Beauty and skin care products have long been marketed toward women, but with an increase in the popularity of genderless beauty trends came even more acceptance in who can use skin care and makeup products: Men. Today, beauty and cosmetics companies are starting to market entire lines of skin care and cosmetics to men like never before. Using packaging, fragrance, and marketing, beauty brands are creating the impression that it’s ok for men to use skin care and makeup products.
Where men’s grooming products were once limited to things like facial hair grooming kits, hair gels, and other products to enhance masculinity, today they’re broadening to include products that were once associated with femininity. Things like concealers, multi-step skin care regimens, and other makeup and beauty products that were once marketed solely toward women are now being marketed toward men. In places like Europe, the men’s beauty market saw a sharp rise over the last couple of years as more men are purchasing skin care and beauty products than ever before. But the change in consumer landscape isn’t necessarily because men are becoming more open to the prospect of makeup: it’s because makeup companies are becoming more open to how they market to men than ever before.
Men’s beauty has always looked different around the world.
In places like South Korea and Japan, it’s not uncommon to see cisgendered (those that identify with the gender they were born under) heterosexual men wearing things like blush, mascara, and even eyeshadow to compliment their outfits in certain occasions or create an image of bigger eyes seen in popular cartoons. In Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood, for example, thousands of men can be seen on a regular basis shopping in the area’s trendy clothing boutiques and sampling makeup products marketed toward neither women nor men.
Over the last decade, Japanese makeup brands have increasingly noticed a rise in consumer spending among young men. Even some of the country’s most successful social media influencers have built their brands on the notion that makeup is for everyone as genderless beauty becomes the norm around Tokyo and beyond. For trendsetters like Ryuchel, a genderless beauty blogger with a wife and son that neither identifies as transgender nor wants to be anything like the masculine men of a previous era, wearing makeup and styling your hair is simply a part of daily life—regardless of who the products might be marketed for. Ryuchel, who is among some of Japan’s most popular social media influencers, has a cult-like following and has influenced the trend of what is called “jendaresu-kei,” the japanese word for “genderless style.”
But even then, men’s beauty was a niche limited to the millennial and gen z consumer landscape until the latter half of the 2010’s. Many of Japan’s more widespread beauty and fashion trends are influenced by other trends happening around the world. So when Chanel launched its first makeup products for men in 2019, it solidified that Japan’s beauty industry could start doing the same in Japan. Luxury beauty brands began to notice the trend rising, and quickly started producing makeup lines specifically for men that sat in the 8,600 JPY range (around $80 USD or $73 Euro).
In Europe, men are driven to experiment with skin care and male grooming products because of the pressure from society to always look your best. Social media has increased the pressure on women to always be photo-ready, but men feel that pressure too. Men’s grooming products, once limited to beard care and facial washes, have gradually expanded all over Europe and the United States to include a wider variety of products meant to help men feel more confident in the way they look.
Men’s grooming in the 2020’s
With more and more men around the world beginning to use beauty products and cosmetics, more brands are opening up to the prospect of treating men as a lucrative consumer base for their products. However, the boundaries of what types of products male consumers are generally interested in is dependent on the packaging that the products come in. Men’s makeup and beauty products were once marketed toward women as a way to attract them to buy the products as gifts for their husbands and boyfriends. Now, with added pressure put on men to look good all the time, companies are marketing the products directly toward men.
The influence of the wellness industry has also convinced men that taking care of their skin is a basic tenet of good hygiene practice. Men that use more grooming products are more likely to care about their health, and social media has created the perception that both men and women should care about their appearances and wellness all the time—not just for special occasions.
For skin care and beauty products geared toward men, brands are finding success in shifting their packaging and advertising strategies to accommodate to the things that men are interested in. The beauty industry might work to make women and feminine people feel more beautiful, but to capture the male consumer audience, brands have to shift their focus toward how to make men feel more handsome—regardless of how many genderless trends there might be around the world.
Oars & Alps, a men's skincare company that creates skin care and grooming products with branding and fragrances that are meant to appeal toward men, was recently sold to SC Johnson for global distribution. Within just a few years of its launch, the company was able to graduate from its startup phase into a valuation of $20 million USD, the price at which SC Johnson was rumored to have purchased it for. The brand was able to take advantage of a distinct market opportunity after noticing that there were very few men’s grooming products on the market. By using masculine packaging and branding, the products were suddenly appealing to an entire consumer base that would never have picked up the products before.
Male celebrities like Ansel Elgort and American Horror Story’s Cody Fern have even sported makeup looks on the red carpet, where their gender-bending decisions have not only made headlines, but sent a clear message that makeup isn’t just for women feminine people anymore. While glitter and eyeshadow are likely not in the immediate future for everyday men’s grooming products, other things like concealer and foundation are becoming more popular. With clever marketing and careful branding, any beauty company can tap into the men’s consumer market successfully. General views on gender norms are changing, and even the most masculine men are opening up to the idea that grooming products will make them feel more confident in their appearance.
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