When celebrity watchers talk awards-season beauty trends, dudes don't generally get much attention. This year, though, two new developments are pretty hard to ignore: (1) the man bun is the new beard and (2) orange – as in the unnatural tint of a faux glow – is everywhere. It started at the Emmys, where both Will Arnett and Jeff Daniels looked like they had fallen asleep in tanning beds. A flurry of social media mockery ensued, though apparently it wasn't enough to prompt reflection. At the Golden Globes a few months later, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper and other A-list leading men raised eyebrows with their radioactive glows. "It's crazy," says Melissa Gibson, a makeup artist with M.A.C. "It was like all of these guys got a group deal at a spraytan salon and decided to try it for the first time." (The Golden Globe for best impression of an Oompa Loompa went to Leo, by a shade.)
Gibson and a number of other makeup pros I spoke with could only guess at the reason for the orange invasion on the red carpet: Maybe male celebs are opting for spray tans because they seem more macho than makeup; maybe lighting made the tans looked particularly over-the-top on TV and in photos; maybe American Hustle has prompted a return of the late-seventies super tan à la George Hamilton. Whatever the explanation, the consensus was that, when it comes to achieving a realistic-looking, sun-kissed complexion, spray tans are not the safest bet.
Bronzer, by contrast, is both a guy-friendly alternative and won't make men look like pumpkins. Ben Mulroney, a man who has spent plenty of time observing red-carpet trends (and who used to get ribbed for his own extreme tan), says bronzers, which have been available to men for deacdes, has come a long way. "There are better products now. More options. The makeup industry has caught up to the HD universe."
Last year, Tom Ford released a guys-only cosmetics and skincare collection that included both a powder and a gel bronzer. Guerlain, Clinique and Kiehl's are among the many makeup brands with dedicated dude bronzing products. The key difference between male and female formulas tends to be the weight (guys products are lighter to avoid getting caked onto facial hair) and the lack of light reflectors, which can result in a decidedly un-burly shimmer.
"Even when men wear makeup, we still want them to look like men," says Diana Schmidtke, a men's grooming expert who has primped the rugged faces of George Clooney and Chris Hemsworth. Schmidtke says applying an even amount of product all over the face will often result in that phony, mask-like look. "With bronzer, you can apply more product to those specific areas where the sun would hit your face: the cheekbones, the chin, the top of your forehead, the tip of your nose."
As for the dreaded orange glow, it is often caused by the chemical reaction between skin and self-tanner or by using the wrong bronzing products. "If it looks orange in the package, it's probably going to look orange on your face," says Schmidtke, who suggests that first-timers try a tanning product with a brown base.
Finally, she says that men should stick with products that are only about a shade darker than their own natural complexion. Used correctly, says Schmidtke, bronzer can warm up your complexion and give a pop of colour. "It's not going to turn a pale person into a dark one," she cautions. But it's not going to turn an Academy Award nominee into a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory extra, either.