The rise of skincare and beauty products for men

Niki Bruce
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

It seems obvious that men’s skincare and beauty products - including makeup - are a thing when both the BBC, and The Guardian dedicate stories to the phenomenon.

Here in Asia there’s been a concerted interest in male skincare and beauty products for a number of years thanks to the influence of Kpop and Kdrama; and Chanel launched its Boy de Chanel makeup line for men in 2018 in Seoul, Korea.

For the ordinary guy, however, is skincare, makeup and other beauty products really something they’re interested in? Do Asian men care enough about their skin to spend cold, hard cash on these products?

According to Singapore skincare and makeup guru Larry Yeo, they do. 

“With everyone wanting to maintain and sustain their looks [it means] that the men’s beauty market has always been growing [but] comparatively the amount of men using skincare is still low. So the market can grow more, like with the explosion in the amount of men wearing makeup in Asia,” states Yeo.

While the use of skincare products for men seems to be more readily accepted says Yeo, the acceptance of makeup on men is still relatively new. 

“Men’s makeup consumption is still low because it is still seen as ‘traditionally feminine’; which is ridiculous because makeup doesn't recognise genders. Stranger still, because men [historically] used to wear more makeup [than women],” explains Yeo.


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Is male makeup really the next big thing?

According to Yeo, makeup doesn’t have a ‘gender’ per se. And when you think of all the actors, musicians and even politicians wearing makeup to look better on screen, you can see why. 

“Everyone wants to look great,” says Yeo. “Some people need more help, some people should apply less.”

The idea of makeup as an everyday thing for guys, may not yet be mainstream, but some men agree with the idea of using it ‘when needed’.

“If they need it for work or if they need to cover something, it’s fine,” says Christopher Daguimol, a product manager in his 30s. “If it makes them feel confident go ahead. Personally, I won’t use it unless I’ll be on stage or I need it whenever I need to be filmed for interviews or a broadcast.”

Ethan Wang, a designer in his 30s, also agrees that a bit of makeup on a guy is fine.

“Light makeup is fine. Concealers and BB Creams are to cover flaws. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t overdo it,” he advises. 

“Besides, it’s your own personality. If you wanna go the full drag, so be it. Nobody’s stopping you except the onlookers who are stuck in their conservative mindset. I do carry a Medicube BB Powder with me but never really use it because I’m always sweating on the go. No point.”

Tim O'Hanlon on the other hand is an artist in his late 30s, based in Australia, and believes guys should give a full face of makeup a go.

“Makeup is amaaaaaaazing, I want to be statuesque and contoured with bombastic neons on my eyelids, big lashes, and have punchy lippy on everyday,” exclaims Mr O’Hanlon. “But that said, I rarely wear makeup outside of queer events and similar safe spaces because I don’t feel 100% safe doing so. Plus it’s not work friendly. I do wear nail polish a lot of the time and that’s usually pretty positively received. 

“I don’t wear makeup everyday as part of a beauty regime because I don’t feel a need for it. I think if men want to wear makeup that’s awesome and we should celebrate anything that helps people feel good about themselves.”

Beige concealer strokes. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Men’s skincare is on a roll

When it comes to skincare products, however, a number of large and small brands have launched into the men’s market. 

Some existing brands have just added a men’s line to their existing products, while new brands have launched with an entirely male-focused product line. The Grey offers a range of men’s only anti-aging skincare products; Mr Brains & Brawn has items like the Bro Mask; and Brickell offers more anti-aging options alongside its traditional shaving balms. 

There is even a brand dedicated to ‘manscaping’. No Hair Crew is a new brand that specialises in depilatory products for men only. Yes, there are creams to help men remove hair from their bodies, and even from their more sensitive areas.

But is there really a difference between skincare products made for women, and those being targeted towards guys? 

“Men can use skincare for women, it’s just that some men are packaging conscious,” explains Yeo. “And there are some tweaks to formulations because male skin is much thicker and oilier. But it shouldn’t mean that most general skincare won’t work across traditional genders.”

The guys using skincare and beauty products

There’s a wide range of men choosing to use skincare and other beauty products, including makeup. On the whole it appears to be about looking good for longer, “maintenance” as Yeo says is a very important reason.

“I think men have always been conscious of how they look,” says Daguimol. “Being perceived well by others is both a biological and cultural need for people. What changed through the years is the perception that beauty products are just for women. 

“Today’s consumers are advocates of self-care and are obsessed with their visual representation in social media, and a good skin care routine is part of this self-care and improving one’s look,” he explains.

For Wang using skincare products is something he’s been doing for a long time. 

“I have been using [skincare] products since secondary school because of my skin issues. It’s really scary to grow up with acne and you can only find over the counter solutions.”

Least you think the phenomenon of men’s skincare and beauty products is only found in Asia, you might be surprised to discover that Western guys are taking to it too. 

“I think in Australia men’s beauty and grooming products have really started to take off. I mean, they actually have men’s products in Sephora which is kind of amazing,” explains O'Hanlon.

“Especially there are lots of products popping up around hair and beard care — there is a huge range out there and I feel like long term those kinds of products will provide a gateway for men to access more skincare and beauty products. But off the back of that, brands like Triumph and Disaster who started in hair care now have a full range of men’s skincare products too.

In most big name beauty stores you’ll find staff who are men these days which I think shows a growing acceptance and popularity of those products with men. That said, I don’t feel like the products are pushed very hard to men—I don’t see much advertising or hype outside of the beauty industry. So, I don't know how far they are penetrating really.”

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Which skincare products should you be using

According to all our respondents, guys should at least be using a good facial cleanser, a moisturiser, an eye serum and sunscreen. And, also according to our skincare loving guys, two brands - Aesop and Kiehl’s - come out on top for products that work on male skin. 

Yeo, a makeup artist and beauty educator, has a much wider range of recommended brands and products - some of which are for women specifically, but are known to work on all skin types. With a background in biotechnology and a specialist diploma in Cosmetic Science, Yeo really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to efficacy.  

Top 6 skincare & makeup products for men by Larry Yeo

  1. MAC studio fix soft matte foundation stick, which belongs to the new formulation of stick foundations that now blends with ease without mistake. We can use it as a concealer or foundation to even out skin tone. And MAC has shades for all skin tones!

  2. Clinique iD™: Dramatically Different™ Moisturizing Tone-up Gel + Active Cartridge Concentrate Kit for Delicate Skin is definitely my favourite combination for day time hydration and combined with the delicate skin cartridge that helps comfort skin; and yet it is NOT TOO STICKY for our humidity.

  3. D Program Whitening Clear Jelly Essence which targets hydration, soothing and protecting skin. For brightening, skin calming and a beautiful invisible texture that works great at night as a treatment and overnight hydration.

  4. DERMA LAB Lumiclar Pure Vitamin C15 (available at Watsons) is great for those who want Anti Aging properties and excellent antioxidant protection during day time!

  5. Est.Lab VitaLift A+ Brillage Face Mask (6 Sheets/Box) is one of my favourite masks that hydrates and allows the skin to stay hydrated for a few days. Might be “costly” to some, however a good formula and an excellent biocellulose mask wins against any $2 poorly formulated stuff.

  6. Any Anessa Sunscreen because without sun protection, everything is useless since SPF is the first step to Anti Aging skincare.