ony won't leave the house until he's followed his three golden rules. Cleanse. Tone. Moisturise. Only then does he feel able to face the world. His skin looks smooth; the bags are gone and his lips feel soft. Tony's bathroom cabinet is a temple to Nineties male consumerism.
Foundation, concealer, hemp lip balm, eye gel, loose powder and hair gel fill the shelves. You name it, it's all in there, slickly packaged in greys and blacks with resolutely no-nonsense labels like Scruffing Lotion, Lift Off Face Wash, Sharp Shooter Vitamin Treater. Even cowboys would feel at home with names like these. That's the idea, anyway. And men seem to buy it. According to figures published last week by Colipa, the European cosmetics industry body, men's growing predilection for skin care products, perfumes and other toiletries has contributed to the biggest growth in sales for the European cosmetics industry since the start of the 1990s. We're now spending as much on beauty products and toiletries as Americans do on bread, while in the US men spend nine- and-a-half billion dollars a year on plastic surgery, cosmetics, fitness equipment and hair products. Over there, men and women spend more on the beauty industry than on education. Much of the upturn is due to the booming market for cosmetics for men. Mintel International, the consumer market research organisation, reveals that male toiletries have increased by 25 per cent over the last five years - by the end of last year the men's market was worth around pounds 560m. Mintel also report that men are increasingly brand-aware; they know their Clinique from their Ralph Lauren, and they can afford to be choosy. That's all very well from a statistical standpoint but how many men do you see lingering self-indulgently at beauty counters in the marbled halls of Harvey Nicks or Selfridges? Or even Boots for that matter? Clinique's PR manager, Emma Dawson, says: "A lot of products are bought by women who want men to take an interest but men are more likely to purchase than they've ever been." Even the counter displays are designed to welcome the bashful male. "We try to put the men's products on one side so they don't have to enter into the realm of lipsticks which can put them off." The fashionable make-up company MAC, with counters in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols and a shop in the King's Road, has gone one step further to coax men to the purchasing coal-face. It has employed two unlikely representatives: the drag queen RuPaul and the singer k d lang. Which covers all camps. Nancy Etcoff, author of Survival of the Prettiest, points out this development in her book and comments: "Lipstick, the symbol of female adornment for male favour, is now being marketed by a man dressed as a woman and by a woman who dresses as a man." Tony works for MAC and is, he says, a typical male buyer. "I probably spend around pounds 50 a month on products. I like to look a bit more polished. I want my skin to look even." Ruth, 25 and also a make-up artist for MAC in Selfridges, says she's been surprised how many men have ventured to their counter. "Once they're brave enough to get this far, they're quite open to advice." They also know what they like, according to Dawson. "The men's market is more streamlined. If a product works, there's no reason for him to change it. He's not as interested in buying the newest products as women are." In terms of profit, he doesn't have to; Dawson says that in the last five years, business from male products has doubled. Beauty is increasingly a necessity in a way that bread and education are not. Women - and men - starve themselves, suffer painful surgery and spend enormous amounts to improve their appearance. …