5 new brands are attempting to redefine ‘men’s grooming’

Harry’s is probably the best and recent example of how a company can be built into a multi-billion dollar success.

After all, Harry’s, which was founded in 2013 by Adam Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider, sold to Edgewell (which owns brands like Shick and Bulldog) for a reported $1.37 billion. The brand, which was going blade-to-blade with rival Dollar Shave Club, acquired by Unilever in 2016 for $1 billion now dwarfs that sale and is one of the biggest acquisitions by any brand in recent history.

SEE MORE: Skincare is the new social currency

With the Harry’s business in mind, brands are clamoring to become the next big thing in grooming. Now that shaving and the beard category has simmered, the skincare is now suddenly red hot again. No surprise as the men’s beauty business is on the rise and conglomerates from Unilever, P&G, Estee Lauder to L’Oreal still haven’t launched exciting newness in years. Though Research and Markets reports that the men’s market will hit $78.9 billion by 2023, it’s new brands that seem to be leading this charge. That means in under four years alone, multiple new men’s brands will cash in, by being put to test on the market, and acquired in the same way.

But for every Harry’s, are hundreds of men’s grooming brands that never make it past their first year. So how does a brand get through to the end consumer? Very Good Light reached out to five men’s skincare brands that launched this year to see what they’re doing to get rise to the top. Each of them is trying to their best to say something different, create conversations, while attempting to capture a “new” men’s consumer. Here’s what they’re doing:

Koa

Koa

Founders: Hiro Shinn and Ty McLaren, NYC

The brand: “Koa means brave or courageous in Hawaiian and is also an ancient tree, from which the first surfboards and outrigger canoes were made. We’ve throw out the old rulebook when building our brand and our name is a nod to that.”

Backstory: Both Hiro and Ty were in the tech and finance worlds, which they say gave them the confidence to become entrepreneurs. “Working with technology companies showed us that young people can build businesses that challenge the status quo!” they say. After 2 years of building the brand and testing formulas for 18 months, the brand launched this year. “We spent a f—ing long time getting our products to a place we are proud of,” they say.

Koa

Demographic: Mid-20’s, to Gen Z men with 20% of customers being women.

The range: Priced from $18 for a cleanser to $27 for an SPF. The founders say the brand’s tinted SPF and Balancing Toner have been products they’ve received the most feedback with.

Hit product: The brand’s Balancing Toner pads have a blend of AHAs and BHAs to encourage cell turnover as well as Zinc PCA to help control oil. 

Their take one men’s beauty:“Remember the Axe Effect commercial? We hate that this is still how grooming is presented to guys,” the founders say. “It’s still that brands present as hyper-macho to overcome stigma. Grooming is about meditation, practice and self-respect.”

For more: livingkoa.com

Huron

Huron

Founder: Matt Mullenax, CEO and Matt Teri, chief development officer, NYC

The brand: Affordable line of products that are 100% vegan, sulfate, paraben, cruelty, silicone, phthalate and aluminum-free.

The range: Huron’s initial line of men’s personal-care products includes an invigorating and deodorizing body wash, a mildly exfoliating and super-fresh daily face wash, a lightweight, intensely hydrating face lotion and a cooling and tightening eye stick.

Backstory: Matt Mullenax named the company after the street in Chicago he lived on in his 20’s. “It was when my skin was arguably at its worst and my frustration with the hole in this category – the lack of personal care that made sense at non-offensive prices – was most palpable.” Matt Teri worked in men’s grooming and personal care at Lab Series and Tom Ford Beauty. Matt Mullenax was at Bonobos where he developed his skill sets in the direct-to-consumer market.

Huron

Demographic: Pre-teen customers to men in their 60’s who want “premium quality within price parameters.”

Hit products: Body wash, face wash, face lotion and Eye Stick, all under $20.

Their take on beauty: “Today, there’s a different mindset around health, wellness and fitness especially among guys,” Matt Mullenax says. “Taking care of yourself, body mind and skin is progressive.”

For more: usehuron.com

Disco

Disco

Founder: Benjamin Smith, founder, Austin

The brand: “A clean skincare line created for the man who wants to upgrade his skincare regimen, simplify the process and put his routine on autopilot.”

Backstory: Disco comes from the “feeling of living in the moment and hypnotic rhythm,” says Benjamin, a successful entrepreneur. In college, he launched two boutique fitness gyms, which he scaled and sold. He decided to launch Disco next after seeing that not one brand had his trust for all of his skincare needs. “I started Disco out of personal frustration,” he says. “The options available to me weren’t created with my needs in mind, riddled with ingredients I never heard of or were too feminine, which ended up being a concern across men.”

Disco

Demographic: Men 24-38 who “make self-care a convenient and daily habit,” he says. “We’re on a mission to normalize self-care for the average man.”

The range: Seven products across face and body, from a stick cleanser, $16, to a clean deodorant of the same price.

Hit products: The Face Cleanser Stick has been popular. “[It] draws bacteria, chemicals and dirt to the surface of the skin to achieve a flawless complexion and fight acne.”

Their take one men’s beauty:“Men are having much more of an open dialogue about health and wellness, in addition to educating themselves on the products they’re consuming,” he says. “Because of this increased awareness, we’re seeing a demand for clean and transparent products – which is what Disco stands for.”

For more: Letsdisco.co

Soft

Soft skincare

Founders: Patrick Dolezal, Emily Farra, James O’Dwyer, NYC

The brand: The word “soft” has a dual meaning, says James, one of the brand’s co-founders. “It has traditionally been considered an insult to men. Not so long ago, if you weren’t ‘masculine enough,’ or you showed any sort of emotion, you were ‘soft.’ But being soft is great and we’re hoping to redefine what the word means to men and subvert it.”

Backstory: The three co-founders became friends in college at Indiana University and moved to NYC for careers. Emily became a fashion reporter at Vogue, James works in tech, and Patrick was in the field of biology. Two years ago James and Patrick became interested in skincare but were disheartened by the lack of options for men. With a mantra of self-care, the three set out to launch a product that wasn’t hypermasculine.

Demographic: Teens to late 30’s, interested in the message of modern masculinity.

Soft skincare

The range: A Moisture Mask priced at $36, and a Ritual Set for $42, which includes Palo Santo and a Soft-branded matchbook.

Hit product: With one SKU, the Moisture Mask is fragranced with light ginger notes as well as created with EU standards, excluding 1,400 toxic ingredients.

Their take one men’s beauty: The Soft guy is “confident, smiling, diverse, happen to have great skin,” says Emily. “All of the guys we worked with told us they’d never done a shoot like this before,” with flowers, wearing pastels, posing in casual ways. “We’re hoping the branding and price point is approachable.”

For more: besoft.nyc

ASYSTEM

ASYSTEM

Founders: Oli Walsh and Josh LeVine, LA

The brand: A wellness brand that incorporates supplements alongside skincare products. The name comes from “a system” for guys to look, feel and perform their bests. “We men are simply creatures,” says Josh. “We like routine within our lives.”

Backstory: Both co-founders have had extensive experience with lifestyle brands. Josh co-founded Frame and skincare brand, Davi, while Oli co-founded Wednesday, an agency. The two became friends over a beer and considered starting a new business in 2017.

asystem

Demographic: “We’re trying to build a brand for men across all walks of life,” says Josh. “All men deserve to be the best versions of themselves.”

The range: Supplements and skincare come together in what they call an Inside-Outside program, “TotalBody.” “It’s designed to optimize men from the inside out, in the easiest way possible. It retails for $119 for a one-time purchase or $99 monthly.

Hit products: The brand wants to be experiential as well, building a community around wellness and health. They’ve collaborated with Y7 Yoga, UnPlug meditation, Rhone, MyoDetox and more.

Their take one men’s beauty: “Men have been underserved in this space for years,” says Oli. “What ‘betterment’ means to us, is simply the notion that when you are at best, everone around you wins.”

For more: asystem.com

Header photo provided by Justin Hollar for Soft Skincare

There’s a new startup that wants to easily cure your migraines.

A few times a month I get a really bad headache.

It’s triggered by technology, light, dehydration – or all of the above – and forces me to go into hiding for a few hours. Not until recently did I discover that some of these headaches were actually migraines, pain so debilitating that when triggered, can disrupt my entire day. But my migraine isn’t as bad as my sister, Jamie’s, whose head throbs throughout the day even after taking a few migraine pills or my friend Ben, who takes preventative medicine so that he can live a relatively normal life. Mine mostly throbs for a few hours, dissipates and then goes away in less than 48 hours.

SEE ALSO: Does this new Lord Jones CBD oil work or is it just cool? 

Which is one reason why a new startup called Cove, from Thirty Madison – the same company that Keeps is under – is now readily available. The company is all about migraine treatment through affordable solutions and seeing a doctor over a virtual consultation. The brand, which launched a few months ago, is the brainchild of Steven Gutentag and Demetri Karagas, ex-Google employees who launched Keeps after also launching a successful home cleaning service company. The two hope that Cove will help solve migraine treatment altogether – something that over 36 million people suffer from.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, it’s scarily common, with a billion people worldwide suffering from migraines every year – now the third biggest disease in the world. Research has found that genetic, sex, environmental factors such as the weather, can all play a role in your migraine pain while others have found that chemical imbalances in the brain can also be involved.

Migraines are also one of the oldest recorded ailments, with Egyptians having recorded their own painful headaches as far as 1200 B.C. Hippocrates, the Greek physician, observed in 400 B.C. how flashing lights, blurred vision can provoke a migraine. The very term, comes from the Latin word “hemicranial” meaning “half skull” a term that describes pain felt across one side of the head.

One of the problems both Steven and Demetri want to solve is making migraine consultations and treatment as easy as possible. The brand’s name, Cove, perfectly describes what the company is trying to do. “A cove is a protected place and shelter from the tumultuous sea,” says Steven to Very Good Light. “We wanted to convey a sense of safety and relief to our customers, migraine sufferers who’ve struggled to find support or a treatment plan.”

What both found in their research was that healthcare was “fractured and disconnected” with consumers responsible for their care. Meaning, if your insurance doesn’t cover a certain drug or if it doesn’t come in generic, you could be paying insane amounts for medicine. “Cove is bringing all of the components of treatment and care together as a single brand to give both customers and doctors a holistic view of and control over migraine care,” Steven says.

It all works through a virtual consultation from your phone. It’s pretty standard asking for your personal information, your triggers, how many times you get a migraine. But it also has a video component where you’re required to film yourself closing your eyes while touching your nose. Personally, it felt kind of embarrassing and awkward AF to know someone would see this, but allows doctors to see if there’s a bigger underlying problem you’re experiencing.

Which comes to many doctors who are skeptical – and fearful – of over-the-phone diagnoses. In an article in Forbes last year, doctors talked about how dangerous they felt this could be. “I don’t see how a telemedicine evaluation can completely rule out the possibility of an underlying dangerous cause of headache,” said Dr. Elizabeth Loder, chief of the division of headache and pain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard. “The rare times where they’re wrong, it could be really dangerously wrong.”

The brand came back with their own statement saying that Cove was simply the first step in migraine relief.  “The Cove consultation, developed in consult with neurologists and headache experts, delves extensively into questions around each patient’s headache history and symptoms, among other things,” they said. “This is designed to identify potential cases that may require additional in-person testing.”

With all of that considered, Cove does provide real relief at affordable prices. Consultations are $30 with a real professional, while all drugs are generic, like naproxen, sumatriptan or riztriptan are all $25 a month. First month is free for new users.

While Cove is a pretty easy experience, since it has to do with your own personal health, we suggest you use it with caution. Read about the process yourself and discuss this with a physician before proceeding. “We first recommend speaking with your Cove physician for treatments specific to your migraine conditions,” Demetri tells us. “Consumers can also manage their migraines by finding ways to cope with stress and stressors in their life, learning more about their migraine triggers, and developing a consistent sleep routine.” Actually pinpointing your migraine trigger, well, that sounds like a headache.

To get Cove, head here.

Why are brands suddenly obsessing over your balding head?

(Hair loss is a big business. Photo courtesy Hims)

The thinner the hair, the bigger the pocket.

At least, that’s the thinking behind a few new startups and the VCs that have backed them, that are rushing to capitalize on the men’s hair loss market. In the past few months alone, slick new millennial brands like Keeps and Hims have bubbled into the market, introducing hair loss solutions in sexy, affordable ways. Both of their sites make addressing men’s health approachable, utilizing easy navigation bars, beautiful minimal font, and photos that are drool-worthy. They’re also educational, providing consumers answers to their everyday questions (like, WHY is this happening to me?!)

And if they look, sound and feel exactly alike, it’s because they are.

SEE ALSO: What it’s like to have erectile dysfunction as a teen

Hims and Keeps have capitalized on the expiration of medical patents from the main hair loss drugs propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (monoxidil). Back story: By law, medical patents are exclusive to brands for 20 years (eight of which go into testing). It’s only after two decades that companies can take ingredients and create their own generic drugs. Which is exactly what both brands have done.

Both brands offer the exact same generic solutions like finasteride (a pill that President Trump reportedly still uses) and monoxidil (a topical solution). Where as Keeps offers its bottle of finasteride for $25, Hims does so for $28.50. Keeps’ 5% monoxidil solution is $10 where as Hims’ is $13. What makes the brands different other than packaging? Service.

Keeps, which just launched Tuesday by co-founders Steve Gutentag and Demetri Karagas, offers a doctor consultation for free. Customers can also follow up with a doctor without charge. After, their product runs out, consumers can pay $30 for further questions. Both Steve and Demetri worked at startups for seven years before landing at Google. It wasn’t until they began experiencing hair loss themselves, spending hours upon hours of research that they decided to launch Keeps.

(Are these brands exactly the same? Both Keeps and Hims offers the same dosages of the topical hair loss solution, Minoxidil)

For Steve, being seamless is what’s core to Keeps. “Our big thing is the straightforward approach,” he says. “We want this to be super easy for guys.” Which is why there’s a subscription model attached, where guys can receive new products on a quarterly basis. 

Hims also has a subscription model and offers a monthly kit for $44. While the brand focuses on hair loss, it’s expanding to becoming a men’s health brand, offering generic drugs for erectile dysfunction and also venturing into skincare. While Keeps offers two products for hair loss, Hims also offers a daily Biotin gummy supplement ($16) as well as a DHT blocking (that is, the hormone that causes hair loss) shampoo ($11).

“The brand came about after I was talking to dozens upon dozens of guys who struggle with [hair loss] but aren’t comfortable talking about it,” says Andrew Dudum, founder of Hims. The serial entrepreneur, who’s worked in startups since he was 19, started the brand after the lack of relatable products on the market.

“Why is it that all of these products are gross and super, super expensive?” he says. “Why couldn’t there be a brand that tastes good, feels good and looks good on your bathroom counter?” Andrew says he looked at the women’s market and saw how women were not only proactive with their preventative health but had many options for well-being. “For guys, they have to have their head bleeding or break something to finally go to the doctor,” he says. “Let’s change that.”

Along with hair loss products, Hims also offers a generic version of Viagra for erectile dysfunction (which rivals the other ED startup Roman) and will be venturing into skincare in the near future.

Though it’s awesome that there are more options for guys, as for any drug, there are possible side effects. The drug finasteride (the one President Trump also uses), is undergoing a class action law suit. According to the Miami Herald, There are 1,370 people who have accused Merck, a brand that markets and sells finasteride as Propecia, who says there have been severe sexual dysfunction side effects. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration announced a label change for Propecia and Proscar, and forced the brand to warn consumers that the drug could cause “libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug.” Scary.

But that’s not stopping either brands. “We found that 1-2% of guys will have decrease in sexual drive,” Andrew tells us. “But because of the small likelihood of it happening to many guys and the big opportunity to save their hair, it’s appealing.”

The side effects, Steve says, it “definitely something to consider.”

“This is something so many guys experience, often starting younger than they expect, and they feel they have no control over,” says Steve. “Our goal is to make it easy and affordable for guys to get access to high quality care and proven treatments that can help them stop hair loss and keep their hair.”