Interview With Bulldog Skincare Founder, Simon Duffy

Skincare for men has really exploded as an industry over the past couple of years, whereas it was previously seen as high-maintenance or “metrosexual”. In your eyes, what helped men’s skincare go mainstream and evolve into an every-man type of thing?

Yes, it’s been an exciting time for the men’s skincare industry. We have seen a period of rapidly evolving trends across fashion, wellness, social media and culture. I think these factors have contributed towards a positive shift in attitudes towards male grooming.

The wellness trend has made men much more educated and committed when it comes to skincare. The new culture of social media and has put more of an emphasis on how you look, which results in men taking a proactive approach to their skin and how they look. 

One of the greatest shifts we have seen recently is that men feel more liberated than ever before to try out different looks. There is much less stigma around what a ‘real man’ should do or be. By consequence, we have seen a great flourishing in self-expression and experimentation. Long may this continue.

How did you personally get into skincare and develop an interest in it?

I have always been interested in wellness. I try to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise as often as possible. From a skincare perspective, I had the idea for Bulldog when I was shopping for skincare products with my wife in Whole Foods Markets when I was living in New York City. Despite there being an enormous assortment for men, I noticed there were no straightforward products with natural ingredients that were purpose-built for men. Following this, I started researching more about natural ingredients and their benefits in skincare, soon after, Bulldog launched in the UK in 2007.

You guys have a strong focus on keeping your brand consistently masculine and catering to men with a certain tone, and even mention you have a professional “nose” to develop your signature scent. How would you describe that ultimate scent that guys are in search of and that Bulldog settled on?

Fragrance is really personal and it’s something that I have really enjoyed developing across the Bulldog product assortment. Right at the beginning, we made the commitment to never use artificial fragrances in any of our products. Instead, we use amazing essentials oils that are carefully blended to create crisp, fresh masculine scents. For example, the fragrance we use in all our Original products is a unique blend of 8 essential oils. I think it’s popular because it’s subtle and not too over-powering. We’ve layered predominately citrus top notes of bergamot, lemon and lime, over geranium and patchouli, with base notes of cedarwood, artemisia vulgaris and vetiver.

Your brand places an importance on using natural ingredients and being cruelty-free – not a lot of men’s grooming and skincare lines do that. Why is that so essential to you and how does it speak to your customer base?

One advantage you have when you start a skincare company from scratch is that you are free to make a positive choice at every opportunity. This has really differentiated Bulldog from our competitors who are wedded to their heritage of synthetic formulations and less sustainable thinking.

I want everyone at Bulldog to care about doing things properly. It’s one of our founding principles. We have never used artificial colours, controversial ingredients like microbeads, parabens or synthetic fragrances. In addition, we have never used ingredients from animal sources. Veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the Western world. It’s all part of people becoming more environmentally conscious and we want to make products that support these movements. We have also committed to being Cruelty-Free, and you will find this logo on the back of our packs.

Beyond our formulations, our recent initiative towards more sustainable packaging is something we’re proud of. A key milestone for Bulldog earlier this year was moving all our tube production to a new plastic from sugarcane. This is plastic that is produced from ethanol derived from sugarcane production. The main benefit of this approach is that sugarcane plastic captures carbon dioxide, helping to reduce our carbon footprint. We think this is a much better alternative to traditional plastics which come from fossil fuels and pollute carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by consequences of their manufacturing processes.

Women have their mothers to pass on skincare wisdom and tips, but a father passing that on is rare. How do you market products to men that they don’t think they need? In other words, since a lot of guys aren’t educated in skincare due to social norms and lack of male availability in the beauty market, how do you not just get guys to invest in your products, but make them aware on why they need a certain eye or face cream?

We see this an opportunity. The starting point is to educate men on how to use different products, and on the advantages of good skincare. The most important thing is to get men to try products out for themselves. If I ever encounter doubters I will always encourage someone to use our moisturizer and face wash for just two weeks. It only takes a couple of moments each day. If they do this, then I am confident that their skin will start to look and feel healthier, and that they may also start to get some nice compliments too!

From a marketing perspective, we always set out to be transparent and simple. I often see lots of complicated jargon on the skincare packaging of other men’s brands. I think this does more to annoy and confuse people than it does to encourage them to try something new. We try to take the opposite approach by making our products easy to understand and use.

One challenge we consistently face is that many men just use their partner’s products, or whatever is in the bathroom. Men have different skin compared to women and so their skin requires different care. The key differences are that men’s skin produces more collagen, is generally thicker, and also oilier. Our marketing campaign last year featured a telepathic Bulldog which comically told men to get their own moisturizer. 

What are your personal Bulldog favourites and essentials that you think every man needs?

If you’re only going to use one product from the Bulldog range I would say use our Original Moisturiser. It’s so popular that we sell one of these every 15 seconds around the world! It’s the heartbeat of the Bulldog brand and for good reason! It’s fantastically hydrating, non-greasy and fast absorbing. I use this every day, morning and night, after cleansing with our Original Face Wash. Both products contain aloe vera, green tea and camelina oil. As I said before, use these products for just two weeks and you should notice a difference in your skin.

So, you signed a deal with Walgreens. What’s the importance of tackling the mass commercial market as opposed to occupying a specialty, niche space? And similarly, what’s the importance of accessing a global market? Skincare for men seems more advanced in places like Europe, for instance, but the US is a huge market, so how do those types of things create balance and harmony with each other?

Actually, skincare is at the most advanced state in Asia. You should see how developed Bulldog is in a really sophisticated market like Korea.

In Canada, USA and Europe we want to put Bulldog into all the key places that men shop for their skincare products, and also that women shop on behalf of their men. On this basis, we want to be available in the biggest retailers with the most shoppers.

We are now working with some of the biggest retailers in the world, which is a great achievement considering Bulldog started as two friends with no industry experience or contacts.

You guys have won over 50 awards all over the world. Can you tell us about one or a couple that you’re most proud of, and why?

Winning Men’s Health USA Grooming Awards has been fantastic for us. A Bulldog product has won 4 different times now. I think that Men’s Health audience is very much tuned in with Bulldog’s healthy and positive attitude. We saw these wins as a huge vote of confidence. 

You guys have accomplished a lot and gone global in a pretty short amount of time. What’s the next plan of world domination for Bulldog?

Lots! We’re growing quickly in Asia, and we will launch in a few more countries in this region later this year. We also have some huge new products launching later this year, so stay tuned!

**enter below to win a Bulldog Skincare prize pack valued at $149. Click here for more details **

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