Make-Up for Men: Take a Pass, Please

Blitz Magazine, May 2005

makeupI had a bit of a shock the other day. I ran into a man I hadn’t seen in years. He is now a newly-divorced father of three, in his late ‘40s, red-headed, handsome and successful. We started chatting and I realized that he was wearing make-up. This man has red eyelashes. Had—now they’re jet black. And I could see powder on his chin and cheeks. I must be more old-fashioned that I thought, because I was just floored to see this (presumably) hetero man wearing mascara.

We’ve long been hearing about the boom in sales of men’s cosmetics. In the US, sales are now at $18 billion. In Japan, sales are growing by 4% each year, with 2004 sales hitting 13 billion yen. Much of this has to do with a greater concern for skin care, which is a good thing. And we experiencing a baby-boomer divorce surge—now the kids are in university, their parents are finally giving up the ghost. So there are a lot of men who have to go back to dating again, and it’s perfectly logical for them to want to look more appealing. But seeing this man wearing make-up just totally creeped me out. Like, gag, dude.

I wanted to see how marketers are communicating with men, so I Googled ‘men’s cosmetics’ and found thousands of pages. The Internet is the perfect medium for sales of these products—because, I imagine that most men don’t want to be seen hanging around the Estee Lauder counter at The Bay.

I find this one site—4V00 Distinct Men, whose sell line is ‘Have Fun. Be Sexy. Feel Luxurious’.

I read about its Confidence Corrector, which is ‘an excellent solution for most men!’ and a stick that will give men ‘luminous lips’, by accentuating lips and making them ‘sparkle with sensuous appeal’, as it ‘provides a youthful softness and creates a desirable wet gloss.’ Lipid Lip Serum makes lips ‘fuller, smoother, more sensuous!’ as itrestores collagen, hydrates, plumps, smoothes, and conditions lips to make them sinfully desirable.”

Ewwww! Really! If I meet a man for a drink after work, do I want to see Confidence Corrector over his 5:00 shadow, and his lips plumped and sparkling? No! No! Absolutely not!!!

I freely admit my hypocrisy here. Because of my spectral whiteness, I never leave the house without lipstick. So there’s a definite double standard. But I’m going to claim that it falls into the realm of ‘woman’s prerogative’. Or something like that.

Women, of course, will buy just about any cosmetic substance. They believe every claim, regardless of how bad the ad copy is. A recent Holt Renfrew catalogue touted Clinique’s new line as being “suitable for people with ‘reactionary skin’. Huh? Holts also wants us to know that Alexander McQueen’s “body lotion is enriched with mandrake root, an ingredient known for its magical properties. Bewitching!” And Neutrogena tells us that our skin is ‘disorganized’ and that its products will, uh, reorganize us.

Elizabeth Arden now offers: “Lip Lip Hooray…fortified with a mint-flavored breath freshener and zinc citrate, known for years to counterbalance volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth which cause halitosis (bad breath). Zinc citrate is not a new compound and has been used for years in toothpastes to help decrease malodor in people’s mouths.”

There’s an Ecosense herbal lipstick containing ‘natural waxes, neem, Aloe vera and Vitamin E’. There are a million ‘herbal’ products now, containing things like oils and roots and leaves and, I dunno, gravel from a pit in Mozambique and seeds from Tibetan cow pies. ‘Fact is, most women don’t want to know what’s in their cosmetics. The truth would hurt.

It’s human nature to want to look good. It’s the nature of animals to want to attract the opposite sex—or, in some cases, the same sex. The survival of the species requires that we all take steps to find mates. We all want to feel good too, and we feel better if we know we look good. And, in this navel-gazing, appearance-obsessed society, a lot of people are seeing cosmetic enhancements, spa treatments, skincare regimens and plastic surgery as essential to their career success. ‘Strange, but true.

So I shouldn’t be slagging men for wearing make-up. I only hope that they wear waterproof brands or avoid getting caught in the rain.