NEW DELHI: Cosmetics companies are aiming to increase their sales among Indian men, with controversial "skin whitening" products set to be one of the key drivers of this trend.

Russell Taylor, global vice president for Axe, Unilever's male-orientated deodorant, has argued Asia represents "the last empty space on the map" for cosmetics brands.

Nivea is one manufacturer that has attempted to leverage its position with this audience in India, with a portfolio including Multi-Protecting Facial Foam and Dual Action Face Wash.

Soma Ghosh, the marketing head of Nivea India, has stated that "the fact that men's skin is different from that of women has prompted men to buy products which are made for them."

More specifically, it is estimated that sales of goods promising to lighten the skin tone of male or female users grew to a value of £11.3 billion ($18.2bn; €12.7bn) in Asia in 2009.

L'Oréal, the multinational giant, introduced Garnier Men in this sector in India in the second quarter of last year.

A recent advertising campaign in support of this line featured a celebrity endorser, in the form of John Abraham, a leading Bollywood actor.

Hindustan Unilever, the FMCG giant, owns the market leader in the women's skin whitening segment, Fair and Lovely, which boasts annual revenues of around $325 million.

Emami, one of its rivals, launched Fair and Handsome, an equivalent for men, in 2005, and while yearly sales have only reached $13m thus far, it is thought this situation will change in the near future.

Carrie Lennard, an analyst at Euromonitor International, said "it is likely that within five to ten years, sales of male skin whitening products could reach similar levels as female skin whiteners."

Advertising expenditure levels in this category as a whole rose by over a third year-on-year in the period from January to July 2009 in India, according to industry reports.

Vaseline Healthy White Body was also said to be the new cosmetics offering which received the highest amount of TV advertising support in this timeframe.

Data sourced from The Times/Express India; additional content by Warc staff