As a child of the ’70s and ’80s, every time I turned on the television (especially MTV), I’d see groups and solo artists with expertly painted faces. They used bold colors and harsh lines to sculpt their features. But I’m not talking about the women, I’m talking about the men.
I remember watching a documentary on Duran Duran and how, when the band was in its infancy, they intentionally used blush, eyeshadow, and lipstick to highlight their individual personas.
Yes, that was four or five decades ago, but the thought of men wearing makeup was common for the rock stars and movie stars of the age. Fast forward to present day, and you’ll spy thousands of videos on YouTube featuring men offering tips for everything from the best makeup to wear to application tips and tricks.
If using beauty products on our face and body makes us look and feel our best, why can’t men have the same way of thinking? Here’s why it’s becoming trendy and why men of every age are jumping on board. Here’s everything you need to know about makeup for men.
For 3000+ years, men have been painting their faces and wearing makeup. The oldest known makeup tools were discovered in China during an archeological dig and included a box filled with items, including a box for powder, a wooden comb, and a mirror—think of it as the first makeup suitcase.
In Korea, up until the 10th Century, a group of elite warrior males group in Silla known as Hwarang were known for their beauty techniques. They readily used both a facial powder and cream rouge to enhance their cheeks and lips.
As for Egypt, look at any image of a man of high ranking, and you’ll spy cat-like eyes rimmed in black. And to really amp up the sign of wealth, they’d also apply lip and cheek stains.
Fast track to the 20th Century when everyone from David Bowie to Boy George was using makeup to great effect. As a little girl, I still remember wondering how Boy George was able to highlight his eyes so beautifully! Does anyone remember the skilled hands of the members of K.I.S.S.? Enter the 2000s when not eyeliner but guy-liner became trendy among the members of emo and rock bands.
Today, male grooming habits have changed completely. Guys go to salons to get manicures and pedicures, head to a beautician for eyebrow waxing, and even use clear polish on their nails for a nice, clean look. There are also made-for-men skincare products to help them age gracefully. You’ll find men using facial masks to ease skin complaints or pore-cleaning tools to minimize the appearance without batting an eyelash.
Thanks to a non-binary spin on beauty enhancement, makeup lines are catering to both men and women. Gender-neutral makeup brands are on the rise, and some even offer biodegradable packaging, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and vegan products. The past few years have seen a rise in beauty products that wearers use to enhance their natural looks, regardless of their gender.
And whether the man wearing it is going for a bolder look or simply wants to diminish red spots or dark circles, using makeup is becoming much more normalized. And while most men are using it more sporadically than as part of a daily routine, it’s a great option for job interviews, special events, or to cover a late night out.
Similar to a woman’s routine, the steps can be as minimal as moisturizer and concealer to an all-out, multi-step process, including cleansing, moisturizing, applying a blur stick, foundation, powder, eyeshadow, mascara, and eyeliner with a highlighter to show off the cheek and brow bones.
Honestly, I love the forward momentum of male beauty products, and honestly, I wonder why it has taken men so long to hop on board. Maybe it’s societal pressure, or maybe it’s because they see us with our 20+ step daily routine and can’t be bothered. Either way, I’m glad that male cosmetics are here to stay.
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