Men's make-up sales are booming - here's why

Men's make-up sales are booming - here's why

No matter how much we might like to think we’re making progress when it comes to banishing unrealistic beauty stereotypes, when women don’t wear make-up on the red carpet or in a magazine shoot, it still makes for big news. But while we women like to complain about the amount of attention focused on our appearance, compared to our talents, if the 2018 awards season is anything to go by, men have it just as bad. Because when Get Out actor Daniel Kaluuya stepped out at the Oscars with the world’s most glorious complexion (us, jealous?) the internet pretty much exploded over the fact that he was getting a little help from our old favourite, Fenty.  

But in reality, Daniel's willingness to embrace the foundation isn't all that radical. Men’s beauty sales are booming, with the industry now worth $50bn per year and the growth of skincare in particular well into double digits and outpacing women's, according to market intelligence researchers at Euromonitor international. From moisturisers, to elaborate shave kits and expensive exfoliators, it seems that male grooming is no longer the preserve of film stars and drag queens. Now, more blokes are set to take it to the next level, with a growing market for men's make-up.

Among this new wave of offerings on the make-up market is MMUK, a make-up brand designed specifically for men, which is carried by the online fashion giant ASOS. Launched in 2012, MMUK expanded rapidly and by 2016 was already boasting a £750,00 a year turnover. Founder, Alex Dalley, attributes this rise, in part, to the number of male celebrities now willing to admit they too have a little help from the beauty bag, saying: "With celebrities such as Russell Brand, David Beckham and Mark Wright all having confessed to resorting to make-up for men to boost their perfection, the spotlight is now very much on modern day men to get in on the action."

But that doesn’t mean that men and women are using make-up in the same way; for men, the focus appears to be more on concealers and foundations, with MMUK listing these, alongside clear mascara and beard fillers, as their most popular products. Rather than going all out with smokey eyes and shimmery highlighter, men are using face paint to hide the bits they’re insecure about. 

Someone who knows this all too well is Jake Jamie, a 26-year-old beauty blogger better known as The Beauty Boy, who has built his reputation on giving skin perfecting YouTube beauty tutorials and honest product reviews. On his website, Jake, who started the #makeupisgenderless movement on Instagram, explained his own motivations for embracing the slap, stating: “It makes me feel good, complete, confident and ready to take on the world!” 

So, will the trend continue, or is it just a passing phase as more people experiment with gender fluidity? Jamie believes it’s here to stay, claiming: “I receive emails daily from straight men who are thinking about buying their first foundation or concealer after years of feeling unhappy within themselves.”

More mainstream cosmetics companies appear to be waking up to this too; although at present there is still a distinct lack of male make-up ranges on the high street, the UK managing director of the iconic cosmetics giant L’oreal, Vismay Sharma, has said that they expect to see male-focused beauty counters within department stores within the next “five to seven years". Even brands that already focus exclusively on "traditional" male grooming, such as razor-makers Cornerstone, are slowly nudging their way towards extending their product ranges to include creams and moisturisers. 

But that doesn’t mean that all men are comfortable with the idea of stepping their grooming routine up a notch just yet - or at least, not everyone is comfortable with admitting to it. I asked a few male friends how far they would take their beauty regime, and whether they’d be open to trying out a beauty hack or two. Their responses were, er, interesting: 

Toby, 27

"At the moment I moisturise and occasionally use a pen thing to cover up spots, which probably counts as make-up. In my opinio,n the main drivers of male make-up are remedial, I think men tend to care more about outcomes rather than ingredients. Moisturising is becoming much more acceptable anyway."

Jake, 24

"I don't think so. I exfoliate and moisturise but that's as far as I'm taking it."

Ben, 26

"I moisturise already but wouldn't really wear make-up. It's nothing to do with the fact it's make-up, I just couldn't be bothered. I did buy passionfruit body scrub once, but only because the girl selling it was hot. It's quite nice to be fair, but way too much faff to do again."

Patrick, 29

"Does conditioner count? I use that sometimes."

Really, it's long overdue that we start acknowledging that men have their body hang-ups too; just as women suffer with acne, dream of sharper cheekbones, better jawlines and shinier hair, so too do men. And at the moment, the fashion and beauty industries really aren't doing enough to address this - just take a look at the fashion industry's distinct lack of male plus-sized models, for instance. So who are we to judge if the guys in our life are getting a little extra help? Plus, having an extra beauty bag to raid before a night out is always a winner.