From blemish concealers to bronzers and beyond, a number of new and familiar brands are tapping into the growing market of men's makeup. Janna Zittrer uncovers what's behind the momentum
Upon waking with a face full of acne the morning of his Grade 12 prom, Andrew Grella set out in search of a solution. "I checked all the stores, but couldn't find anything that was made for me," says Grella, now 25. "My mom basically attacked me with her makeup bag after I came home empty-handed," he continues. "Once I saw what cosmetics could do for my skin, I vowed I would make a product line for men."
Two years later, Grella made good on his promise with the 2013 launch of Formen, a Toronto-based skincare and cosmetics line designed for male skin. "The morning after we finished our first website, I woke up to find an order in my inbox," he says. "At first, I thought it was a joke, but it turned out it was an order for almost all of our products from an individual living in a small town in the United States [that] I'd never even heard of." Ever since, Formen's sales have exhibited double-digit growth, month over month.
Likewise, the momentum of men in makeup is growing. Last week, CoverGirl, which is owned by cosmetics mega-brand Coty, introduced blogging sensation James Charles as its newest spokesperson in an effort to be more inclusive and offer "boundary-breaking" representitives. While the move has certainly generated buzz for those with an inclination to experiment with cosmetics – and a predilection for a glamorous persona – brands are also seeing growth in a market of men who want to reap the benefits of more simplified enhancement from beauty products, too. Alongside start-ups like Formen, established beauty brands are getting in on the business. Tom Ford was one of the first to market with a men's makeup line that includes a concealer, liquid bronzer and brow gel, and Clinique for Men now offers a face bronzer and promotes its dark-circle corrector to male shoppers.
The need to look good is gender neutral, after all. "Our appearance matters because it not only reflects how we feel about ourselves, but also influences how people react to us," says Lynne Mackay, an Ottawa-based image consultant. Mackay limited her aesthetic advice to her male clients to manicures and hair removal in the 1980s, she admits, but now earnestly recommends such products as under-eye concealer and brow pencils.
While it may take time to see more men reaching for lipstick or rouge, a little tinted moisturizer can go a long way. "The marketplace is so competitive today and men are looking at ways they can maintain a youthful look," Mackay adds. "Basically, what it all says is if you can take care of yourself, you can take care of my needs."
Earlier this year, M.A.C Cosmetics launched a line of unisex makeup in partnership with Peter and Harry Brant, the socialite sons of supermodel Stephanie Seymour. "The brothers successfully highlighted a customer who already loved M.A.C, but also welcomed newcomers by bringing awareness," says M.A.C Cosmetics senior artist Regan Rabanal, adding, "A large part of the introduction of makeup for men is breaking down their wall of insecurity."
Indeed, the stigma surrounding men's use of makeup poses a challenge. "For the vast majority of men, the idea of approaching a makeup counter is absolutely terrifying because it's not the social norm," says Britain-based male beauty vlogger Jake-Jamie Ward. Better known by his online alias "The Beauty Boy," Ward has taken his share of flak for flouting gender roles. "Go play with the girls," taunted one social media user. "Sorry, mate, but some fellas like to be fellas," commented another.
Still, Ward's largely supportive following buoys his mission to dispel outdated makeup myths. "I'm certainly not saying every man should wear makeup," he says, "but those who wish to shouldn't have to feel as though they are going to be questioned and judged for wanting to do something that makes them feel confident."