The beauty sector is experiencing a revolution: the rise of male grooming. Cosmetic brands, from La Mer to Estee Lauder, Kiehl’s to L’Oreal, have been rolling out a plethora of offerings for the boys, and profitably so: according to research company Euromonitor, the growth of men’s beauty products has been steadily outpacing those of women’s since 2010.
From moisturisers to cleansers, shaving creams to beard oils, men have become more and more interested in taking care of their own looks. And, increasingly, this has come to include makeup.
On YouTube and Instagram, a community of male influencers such as James Charles, Manny Gutierrez, PatrickStarrr and Gabriel Zamora has garnered huge numbers of followers for sharing their beauty tips, makeup tutorials and experiments with brow shapers and cheek highlighters, making way for what’s been called the ‘beauty boys’ movement.
Tastemakers have propelled male makeup into the limelight in the realm of fashion, too. On the runways, where designers like Thom Browne and Vivienne Westwood have been blurring gender boundaries by presenting traditionally female closet staples like skirts and dresses as garments to be worn by all, models of both sexes have been showing impeccably applied lipsticks, eyeshadows and blushes.
TV has further helped demystifying cosmetics for men: Queer Eye, Netflix’s ultra-successful series featuring the Fab Five giving advice on fashion, grooming, interior design, food, wine and culture to straight men, has regularly shown its cast donning light eyeliners and lip balms, all while imparting lessons on colour correctors and hair styling (Jonathan Van Ness, the show’s beauty expert, has become an icon of sorts among beauty enthusiasts, both male and female, because of the programme).
The trend of men’s grooming – including makeup – is on the rise
While men wearing makeup has a long history, particularly in pop culture – from Boy George to David Bowie and Prince in the 70s and 80s to Russell Brand and Pete Doherty in the 90s and 2000s – this is the first time men are starting to look at cosmetics as an everyday component of their grooming routine.
Naturally, brands have taken notice. Millennial-oriented makeup companies like British Rimmel, Canadian MAC Cosmetics and American CoverGirl and Maybelline have featured men in their ads – in 2017, James Charles became the first CoverBoy, while Manny Gutierrez was named Maybelline’s first male ambassador and Gabriel Zamora began representing MAC.
Some have taken it a step further, launching makeup lines specifically conceived for guys. The first to do so has been Tom Ford, which last year launched a concealer, bronzer and brow gel for men.
Chanel has followed suit, announcing in August the debut of Boy de Chanel, a new line named after Coco Chanel’s dashing lover 'Boy' Capel that features a sheer, tinted foundation, brow pencils and matte lip balm in sleek black bottles and packaging. Launched in September in South Korea, it will come to Hong Kong in 2019.
Chances are that more heavyweights of the beauty sector will soon join in. Whether the trend will become mainstream is difficult to predict, but its significance is momentous, and not just for the beauty sector: male makeup hails a new shift in the definition of traditional gender roles and values at large. It speaks of a different, more open and more all-encompassing way of ‘being a man.’ That in itself is a pretty beautiful concept.