LONDON -- Paul Bopp is not a metrosexual.
The 38-year-old father of four played football in college, loves bourbon and never pays more than $20 for a haircut. Yet every evening, he applies wrinkle-fighting Olay skin cream to battle the crow's feet around his eyes.
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"It's 25 bucks for a bottle, but it's worth it," said Bopp, a wealth manager in Columbia, S.C. "My dad looked like he was 60 when he was 42. I don't want that. The days of being a Neanderthal are over."
Men like Bopp are proof that guys' grooming products -- hair serums, eye rollers, exfoliating scrubs -- are reaching a wider audience than ever. Global sales of male toiletries other than razors, blades and shaving cream will rise 5 percent to $17.5 billion this year, surpassing the shaving segment for the first time, according to Euromonitor. Unilever, with its Axe and Dove brands, has 26 percent of the market, more than Procter & Gamble Co., Nivea maker Beiersdorf and L'Oreal combined.
That dominance has helped Unilever expand both sales and profit margins at its personal-care unit, which accounts for 36 percent of revenue and has offset the sluggish growth of its food brands. The segment's expansion -- fueled by innovation, marketing, and a growing realization that men want to do more in the morning than just shower, shave and shampoo -- has even attracted fashion designer Tom Ford, who just introduced a line of products such as a purifying mud mask.
"The key objective among all the manufacturers is turning a regime that you have to do into a ritual you want to do," said Phil White, European planning director at marketing firm Geometry Global, part of London-based advertising group WPP Plc. "They are trying to establish that ritual."
That hasn't been easy as 90 percent of men spend a half- hour or less getting ready in the morning, according to researcher Mintel. Ben Voyer, a social psychologist and marketing professor at ESCP Europe business school, said that's due to the perception that men get more attractive as they age, so they don't need to take care of their skin, and because men simply don't worry as much about how they look.
Women use cosmetics "to signal beauty and youth, which are the attributes men look for," Voyer said. "Men, on the other hand, have traditionally signaled status and wealth, the attributes women look for."
Manufacturers have found clever ways to convince guys to worry about their looks, explaining that their skin is different -- thicker, tougher, more oily -- and requires specialized products. As a L'Oreal ad once warned: "You think you're aging well? She thinks you're letting yourself go." Half of American men now use skin care products as part of their daily routine, Mintel has found.
"Six years ago, I had one shampoo, a body wash and a toothbrush and that was it," said Adam Causgrove, 29, a grant administrator in Pittsburgh, Penn. "As I've gotten older and more self-aware, I cannot begrudge anyone for wanting to put their best face forward."
Male beauty brands aren't new -- Beiersdorf introduced Nivea for Men back in 1986. These days, niche brands like Britain's Bulldog and France's Nickel, part of Inter Parfums Inc., are helping expand the market.
Both lines appeal to men by explaining in simple terms how, when and why to use their products; Nickel's revitalizing serum is called "Morning-After Rescue." And Bulldog, now sold in 13 countries, takes a cheeky swipe at Dove's Men+Care and L'Oreal's Men Expert ranges, calling them "women's brands in disguise."
Most men, though, don't mind using brands geared to women. While 70 percent of men ages 18 to 24 use facial skin care products, only two in 10 buy male-only brands, Mintel found. Causgrove, for one, swears by Crabtree & Evelyn's alcohol-free aftershave. "I don't know if it's only for women, but I get horrible razor burn and this is really good," he says.
To attract more men, mainstream brands like Nivea, Dove and L'Oreal have plowed money into new products and are paying celebrities like British actor Hugh Laurie to endorse them. Over the past five years, the share of new personal-care merchandise geared to men rose to 5.6 percent from 4.6 percent, Mintel says. L'Oreal's Men Expert line will add 15 new products this year, including a "Hydra Energetic Moisturizer" designed for faces with a few days' stubble, as more men eschew daily shaving. Sun damage, oily skin and acne are other common problems.
In-store promotions and samples help lure customers; During the European soccer championships last summer, buyers of Nivea for Men got a free England shirt. And U.S. drugstore chain Walgreen Co. featured male grooming in its stores each Saturday in June, dubbing the event "Saturdudes."
"Getting a guy to use a moisturizer or something in addition to his bar of soap is a big win for us," said Shannon Curtin, a general merchandise manager. "You want to give him something to try at a lower price so he can come back if he enjoys it."
All that activity has men talking, even under the most unlikely circumstances. Bopp recalls watching an NFL game with friends recently in an Atlanta sports bar when the topic of skin creams came up.
"Ten years ago I would have gotten laughed out of the bar," he says. "Now you can drink a beer and watch football and talk moisturizers."