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New Masculinity Codes in India

May 2013

By Reshma Bachwani Paritosh, Bangalore

Kitchen cosmetics are not new to Indian consumers. The practice of mixing up ingredients from the grocery cabinet and smearing them over the face and hair was a part of growing up for everyone. Of late, a number of mainstream personal care brands have capitalized on the larger trend towards health and well being and made their formulations appear more natural. Garnier recently introduced a face wash using Neem that is a native herb known for its antiseptic properties.

With ingredients becoming the all-important differentiator, organizations have begun to bottle exotic fruits and herbs. For consumers, it has meant not having to compromise on the do-good aspects of a feel-good product. If it is good enough to eat, it must surely make skin sense. Though currently there is no way of differentiating between products that are truly natural and the ones that are nature-inspired, brands that walk the talk could command a premium in the future.

The phrase "fairer sex" may soon need to be dropped from the lexicon with the market for men’s grooming products growing faster than the category as a whole. What perhaps trigged off this trend was a FMCG company launching a specialized fairness cream for men-- Fair and Handsome-- acting on the insight that 25-30 percent of the fairness cream users are men. Other marketers followed suit. Communication reinforced that these products were engineered for guys. A higher disposable income, changing masculinity codes reflected through celebrities proudly displaying clean-shaven chests further increased the acceptability of such products. The present generation of men have moved beyond shaving products and deodorants and are now using a gamut of specialized products, such as fairness and anti-spot creams, under-eye gels and face washes. And if you thought this beauty was just skin deep, Garnier PowerLight has paved the way by associating itself with a worthy cause—providing electricity to a village. Who knows in a few years, with this demographic segment of metrosexuals ageing, anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams could be the next rave in the dynamic male skin care products category.

Irrespective of the new waves, one thing that remains unchanged is the Indian obsession with fair skin. If we go by the number of new launches from multivitamin and natural variants to winter care creams, we have reason to believe, [it’s] only getting stronger. As this market matures, the interesting development to watch out is merging product and category boundaries with consumers seeking and brands offering multiple benefits one of which would be fairness. Vaseline and Nivea deodorants for instance now have whitening variants. Brands like Olay also offer specialized benefits like instant fairness.

We are seeing a democratization of beauty in India. The earlier belief that one was born beautiful has given way to constructed beauty that can be bought off the shelf.

Health & Fitness
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Lakme Strawberries & Cream face product
Dove's rose and almond oil hair elixir
Traditional rose water treamtent advertised in a fairness product

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