You’ve seen the bespectacled man getting his scalp lathered in shampoo by disembodied, lady-like hands. You’ve seen the smiley guy, getting lotion rubbed under his eyes by similar female hands. You’ve seen the dude with a unibrow, getting his long hair tousled by another set of feminine hands.
I know you’ve seen him because I have seen these various hims on Instagram, on my Facebook, on my Twitter: it’s the hottest targeted advertisement for guys in their 20s and 30s who live on the coasts. The ads are for Hims, a new online men’s lifestyle and wellness brand that hopes to rethink and reshape how men take care of themselves. But what does it all mean? For months, I’ve seen Hims’ hims all over the cyber world and the real world, inviting me to check them out so, one afternoon, I decided to fall down the rabbit hole to discover for myself what the brand is.
The site seeks to keep you handsome and healthy by keeping your hair in check with millennial pink Rogaine and cactus flanked Viagra, two areas–balding and erectile dysfunction–that American men have culturally been shamed for talking about. Everything is discreet and cool, carefully crafted to lure in men like me who fall for a certain visual aesthetic. I asked Bobby Solomon, a Los Angeles-based creative director and design expert, what his thoughts were on the brand and if he too had been stalked by the ads too (yes, he too was targeted). Who is the Hims guy and what is Hims doing?
“They want it to feel soft and approachable but it’s overall very trendy,” he explains, noting that this is interesting since medical items like Rogaine are decidedly not trendy. The idea, he posited, is that if a guest across Hims in a medicine cabinet, he won’t be embarrassed. Instead, he’ll appear in touch with himself by way of this very natural looking product that works for everyone, as facsimiled by the brand’s diverse models. “Think of a brand like Everlane,” he says. “It feels approachable to a lot of people but ultimately it started for those with more discerning tastes.” His only concern is that it might be style over substance: consider commercials for Viagra and their five minute long qualifiers about side effects. Hims doesn’t wear those warnings out front–and that was Bobby’s biggest concern, from a visual standpoint. “It’s making everyday human problems less daunting.“ He continues, “You’re buying into a lifestyle but I don’t know if there are health risks.”
Curious to know the truth and what goes into crafting a millennial lifestyle brand, I reached out to Hims and had a brief chat with Founder and CEO, Andrew Dudum. Dudum seems to be an all-around genuinely nice guy. “A big part of our brand and our campaign is normalizing,” Dudum tells me about Hims’ mission to tackle the taboo. He was inspired to start the brand after seeing lots of friends struggle through these sensitive topics in silence. He stresses that the goal of Hims is to get guys to take care of themselves through products like great smelling shampoo and tasty raspberry-tinted vitamins that enable hair growth. “Just because you have these issues isn’t weird,” he says. “Not taking care of it, if it’s super easy to do and super affordable and safe, is kinda weird.”
There are some suspicious points about the company though if you dig deep enough through the many layers of the website. For example, Viagra isn’t an over-the-counter pharmaceutical but Hims sells Sildenafil, which is essentially generic Viagra. How do these processes work, medically, if Hims isn’t Dr. Hims? Are men at risk of popping Hims’ penis pills without medical professionals? Not the case, as Dudum explained that they go to great lengths to ensure everyone is safe. “When you checkout, you’ll be taken through a telemedicine experience,” he says, mapping how they work with your doctor to make recommendations and are hoping to push the medical world to have better dialogues with technology. Dudum shares that Hims is quite conservative with who qualifies for products because their system mostly rejects patients because of what their physician says. Regardless of if they are 20 or 65–the age range that Hims has sold to, according to Dudum– they seek to apply physician recommendations in order to cater to the customer’s needs.
This sounds well and good and, while similar brands like Keeps and Roman are also disrupting men’s health with cool fonts and discreet packaging, the medical-ness of these products is strangely absent while all the benefits are at the fore. To help fill in blanks on digital doctoring, I called Dr. Jesse Mills for his thoughts on Hims. Mills, the associate professor of urology and director of The Men’s Clinic at UCLA, is largely supportive of making men’s health friendlier, adapting to 2018. “I think it’s kind of cool that there is a place for this, to say we’re taking better control of our lives,” Mills says. He explains how marginalizing men’s health can be and that the health care system is largely failing to meet men’s needs and to approach these problems from a more holistic standpoint. Mills did stress the importance of speaking with doctors before getting on anything for erectile dysfunction since something like Slidenafil can affect the cardiovascular system. But he did note that, regardless of brand, any supplement or over the counter medicine that purports to give an erection may actually do the trick. “That’s the placebo effect of Viagra,” he says. “If you go to your gas station and buy a green M&M, you got a 30 percent chance that it will give you an erection.”
Everything we sell is medicine. We’re just wrapping it in a consumer experience that people love.
In speaking with both Solomon and Mills, Hims was revealed to be doing everything right as potential medical innovators with an aesthetic that will trickle to masses of men. The brand has an opinion about health that, in a way, screams out “Men, my dudes: Take care of yourselves, you dummies.” This is what separates Hims from those other trendy men’s brands and squashes the comparisons to Glossier: It’s not just selling the topical stuff, but the products that go beyond skin deep. “Everything we sell is medicine,” Dudum explained. “We’re just wrapping it in a consumer experience that people love.”
Hims is totally legitimate. The soapy man and lotioned bro are still infiltrating my feeds (and apparently feeds everywhere), but at least I can look back at them and know they represent an effort to demystify more and more aspects of the body that need to be taken care of. Dudum alludes to tackling more specific, internal issues from cholesterol to diabetes, more things that fit into the category of “Oh, I didn’t know that was something to care about.” Yes, these things may be stuff we know about, stuff doctors and pharmaceutical industries are trying to tackle, but the difference is the pink packaging–and that makes all the difference.
“We’re kind of the beginning in helping guys,” Dudum proclaims. “The idea of building a brand that you start using and trusting to solve various issues in your early twenties and continue to use for forty plus years: that is hims. That is what this brand is about.”