Can this startup do for male foot odor what it did for manscaping?

Can this startup do for male foot odor what it did for manscaping?
[Photo: courtesy of Manscaped]

Women have always had their fair share of personal care tools, but for men, those have mostly been relegated to face razors and abnormally large nail clippers.


But one startup made a name for itself catering to men’s, err, below-the-waist needs: Manscaped sells “precision engineered tools” and hygiene products for nether-region grooming, and today it says it’s pulling in eight-figure revenues doing it. The direct-to-consumer company says it experienced 800% growth last year. Witnessing its capabilities with men’s sensitive areas, it’s now branching out into another category: foot deodorant.

Cofounders Steve King and Paul Tran founded the aptly named company in 2016 with a collection of cheeky items. This included the “The Lawn Mower,” an ergonomically designed trimmer that prevents nicks and cuts ($49.99), and self-care products like the anti-chafing moisturizer dubbed “The Crop Preserver” ($9.99).

[Photo: courtesy of Manscaped]
“We really fear nicking the scrotum,” stresses Tran. “With [our line], we help alleviate some of the fears of doing the job.”

The products come packed in sleek, leather-lined toiletry bags and feature a humorous paper that customers can use to simultaneously read while collecting trimmings. The entire line caters to the process of tending to one’s nether regions, filling a gap ignored by traditional big brands.

“These are not products that would naturally lend themselves to traditional marketing,” explains Tran. Meaning, Procter & Gamble or Unilever cannot easily address groin needs on national television.

Not that it’s such a simple task for smaller brands either: When Manscaped first began marketing the line, it tried to address the safety and hygiene concerns in a serious manner. Customers didn’t bite. As soon as it took a more comedic route, sales began racking up. It’s as if they needed to break the ice of discussing an awkward topic.

Their tagline, for example, reads: When you trim the hedges, the tree stands taller.

“It was like a sledgehammer that broke down the wall,” Tran tells Fast Company. “We started seeing men eager to communicate with us, come onto our website, and send us messages on Facebook.”

Manscaped joins a host of new startups tackling once-whispered-about health issues: Hims and Hers (now valued at a billion) tackles male erectile dysfunction and female hair loss; Blume is the first cohesive line of self-care products for tweens going through puberty; Queen V rebrands feminine hygiene care as cool, fun, and kitschy; while Joylux is a vaginal device company for the millions of women who are too embarrassed–or cash-strapped–to seek medical treatment.

“[Manscaping] has been a taboo and I think it’s really time that we talk about it,” says Tran.

[Photo: courtesy of Manscaped]

Stroking the conversation

In a recent poll of 7,570 adults, researchers found that 66% of men groomed down there, compared to 85% of women. Most men rely on razors or beer trimmers, both of which are not designed for coarse hair. Not to mention, using the same tools across the body opens one up to cross contamination and increased risk of injury.

A 2017 study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association found that pubic grooming-related injuries occur in approximately 25% of individuals who attempt to do it. Usually this means nicks and razor burns, but sometimes, it means more serious cases of laceration and skin infections since minor cuts can trap bacteria.

In fact, emergency room-worthy injuries increased five-fold in the last decade, according to a study in the Journal of Urology.

“There wasn’t a really though-out solution for this process,” reflects Tran. “Men are doing this. They just don’t talk about it.”

Related: Want more wellness industry news? Sign up for the Well To Do newsletter!

The company brought on a hygiene advisory team composed of dermatologists and healthcare professionals to craft a collection of body-care products in this category. They took inspiration from female skin brands that specifically center on pH balance. Their groin deodorant, therefore, includes active ingredients to balance acidity levels.

Manscaped skews millennial, with ages 18-30 composing the majority of the market. But men in their 40s and 50s increasingly join their ranks, many of them inquiring about how to get started in the first place. As such, the company launched numerous campaigns to educate men on groin care and established multiple ways to field customers questions.

To get the word out, Manscaped partnered with NFL athletes in addition to YouTube influencers. In the fall, the founders appeared on Shark Tank, where it snagged a half-a-million-dollar investment. (During the pitch, King demonstrated the tools on a shrub.)

[Photo: courtesy of Manscaped]
Manscaped predominantly sells direct to consumer, with the exception of one store–Dillard’s. The company steadily built a long-term refill subscription base, which now accounts for 50% of orders. Interestingly, females compose over 20% of customers. (Nearly 50% of women prefer their partner to be either totally or partially hair-free, reports Men’s Health.)

“[Women] write to us as well,” says King, “they’re thanking us for you know providing the right tools and education for their partner. So, it’s kinda social responsibility, too.”

With their expertise in neglected regions, the cofounders feel confident to take on foot odor, which is usually caused by bacteria or fungus that grows in the shoes and attaches to the skin. It’s a sector that hasn’t seen any attention since Shaquille O’Neal’s Gold Bond commercials.

“All the players in the foot industry are not communicating well to millennial males or just millennials in general,” says Tran. “It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, and we feel that we can do better.”

Dubbed the “Foot Duster,” the latest product incorporates anti-fungal tea tree oil in addition to active ingredients to soften tough skin. The product description offers one pro tip: “Don’t forget to use before date night.”

King puts the company’s latest mission on a bigger scale: It’s about foot odor, yes, but it’s also about how men care for themselves. Why should they be treated any different than women?

“Manscaped is about good self-esteem,” he says. “It’s about self-respect.”