The Latest Look: Male Grooming in 2021

mens skincare
Charlotte Rudd
by: Charlotte Rudd
It’s a growing market and an untapped opportunity for many beauty brands. New consumer behaviour and a rise in personal grooming is driving demand for men’s grooming, skincare and hair care products.

Male Grooming: Pre- and Post- Covid

Before Covid-19, men’s grooming flew under the radar of many brands – both large and small. Leading hair care brands have sometimes been guilty of ignoring the male demographic, and investment in marketing and products for men’s grooming has historically been low.

Now, a year on from the start of the pandemic, the landscape has changed. With lockdowns continuing and barbers closed, the need for men’s hair care and grooming products has rocketed. Men who would usually step outside the home to achieve a sculpted look have either let everything grow, or gone DIY. To put it bluntly, male grooming has become a large, untapped opportunity.

Figures show 33% of UK men have started cutting their own hair, compared to 19% of women. Plus, the UK search term ‘shaving men’s hair’ has increased by a phenomenal 1850%. The question is: are brands capitalising on this?

Men’s grooming is an emerging market, and search trends so far indicate a significant opportunity for brands with quick reaction times. Let’s dig a little deeper into the data.

Search Terms: The Popularity of Male Grooming

For a number of male grooming search terms, we can see a natural peak annually in December. In order of popularity, the top search terms are:

  1. “mens grooming products” 
  2. “mens beauty”
  3. “mens skincare” 
  4. “mens hair care”

Even during the peaks every year this order stays relatively the same, until we get to 2020.

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The first spike we can see is for “mens grooming”. This happened mid-way through the first lockdown, which suggests more grooming products were needed at home as the “stay at home” slogan sounded through the nation.

The second peak shows “mens beauty” overtaking “mens grooming products” for the first time in 5 years. The term “mens skincare” also peaked with the highest interest rate in 5 years.

What this shows us is that there is a desire for products, guides and information in this relatively untapped market.

Next, we analyse YoY differences from December 2020 vs December 2019, looking specifically at search volume, % difference, and who ranks well. This data has been sourced from SEO Monitor.

Male Grooming – Deeper dive

Male grooming has definitely seen an increase in searches YoY. We can see the largest increased terms below:

Boots.com rank for many of the highest terms, along with Amazon.co.uk across all keywords.

When we take a closer look at the keywords and their intent, “Male grooming product” shows a real mix. We can see that there are publications ranking (suggesting informational intent) and a few stockists (suggesting transactional intent) too.

LookFantastic ranks well for “male grooming product” and “grooming product”, the page ranking https://www.lookfantastic.com/health-beauty/men.list is the best we’ve explored to date. It is designed to look like a regular category page with links to specific product categories such as “shaving”, “skincare” and “haircare”. As “grooming” is such a broad term, this enables the content to cover a variety of products.

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The increases in search volume for search terms related to male grooming suggest that a growing number of men are considering their grooming habits more carefully, and are open to finding new products.

Men’s Beauty – Deeper dive

As we saw from Google Trends, the interest in “mens beauty” has also grown considerably. When we look at which keywords have increased the most, we can see lot of informational searches, i.e. “most attractive age for man” and “when do guys peak in looks”.

However, when it comes to “mens beauty”, there is more of a transactional intent, with mostly stockists ranking:

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Interestingly, Cult Beauty ranks twice for the term, with a gifts page and a men’s beauty and toiletries page. It is rare for two pages to rank well for the same keyword, because cannibalisation is a real issue for ranking in SERPs.

In most cases, cannibalisation (when two pages compete against each other to rank for a particular keyword) results in neither page ranking highly.

But what’s more perplexing, is that Google has deemed “mens beauty” to be the same as “mens grooming” by serving similar results.

Men’s Skincare – Deeper dive

“Skincare for men” is up 82% YoY, with 8.1k searches in 2019 versus 14.8k searches in 2020.

That’s huge!

In the table below, we can see many keywords have increased YoY for ‘gift set’ terms. A lot of other increases can be seen around face washing sets and kits. This is likely to be related to actual gifting of ‘gift sets’ and the convenience of a set that provides multiple products in a quick, easy-to-buy kit.

Again, we can see that Boots.com is ranking incredibly well for multiple terms, alongside Superdrug.com and ManKind.co.uk.

What’s interesting about this category is that when we search for “mens cleanser and toner”, it’s publications that rank, suggesting a keyword with informational intent. However, when we remove “mens” from our query, and search for “cleanser and toner” instead, we’re provided with female-facing brands, returning a transactional intent (the SERPs show us product category pages instead of guides/articles).

Google is deducing that men don’t know what they want, and are therefore seeking information. On the other hand, someone seeking a cleanser/toner without a gender conformity must already know.

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On the other hand, if you were to search “mens face wash set”, instead of “mens cleanser and toner” it’s stockists mostly ranking. As mens grooming/beauty gift sets are commonly purchased as gifts, it is unsurprising to see transactional results as opposed to informational.

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The type of stockists ranking are two big brands in the beauty community: Superdrug and Boots, who are then followed (somewhat at random) by Amazon, Argos and eBay. 

Again, the results change when we remove “mens” and instead search for “face wash set”.

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It’s evident that this is targeted at women, with ASOS even having “women” in their page title. This would suggest a lack of products specifically for men. Either this, or they are not targeting male searchers. Based on the search volume, this could suggest they are missing out on a big opportunity. 

Hair Care – Deeper dive

Hair care has seen a smaller amount of growth during 2020, which is understandable considering the larger existing market for men’s hair care products.

From our research, we can see that the largest growth terms are “mens curly hair products”, “mens hair care products” and “mens fluffy hair”. 

For the top three keywords, each has informational intent with “10 best hair products” and “Top 10 Curly Hair” type content ranking, even when looking at a broad keywords such as “mens hair care products”:

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Because we’ve used the “mens” identifier, all of the landing pages (shown above) are male-orientated. There are only a few stockists listed for men’s hair care. Superdrug, for example, have a specific men’s hair care page that contains all of their male products. 

Brands Who Are Leading with Male Grooming

Lookfantastic

Lookfantastic have a singular male section on the website. This page links to other relevant sections such as “shaving”, “skincare” and “haircare”. The core page has generated links from several high authority domains such as MensHealth, GQMagazine and CarolineHirons. 

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Boots

Boots rank well for several of the top male grooming terms. They have a general “skincare & body” page targeted towards men, which has attracted links from GoodHousekeeping, Ape To Gentleman, and Menswear Style. However, these are not as authoritative as LookFantastic’s.

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Superdrug 

Though having a very similar landing page to Boots and LookFantastic, Superdrug isn’t currently ranking as well. We have only identified one link so far (at the time of writing):

What This Search Research Tells Us: A Summary)

Search Intent

Currently, the intent around male grooming terms is very mixed – informational and transactional – with both stockists and articles ranking.

If the informational intent is something your brand would like to target, then outreaching to the publications mentioned is vital.

Skincare

There is clearly a large opportunity for brands to focus more on male skincare, and to target users by developing both transactional and informational content.

Category Pages

By providing a separate category page for mens grooming products, you can improve the user experience (making it easier and quicker for users to find products to match their needs). This will also help with keyword targeting, as the page will be more relevant. Keyword research and detailed keyword distribution (services we offer) are necessary for this.

The Gender Divide – In Search

Gender-neutral search terms within skincare generally tend to result in women’s products being shown. While we are keen for gender norms to be removed in the beauty industry, from a search perspective the user behaviour is not quite there yet. However, by offering a mix of informational and transactional content, brands can effectively capture the audience and drive awareness of new men’s grooming products at the same time.

The Untapped Opportunity: Men’s Beauty and Skincare

We can see from our data insight platforms that a large proportion of men buy beauty, skincare and grooming products online. Although the female audience is larger, the proportion in which men fall behind is not as large as SERP pages might mislead you to think it is.

Currently, brands and SERP pages serve mainly women, but here we can see that there is certainly an untapped opportunity to serve men.

Ultimately, beauty brands shouldn’t be afraid to delve into male-focused marketing campaigns, or to expand their product offerings.

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