Beauty is skin deep

Updated: Sep 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
Scene 1: Last week, Mumbai witnessed a rather unusual sight at the sixth Image India show, an international beauty fair at Taj Lands End. Men outnumbered the women at this beauty workshop.

Scene 2: At BodyWorks, a Delhi-based chain of one-stop-store for grooming requirements, over 25 per cent of the customers who walk in are males.

Dont be surprised to catch your neighbour getting his back waxed at that unisex salon round the corner. For, far away from the arc lights, the Indian metrosexual is actually Mr Average Guy personified. In fact, the ranks are swelling to include not just the likes of models, film stars, and trendy CEOs but even middle managers, salesmen, and fuddy-duddy husbands of old.

Sure, vital stats are hard to come by but this is a trend which the beauty industry is vouching for. Today, even Indian companies have started laying stress on proper grooming and are introducing grooming classes as part of their training programmes, chirps Sandhya Chipalkkati, managing director, Conferences and Exhibition, which organises the Image India show. And, its this buzz surrounding the well-groomed man which is pulling in new converts.

Take, for instance, 23-year old Delhi-based Nitin Sen, who headed off to the local salon for a manicure and facial. He admits to having toyed with his mums moisturising lotion, and then one day opted for the real deal to impress a potential employer. It was just before my first-ever job interview, he confesses, and I wanted to look neat and smart. Conveying the right image is very important, especially when youre marketing yourself as a worthy hire, he explains.

And then, as if to justify the Rs 600-tab, he adds, Its expensive, and ok, maybe my girlfriend isnt worth it, but a potential employer definitely is! Now hes hooked, promising to return for the whole enchilada which includes a pedicure and body wax! That feeling of being pampered is worth every paisa, he exclaims.

Its the Nitins of India who are fast becoming the new poster boys for the industry. They belong to the middle-upper middle class strata, are boldly breaking free from stereotypes, are daring to experiment with beauty aids without a trace of self-consciousness, and are willing to shell out decent money in the bargain. So, you have manicures and pedicures vying for a share of the R&R budget pie with gym gear and DVDs. And, the personal bathroom closet is beginning to fill up with exfoliating scrubs and undereye creams.

Raring to tap this segment are international beauty companies such as Clarins, Nivea, and American Crew. Says Aneeta Gupta, managing director of Beautique, a company that markets brands such as Jergens, Sally Hansen, American Crew etc in India: Even while salons attracted a large cross-section of male customers, there were very few dedicated mens brands available.

It was to plug this gap that Paris-based Clarins launched a nine-product mens range earlier this month comprising moisturising gels and balms, shaving gels, a

Shave Ease, that can be used on its own or with a shave gel for a smooth shaving experience, hair & body shampoo, antiperspirants, an instant energizer that promises to immediately refresh tired skin called Fatigue Fighter and an undereye serum designed to fix dark circles! Soft, smooth and blemishless skin, in this case, can cost you anything between Rs 750-1,600 per product.

Almost simultaneously, American Crew too launched its 30-product strong range in Mumbai. Its portfolio includes the regular stuff such as shampoos, conditioners, styling & shaving gels and creams, to the more exotic shine tonics, soothing gels, mens only moisturisers, body wash and exfoliating scrubs. The entire range is priced competitively between Rs 300-700, essentially to widen the usage of such specialised products.

But even as the Indian man is venturing to the beauty store, he may not be finding his feet therein yet. For, research conducted by Clarins reveals that no less than 50 per cent of mens beauty products are bought by women! Anyone for holding beginners classes for the new metrosexual