Men arm themselves with anti-aging weapons

In the drive to look youthful — "distinguished" is out — guys are slathering on anti-aging lotions, potions and serums.

Prior to 2005, facial anti-agers aimed at men weren't even a blip on the male skin care scene, according to tracker Mintel. But by 2007, crease-fighters accounted for 20% of the estimated $46 million in male skin care sales.

"Men in general have shown that they are much more open to using products that enhance personal appearance, including anti-aging products," Mintel said a report on anti-aging goods in 2007.

As the war on wrinkles escalates, both high-end and mass-market personal care companies are pumping out new products. Last year, there were 53 new anti-aging skin care products for men, according to Datamonitor's Productscan Online. That was four times the launches in 2005.

This week, men's skin care company Zirh will launch its upscale Platinum collection, which includes products such as $145 Repair gel, $125 PM Rescue serum and $125 Age Defense cream. The gel "targets deep lines," the serum helps "restore the skin's youthful appearance" and the cream helps "prevent early signs of aging," Zirh says.

Their target buyer: "The guy who has an American Express black card, wears the best clothing, drives a sports car and makes above $250,000 a year in income," Zirh President Brian Robinson says.

Products for maturing skin, however, have a much broader market these days than that elite niche, particularly among baby boomers.

As the job market tightens and competition heats up, boomers "are under increased pressure in the workplace to look younger," Robinson says.

It's not just boomers: A third of men 18 to 59 say it is "very or extremely acceptable" to use anti-aging products, according to a poll recently released by magazine Men's Health. "Guys definitely want to look younger, and they're interested in having the tools to do so," says Brian Boye, fashion and grooming editor for the magazine.

While men and women have some differences in skin care needs — male skin, for instance, usually is thicker and oilier than a woman's, according to L'Oréal Paris — most "guy" anti-agers have similar active ingredients to products for women. What's very different, however, is the marketing. "You can't just take a woman's anti-aging product, put it in a blue bottle and sell it to the guys," Boye says. "Guys talk about anti-aging products much differently than women do."

To lure men, marketers try for "active" and "powerful" approaches, with words such as "fight" and "defend," Boye says. "The language isn't so much anti-aging as it is fighting bad skin or defending against age," he says.

Packaging, for example, may say "wrinkle defense" as opposed to "fine-line minimizer."

Truman's, "gentlemen's groomers" in New York City, takes a low-key tack in promoting age-fighting services such as facials and gray-concealing hair color. "We wouldn't call it an anti-aging service, but that's the main reason men are doing it," co-owner John Esposito says. Customers "will say it makes them look better, but the real reason is that it makes them look younger."

Esposito says more guys realize careful skin and hair maintenance can give them an edge: "Looking good is a competitive advantage."

Trying to sell men a version of the Fountain of Youth:

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