Gearing up for Guys

Winter often brings with it skincare challenges, and temperature is only half of the battle. Even if it's not particularly cold, depending upon where you're living, winter brings dry air and low humidity. This dryness presents challenges for the skin, and especially for men's skin, as many guys may not have a long personal history of professional skincare. Indeed, winter skin offers spas an opportunity to let men know what they've been missing and bring them into the practice of treating their skin with the respect it deserves.

During winter, men are more willing to let a bit of stubble accrue in the beard zone, at least on weekends. As spa professionals, we can capitalize on this "scruffy" moment as an opportunity to educate men about better shaves and better skincare. Explain that moisturizing the beard area before going to bed each night is a way to prepare for the closest, cleanest shave the next morning. Men have become fascinated by shaving as a grooming practice and are willing to invest time and money learning about it. Presenting a selection of shaving products—for instance, a "prep" product that makes especially wiry, tough beard hairs more cooperative—piques a man's interest and appeals to his innate problem-solving nature. Winter is also an excellent time for skin therapists to reach out to men who love winter sports and may experience windburn and sun damage, which is especially heightened as the result of snow-reflection. Creating an alliance with a local ski resort or alpine sports retailer, like offering a 20-minute Aprés Ski treatment for sunburned faces, may be a powerful way to reach active men.

The fitness and health phenomenon is a potentially rewarding gateway into marketing to men year-round and especially in winter. It is a stereotype to think that all men play sports; they don't. Many men watch sports from the comfort of the couch, bag of chips in hand, as opposed to playing and getting dirty, sweaty, and sore. However, even the most sedentary male soul has his vanity, and winter is when most of us feel our least fit, our least active, and our least attractive. Positioning healthy skin as an aspect of fitness, wellness, and, in fact, a quality of happiness itself is an appealing way to reach out to men who may be feeling a bit listless.

Remember that most men are led to their first professional skincare experience, both treatment and product, by a woman. This is true regardless of the man's age, sexual preference, cultural orientation, or any other criteria. More often than not, a woman who loves him—sister, co-worker, girlfriend, wife—leads the way. So don't overlook Valentine's Day as an opportunity to reach out to men through your female clientele. Bear in mind that Feb. 14 generally is a man's least favorite day of the year. So turn the tables and create a promotion for men that alludes to this common phenomenon, something to the effect of "Skincare for the Guilty and Undeserving."

Creating an effective brand alliance really depends upon you knowing your own community, because, of course, male clients are part of that community. Look around your area as if seeing it with new eyes. Where is there a buzz? Is it the old-school barbershop on Saturday mornings? Is it the family-style waffle house Sunday afternoons? Is it the divey nightspot with the incredible bar? Is it the taco stand in the park? Pay attention, and go where the boys are. Linking and cross-promoting with these locales, as well as gyms, health clubs, personal trainers, and organic food suppliers, are obvious ways to link with partners, which will appeal to many men and offer skin wellness packages. In these cases, as with all brand alliances, consider offering the clients of a designated business an exclusive rate on a package of three or more services, as well as a customized kit of free samples. Also consider the man who isn't interested in lifting anything heavier than a martini. Perhaps he's feeling a bit paunchy—the best tailor and menswear haberdashery in town would be natural partners for this man, because he may be in need of letting out a few seams or even purchasing some roomier new couture. The message of a special partnership program here would be "Healthy Skin—It Suits You" or "Healthy Skin is Always in Style."

Even an interest as specific as dogs offers potential for cross branding. In many communities, dog walking is part of the local fabric. Dogs need daily walks, rain or shine, and the people doing the walking form social networks. So consider teaming with your town's gourmet canine bakery, über-chic dog-grooming service, or country club kennel to reach out to obsessive male dog-lovers to create a "Skincare for Dog-Walkers" package, which addresses early-morning puffy eyes, dehydration, and sun protection.

Marketing of this kind works best on a viral level. This is good news—it means that advertising is not usually a major component. However, prepare to spend money on other media to carry the message, whether it's coasters with your website and phone number (back to that divey bar), rubber wristbands that challenge others to "touch my skin," and so on. Whatever items you decide to use as your marketing device, send a few to local newscasters, newspaper editors, city bloggers, and radio talk show hosts, and invite them to visit your skincare center for the treatment, whatever it may be. This form of grassroots PR is the best way to generate word-of-mouth on a large scale.

As consumers, men are hunters, not grazers (most women are grazers). They set out with a goal, and they stalk, target, attack, and conquer. With this in mind, shape your winter promotion to men with a particular focus in mind, based on a social activity or lifestyle choice most relevant to your community. Darts? Dogs? Bikes? Beers? Hoops? The search for the ultimate cashmere argyle socks? Pick your man, then reach out to him through his passions, because vibrant, smooth skin brings out the everyday hero in every guy. —Annet King

Annet King, who is both CIDESCO and CIBATC trained, is the director of training and development for The International Dermal Institute. Visit for more information.