it’s time to come clean about the reason 65% of men don’t use face wash

When guys are young — say, as young as my two pre-teen sons — it’s more of a rhetorical question: “Did you wash your face today?”

It’s rhetorical because usually you can see the food particles, the marker marks or actual dirt on the edges of their cheeks. By the time you ask grown-up men, as a company called Tiege Hanley recently did, there’s at least a two-thirds chance the answer will be “yes.”

The Chicago-based firm’s survey of more than 1,000 men over the age of 18 not only showed, however, that the majority not only don’t use face wash, but that 11% have never even tried it!

That exclamation point you just saw was used in the press release. I’m not all that shocked.

“How many men wear a jock strap as a hat? Forty-five percent of men think that bar soap is as effective as face wash and one-fifth of men use body wash to wash their faces,” the company tut-tutted. “While it may not be obvious, most men would not want to rely on the soap that’s cleaning their armpits and private parts on their faces. Most commercial soaps have extremely high pH balances that can dry out your skin.”

Tiege Hanley, you’re absolutely right: It’s not obvious.

In fact, although I do use face wash, moisturizer and even a scrub on a semi-regular basis, I was unaware that “guys produce more collagen and sebum than women, which makes their skin thicker and oilier.” Can I admit that I had never heard of sebum?

This is by no means the first time a mens’ skin care company was struggling to attract the interest of its target audience. I remember a TV commercial (though not the advertiser), where two teens were chatting as they washed a car, and then had a highly improbable conversation about grooming.

“Man, soap’s fine for your car,” said one friend to another, holding up a sponge, “but we’re talking about your face.”

Here’s what the data doesn’t reveal: first of all, men don’t use face wash (or even wash their faces) because women don’t comment on it or pass judgment on it. Women notice if your shoes are dirty, if your clothes are rumpled and if you have a bad haircut. They might get grossed out by adult acne or really obvious blemishes, but no one swiped left on Bumble because of sebum.

Second of all, while Tiege Hanley may make great products and has registered a trademark for Uncomplicated Skin Care for Men, its “easy to follow instruction guide” involves nine steps. (This brought to mind the Greg Kinnear character in Little Miss Sunshine, who wanted to become a Tony Robbins-ish lifestyle guru but couldn’t gain traction with his 9 Step Refuse-to-Lose program.)

I actually looked at the steps, such as “Rinse Your Face,” “Dry Your Face” and “Apply Moisturizer” and never felt less like skipping my morning routine altogether.

“Our survey found that eighty percent of guys have no idea that using a skin care system formulated for men could maximize their overall results,” the company said. The problem is that many men aren’t consciously thinking about what those “results” are.

Stats won’t sell skin care, at least not to men. If the use of face wash was fun, maybe. If it’s quick, even better. Best of all, it needs to be marketed in a way that doesn’t make guys feel stupid, or gross. It should make them feel great about what they see in the mirror — both before and afterwards.

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