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Sep 3, 2010

Cosmetics for Men: Yea or Nay?

Women, do you ever catch your husband digging through your makeup bag to borrow your concealer?  How about your eye shadow and mascara?  Pay attention!

I stumbled upon this article yesterday in the New York Times:

Men's Cosmetics Becoming a Bull Market

Whether they admit it or not, more men are using cosmetics, judging from sales figures and the number of new products arriving on store shelves. But please don’t call it “makeup” — cosmetics marketers pointedly steer clear of the term, which men tend to find emasculating. 

Got that?

For some reason, articles about the growing popularity of makeup for men turn up every few years, primarily during the slow news season: I remember the last one I read being about some fancy men's concealer Yves Saint Laurent had launched, Touche Eclat.

Ever since the New York Times started its Style section and "T" fashion magazine, there have been more and more articles about men's fashion fads, no doubt to please Times advertisers.  Remember the obsession with the term "metrosexual?"  How about those men's girdles disguised as sports briefs?

But this makeup for men meme-spreading effort is particularly annoying.

Just to be clear: if guys choose to wear makeup, that's fine with me from an aesthetic point of view.  It can be sexy on the right kind of guy -- or even the wrong kind.

What offends me is the old chestnut about men being too ashamed to shop at the Clinique counter at Bloomingdales, amid all the mascara and lipsticks, to buy a product like concealer.

Do we men really need our own product lines?  Is masculinity that fragile that men can't be caught buying Physician's Formula mineral foundation?

This "bull market" in men's cosmetics is, pardon the pun, bull -- sales figures notwithstanding.  It's all marketing and its all-too-predictable effects.  The New York Times is willing to help spread the word: men want (and need) to look younger and prettier -- just like their female counterparts.

Now I'm no towering model of masculinity, but do you know what I use on my skin?

Not one thing.

I don't use soap; I rinse my face with water.  If my skin feels dry during the winter, say, from wind or swimming in a chlorinated pool, I rub my face with -- remember, you heard it here first -- almond oil, and rinse off the excess.  Oil is a great dirt remover, too, and it protects the skin.  That really is it.  A great way to exfoliate is to have a good sweat from some intense aerobic exercise like running; my skin always feels smoother afterwards.

Maybe not the best system for an acne-prone teenager, but it works for me.

But back to makeup.

Author Quentin Crisp generally wore powder and lipstick and it was considered quite shocking at the time.

But he was the type you might expect to wear make up (wink wink.)

The New York Times would have us believe that the time has come when even "a Customs and border-protection officer who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 240 pounds — and whose uniform includes a 9-millimeter handgun" is wearing concealer.

Get it? (NOT a pansy!)

Ho hum.

Readers, what do you think? 

Do the landfills of the world need more empty plastic bottles of men's grooming products?  Do guys need to slather our skin with more toxins to make ourselves more appealing?  Do you prefer men with nicely groomed eyebrows and a clear complexion?

Ever caught hubby with his hands in the foundation jar?

Why can't you just love us as we are?

Your thoughts, please!


  1. First off, I LURVE me a boy in eyeliner. I'm getting all weak in the knees just thinking about it (and it's been YEARS since my hubby last dolled himself up, sigh...) Lipstick, not so much a fan, but then I don't really wear it myself either. My (fairly butch) brother-in-law was big into foundation and concealer when I first met him, although with age his skin has cleared up so not so much anymore.

    Second off, dumb as it is, many men WILL still buy a product aimed at them rather than an identical product marketed in a feminine way. This says a lot more about our persistent gender stereotypes than anything else. Incidentally, my mother- and sister-in-law both have collections of pink household tools (hammers, screw-drivers, etc.), which is basically the reverse of the same kind of marketing.

    Next off, good for you for managing your skin so naturally :). I've been doing the full feminine skin-care routine since I was fourteen or fifteen, and I really do not like what happens to my skin when I stop for a few days :P. Though honestly, I think cosmetic products are a fairly small part of my "avoidable waste" production...

    As to your final question... if you're okay with being loved as you are, the cosmetic companies don't make any money, of course!

    Enough cynicism to start your morning? :)

  2. I like my men "au naturale" (did I spell that right?)....anyway, I don't want my guy to *ever* look prettier than I do ;)

    But WTH, to each his own...just don't use my eyeliner, it isn't sanitary to share....cosmetics, LOL!

  3. Well, yeah, men probably do need their own lines of cosmetics because the marketing is going to be different. I wouldn't initially be attracted to buy a "man's" product, so why should a man want to buy mine? Plus, there are bound to be different scents involved too. I could buy Old Spice deodorant now and it would do the trick. But do I really want to?

    Never caught my husband (he could use it! mwah!) but my son - yes the new Marine recruit - loves make up. Not in the feminine sense, but in the theatrical. He loves costumes and all that go with them. I should link you to his Facebook page. I seriously think the Marines' dress blues is one reason he chose that branch. ;-)

  4. I don't think I'd like a chap with a 'routine', but I am getting on a bit. My daughter tells me some of her friends wear tinted moisturiser. As for the eyebrow thing, that freaks me out. Yes to tidying up a monobrow, but those perfect Joan Crawford arches are a step too far.

    In confessing to your own minimalist regime I think you've missed an opportunity - having showed us so much of your own flawless skin yesterday you could have been launching your own line today!

  5. I've been sent to the store to pick up the proper concealer for one of my fellas a time or two. Hey, I offer! Lets disguise those undereye bags and zits! After showing them how to apply it properly, you couldn't tell they were wearing it.
    I don't mind it as long as it looks natural.

  6. On the eyebrows, I tweeze the wild hairs that my husband gets because my grandfather used to make me do his when I was growing up. I can't stand the "Wild Man of Borneo" look on a man's eyebrows, just turns me off entirely. When my husband eyebrows are getting wild, he also looks about 10 years older than when they are groomed nicely.

    - AmyLou

  7. (Note to self: pluck wild hairs....)

  8. I tend to buy gender-neutral cosmetics to begin with. Skin is skin whatever your gender, color is color, and I don't like it when products are aimed towards "markets" or otherwise narrowly categorize consumers. The broader their appeal (and the more they present themselves as decoration rather than a lifestyle choice), the more likely I am to buy a product. My fella and I share deodorant, lip balms, and moisturizers; he has far more hair products than I do, and I only wear mascara and lipstick on weekends so not much to share there. Gender is something you perform, and I'm not much of an actor on a day-to-day basis, though I can vamp it up when I'm feeling it (like when I want to cheer my fella up! ;)

  9. I'm a "live and let live" kind of person. If a man wants to wear make-up, that's fine by me. Some men look particularly hot in a little well placed eyeliner (Bret Michaels!) but I think my hubby would look ridiculous!

  10. I'd laugh my a__ off if I saw my husband in makeup. I go kind of natural myself partly because of all the skin allergies. I wear lipstick but that's it. I use a moisturizer with an almond oil base --love it. If you've ever looked closely at my photos you can see I don't even color my hair. I tried that a few times and was so allergic to the stuff I was lucky not to end up bald. As for plucking hairs and that kind of stuff, that's just good grooming isn't it?

    But with all that said, I don't care if men do wear makeup. I think Eddie Izzard looks great!

  11. One of my clients at my last job did his eyebrows. It wasn't distracting until one of his co-workers told me, then it was like I couldn't see anything else!

    I guess it's ok if it's applied correctly and subtle. The same goes for women's makeup, for that matter.

  12. I like 'em raw...showered and fresh, but raw. Don't mind a dab of cologne now and then, but there is something about the natural state of a man that is utterly appealing. Doesn't hurt that I am married to a pure hottie.

  13. Make-up may be fun now and then (I think Adam Lambert makes some intentional, provocative choices that work for him), but in general, I think make-up doesn't do ANYONE any favors.

    Fresh, healthy skin, a bright, interested mien and clear eyes are incredibly attractive. Artificial enhancement? Not so much.

    I don't wear make-up at all; Mr. Noile finds it creepy,and I have medical problems with my eyes which make using even the tiniest bit of mascara ill-advised.

    Would I be attracted to a guy who used make-up? Well, no, not if "attracted" means "hormonal interest". I don't find obsessive attention to public presentation an indication that anybody in question is likely to be a interesting, attentive, lively partner. I like to know that there's somebody a little more substantial inside the pretty package.

    A guy who wears make-up in this culture probably falls into my "obsessive" category. I'm not repulsed by light make-up on women, but I rarely see a woman whose beauty is enhanced by any amount of cosmetics.

    Make-up largely seems to detract from an individual's appearance, rather than improve it. It seems to be mostly used to make people look like something they aren't. Which is, after all, probably the point.

  14. your skin care regimen is the same as mine, plus i try to drink a lot of water.

    some guys look really hot in makeup. rawr.

  15. I like my guy just the way he is, clean and natural - no makeup please! He doesn't need it. I couldn't imagine being with a man who wore eyeliner and lipstick, especially when I'm a fan of the natural look myself!
    I'm not into tanning or highlights on men either. Natural is best! The rest is just a distraction.

  16. Back in the 80's my hubby was known to wear eyeliner once in awhile.

    I don't think he was wearing any in this photo, but maybe he got the idea from the man standing next to him.

    Today 30 years later, he does not wear any makeup, but does wash his face with cleanser, then toner, and then moisturizer.

    I am a nay...not more products..we have way too many as it is. This whole marketing thing turns my stomach.

  17. Some people wear makeup as their armor; it's what they use as a confidence booster to face the world. Nothing wrong with tha. Roman Soldiers wore makeup into battle. Warriors wore warpaint. It's been around for thousands of years. I have no objection to men wearing makeup,other men that is. I like my husband with NO makeup.

  18. This is news to me. In high school a few guys wore eyeliner, but I've never heard of men wearing concealer or foundation. Seeing a man in make up would probably make me feel the same way I do when I see a woman in make up. Actually, I think I'd welcome the idea. I don't like that putting effort into one's appearance is seen as feminine (i.e. not worthwhile, and even kind of a joke). I think a lot of men feel like they shouldn't care about the way they look (not that not wearing make up means you're a slob!). If it really was becoming more common for men to use cosmetics, I'd be pleased because I'd see it as a sign of our society becoming more relaxed about gender expectations. Admittedly, I'd find it a bit odd if my boyfriend started wearing foundation, but as long as he's not wearing lip gloss (ick!) I'd be fine with it.

    Also, your skin care routine sounds great! Most products you can buy are no better than soap and water, anyway. I wash my face with plain old soap, and use a moisturizer from Lush when I think I need it (although I'm trying to find something simpler to moisturize with, so I might try almond oil). I think the best skin and hair care products can be found at the grocery store instead of a cosmetics counter.

  19. My boyfriend doesn't wear any make-up and I'm glad he doesn't. He does however like to take care of his skin. He was always going into my skin care products (face wash, toners, scrubs) so for his birthday, I gave him options for his present. Either a line of men's skincare/shave products or bicycle accessories. He had just bought himself a new bike. He immediately asked for the skincare and has been using it religiously ever since. My brother, however, is a total metrosexual and takes care of his skin, gets his hair straightened occasionally, and gets his eyebrows threaded.

  20. My husband is pretty low-key in the "product" arena - he uses basic stuff to keep clean (I appreciate his personal hygiene), but I can't see him using cosmetics EVER. He's a naturally good-looking-but-not-too-pretty guy, and I like him that way! I'm a low-maintenance (well, deferred maintenance, anyway) kind of girl and I don't want to have to keep up with or compete with my husband appearance-wise.

    I do admit that I am a child of the 80's, though, and I'm forever imprinted with the idea that Duran Duran-esque makeup is HOT. I'm mentally dressing Mr. Touche Eclat (because he looks great in that pic, but it took me a minute to notice the eyeliner!) in a steampunk/Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes wardrobe and he is mentally looking mighty fine. :D

    And I'm pretty sure we will have to have an apocalypse to get people to stop buying stuff they don't need.

  21. My DH would not buy "skin products" per se.
    We each shower with our preferred scent of a local, hand-crafted, olive-oil soap (with no glycerin). We both use coconut oil, which we prefer over olive oil, on our skin.

  22. Oh, Adam I love thee. I'd gladly share cosmetics tips and trades with a man. They have such a different sensibility than women do.

    I don't have one problem with it at all.

  23. currently I'm in India and I keep seeing on TV ads for one or the other "best fairness cream for men"... when fairness is such an important concept there seems to be no gender barrier...*sigh* ... I will not comment on what I just said..ok, maybe just a lil, but not abt "fairness" - whatever the media sells people seem to buy, or at least more people will feel "more free" to buy as we get "educated" by the media...


    Do I need to say more?
    Your reader in the dark (meaning Germany),


  25. I think it helps to be British.

  26. I use almond oil as a moisturizer too, and I wash my face with honey. This helps a lot in the winter when my skin gets dry and scaly as a dragon's. I am 43 and a couple of months ago the cashier at a convenience store in Maine wouldn't sell me any beer.


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  28. My 14 yr old very manly son asked me yesterday "Do you have anything I can use to get rid of these black bags under my eyes"...
    Says it all really

  29. My Hubby doesn't do makeup (ahem I mean cosmetics), but then again, I don't either. Unless I want to be dolled up. I think it would be fun to see in in some "facial enhancers" since he has the fabulous deep-set blue eyes.... Sorry, mind wandered there for a bit.

    For myself I don't shave at all and The Hubby is totally chill with that. He's often scruffy on the jaw but is sure to keep his uni-brow at bay. I'll wax my eyebrows, but that's every few months (not because they're fine, far from it).

    Wow, can I get the award for the least thought out, most rambly response? This comment is all over the place.

    Basically we're more in the mind set of do what you're comfortable with and find someone who can appreciate that. Oh, and I use his Old Spice deodorant.

  30. My cousin always wore makeup, it really suited him, and he had the looks and style for it. Now that he is older, he has more of a current day David Bowie
    look. You can tell he loved the glam look, but now he is more sophisticated. He would apply my makeup,
    but then that was years ago.

  31. I am 55 and have had serious skin cancer (malignant melanoma) so a bit of sunscreen worn on the face is my constant companion. Yeah, sometimes it looks a bit oily but I've learned to live with it. Now that my skin has dried out some on its own it's not so bad. I do dab something around my eyes moisturizer) as that seems to be the only place I think my maturity is showing. Otherwise, it's pretty clean and simple. Rinse my face off in the shower, shave with a natural shave cream and sun screen it up.


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