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Will exfoliate for work - that goes for guys too

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Those who side with the recent assertion that the men of Toronto aren't "manly" enough have some new data to chew on. Soft skin and a carefully curated beauty routine have just joined the ranks of the robust résumé and sturdy handshake of the modern, employable man.

U.S. beauty analysts have found an increase in sales of high-end male beauty and grooming products, citing the whimpering economy as a driving force behind this trend.

According to The New York Times, the higher demand for such products is the result of a "changing attitude among men, who now associate healthy-looking skin less with vanity than with professionalism. At a time when job security is at a low, they say, men do not have to work in front of a camera to place a higher premium on being presentable."

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While sales of men's beauty products rose 5 per cent last year, they've jumped an additional 12 per cent so far in 2011. And yes, the numbers take into account women buying products for men, but they only speak for about 25 per cent of overall sales. Even Botox procedures for men increased 10 per cent in 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

It appears the metrosexual trend of the mid-2000s is back, but a closer look shows the language and socioeconomic context has changed.

"The man today purchasing these products is so different than eight years ago," Celeste Hilling, founder of skincare brand Skin Authority, told the Times. "These guys who always thought it was vain or too metrosexual" to splurge on beauty products "now think it's almost a badge they wear to say, 'I'm a modern guy because I care about my skin.' "

Thomas Sullivan, a restaurant owner, actor and film producer interviewed for the article, can recite a litany of preferred products, including StriVectin moisturizer, Kiehl's Abyssine Eye Cream and L'Oréal Hydra-Energetic Ice Cold Eye Roller. The 43-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., resident acknowledges his routine used to start and end with a quick slather of Irish Spring soap in the shower, but "I have to take advantage of any way I can to look, if not younger, healthy," he says. Over all, he spends about $600 (U.S.) a year on beauty products.

Since the economy started to slump and then slide some more, forecasters have been trying to find economic reasoning behind certain trends. To wit, the word "recessionista" was used as such breakneck frequency that it went from obscure to cliché before the economy even had a chance to recover. In November, IBM released data linking heel sizes to economic movement. In the Depression, high-heeled pumps replaced the low flapper shoes of the twenties as a means of fantasy and escape. This time around, heel sizes are falling with the stock markets, resulting in discussion of "the return of the kitten heel and the perfect flat from Jimmy Choo and Louboutin."

Have you bumped up your grooming to make a better impression in this tough economy? How much does appearance matter when you're interviewing candidates for a job?

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