New Report Shows Male Cosmetics Boom Starting with China

Recent reports revealed an increase in the sales of men’s cosmetics and skin care, especially in China. Marco Brockmann/ Shutterstock

According to recent studies and insiders in the cosmetics industry, the baby boomer generation of men in China is taking time to tinker with their appearances.

“The change of men’s skin care concept has led to a constant release of men’s cosmetics with total volume of retail sales accounting for 4.6 in 2013,” the Report China Cosmetics Market Report for 2014-2017 states, “and in the future the proportion will be further raised.”

The report, released February 12 this year, contains more proof that the discussion of men’s makeup and the increase in androgyny within the beauty and fashion industry, isn’t going anywhere.

“Men really are the number one talk in the beauty industry,” says Michele Probust, owner of the male skincare and cosmetics line Menaji. “They’re just the last ones to know it.”

In 2000, Probust opened her business and started selling concealer, one of her most popular products.

She says that men are becoming more educated and interested in their personal appearance for the same reasons that women are.

“It’s really about education,” she says. “Men are just now getting educated on these things. Women grow up learning this stuff, men don’t.”

Matthew Hall, a research associate at Lancaster University, discussed the taboos behind men wearing makeup in his paper titled “Straight guys do wear makeup: Contemporary masculinities and investment in appearance,” that was published in September 2014.

“While some marginalised that young men may enact hypermasculine, misogynistic and homophobic behaviors, for example those caught up in gangs, crime and drugs culture, for the vast majority of boys and men overt displays of prejudice, violence and sexual objectification are taboo. Instead, the evidence suggests that young men in particular are developing masculine identities to take up previously feminised practices, notably in the arena of personal appearance.”

Probust says Menaji markets to men in a way that makes selfcare look more masculine. She never uses the word “makeup” when talking to a client, her concealers are manly named things like “Urban Camo,” and her products are delivered in vintage cigar boxes.

“We’re selling confidence,” Probust says. “Everything we try to keep as masculine in presentation as possible. I don’t want a guy to look like he has anything on his face. When they realize we’re not talking about lipstick and eye shadow, they’re open to it. Guys have 20 percent oilier skin than women do and 15 percent thicker. I tell my guys, ‘it’s not makeup, it’s cleanup.’”

Hall, who published the paper with Professor Brendan Gough of Leeds Metropolitan University, argues that young men connect their body image with their personal well being. He states in his paper that the shift is just a sign of times, and that men are redefining what it means to be masculine.

“Forays into once feminine territory (beauty, emotion, care) do not necessarily mean that masculinity has radically changed, but rather has been refashioned to fit with a changing landscape which values appearance, emotional intelligence and individuality.”

Hall’s paper primarily argues the idea that only gay men wear makeup and take care of their personal appearance. According to his research, it is the young metrosexual men who are noticably engaging in feminine practices, while still maintaining their masculinity. Probust’s main client base backs him up.

“People are surprised to find out that the gay market isn’t our largest market,” Probust says. “It’s the baby boomer. The baby boomer might be gay also, but it’s the boomer as an independent market. Guys are interviewing for jobs, and they are competing with women. Women take care of the way they look. Now with guys can do the same.”

Youtuber Jonathan Curtis vlogs regularly about men’s makeup and produces his own video tutorials that receive over 100,000 views. He started wearing makeup after learning how to apply it in theatre, and working at a beauty store. In a recent video titled “Why I Wear Makeup,” Curtis discussed the taboo behind this growing trend.

“My philosophy on makeup is the same for men’s makeup as it is for women’s makeup,” Curtis said. “I think it’s a great tool to enhance your favorite features.”

“I really hate that there is a stigma of men wearing makeup. It’s 2015, let’s get over it.”

In the video, Curtis goes on to say that makeup is a personal choice that has nothing to do with a person’s gender.

“Not everyone has to choose to wear makeup,” he says. “But I feel like the people that are saying ‘Oh you’re a man. Be a man. Why do you need to wear makeup, it’s for girls,’ it’s just silly. Makeup is so personal. When it comes to hate or mean comments or glares and stares from people when they see me or other men wearing makeup, I’ve learned to deal with it very well.”

Where Curtis lives, makeup isn’t usually seen on men. But he doesn’t think that means society as a whole hasn’t accepted the concept.

“I think today it’s much more accepted for men to wear makeup, especially in metropolitan areas like New York, LA, London, and areas of Asia where boys are brought up to take care of their skin,” Curtis says. “Obviously there are more conservative areas that will take a bit more warming up, but I think it’s just like any fashion, it starts in the big cities and works its way through the masses. It might take some time before it makes it to the small towns. Personally I’ve only really ever received backlash on the internet in the comments of my YouTube videos.”

Curtis believes that men should not be made to feel bad for wearing makeup, and says that it’s really been going on for centuries.

“One common misconception of men wearing makeup is that it’s only for gay men,” Curtis says.

“Makeup has the power to make anyone feel confident no matter your sexuality or gender. In Ancient Egypt it was something everyone wore regardless of gender or class. Makeup is just a tool that people have created to help instill a sense of self confidence within themselves, and that should be available for anyone and everyone.”

Probust also says that guys are more likely to wear natural makeup. They are more interested in cleaning up their oily skin, fixing dark circles, rosacea or adult acne — in other words, the same basic problems that women solve with makeup.

“Men are responding,” the former celebrity makeup artist says. “They’re spending $33 billion a year on their care in the U.S. alone. They are averaging 57 minutes a day grooming. That’s up like up six minutes in the last four years. And we’re living longer, so men really realize that they need to take care of their face.”

Though Menaji has begun to put out products in Nordstrom other retailers, online shopping is the main avenue for men to purchase their grooming products. According to a 2013 report by Mintel, a marketing intelligence agency, the features of shopping online appeal to some 60 percent of men ages 18-34 who buy beauty products and agree that buying online is more convenient than shopping in-store. This compares to 52 percent of women of the same age—and 41 percent of their older male counterparts, ages 55 and older.

Moreover, 37 percent of younger men who buy beauty products also report being more likely to make impulse purchases when shopping online compared to shopping in-store, versus 26 percent of female consumers of the same age.

“As men are particularly motivated by time-saving and convenience as reasons for shopping online, beauty retailers may want to consider expanding more marketing efforts to this often untapped consumer in the beauty category,” says Shannon Romanowski, beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel. “Men are a prime target for online beauty retailing as they are less likely to want to spend a lot of time browsing stores and are looking for quick, simple and convenient ways to get the products they want. Additionally, the internet allows for a level of anonymity when shopping for products that may be a bit embarrassing to shop for in person like anti-aging or hair thinning products, particularly for men.”

Probust says that her favorite clients are the ones that aren’t exactly open to the idea, because she can “turn them around.” But even after they’re willing to wear the product, they’re not as willing to let people know.

“It’s very important to them that it’s their secret,” she says. “Nobody needs to know about it. One guy called and said ‘I’m having it mailed to the office, it doesn’t come in a pink box right?’”