under men's wrinkles
By Jennifer Quinn
BBC News Magazine

First there was Henry Cooper and Brut 33, then came Lynx and before long men like Vinnie Jones admitted to using moisturiser. But will they draw the line at the latest innovation in male grooming - anti-wrinkle cream?

For a magazine known as a bedrock of the British establishment, the Spectator may appear to be an odd choice to highlight the benefits of men's anti-ageing cream.

But there it is, spread across pages two and three - a glossy commercial for L'Oreal Men Expert, featuring a George Clooney-esque middle-aged man. But is he as attractive as we think? "Face it," says the ad. "You're getting older. Don't ignore it."

His skin is "sagging". In other versions of the L'Oreal advert, other men are also in quite a state: One has shiny skin; another looks "tired, worn-out"; a third has, gasp, wrinkles.

Welcome, men, to the challenges faced by women for years. Now you, too, must stand mystified at the cosmetics counter, pondering a small jar of wrinkle-reduction cream that can cost as much as a decent night at the pub, and ask is it worth it?

Biotherm Homme will allow you to grow old gracefully - according to Harvey Nichols' website, which touts the benefits of the product - for 32 for 50 ml. It "not only lays claim to visibly reduce wrinkles with its technological 'tensing' polymer, but plant-derived bio peptides and silicium aim to boost fibroblast metabolism, which is responsible for the skin's firmness and tone."

L'Oreal advert
The L'Oreal ad in last week's Spectator
L'Oreal's Men Expert line is somewhat cheaper, starting at 4.99. A top-of-the-line 50ml tub of its Wrinkle De-Crease cream runs to 10.49.

Women have been enslaved to this sort of thing for centuries, and even if no one really knows what a peptide is, it sounds like it could be beneficial for one's skin.

In recent years, men too have been won over by the need to moisturise, a sort of insurance policy against the tide of ageing. But anti-wrinkle cream - a lotion that promises to reverse the ravages of nature - challenges the received wisdom that while women need to stay looking young, men's looks actually improve with age. After all, a few creases never did Sean Connery or Robert Redford any harm.

So, is there a market for men's anti-wrinkle cream?

Experts say that it makes sense the men's cosmetic industry will go to the same place women's has, since both sexes are eager to look young and vital.

"I think it's fair to argue that men are concerned about ageing as much as women," says Richard Gray, a spokesperson for Harvey Nichols'. "Gone are the days when men would go to their wives' dressing table and steal moisturiser.

Straight follow gay

"They face the same pressures as women do in the workplace. The younger model is always right behind them."

Women find wrinkles on men attractive- a bland man is no good
Marcelle D'Argy Smith
And it's not just gay men who, rightly or wrongly, have been assumed to be the main market for hi-tech skincare such as anti-wrinkle cream. Gay men might have led the way, but it seems their straight counterparts are following suit.

"It is a cliche, but gay men are very interested in the way they look," Mr Gray says, "but straight men watch the same programmes and read the same magazines."

"Gay men were more savvy about grooming because they're more concerned about appearance," says Henry Farrar-Hockley, Esquire magazine's grooming editor. "But all men are starting to realise that they need to bother."

Television shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and even lads' mags like Maxim and FHM are making skin care and appearance a priority for men. And now, cosmetics companies are advertising anti-wrinkle cream in publications like the Spectator, perhaps because the readers of that periodical are, well, older and therefore more wrinkly.

Exfoliant or scrub?

And it's paying off in the marketplace. According to business researchers Euromonitor, sales of cosmetics and skincare aimed at men grew more than 40% between 1998 and 2003.

Robert Redford
Better with wrinkles? Robert Redford in 2005 and 1980
And Datamonitor, another business intelligence firm, says 1.5bn will be spent by men in the UK on personal care. Media and Marketing Europe magazine describes this as a "quiet revolution in the men's grooming market."

Mr Gray thinks magazines such as GQ, Arena, and Esquire have contributed to the boom in men's skincare. "They've given men permission to start looking after themselves," he says. "And with that comes skincare. It's all about the right way to shave, the shadows under your eyes, having a decent haircut."

Packaging and branding are important if the man on the street is going to be won over, says Mr Gray. Hence, what's an "exfoliant" in women's skincare is a "scrub" at the men's counter. A "moisturiser" for the ladies is a "balm" for the blokes.

Not all women, however, are convinced of this move for men to wipe out their wrinkles.

It's "crap" says Marcelle D'Argy Smith, a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. "The two most attractive men around today are Hugh Grant and George Clooney. And when they smile, they have those wrinkles and they look great. You don't think, 'Ugh.' You think, 'He looks wonderful.'

"Women find wrinkles on men attractive," she adds. "A bland man - unless he's 19, gorgeous, and an Italian youth - is no good. You want them to look like a man. But we're being sold something else."


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