Updated: Feb 26
In 2017, Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder at Coresight Research produced a study on behalf of Fung Global Retail & Technology. The study, which used data from Euromonitor predicted that by the end of 2020 the male grooming product industry would be worth around $60.7 billion.
That’s right. Your male customers are increasingly wanting to look their best and take care of their skin.
Granted, that prediction was made before Covid19 and the resulting economic issues that followed. We still can’t ignore however the fact that the male grooming trend was booming, and consumers were hungry for innovative new products. The industry was also showing no signs of slowing down before the pandemic hit and further growth was to be expected.
All of this was quietly taking place alongside an equally impressive explosion in interest for CBD and other phytocannabinoids appearing in a broad range of health and wellness products.
Understandably, the male grooming sector will take some time to get back on its feet and consumers simply won't shop the same way again, but the emergence of these two powerful trends has undoubtedly given birth to a plethora of opportunities for forward-looking brands to take advantage of.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I think there is a strong case to suggest CBD is one of the main opportunities to give the male grooming and barbershop industry a strong finish to 2020 and a supercharged start to next year.
The recent pandemic has fundamentally changed how people view skincare, CBD, and their own health and wellbeing. Male grooming is a significant slice of a beauty industry that generates $500bn in sales per year and accounts for millions of jobs. It’s important that all sectors in the industry take the time to review how consumer habits and spending will change.
A good example of this is the shift in popularity from cosmetic enhancement (things like makeup) as consumers become more interested in making the best of what they have by enhancing their skin rather than covering it.
Thanks to recent events, savvy consumers have started caring more about what they put into their system via their skin and have spent lockdown researching new ways to take care of it.
As a result, they have filled up their vocabulary with new terms such as the Epidermal Endocannabinoid System (EES), Cannabidiol (CBD), and Cannabinoid Receptors (CB1R and CB2R), and so on.
Now I know what you are thinking, what on earth have all of those terms got to do with skincare application?
Well, stay tuned. We will be providing content on each of these topics in great length but for the purpose of this blog, I wanted to give you a broad overview to demonstrate that Cannabis has undeniable potential to create amazing skin and beard care products.
In fact, the main purpose of introducing you to CBD, the EES and the likes of CB1R and CBD2R receptors is to show Cannabis’ huge potential for skin health and demonstrate that Cannabis and cosmetics are a match made in heaven.
An Intro to the Epidermal Endocannabinoid System
Below is an image of our Epidermis, the outermost part of the skin, which is formed by several layers of epithelial cells called keratinocytes. The epidermis forms a compact sheet providing the body’s waterproof, physical protection barrier against UV irradiation, microbial invasion, extreme heat and cold, allergens, chemicals, and more.
The next layer of the skin is the home of several “mini-organs” that we call appendages.
Constantly rejuvenating follicles produce hair, while sebaceous glands supply oily sebum to the skin’s surface, reinforcing the waterproof barrier of the epidermis. Glands secrete sweat to help regulate the body’s temperature.
These “mini-organs” also produce various hormones, such as steroids and Vitamin D, and play a role in the skin’s immune defense. In addition to providing a passive physical barrier against infection, the skin also contains elements of the innate and adaptive immune systems which allow it to actively fight infections.
So how can cannabinoids help support our Epidermis?
Well, did you know that the skin actually produces its own Endocannabinoid Molecules?
The skin produces endocannabinoid molecules such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG. These endocannabinoids are constantly released in specific amounts, depending on the “healthy need” of the organ, resulting in the skin’s cannabinoid tone.
Endocannabinoid molecules are synthesized by several cell types in the epidermis, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands.
(bearded guys - these are your internal beard oil soldiers - more on this later!).
What you might not know is the skin’s cannabinoid tone constantly affects all compartments of the skin, as endocannabinoids act on various cell types and contribute to their healthy physiological function. That to me is nothing short of incredible!
Phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis interact with the EES in a remarkably similar way. It's almost like our internal Epidermal Endocannabinoid System was designed specifically for cannabis phytocannabinoids (cannabis oil compounds).
CB1 and CB2 Receptors in Your Skin
So, we know that endocannabinoids can act on various receptors in the body and the “classic” CB1 and CB2 receptors are present in practically all cell types of the skin.
So, what does that mean?
Well, let’s explore in more detail the effects of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) on the epidermis.
The activation of cannabinoid receptors by endocannabinoids on epidermal cells regulates normal function of the skin as a barrier. When CB1 or CB2 are engaged, these functions of epidermal cells are modified – whether through proliferation, differentiation, or apoptosis – which are all important processes for the healthy physical defence of the body and suppression of inflammation in the epidermis.
This is all well and good but how can we harness the Epidermal Endocannabinoid system to improve and take better care of our skin?
Effects of EES on hair follicles
Hair follicles exhibit a lifelong cycle of growth, regression, and resting phases. When the hair follicle’s CB1 receptors are activated, the cell division, or proliferation, of the “mini-organ” stops and several cells die; this results in inhibited hair growth and a longer regression phase, also known as catagen. Modulation of EES activity in the hair follicle may be therapeutically promising for hair growth disorders, such as unwanted hair growth or baldness.
Effects of ECS on hair follicles - hairy-faced men pay attention to this!
Hair follicles exhibit a lifelong cycle of growth, regression, and resting phases. When the hair follicle’s CB1 receptors are activated, the cell division, or proliferation, of the “mini-organ” stops and several cells die; this results in inhibited hair growth and a longer regression phase, also known as catagen. Modulation of ECS activity in the hair follicle may be therapeutically promising for hair growth disorders, such as unwanted hair growth or baldness.
CBD to reduce the likelihood of a patchy beard anyone? Yes, please!
Effects of EES on sebaceous glands
Personally speaking, as a guy who is always sporting a beard of some kind - either a giant messy one or a short and neat one, I wanted to expand on the sebaceous glands a bit as noted above. When you are growing a beard, it's important to understand the importance of the sebaceous glands and sebum oil production towards a healthy beard and skin.
If you have started growing a beard, then wondered why you can’t progress past the first few weeks, then shave it off after you succumb to the dreaded ‘beard itch’, pay close attention.
It may be because your beard estate is just too big for your poor little internal beard oil production glands to keep up. That is why beard oil is not a fad or a hipster trend but rather necessary to help those sebaceous glands out and keep your beard and skin from going brittle and sore.
Physiological cannabinoid tone is key to the healthy biology of the sebaceous glands. When endocannabinoids or their receptors are not properly produced or functioning, the glands are unable to secrete enough lipid-containing sebum, and the waterproof skin barrier may be weakened, increasing the potential for microbes to invade the body.
If the cannabinoid tone of the glands is kept in balance, it contributes to homeostasis and healthy skin. If you have beard hair falling out, skin feeling red or raw, flaky even - now you know why!
So, if it's not obvious, beard oil is a really important tool to have in your quest for an Instagram worthy face forest. Now add CBD into the mix to help regulate those “mini-skin-organs “and you really are giving those glands the best possible chance of performing to the best of their ability.
That’s the science overview over for now. Time permitting I shall endeavor to blog about those subjects on their own and in more detail but hopefully, that gives you a good overview of what the Epidermal Endocannabinoid System (EES), Cannabinoid Receptors (CB1R and CB2R), and the sebaceous glands are. And of course, why you should care.
I’ll be sharing the sources for all of this information at the end of the blog plus a shout out to an author of a book I just finished which also inspired and helped me write it. Her book is on Amazon, so I’ll share the link with you all as well.
In a COVID World, Should Male Grooming Brands Be Exploring CBD Products and Developing New Services?
Well, you have heard the case for Cannabis and it’s potential to create fantastic male grooming products with true efficacy.
But is now the right time for brands to be innovating and launching new product ranges and different services? Especially considering the recent pandemic, huge shifts in consumer behaviour and arguably some of the biggest uncertainty businesses have faced.
Launching new products and services in the current climate is a bold move, but in years to come may prove to be a winning strategy.
Let’s explore some of the reasons why…
Should companies evolve to suit new trends in consumer behaviour?
The short answer may be yes or fail. Harsh but realistic.
You only need to read the recent comments from the UK’s fastest-growing online grocer Ocado to validate that prediction. Here is what Acado CEO Tim Steiner recently stated on the BBC website:
"As a result of Covid-19, we have seen years of growth in the online grocery market condensed into a matter of months; and we won't be going back."
"We are confident that accelerated growth in the online channel will continue, leading to a permanent redrawing of the landscape of the grocery industry worldwide."
*Full article link at the end of the blog.
Statements like this make it very clear that consumers' habits are changing and crucially, changing very quickly. The key to survival and growth is the ability to adapt and truly understand your consumer.
Now is not the time to batten down the hatches and wait for things to go ‘back to normal’. Some of the changes in the economy, for better or worse, may very well be permanent regardless of the pandemic being eventually overcome!
What Does COVID Mean for Male Grooming Brands & Barber Shops?
If you have a brick and mortar barbershop or male grooming business now is the time to amend your website, adapt your business plan and bolt on an e-commerce element to boost your chances of more trade, and in turn more income.
If you fail to adapt and stick to the way it has always been, it could be the start of the end. The phrase ‘that's the way it has always been done’ is one of the most dangerous phrases a business owner can mutter out loud.
Having run my own barbershop and sold male grooming products online into over 17 countries I have found that some of the best lessons for our industry can be served up by exploring its history.
“Could history be teaching us that men will continue with covid-cuts and breadline-beard trims at home for the foreseeable future?!”
We may currently be seeing a big and potentially permanent change in people's pampering habits post covid. The question I have for you is this if people stop coming into the shop as often and you do not sell supporting products online then how do you keep income coming in?
To emphasize my point that male grooming businesses that stick to service only model post covid could be a disastrous one you only need to look at the history behind the great depression, beards, and Gillette razors to recognize a powerful trend that could be on the horizon again.
Amidst the great depression of the 20th century along with the timely introduction of the first Gillette safety razor, financially depleted men made the prudent decision to abandon trips to the local barbershops. Almost overnight men resorted to staying at home to maintain their barnets and face foliage and barbershops really struggled, and let's not forget that the barbershop revival didn’t fully kick back in again until relatively recently.
Now unfortunately those business owners never had the internet-of-things (IOT) at their disposal, which meant they really did not have a plan-B when the proverbial hit the fan. In 2020 business owners don’t have that excuse. With the proliferation of cheap digital tools and accessible e-commerce platforms now is the time for retail businesses to adapt. Even UK discount retailer Poundland announced recently it is trialing a home delivery service as part of a package of measures designed to ensure resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Barry Williams, Poundland managing director, is well known for being thorough and shrewd. He doesn't mess about when it comes to critical thinking and taking affirmative action to protect the financial stability of his firm. So, if the blueprint for the necessary change needed to survive is being written in the public domain for all to see, the big question is...how will your business respond?
With your customers taking care of their hair, beards, and skin at home, how do you plan to reach them?
What new and innovative products can you introduce to them that will improve their new ‘at-home’ experience?
One thing is for sure, if you want to generate new revenue streams and offer your customers products they can buy online and use at home then you need to introduce something that demonstrates true benefits to their health and effectively educate them on how to use it.
Perhaps the answer is to introduce your beloved clients to something new, the benefits of CBD skincare?
Perhaps the answer to maintaining a connection with them is through education, videos and an online presence?
In case you were wondering…. When I ran my barbershop and introduced product ranges that customers could buy online it took less than 6 months for this to become my largest revenue stream. My only regret? Not doing it sooner!
Searches for CBD skincare are already up 397% for 2020 and that shows no signs of slowing down. When searches for CBD male grooming and CBD barbershop products take a similar trajectory, it's imperative you are ready to supply that demand. Remember, it's not the smartest of the species who will survive - it's the ones most susceptible to change.
The recent pandemic has fundamentally changed how people view skincare, and especially their own internal health and wellbeing. Make sure the products you sell in-store or online are manufactured to a high standard and come from countries with tight legislation, make sure they have the correct paperwork, don't contain any toxic or dangerous harsh chemicals and have full ingredient traceability. If you sell products and haven’t seen their material safety data sheets, 3rd party laboratory accreditation certificates, then how do know they are safe to sell?!
CBD isn’t a one-off-trend, your business needs to develop a methodology for understanding how to monetise it, and fast. Staying informed on trends is important to help you build credibility and value and to show that you know where your industry is heading in the future.
History has taught us that the likelihood of men getting covid-cuts and breadline-beard trims at home for the foreseeable future is high. So the question is, with your bricks-and-mortar services only income potentially dropping to unmanageable amounts, what changes can you make to make up for the shortfall? Can you change your website to sell products you know people will need at home? Can you produce marketing content that will help people with the DIY activities that could strengthen your brand positioning with them? Thinking outside the box and innovatively post-pandemic and during your customer's financial hardship periods will separate you from the rest. It may also boost your chances of survival.
CBD is outpacing many other wellness trends on social media, as measured by multiple virality metrics; recently, the CBD buzz has reached levels as high as the meditation buzz. You need to get ready for the surge in online traffic and conversation or you will get left behind, it's that simple. Blockbusters ignored the surge in conversation and data about online streaming and look at what happened to them, Thanks to Netflix.
The rise of CBD - Pulsar (Marc Geffen)
BBC article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53402767
Poundland article: https://edelivery.net/2020/07/can-poundland-make-home-delivery-profitable/
Cannabinoids and the Brain (The MIT Press) by Linda A. Parker (Author)
How COVID-19 is changing the world of beauty - Mckinsey & Company
Fung Global Retail & Technology / Euromonitor - Male grooming sector study 2019/20
Ali A, Akhtar N (2015) The safety and efficacy of 3% Cannabis seed extract cream for reduction of human cheek sebum and erythema content. Pak J Pharmacol 28 : 1389-1395
Chiurchiù et al (2016) Anandamide suppresses Proinflammatory T-Cell Responses In Vitro through Type-1 Cannabinoid Receptor-Mediated mTOR Inhibition in Human Keratinocytes. J Immunol. 197 : 3545-3553
Artwork was done by John Karapelou, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License. If this content is scraped and used again for educational purposes, please make a concerted effort to help build a vibrant, collaborative global commons by donating here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode
Link to Linda’s book on Amazon: