Why Are Famous Men Ditching Skincare Lines?
If you, too, have been blindsided by the recent skincare debuts of Hollywood veterans like Brad Pitt and Travis Barker, it might be because you haven’t heard of them: famous men without contention are entering the skincare chat, going from stable careers in Hollywood to founders of beauty brands.
The past few months alone have seen the launch of luxury skincare lines by the aforementioned stars (Le Domaine and Barker Wellness, respectively), as well as an affordable line from TV host Michael Strahan called Daily Defense and a joint venture of Idris Elba and his wife was called S’able Labs. In 2021, Harry Styles launched his own offering (Pleasing, which now includes makeup), preceded by Pharrell (Humanrace) and Karamo Brown (Mantl) in 2020.
It looks like the beauty market for men is booming: according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “brotox” (Botox for men) is the most requested cosmetic procedure for men, with a 400 increase % of treatments administered since 2000. By 2029, Future Market Insights forecasts the global market for men’s skin care products to reach $28.3 billion. Celebrity-backed or not, there’s money to be had. And where there is money to be made, you can be sure to find men.
What gives skincare products a star factor?
What these famous men have in common could come down to fame, capital, relationships, and day-to-day jobs. If an A-lister has a hero quality about them — say, great hair like Keanu Reeves or youthful skin like Pharrell — then research indicates consumers are more likely to pay top dollar to get their likeness, or something close. “Ultimately, celebrities are seen as tastemakers and authority figures for many consumers,” says Phillip Wong, who co-founded men’s wellness brand Hawthorne with friend Brian Jeong. “But you like it done in a way that feels authentic to who they are as people and honest to where they are in their own personal skincare journeys.”
The price ranges and products themselves under each brand vary — from $385 serums to $12 aftershave balms (and, of course, merchandising). However, one term seems to set them apart from other skincare lines on the market: genderless. Perhaps a marketing ploy or a serious call to action, it’s not a footnote but an important focal point in every brand’s messaging, from its websites to packaging and social media. .
Celebrity-backed or not, there’s money to be had. And where there is money to be made, you can be sure to find men.
David Yi, founder of men’s beauty and grooming site Very Good Light and his skincare compensates for good light, is curious but remains nonpartisan. “It is powerful that these men throw more expressive tools,” Yi says. “On the one hand, it allows other men to participate in beauty as well. On the other hand, it creates this idea that in order to participate, you need others to ensure that what you are doing is socially or socially acceptable.”
The term asexual, while powerful in theory, is a bit sticky. When it comes to our skin health, does that mean it works for everyone? For sensitive skin, oily skin, combination, dry and acne-prone skin? As brands evolve, the precision or inclusiveness of language can be a deciding factor between formulas that work for every skin type or just want to be loved by everyone. Launching a product for as many consumers as possible is not limiting and has little to do with sex. While saying “genderless” or “for everyone” might sound nice, it could really mean it’s not really for everyone.
Is the face behind a brand enough?
Few famous faces have usurped their Hollywood fame with their business endeavors like, say, Kylie Jenner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna, or Jessica Alba. In fact, the sheer surprise and delight that a celebrity makeup or skincare line turns out to be actually good more often than not, if not always, becomes its selling point beyond shade ranges or formulas. And platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube — in addition to old-fashioned word-of-mouth tactics — help convince others that a night oil from Kim Kardashian is better than something you’d find at the drugstore, for a myriad of reasons beyond their star status. Yi insists there must be more to the story than just a familiar face.
“The most compelling brand founder stories are the ones you can relate to, see yourself in,” Yi says. “It’s even harder for these brands to build communities when celebrities are also limited in the amount of time they can devote to building one. If a celebrity decides to start a beauty brand, they should do so humbly, by listening to industry veterans, taking the time to build community and be in it for the long haul.”
In some cases, being an influential brand founder box move the needle, despite prior knowledge of the industry. Pitt, for example, was asked by Vogue to demo his own skincare routine and laughed, admitting he didn’t really know how to clean his face properly and should be in character to succeed it. Then, before the launch of the Domain, a group of beauty entrepreneurs published an open letter begging him to leave the already crowded market. “You dear celebrities have no experience in this industry. And no, showing up for a photoshoot does not count as experience,” they wrote. “You’ve never done an internship in this industry or started out as a low-level employee. You’ll never have to haul your day’s orders to the post office or learn how to code your own site. You’ll never sleep because you don’t know how you’re going to pay your staff or for your inventory. But you’ll be recognized because you’re a celebrity.”
But Phillip Wong, who co-founded men’s wellness brand Hawthorne with friend Brian Jeong, is not at risk. “I don’t think anyone has the right to play keeper,” Wong said. “There should always be a level of awareness and tact for anyone starting a new business – celebrity or not – and they need to be aware of how it positively affects their industry. I too had no experience in the world of beauty before I started my business — but sometimes the most beautiful ideas come out of this novelty.”
The path to follow
One way for celebrities to put their money where they talk would be to support existing or emerging brands, Yi posits. “At a time when capital is not widely granted – when women, LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC entrepreneurs are passed on by venture capitalists – it would be a nice gesture for celebrities to support existing brands with missions that go beyond sex or notoriety.” Unfortunately, this path isn’t exactly a way to increase star power when some celebrities want the accolades, attention, and credit as well as increased net worth, and being a passive investor doesn’t allow them to do so. TO DO.
Of course, ultimately, change is often affected by purchasing power, so it’s up to consumers to decide whether or not a celebrity-created, celebrity-supported, or celebrity-endorsed brand is right for them. Because, as we know in the beauty business, there are some legitimately viable and must-have products out there, especially when a celebrity-bound beautician is involved. But, now we know all too well that stamina is usually marked by a celebrity’s penchant for constantly evolving. And the health of our skin, from the inside, is not measured by fame or money either.
Image credits: Getty/Eugene Gologursky, Emma McIntyre and Amy Sussman; Daily defense; The domain; Barker Wellness and photographic illustration by Ava Cruz