Makeup for men is an idea that had few takers just over a decade ago, and fewer might be open to the idea of applying concealers to hide dark circles beneath the eye. The whole “men’s beauty” concept revolved around facial hair gels, lip balms and shampoos that marketed themselves as some kind of timesaving concoction for skin and hair care.
Today, the men’s makeup market is a major subset within the multi-million dollar beauty industry. Alongside health and fitness, men are increasingly becoming more self-conscious about how they look. Part of the credit goes to social media, which has empowered amazing personalities on a diametrically diverse spectrum to express themselves more confidently in a world that may not have been too easy on them.
The idea of male makeup was almost taboo for much of “civilised” modern history, which can be placed somewhere within the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet, we have evidence that men used cosmetics widely since as far as 4,000 BC in Egypt down to the late medieval period in England. The practice of men applying makeup to appear presentable transcended cultures: it was ubiquitous in ancient India and given a popular form through kabuki in Edo period Japan.
It is a well-known fact that men’s makeup is immensely common in China, Japan and South Korea. But it is becoming popular even in the West.
A Euromonitor survey found that 56 percent of male respondents used some kind of make-up product such as foundation or concealer at least once in 2018. Not astonishingly, a research done by Moz, a data analytics firm, found that the keywords ‘male makeup looks’ witnessed a jump of 80 percent over in 2020 over the previous year.
Overall, searches around male makeup have risen by 67.5 percent over the past decade in Google.
The rise of men’s makeup and how brands are adapting
From Hollywood to beauty influencers
Cinema could be thanked for bringing back the dying art of men’s personal care in vogue. Actors such as Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, William Holden, Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier — counted among the most stylish men of Hollywood’s Golden Age — reintroduced the need for men to appear presentable, with not a strand of hair out of place.
Albeit slowly and not too far away from the world of cinema, the focus on men’s fashion and appearance increased. Eventually, the word “metrosexual” was coined for men who pay attention to personal care.
By the 2000s, the fashion world had reshaped men’s style, and music legends further popularised the idea of makeup for men. For instance, icons such as Prince, Pete Wentz and Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong were known for wearing eyeliner, which helped lend a cult status to their distinctive images.
Today, we have men’s beauty influencers on Instagram leading the way with their useful tips and tricks to help men appear more beautiful. Bretman Rock and Reuben de Maid are just two of the many renowned names from the world of beauty influencers.
Makeup artist Rock, who was born Bretman Sacayanan, is one of the world’s highest-earning beauty influencers. He commands a following of 18 million on Instagram, over 13 million on TikTok and around 9 million on YouTube. His popularity is testimony to the increasing impact of beauty influencers on the men’s grooming scene.
These stars and their success not only reflect that the wall of taboo associated with men’s makeup is being demolished brick by brick but has also given rise to some of the best makeup ideas for all genders.
From using a simple eyebrow pencil to contouring, there are lots of tutorials for those who are only entering the world of makeup for men and others who love to try out new looks.
Makeup products that men can use
With genders other than females using makeup, the market is slowly acclimatising to introducing cosmetics, including concealers, foundations, mascaras, brow gels, creams, mousses, powders and just about anything men would need. While some products are exclusive to men, others are gender-fluid.
But before we discuss these products, let’s understand that applying makeup the right way involves time and some expertise. Moreover, things, such as application, length of wear and coverage, should be considered when buying makeup.
For instance, depending on your skin conditions and desired finish, you can choose a light, medium, and full-coverage foundation. Similarly, your choice of foundation would also depend upon the length of wear, meaning how long you would need to keep the makeup on and in perfect condition. While some foundations will last you a good 16 hours, others begin to fade just after a few hours of application.
Skin type is also a factor to note, and so is the climate of the place where you live. Most products can usually be used by all skin types, ranging from oily and combination to dry skin, but it is always best to read about the item or consult a makeup artist before buying it.
Additionally, people living in dry climates should choose something moisturising, while those in humid climates should go for those with humectants.
Once you’ve bought the products, considering your skin type and conditions, the art of applying makeup must also be learnt. Several beauty influencers of Instagram and YouTube have never shied away from showing off their finely done mascaras, sculpted eyebrows or highlighted cheekbones. Many of them also give away tips and make tutorials for beginners as well as those who would want to perfect the art of applying makeup.
Some examples that can be seen on YouTube are:
Here are some makeup products men can use
Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Concealer
A concealer is an excellent beauty item used to hide the redness around the nose and chin, blemishes, acne scars or dark circles under the eyes. No wonder concealers are so in demand, especially among those for whom getting proper sleep is a luxury.
Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Concealer is a unique product that comes in multiple skin tones. Containing hyaluronic acid, the waterproof concealer evens the skin tone, leaving your skin moisturised and radiant.
Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Concealer
Containing cordyceps mushroom, Indian tree root and bamboo grass, this concealer not only helps hide the dark circles and minimise eye bags but also rejuvenates the skin under tired eyes. The cream is weightless and can be used on dry, normal, oily, sensitive and combination skin types.
It makes the skin look radiant, improves moisture and gives a crease-free finish. A good thing about the product is that it is oil- and paraben-free. It has antioxidants and no fragrance.
Eyelashes and brows:
Glossier Boy Brow
Men can also work on setting right unruly eyebrows. Perfectly shaped eyebrows accentuate the facial features, giving your face a more awakened look.
Glossier Boy Brow comes in handy for those who want to sculpt their eyebrows. The creamy wax is brushable and helps smoothen, thicken and shape the eyebrow, keeping it in place.
To ensure that eyebrows are properly conditioned, Boy Brow contains a mix of lecithin, soluble collagen and oleic acid. Inspired by traditional hair pomade, the mix keeps hair from becoming stiff or flaky.
Word of advice: Before applying any eyebrow gel or cream, it is better to trim long and oddly upright hair in your brows with a small scissor.
Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel
Here is another one to sculpt perfect arches and are aptly named, too! The Hourglass product is a tinted eyebrow gel formula, which makes brows look fuller and bolder.
It comes with a dual-sided brush with both short and long bristles. You can moderate the application of the gel with the brush, depending upon how dense you’d want your eyebrows.
Containing microfibres, the gel creates evenly coloured eyebrows.
Fenty Beauty Brow MVP Ultra Fine Brow Pencil & Styler
From the stables of Rihanna’s iconic beauty brand, this pencil & styler is just the right thing that redefines makeup for men. It comes in 14 shades, which is a very wide range of products of its kind.
The colours are smudge-resistant and waterproof. The application is balanced between creamy and dry.
A paddle brush is attached to the product that helps in styling and blending. The ultra-fine pencil can be used to draw fine lines to fill your brows.
Brow MVP is marketed as a fragrance-, paraben- and sulphate-free product.
Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Mascara
The highlight of this paraben- and sulphate-free product is its brush, which is designed to create perfectly curled eyelashes.
The trademarked Hook ‘n’ Roll brush has tiny hooks, which can easily lift and curl short and/or straight lashes.
Tom Ford For Men Bronzing Gel
Trust Tom Ford to give men the perfect makeup product when it comes to bronzers. Meant for all skin types, the bronzing gel by the iconic fashion designer’s namesake beauty brand is oil-free and water-based.
It can recreate a healthy, sun-kissed look. The formula contains calming agents and can blend easily without affecting the natural look of the skin.
This bronzer is a matte, pressed powder. The advantage of matte makeup is that it gives your skin a more natural look, without making it look shiny.
This bronzer comes in a compact case with a mirror for an easy and quick application anywhere and anytime. The powder helps bring out the natural colour of the skin, lending it a warm glow.
The best way to use this product is with a metal powder brush from War Paint. The brush can be used to carry just the right amount of powder needed.
A tip: A bronzer should be applied near the areas of the face that need to be highlighted, such as either side of the bridge of the nose, either end of the forehead and below the cheekbones.
NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation
The natural, fade-resistant foundation can last for 16 hours. It comes in a wide range of 33 shades to fit the needs of all types of skin tones.
The liquid foundation is formulated with a mix of raspberry, apple and watermelon extracts. The foundation has mineral tone-balancing powders coupled with micronised amino acid-coated pigments in its translucent base.
The lightweight formula allows the skin to look smooth and breathable. It is resistant to sweat and will make you look fresh all day long.
Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation
The Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation can last for about 16 hours if a setting powder is used with it.
Formulated with SPF 25, it can act as a perfect sunscreen and keep the skin safe from the harmful and harsh effects of the sun. It contains high-performance pigments, which can help cover skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
Once applied, the skin remains smooth, hydrated and breathable.
bareMinerals Original Liquid Mineral Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 20
Inspired by bareMinerals’ loose powder, this vegan foundation not only makes the skin look healthy and smooth but also minimises the appearance of pores and redness over time.
Naturally derived ingredients form 88 percent of its composition. The medium-coverage creamy solution takes care of moisture loss and nourishment of the skin. According to its makers, it can improve the look of bare skin within four weeks.
The product is gluten- and cruelty-free and ditches harmful agents such as parabens and formaldehyde.
Smashbox photo finish oil-free primer
The lightweight primer gets absorbed quickly on the facial skin to form a long-lasting base for the perfect makeup for men.
It is free of parabens, oil and fragrance and can hide skin flaws while illuminating it. Suitable for all skin types, the translucent primer contains protective vitamins such as A and E besides antioxidants.
Its ingredients also include extracts of safflower seed, common grape seed, kola seed and camellia oleifera leaf.
Since time is of the essence for all, we might feel the need for a faster way to get the makeup done while attaining a flawless look. Enter Futuredew.
Containing non-greasy nourishing oils, this amazing product by Glossier lends a bright and well-moisturised glow to the skin. The effect is long-lasting — up to 12 hours, according to the maker.
A sort of one-solution-for-all skincare needs, Glossier Futuredew is a plant-based solution that brightens the skin and can be worn both under makeup or alone.
You can’t ace flawless makeup without the right accessories to apply the products. For instance, the War Paint bronzer is best applied with a War Paint metal brush.
Similarly, Tom Ford concealer brush can be used to apply the Tom Ford concealer for men. It is a simple brush with synthetic bristles to give the best coverage.
Then there is the extremely helpful L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender. The easy-to-grip sponge is designed to give a pro touch to simple makeup routines. The plush material can be used with any kind of liquid or creamy makeup product.
(Main and Featured images: Shot by Cerqueira/@shotbycerqueira/Unsplash)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: If you're seeking makeup products that are exclusive to men, you can shop from brands such as Tom Ford and Glossier, which offer items such as bronzer and eyebrow pomade. Sephora also provides a wide range thanks to its variety of labels available.
However, as most products such as concealers, foundations, mascaras, brow gels, creams, mousses and powders are pretty much gender-fluid, why not expand your search? Beauty brands like Fenty Beauty, NARS, War Paint, Smashbox, Dermablend, Bobbi Brown and Benefit are just some of the many options you can consider.
Answer: First, purchase makeup products suited to your skin type (oily, combination or dry) and conditions (eg do you want full coverage? Or a lighter finish?). You can also get accessories such as brushes and beauty blenders to enhance your application.
Doing this is half the battle won. If you're clueless about how to apply makeup, look to Youtube and Instagram for inspiration and step-by-step tutorials. Several beauty influencers on these platforms have never shied away from showing off their finely done mascaras, sculpted eyebrows or highlighted cheekbones. Many of them also give away tips and make tutorials for beginners as well as those who would want to perfect the art of applying makeup.
Answer: To keep your skin in optimal condition, always ensure you thoroughly remove all your makeup at the end of the day. Adopting a strict skincare routine can also keep it fresh and healthy. Click here for a sample 8-step skincare routine to follow.
Answer: Here's a basic guide:
1. Wash your face with a good cleanser.
2.Apply your moisturiser and let it soak into your skin for at least 5 to 10 minutes before moving on to the next step. If you're using any acne cream, do note that this goes on before the moisturiser.
3. Apply your foundation.
4. Use concealer to cover up any blemishes or dark eye rings.
5. Fill in your brows with an eyebrow pencil, pomade or gel.
6. Lightly pat on finishing powder all over your face to set your makeup.