Demand for male grooming products and services is growing rapidly on a global level, but no country can match Korea when it comes to male skin care.
According to global market researcher Euromonitor International, Korean men spent 284.6 million euros (W444.5 billion) on skin care products, such as toners and lotions, in 2010, accounting for 18 percent of global sales. This makes Korea the world's biggest market in this industry, and growth potential remains huge.
Industry insiders said the entire male cosmetics market, including makeup, hair and body products, jumped to W800 billion (US$1=W1,170) last year from W470 billion in 2006. It is expected to reach W1 trillion this year.
Beauty facilities for men are also popping up like mushrooms. Domestic cosmetics brand Amore Pacific opened a beauty shop for skin and hair care for men in the vicinity of Hongik University in March of last year. Since then, sales have risen by more than 20 percent and 1,000 men on average now visit on weekends.
The Riverside Hotel, in Seoul's affluent Gangnam area, launched a spa for men at the end of August and this is also proving a hit with health-conscious, preening customers, who can receive a health checkup and choose from a range of massages.
In the past, men in their 20s and 30s led popular men's fashion, but middle-aged men in their 40s and 50s are now emerging as big spenders, and their consumption patterns are changing the make-up of brand sales in the country.
Middle-aged men who want to shed a decade or two are becoming ever more common. The domestic market for men's fashion has already outgrown the women's clothing market due to surging sales.
Men's clothing sales stood at W4.5 trillion in 2005, compared to W6 trillion for women's clothing. But the situation was reversed last year as the men's market climbed to W7.27 trillion last year, while women spent a total of W7.10 trillion on clothes.
In particular, premium suits and designer brand watches were the main catalysts spurring the men's fashion market to catch up with the women's market. This trend has attracted more and more European brands to set up shop in Korea.
In the case of Swiss watchmaker IWC, which caters exclusively to men, last year's domestic sales jumped to W50 billion from W1 billion in 2006. Meanwhile, Italian fine fabric and clothing company Lanificio Luigi Colombo set out to secure upscale male customers as it recently opened a branch at an arcade of the Hotel Shilla.