The newest trend in male grooming is moving below the belt.
Dollar Shave Club, known for its cheap subscription service for men's razors, announced this week it will branch out into flushable wet wipes. Meant as a toilet paper alternative, the One Wipe Charlies run $4 for a pack of 40 including shipping, but are only available with a razor purchase.
In a video announcing the launch, chief executive Michael Dubin promotes the wipes' advantages of speed, precision and cleanliness versus toilet paper. (Site advertising also touts a "gentle peppermint scent.") "I don't have time to jump back in the shower after a messy No. 6," Dubin said in the video. "I'm an executive now. I have papers to sign."
A Dollar Shave Club survey of 1,000 men claims 51 percent use wipes rather than toilet paper, but 23 percent are embarrassed by it. No surprise there, said Victor Macias, co-founder of MaleStandard.com, which follows male grooming trends. "It's a taboo topic, but we definitely hear a lot of our readers talking about it," he said. "It's about hygiene, making sure that you're well groomed down there."
Although shock jock Howard Stern has been advocating wet wipes for years, the trend has only begun to gain traction in recent years, with more consumer interest and available products. In 2012, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock explored male cleansers such as Fresh Balls—a genital antiperspirant—in his film "Mansome."
In fact, Dollar Shave Club isn't the first to market butt wipes for men. Among other products, there are also Biz Wipes from Mangroomer ($3.75 for a pack of 50) and Dude Wipes from Dude Products ($8.99 for 30), both available at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and Walgreens, among other retailers.
(Men interested in a more permanent investment have also been looking at bidets and smart toilets. Sales of the top 50-selling bidets at Build.com from June 2012-May 2013 were up 9.6 percent from the previous year and 47 percent from 2008, said Sean Murphy, a DIY specialist for the site. To be fair, that's still a scant 578 bidets sold, while overall sales of toilets and toilet parts topped 32,000. "The trend has been slow to catch on in America, but it is catching on," he said.)
Below-the-belt cleansers could be a surprise success in the male grooming market, which research firm Kline estimates is worth $13.4 billion worldwide, and could tally $15.5 billion by 2017. That includes brands targeted to men only, and includes mostly skin care lines and bath products such as bar soap, said Nancy Mills, Kline's industry manager for consumer products. "This would really be a new category," she said.
But a potentially successful one. "Mainly I laughed at the names, rather than the product concept," Mills said. "Based on how Europe has not been able to live without intimate cleansing products for a very long time, it's high time the trend is coming here."
So,will Dollar Shave Club get to be No. 1 for No. 2? "It depends on how well the marketing goes," Macias said.
_ By CNBC.com's Kelli B. Grant