Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/24/2019
Makeup is heavily associated with femininity. But in recent years, there’s been a cultural shift as cosmetic companies have started targeting male consumers. Though in the past rock stars proudly dawned colorful makeup, it’s now becoming more mainstream and less associated with a subversive, gender-bending counter-culture. What’s behind this growing male makeup market? Why are men starting to warm up to cosmetics?
The male makeup trend is one facet to a much larger phenomenon — the explosive expansion of the online cosmetic industry. With YouTube, makeup tutorials and reviews have become immensely popular. In 2017, beauty content got over 88 billion views on YouTube. Amongst this blossoming industry, some men have emerged as heavy-hitters. Jeffree Star — a musician turned makeup guru — has over 10 million YouTube subscribers, while Patrick Starrr has over 4 million subscribers and 4.5 million followers on Instagram. And in 2016, CoverGirl named then 17-year old James Charles as their first male ambassador.
Online platforms have helped propel male makeup experts as leading spokespeople in the industry. They advertise, try on, and review all kinds of cosmetics while presenting the products as ultimately genderless. But beyond these influencers, there are also subtle reasons as to why the general male population is warming up to makeup.
In the past few years, multiple outlets like The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Lifehacker, and CNN have delved into this enticing topic. Speaking to CNN, social psychologist Brendan Gough said. “Regardless of generation or age, these days, men are invested in their appearance to some degree. Not so many years ago, moisturizer was taboo, and it's now commonplace. Makeup is one of the last bastions of femininity that men are encroaching upon.” Gough goes on to contextualize male makeup with how allegedly feminine tasks like cooking and cleaning are now also being done by men. Hence, as clearly defined gender roles get muddled so do products, hobbies, and interests.
In addition to this shift in interests there’s also starting to be a broad acknowledgement that just like women, men want to cover up their blemishes and accentuate certain features. The Wall Street Journal interviewed a 34-year old man who applied foundation before special events and a 32-year old CEO who used concealer to hide his eye-bags when he’s particularly exhausted. These anecdotes demonstrate that men don’t necessarily have to be YouTube influencers or rock stars to apply makeup. They are simply gravitating towards these products because they help.
As the male grooming industry has grown, the male makeup market has been steadily expanding as well. Milk Makeup reports that 13% of its customer base are men, cosmetic chain store Bluemercury claims that 20% are men, and Mrporter.com experienced 300% growth in makeup sales in 2015.
When it comes to male makeup, the overall trend is subtlety. Though YouTube vloggers experiment with colorful palettes, most male-oriented products are marketed as inconspicuous solutions to everyday problems like exhaustion, blemishes, and acne. The goal of this makeup is to be hardly noticeable rather than be a statement.
Concealers can cover up acne, wrinkles, and dark circles. There are numerous products that can be used for various situations. If you’re experience an acne breakout, try out Maybelline’s FIT Me! Concealer — its oil-free and can work any skin tone. And if you got dark bags under your eyes, the Bobbi Brown Serum Corrector can do the trick. Using a wand applicator, you can apply as much you need to hide your bags. Concealers for men have become so common that even the luxury brand Tom Ford has its own product.
Foundations are meant to even out skin tone and can also be used to hide acne or blemishes. They can also help with sun protection and can help sensitive skin. When it comes to foundation, its important to find the right one that matches your skin tone. Thankfully, makeup companies have started diversifying the products. Rihanna’s line Fenty Beauty has over 40 shades of foundation. Companies are now creating foundations that are targeted for men. For example, MMUK MAN has its own Liquid Foundation For Men and Mineral Matte Foundation.
Bronzers are used to give skin a glow and accentuate certain facial features by making them more jutting. Though some people use it to look more tanned, it can also be used for more subtle purposes in conjunction with other makeup products. ASOS Menswear has made its own bronzer tutorial video that shows a model applying moisturizer, concealer, and then bronzer. In addition, Clinique sells its own “Bronzer for Men” at Macy’s.
Although male makeup is becoming increasingly popular, covering up the issue isn’t necessarily solving the issue. Hims offers an array of skin care products that can help by reduce the signs of aging, combat acne, and moisturize the face. Both the anti-aging and acne kit use Tretinoin — a Vitamin A derivative that has been scientifically proven to work and can help guys maintain that youthful glow.
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