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The Report

Why Makeup For Men Might Soon Be A Grooming Essential

Concealer, self-tan, even an eyebrow pencil – men’s cosmetics is big news

Late last year, Chanel launched a collection of makeup for men, Boy de Chanel. Comprising a light-coverage foundation, an eyebrow pencil and a lip balm, its slogan, “Be Only You”, encourages men to use makeup not to transform, but to subtly improve, to hide the tired. That Chanel, the Parisian behemoth with a bottom line in the billons, has launched this new line is a signal. Makeup for men is no longer a niche. It has hit the big time.

Neither is it just Chanel. Fenty Beauty, the cosmetics brand created by the singer Rihanna, has started to make men’s beauty tutorials to show us how to apply its foundation, and concealers and eyebrow gel are also available from Tom Ford.

Male grooming is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the fashion industry. In 2017, it was worth $57.7bn globally and is expected to reach $78.6bn by 2023. A hefty jump, and MR PORTER’s grooming section stocks everything from serums made from diamonds to cannabidiol cleansers. Our bathroom cabinets are bulging with products to help us look and feel our best. But what about makeup? Many men use a moisturiser now, but foundation? Not so much.

  • Clinique For Men Face Bronzer, 60ml

  • Lab Series BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF35, 50ml

This hasn’t always been the case, however. In ancient Egypt, kings and pharaohs blacked their eyes with kohl to ward off evil spirits. In the 1600s, Englishmen donned perukes (powdered wigs originally designed to mask the rashes and hair loss that were symptoms of syphilis), along with powdered faces, and cheeks and lips rouged with homemade cosmetics. They even had recipe books for the stuff. Unfortunately, rouge was made with lead, so fashionably flushed cheeks were often accompanied by mercury poisoning – very much not worth it. Nevertheless, this mode of male beautification continued until the early 19th century, when men had more pressing matters than lethal blusher to worry about, such as the Napoleonic Wars. Fashions began to change and makeup fell out of favour with men – until now.

Today’s uptick for men’s makeup can be put down to globalisation. In some parts of Asia, makeup is a normal part of life for young men, largely driven by celebrity culture and the loosening of old-fashioned norms of masculinity. Mr David Yi, a grooming expert and founder of men’s beauty platform Very Good Light, thinks this is having a knock-on effect on the rest of the world. “South Korea is by and large the Hollywood of Asia, so all the trends from fashion, entertainment and beauty come out of Seoul,” he says. “Stars there are revered as the most masculine people and they have to wear makeup.” He cites super-boybands BTS and EXO as global acts rather than just Asian ones, and says their influence is redefining men’s ideas of what they can and can’t wear. “These celebrities wear BB cream,” he says. “They do their eyebrows and they wear eyeshadow and lipstick and that’s had big ramifications for all of [South Korean] society.”

  • Sisley - Paris Self-Tanning Hydrating Facial Skin Care, 60ml

  • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad - Intense Glow, 20 x 2.2ml

These influences are slowly arriving in the West, but many men still have a big hang-up about wearing makeup. “Makeup has no gender,” says Mr Yi. “We need to understand why we’re ashamed when we act a certain way or why we’re drawn to certain products, and that is conditioning from our society, from our culture, from our relationship to our sexuality.” What we choose to wear – on our bodies as well as our faces – is hugely tied up in our identity, and that’s a tricky thing to pick apart.

The internet certainly takes note every time the actor Mr Ezra Miller steps out wearing lipstick (or a Hedwig costume or a giant Moncler Genius space-worm coat) at a movie premiere, as it did when it was revealed that Mr Daniel Kaluuya wore Fenty Beauty foundation to the Oscars last year. Conversely, Ms Alicia Keys makes headlines every time she chooses not to wear makeup on the red carpet. It’s not just celebrities, either. In 2017, the French president, Mr Emmanuel Macron, came under fire when it was revealed that he spent €26,000 (£23,000) on a makeup artist in his first three months in office, to beautify him before public appearances.

So how does the modern trend-conscious man approach this? A tinted moisturiser – a hydrating facial cream with a hint of colour to perfect the appearance of the skin – is a good starting point. Perricone MD makes an entirely undetectable one that you apply to your face after cleansing to give skin a healthful lift. An all-in-one product that looks like standard moisturising cream rather than foundation or concealer, it adapts to your skin tone to minimise pores, wrinkles and blotchiness.

  • TOM FORD BEAUTY Brow Gelcomb, 2.2ml

  • TOM FORD BEAUTY Concealer Stick - Light, 2.3g

Lab Series also makes an infallible tinted moisturiser, which comes with SPF and is anti-ageing. It is consistently one of the brand’s best sellers. Tom Ford’s concealer is like a lip balm that you can dab on your eye bags or blemishes to make them disappear. Its eyebrow gel can tame your eyebrows and give them a cleaner, well-groomed look that will frame your face in a more flattering light. “When eyebrows get bushy or point downward, it makes your eyelids look heavy and drags your face down,” says Mr Ford in the accompanying notes. “Men should own a brow gel to groom the brows upward to keep them looking tame.”

Ultimately, the difference for men today is that makeup is there if we want it – discreet or not – and the products are better than they’ve ever been. You can still wear your blemishes with pride and lug your eye bags around with you if you want, but you no longer have to.

Come clean

  • Sisley - Paris Buff and Wash Facial Gel, 100ml

  • Aesop Amazing Face Cleanser, 200ml

  • Perricone MD CBx Super Clean Face Wash, 150ml

  • Grown Alchemist Gentle Gel Facial Cleanser - Geranium Leaf, Bergamot & Rose-Bud, 200ml

  • M.E. Skin Lab Cleanser 27 - Bio Balancing Cell Cleansing Cream, 125ml

  • Natura Bissé Diamond Cocoon Enzyme Cleanser, 100ml