My father, a retired general, has his skincare routine down pat. Face wash, separate day and night creams, a ton of sunscreen for his daily golf. I have tried offering a generic cream to use at night but he refuses to accept a morning product for the night. This is the same man who refused to let us use conditioner as children because he considered it a marketing gimmick.
It’s not just him. India is seeing a boom in the men’s beauty segment, natural perhaps in an age where we are increasingly viewing ourselves through cameras on our phones. Be it wellness and gut health or derma facials and skincare, more men are becoming interested in skincare. And it’s not just influencers, even corporate professionals have begun to consider skin maintenance as natural as shaving or getting a haircut.
From fairness creams to shaving products, beard trimmers and at-home treatments, men have a variety of products to choose from. Whether they do need a separate line of skincare products is open to debate but product launch campaigns, advertising and related content have made them aware of the importance of skincare routines.
A 2023 report on India by Mintel, a market research company, reveals that 30% of the men surveyed are interested in adding facial skincare to their routines, compared to 26% of the women. And among men aged 25-34, this number jumps to 35%.
Within this category, there is particular interest in, among other things, oil-free skin, anti-acne and scar removal products. Products that help protect skin from pollution are high on the list of desirables.
Mumbai-based Karan Sachdeva, 34, head of regional operations for the UK-based coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger, loves using skincare products with actives, to ensure a healthy-looking skin. “I love products from The Ordinary, Minimalist and pharma brands such as Bioderma and Avene. I have also tried PMD (an at-home microdermabrasion device), along with derma rollers and high-frequency treatment.”
He was introduced to skincare by his wife but now has his own rituals, including the reapplication of sunscreen. “In the realm of men’s beauty, we have gone from no information to information overload, so it does get overwhelming for us,” he admits.
Some men focus on the link between eating right and good skin. Take the case of Ranchi-based Gravit Merwara, a 25-year-old singer who suffered from acne and poor hair health for years before he figured out that the key lay in fixing his gut health.
“I had been to a lot of dermatologists; I have also been on Accutane, which gave me some mental health problems and caused a lot of hair and gut issues. After trying all the options, including doctors and expensive international products, I started looking into holistic options and began reading about gut health,” he says.
He began making his own products at home with honey and plant powders. He fixed his gut with panchakarma, an intensive Ayurvedic detox, and has since been following Ayurvedic principles in his diet, along with intermittent fasting. For skin and hair, he has moved on from DIYs, which became impractical, and uses products from Raw Beauty Wellness that claim to have minimal chemicals. He has been following this regimen for a few years and says he now has clear skin and thick hair.
Digital strategist and Delhi-based content creator Tejeshwar Sandhoo chooses protocols that suit his fast-paced lifestyle. “I want to undo all the damage I did using poor-quality skincare products over the years,” says the 32-year-old. “I am obsessed with microneedling and PRP (platelet-rich plasma), which has helped reduce my acne scars by about 60%.”
He gets regular hydra facials because he says they make his skin look fresh, and has been getting PRP for the hair since he was 24. It has helped him regenerate and preserve his strands, he says. Recently, he has started Botox to help reduce frown lines. “With our lifestyles and the kind of food we eat and the schedules we have, only products may not help you achieve your goals. Of course, I like to support my treatments with a good at-home regimen.”
Gurugram, Haryana-based Ujjwal Kapoor, 31, deputy manager, process and operations, at Leixir Dental Group, spends about ₹15,000 a quarter on products from Korean brands like Cosrx and Beauty of Joseon.
Anirudh Piratla, a 33-year-old associate chief manager at Godrej & Boyce in Mumbai, spends ₹8,000-12,000 every quarter on skincare products. He also goes for basic clean-ups and hair spas. “A lot of brands have men’s lines but I have never understood these products and therefore never chose them over mainstream cosmetics. Products should be based on skin type rather than gender.”
The Mintel report says one in five beauty products launched in India since 2022 has been targeted at men, a possible indication that India’s male grooming segment is growing faster than that of Japan (10%) and China (15%), even though the market size is smaller. According to Research and Markets, India’s male grooming industry is likely to reach $1.2 billion (around ₹9,840 crore) by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 11%.
Jaishree Sharad, a dermatologist and author of four books, including The Skincare Answer Book, sees five major reasons for this surge: awareness, easy access to products, social media, male actors endorsing products, and higher income. “When I started my practice in 2000, the number of male customers was around 5%, but from 2017 onwards there has been a huge jump and I now see an equal number of men and women patients,” she says.
One reason was the covid-19 lockdown. “When we started, we had no customers but during the pandemic we started consulting for men, usually for acne or a post-shaving rash. Additionally, we had a lot of walk-ins for sunscreen for men in their 40s and 50s, men who played tennis or golf in the morning,” says Pooja Shah Talera, an aesthetic dermatologist and founder of Kosa Wellbeing in Pune, Maharashtra. Men also order skincare products from her website, which offers a variety of high-end products. “Interestingly, while we get most orders from women from the metros, barely any men order products from the big cities. Instead, it’s the men in tier 2 cities, such as Raipur, Vadodara, Kochi and Jaipur, that make up the majority of our male customers,” says Talera.
Do men require a specific skincare line? “Not really. They can use the same products meant for women,” says Sharad. “Yes, most of them have thicker, oilier skin, so all they have to do is opt for products meant for their skin type,” she adds.
Talera, however, sees a gap in the market: “Indian men have a lot of hair so it would be good to have a serum that has actives but will not irritate shaven skin.” She identifies a second need—a face wash that won’t dry out a beard.
Vasudha Rai is a beauty journalist and author of Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes And Rituals For Beauty, Inside & Out and Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss.