By Jane Han
There was a time when men shied away from applying plain old lotion on their face, but, today, even micro-fine pearl enriched tinted shimmer powder doesn't seem to be enough to keep up with their grooming needs.
And this is straight men we're talking about.
Recent trends have shown that like women, men too want to look beautiful, even if it means dabbing on some colored foundation, eyebrow shadow and lip gloss.
So why the sudden desire to look pretty?
``It only helps to look fresh, clean and confident to beat the competition, especially in today's economy,'' said Kim Jin-ho, a brand manager of Iope, a domestic brand manufactured by AmorePacific, the country's leading cosmetics firm.
In a survey of 802 men, lope demonstrated that more than 80 percent think looking tidy gives their performance an extra boost, ultimately taking them further in their career.
The majority of respondents' top items of purchase were lotion and toner ― relatively simple skincare essentials ― but the younger age groups in their 30s showed more interest in functional products to fight acne and improve their overall complexion.
This emerging consumer crowd is powering a consistent growth in sales. Industry data shows that the domestic men's cosmetics market totaled 610 billion won in 2008, recording a 17-percent jump from the previous year.
Although the still-young market generates only a fraction of sales compared to that of women, companies say they're confident that the male market has more room for expansion.
One main reason, Kim says, is because it isn't taboo anymore for a man to care about his looks, which is why beauty-conscious men who are both masculine and stylish are no longer grooming with their bathroom doors shut.
This means marketing is key to winning over male shoppers who are ready to open up their wallets.
``We have to be extra cautious with how we approach our male consumers,'' said a VOV official, a local brand which recently started ramping up its men's cosmetics marketing by signing up popular actor Lee Jun-ki.
She explained that ads are designed so that they don't intimidate first-time users.
``The whole point is to be approachable,'' she said, adding that many companies are holding how-to sessions at stores to acquaint shy men to unfamiliar products such as shine-reduction powders and blemish correctors.
Much of the ``stuff'' comes off as new, but Choi Yu-na, a brand manager at Biotherm, says that more men will eventually feel comfortable picking out cosmetics that help represent who they are.