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A man in glasses having his hair washed. Photos: Hims

Hims Is Basically Glossier for Dudes

Except with generic Viagra and anti-baldness pills.

Andrew Dudum had a pretty brutal conversation with his 24-year-old sister last year while they were out for dinner one night, wherein she pointed out his dry skin and breakouts. Dudum says she told him, “You’re, like, 28 years old, there is stuff you can buy that works — it’s science.” Dudum laughs. “I think she literally said, ‘It’s fucking science, just, like, take it!’” His sister ended up buying him products from Ole Henriksen, Glossier, and “a whole bunch of fancy French stuff that I don’t even know the names of.” He says he has dropped $200 to $300 a month on these products for the past year.

But now he wants to help other guys have this same come-to-Jesus experience, minus the swearing. Dudum, 29, launched Hims, a now-two-week-old online grooming and wellness site aimed at guys aged 20 to 40. The focus will be hair loss, penile issues, and skin, with a focus on, yes, science.

Right now, customers can purchase a $44 hair kit that includes minoxidil drops (the generic name for Rogaine, the anti-hair loss topical drug), a salicylic acid shampoo that claims to help prevent hair loss and dandruff, biotin gummies to promote hair growth, and fenasteride pills, the generic name for Propecia, an oral prescription hair loss medicine. Under sexual health, you’ll find sildenafil pills, the generic name for Viagra, for $20.

There are currently no products for sale under the “skin” tab yet, but Dudum says to expect both over-the-counter and prescription medications for acne and anti-wrinkle products, as well as preventative products like moisturizer and sunscreen. “Eventually the game plan for skin is exactly what I tried to figure out. What is the science-backed daily routine that’s the simplest, that covers all the bases?” Dudum says. “Every guy who is hitting the age of 30 is trying to figure out how they can not look like a leather bag, and they’re overwhelmed by everything on the market... Say we want a face wash. We have to go to Sephora, and it’s all women’s products. That’s uncomfortable. And there are 15 different types of wrinkle creams that include avocado oil and sea salt-types of shit and I have no idea what to do.”

At first glance, the Hims website looks like something Saturday Night Live cooked up to mock millennial beauty brands. The homepage, the color of which can only be described as manly millennial pink, greets you with this: “Guy. Against staggering odds, two things happened: one, the universe. Two, you. Let’s walk at our full height, honor the forebears, have a smile and for god’s sake, floss.” White bottles are minimally printed and packaged in natural cardboard boxes that feature the fleshy color of the site. There’s even merch, like $54 sweaters and a $14 candle, because, “Every man cave needs a fire.”

When asked about his inspiration for the branding and aesthetic of the line, Dudum says, “I’m a total design nut and brand nut. I don’t actually think there are any phenomenal good brands out there, from a men’s standpoint, that have really nailed this holistically. The brand that I personally resonate most with is Aesop: the tone-on-tone minimalist elevated product that makes you want to have that freaking soap in your bathroom, it makes you want to show it off.” (Hims happens to share the same public relations firm as Aesop.) He also acknowledges Glossier as a brand he took some inspiration from, citing its amazing job of offering great products at really reasonable value at really great price points, and also just being super authentic.”

Dudum considers Hims to be version 3.0 of direct-to-consumer men’s brands, at least in terms of design, though men’s brands right now kind of run the gamut between super minimal and hyper-masculinized. “I was pretty adamant when we started to brainstorm on brand that we refused to be anything called, like, Shackleton or Jackson, or be something that was dark mahogany on a leather couch with, like, a smoking cigar and forest green or dark blue. To me, that was the 2.0 of brands,” says Dudum, who thinks that men are drawn to “beautiful” design. “We started with P&G, then we got them all fancy and put them in startup form, and it was so stereotypical, right?”

The imagery and name is meant to reflect a diverse (if young) and broad customer base. “We’re not the frat brother, we’re not the jock, we’re not the tech nerd, we’re not any ethnicity or religion, or homosexual or heterosexual,” Dudum says. “Literally every single guy struggles with these same things in the same proportion and the same likelihood. So down to the name, it’s intended that when a guy sees these products, he knows they’re for him. It’s that simple.”

Hims also aims for accessibility. “How do we make it a price point that’s affordable? Everything is $10 to $30,” says Dudum. “These products, if you were to go buy them at a Walgreens or CVS pharmacy, it would be hundreds of dollars a month. The reality is, when you’re 22 years old and you’re renting and you don’t have a partner and you’re in school and you’re trying to save all of your money, spending hundreds of dollars a month is cost-prohibitive.”

Guys are not willing to talk about their issues, according to Dudum. This is the core tenet at the heart of Hims. Dudum says that for the last decade, he’s watched his peers “suffer through hair loss essentially in silence because it’s an incredibly uncomfortable thing to talk about.” Two years ago, when he had the idea for the company, he did both formal and informal surveys of men.

“We found out that less than 10 percent of guys in our target age group of between 20 and 40 [years old] had a physician they would feel comfortable emailing or giving a call to ask about questions related to hair loss or sexual wellness or things like this,” Dudum says. “We just need to talk to guys like they want to be spoken to, which is, like, super blunt and super directly. We’re not bullshitting them, we’re not selling them snake oil. We’re selling them stuff that works, it’s really good cost, and it’s doctor-approved. All you have to do is use it.”

And talk about erectile dysfunction with jokes and cactus imagery, apparently. The copy on the site uses pictures of eggplants to make a point. Dudum said that even his investors and suppliers were uncomfortable talking about these private issues. “What we realized was that as soon as we just naturally cracked a few jokes in the conversation, everyone started opening up,” says Dudum, “So there’s an intentional wit there that I think resonates with most men. It’s not any one type of humor, it’s smart humor.”

The products that Hims sells are pretty serious, though. Both finasteride and sildenafil have potential side effects, like impotence and blurred vision, respectively. Telemedicine is a part of the business model here, because those meds need to be prescribed by a doctor. In addition to consulting with top physicians in dermatology and urology at places like Stanford and Harvard, the brand partnered with physicians who can legally prescribe remotely in about 80 percent of states. The remainder of states don’t yet have laws that allow telemedicine. (This is similar to acne telemedicine startup Curology, which has physicians prescribing topical acne medicines to customers.) Customers are just required to fill out a questionnaire, and the meds will be shipped accordingly. It remains to be seen whether this is a good idea in the long term, since oral prescription meds require physician monitoring, but there is a growing trend and comfort level with the practice.

This is not Dudum’s first entrepreneurial experience. His career has a familiar Silicon Valley trajectory: He went to Wharton, took a leave of absence his sophomore year to work at a communications startup, and then it got acquired. After graduating, he co-founded Atomic, a “venture fund that builds companies.” It counts Peter Thiel, the controversial PayPal founder, Gawker killer, and Trump supporter, and Marc Andreessen, a Silicon Valley godfather of sorts and early Facebook investor, as investors.

Hims was incubated at Atomic. It just closed on $7 million in Series A funding, according to TechCrunch. Among several others, it also counts as investors Josh Kushner’s (brother of Jared) Thrive Capital and Kirsten Green’s Forerunner Ventures, which invested in Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Outdoor Voices, and Glossier. Dudum says of Kushner and Green, “From day zero, those two individuals are unfortunately receiving text messages from me, probably on a daily basis, of screenshots of copy or ideas, and we’re constantly going back and forth with new products we should be rolling out, how we should be communicating, other markets we should be playing in, and how to approach it.”

Dudum has what a lot of female brand founders don’t have: access and choice of investors. “From an investor standpoint, we sought out to work exclusively with the teams that were phenomenal at building great brands and great products and getting to people and resonating with people,” he says. “It was pretty intentional of who we work with — just because we want to have this brain trust of the best people in the market with us.”

Anyway, back to penises. Dudum hopes that its customers will stay with the brand for years. “We are really excited to be rolling out a whole different set of products, and we’ll continuously do that in the next year. We’re literally going down the list of what gives men fear, what gives them anxiety, what are guys suffering in silence about, and how can we provide really amazing products to them easily and for an affordable price? It’s not just hair and sex and skin, it’s a lot more than that. But the goal is to build something you start using when you’re 18 and 19 and it stays with you when you’re 60 and 70, as different medical challenges pop up.” Prostate problems, dadbod, and ear hair, watch out.

As for Dudum, he has a pretty lush head of hair. But he’s also a Hims customer. “The shampoo, the minoxodil, and the gummies were needed. I am thankfully in pretty good shape at the moment, but my mother’s father is entirely bald, so I am being as preventative as possible.”

Correction: November 16, 2017

A previous version of this story stated that the shampoo contains ketoconazole, which was incorrectly listed on the Hims website. It contains salicylic acid.

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