Helping men enjoy makeup: Kao seeks to make category as enjoyable as hair care or fashion

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Kao says the younger male generation is force behind the boom in male make-up sales, with the firm aiming to make the category as ‘enjoyable as haircare and fashion’. ©Kao
Kao says the younger male generation is force behind the boom in male make-up sales, with the firm aiming to make the category as ‘enjoyable as haircare and fashion’. ©Kao

Related tags men's make-up men's grooming Japan Kao men's skin care

Japan's Kao says the younger generation is behind the boom in male makeup sales, with the firm aiming to make the category as ‘enjoyable as hair care and fashion’.

Recent survey results showed a 17% rise in male teenagers and young adults purchasing cosmetics in recent years.

Meanwhile data from Japan in November 2021 indicated that among Japanese men who use make-up, more than half of them wear it at least five days a week, with base make-up products, such as foundation and BB or CC cream, recording the highest usage rates.

This growing trend recently led to the birth of UNLICS, Kao’s first full-scale cosmetics brand for men, marking a significant addition to the company’s male-targeted offerings — personal care brand Success and skincare brand Men’s Biore.

UNLICS is a portmanteau of UNLIMITED and CS (abbreviation of CURIOSITY).

Although interest in men’s make-up is growing in Japan, there is still a strong stereotypical view that it is only for women. According to the survey findings, among young men who wear make-up, about 50% of them do not want others to know this.

“In Japan, there are many brands that satisfy women’s needs to enhance their beauty, but UNLICS is the first brand to respond to the needs of the beauty-conscious Generation Z men.

“Our goal is to create a society where everyone can seek and express beauty to satiate their curiosity regardless of gender, and where men can freely enjoy make-up in the same way as they would their hairstyle or fashion,” ​Yoshihide Hori, Brand Manager of UNLICS, told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​.

Fulfilling unmet needs

With decades of experience in making men’s skincare products, Kao aims to provide “emotional and functional product values” to Gen Z men. UNLICS has also worked with three of the top male beauty influencers in Japan throughout the process of brand creation, from product development to marketing strategies. 

A study conducted by the Kao Research Laboratories in 2020 found that the skin of men in their 20s contains less moisture than that of similarly aged women. This group is also more prone to moisture loss, and tends to have redness on skin.

Their reasons for applying skincare and make-up are to ‘feel confident and motivated’, and ‘to be told that they have beautiful skin’. To them, the ideal skin is soft, bright, and smooth with no visible pores. However, many of them face difficulties in finding the right products — among both men’s and women’s brands — to attain those qualities,” ​said Hori.  

UNLICS’s products debuted on its online retail site, Rakuten and Amazon in December 2022. The line-up includes UNLICS IMPRESS COLOR WEAR, a clarifying make-up base that is available in four hues to suit various skin tones and achieve myriad colour-control effects. 

This month, a series of five serums catering to different skin concerns will be rolled out, alongside a reusable face towel mask.

In addition, UNLICS has launched a user-experience platform called UNLICS BEAUTY DIG-TIONARY, whereby users get to choose the look they want to achieve from a selection of 20 different profiles.

They can then explore beauty techniques suited for them by taking 180-degrees rotating headshots and images of their skin via high-resolution zoom. UNLICS products will be recommended to the users, based on their individual needs.

When asked on product development plans, Hori said that the brand is focusing on base makeup and skincare for a start, but does not rule out adding point make-up products to the line-up at a later stage.

“The core target of UNLICS is Gen Z men, but the range also includes moisturising, firming and blemish-care products that can be used by middle-aged and older men as well. In the future, we plan to introduce the brand to China and the rest of Asia,”​ he revealed.  

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