Men, Women, and Makeup – It’s a Thing

March 20, 2023
3 mins read
Men, Women, and Makeup – It’s a Thing

It appears that gender equality has hit the world of makeup. And why not? We all want to put our “best feet forward” as we greet the public each day (at least the majority of us), and men want to impress just as much as women. And if makeup can enhance a man’s appearance, again, why not?

Brief History of Male Makeup

This belief that makeup is as much for a man as a woman is not new. Men in ancient and medieval societies wore makeup, often as a symbol of wealth or status. Even the Vikings, the epitome of masculinity, wore makeup.

It was not until the 17th and 18th centuries (aka The Age of Enlightenment) that male makeup lost favor because it was “feminine.” And that belief held up to and through the 20th century. Male makeup was for the big screen, for television personalities, including favorite newscasters, and for entertainers. “Normal” everyday male “wear” just didn’t include makeup.

Enter Gen Z with a guiding principle that gender norms are fluid and we are all free to be who we genuinely are. And this principle has not been lost on the concept of who can wear makeup. Short answer? Anyone.

The end result? Male makeup is here to stay and is a growing industry. Many large cosmetic companies, in fact, now have a full line of skincare and makeup products designed just for the male face.

What Types of Makeup are Men Using?

The short answer is all types. The longer answer is a bit more complicated because personal choices are as varied as they are for women.

First, There’s Basic Skin Care

Women will typically use a moisturizing cleanser, followed by any number of different moisturizers, wrinkle reduction serums/products, maybe eye cream and lip plumper.

Men, on the other hand, will use a cleanser (possibly with moisturizer) and probably an astringent to help close their pores, which are usually larger than those of women. And because they may have that “five o’clock shadow,” they may use a stronger depilatory to remove their facial hair. On the other hand, men’s skin is thicker and has more collagen, so they do not always develop those small facial wrinkles that women do.

Onto the Actual Makeup

Again, this is a matter of personal choice and can range from very little to moderate, to full-blown.

  • Heteronormative (aka “straight”) men will often use a concealer to cover blemishes, and some types of eye makeup to enhance the look of their “blinkers.” For some descriptions of these “low-key” makeup activities, check out Young Yuh’s TikTok posts on skincare and his makeup tutorials.
  • Moderate makeup use may include concealers and eye enhancers, but may also include foundation and blush, to provide a smooth facial appearance as well as that rosy or rugged glow. Many gay men use this type of moderate makeup – check it out here.
  • In terms of extreme makeup use, this is not usually seen among men who have rather normal lives of work and appearing in public, at least not during those times. But if these men have other lives outside of their “public” persona, such as drag, then they will of course make full use of makeup – foundation, lip plumpers, lipstick, blush, eyeliners, false eyelashes, etc.

What are the Benefits of Male Makeup?

It’s really a matter of looking and feeling better about yourself. After all, who wants to go to work with a prominent-looking blemish or dark circles under their eyes? And so makeup can hide these things.

And when those things are hidden, men are more self-assured and confident. Confidence translates into how we talk to others, how productive we may be on the job, and even how we feel about ourselves at that happy hour after work.

Another benefit is protection. Women have known this for years. There are weather and temperature extremes that can play havoc with one’s facial skin, texture, and aging. Using skincare products, SPF-high makeup, and certain lip glosses provide that protection.

If a Man is Ready to Begin

The best pieces of advice for men who are thinking that makeup would enhance their appearance are as follows:

  • They do not need to “announce” it publicly, to friends or family. They can buy and use the types of makeup they want without anyone else knowing
  • They should watch some online tutorials about skincare and male makeup techniques and practice what they learn
  • They should start small – maybe begin with a concealer for blemishes or under-eye darkness – and gradually work up to more moderate things like some light mascara or eyeliner to enhance those peepers.
  • Buy high-quality products – this is not an area to buy cheap

The more a man uses makeup, the more comfortable and confident he will become about using it.

The Future of Male Makeup

It’s here to stay. As Melony Moore, Associate Dean of the School of Business Innovation at Savannah College of Art and Design, states, “We are experiencing the democratization of makeup across gender lines…We are beyond the point where anyone needs permission to express themselves. Gen Zer’s want to live their most authentic life, whatever that may be at the moment…the social labels we relied upon in the past will start to disappear or evolve.”

In the end, male makeup is a personal choice. After all, the 21st century is all about being free and independent.

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