Makeup for men…

// 30 July 2008

A few make-up products are to be sold in highstreet chain Superdrug, aimed specifically at men – prompting fascination in the Guardian offices.

Not only have they interviewed a random selection of men on whether they would ever wear mascara or concealer, they have found an in-house man to try it for himself, on video.

First off, no, it’s not a good thing that even more human beings are now being targeted by big cosmetics firms aiming to make a buck from people feeling bad about how they look au natural. It’s interesting in particular because the products that have been released so far are focused on being nearly (or actually imperceptible). According to the Guardian, these products include clear “manscara” (eehldff). Thus make-up for men is apparently all prettying-up, no art & creativity – at least for now.

Then we have the attempts to macho-up makeup – it must be clearly labelled “for men”, “manscara”, and tried out on fully-bearded men. Presumably so as not to scare off male customers, by removing as much association with femininity as possible.

See also the words of one of the random men quoted by the Guardian:

But are Britain’s men ready to start the day by enhancing their eyes or concealing their bags? Not according to 17-year-old Damon Aston, a jeweller from Watford, who agreed to try Guyliner, but couldn’t wait to get it off. “I would never wear it. It’s not manly, it’s just gimpy. I’m not that kind of boy. I don’t think girls would like it. It depends on the girl, but not the ones who like proper boys,” he insisted.

Oy – “proper boys”? “gimpy”? “not manly”? Sexism and some implied homophobia there, I believe.

Guardian makeup guineapig Paul MacInnes’ words are also telling:

Why has this changed? Why, oh why, oh bloody why? Some will see the emasculation of men at the root. Deprived of national service, of manual labour, they sit in office blocks their entire day contemplating the futility of their existence and whether their skin is quite luminous enough. Others will cite the comprehensive triumph of feminism. Having reduced the patriarchy to a quivering mass, men are desperate to try anything, even kohl, if it might persuade their new masters to look upon them kindly.

Oy 2 – I know he is not being serious, but still.

These major caveats aside, I think this is still edging towards being a good thing (in as much as anything which involves marketing stuff at people ever can be). Fundamentally, the availiability of things like “male” makeup helps to remove a few bricks from the wall seperating what we’ve deemed “real” male and female behaviour. So, while the patriachy isn’t quivering yet, I think that the fact that “men’s makeup” provokes a backlash is a sign that it’s a small form of progress.

Photo by Cvalentine, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Milly // Posted 30 July 2008 at 12:27 pm

The guardian are missing the point, surely – this man-make-up won’t be sold to bearded office workers, it will be sold to emo kids. (Honestly, does no one at the Guardian watch hollyoaks??)

The cosmetics firms have clearly just realised they’re missing a way to flog more products to a yet-unmarketed demographic. A bit like when razors for women appeared, which were the same as guy-razors except they were pink, twice the price, and had half as many blades.

Paul // Posted 30 July 2008 at 2:40 pm

As a 34 year-old guy that has used concealer since adolescence and eyeliner off and on for a decade, I don’t think that I am the victim of some marketing campaign or some web of conspiracy. Taking care of one’s appearance, grooming rituals, putting thought, effort and creativity into one’s looks and clothes, are all exclusively good things as far as I’m concerned. Grooming and clothes are ways that all of us can express ourselves and be a bit creative/imaginative on a daily basis. I don’t think people that don’t bother with these things have somehow seen through the advertising industry or somesuch. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the truth is that Gaultier, Clinique et al lagged behind men for years (decades), before very slowly coming round to the realisation that thousands of men used cosmetics. David Bowie and Bryan Ferry were doing it before I was born. In fact, Mods were doing it in 1964.

I think the men’s ranges will appeal to guys that aren’t quite ready to face going into a department store and buying generic make-up; then hopefully once they’ve got into the habit of buying and using it, make-up will just become make-up, in a non-gendered way. I also think this serves as quite a useful litmus test of how secure men are in their masculinity!

Incidentally, the Gaultier lip balm in particualr is excellent, and is not imperceptible at all.

earlgreyrooibos // Posted 30 July 2008 at 5:27 pm


I don’t know which is worse for me – the fact that, although makeup is being marketed to men, it is still so heavily gendered (like hair dye – there’s really no difference between hair dye “for men” and hair dye “for women.”). Or, am I more bothered by the fact that the beauty industry is probably going to start making even MORE money?

jj // Posted 30 July 2008 at 11:05 pm

To be honest, there was a time when I wouldn’t have touched any kind of make up as I would have deemed it unmasculine. Same with all kinds of rings and jewelry. What has changed? I’ve come to realise that women are seriously attracted by all this. They come to touch my jewelry and smell my chest to guess my eau de toilette. I haven’t worn Mascara yet, but I can’t see why I wouldn’t. I’m using hair wax as well. Whatever increases a woman’s interest in men cannot be unmasculine… And there’s the reason why these products are gendered. I wouldn’t for a minute how I look if I weren’t interested in attracting equally attractive females of the species.

BenSix // Posted 31 July 2008 at 3:49 am

“surely – this man-make-up won’t be sold to bearded office workers, it will be sold to emo kids. (Honestly, does no one at the Guardian watch hollyoaks??)”

A rather more minimal ‘oy’.

I briefly became a connoisseur of the grottiest lines of cheap pencil eyeliner, and the only time that it became smudged with tears was when I inadvertently stabbed myself in the eyeball (try putting it on while haring down the High Street).


Sabre // Posted 31 July 2008 at 10:09 am

At school I was always quite aware of how lucky the girls were to be able to wear make-up to hide acne/bad skin whereas the boys couldn’t. As a result many more boys got the ‘pizza-face’ insults. I think it’s about having choice. My male friend wears concealer under his eyes after a heavy night out (Touche Eclat no less). My teen boyfiend tried nail varnish and eyeliner and it looked good on him! His mum freaked out and made him scrub it all off. My current boyfriend had really bad skin a while ago, and was so glum and desperate he was willing to wear concealer as long as I went and bought it! But the stigma in his head was so great that he would absolutely not go to the shops with me (and therefore didn’t get concealer because you need to check it matches your skin before buying).

I don’t like the idea that men would feel as pressured as women to wear make-up, because that’s equality in the wrong direction. Everyone should have choice without pressure. It’s not emasculating unless you think it is, and what the hell is wrong with emasculation anyway, if it’s personal choice?

Alicia // Posted 31 July 2008 at 10:27 am

My husband claims to have worn foundation and eyeliner as a New Romantic in the 1980s. I wish I had seen it, I suspect he was very sexy in it. Now he says he is too old, fat and bald for makeup.

polly styrene // Posted 31 July 2008 at 12:02 pm

What I can’t understand is why men’s make up is any different from other make up on sale? Apparently the ‘guy-liner’ is specially shaped to fit men’s hands because they’re bigger? This is ludicrous. Loads of men wore make up in the 70’s and the 80’s – when it was fashionable to do so – and they managed with the normal stuff on sale – this is surely just a blatant attempt by Superdrug to get some free publicity. And it’s worked. And it hardly breaks down gender roles if men have to have special ‘butch’ make up does it?

Paul // Posted 31 July 2008 at 3:12 pm

I think we should cut young guys some slack, and accept that it would be socially awkward for many of them to go in to a department store and browse the make-up, trying on samples, etc. Staff themselves might be bemused by it, and for someone testing the water for the first time, they often won’t even know what to ask for or how to apply it. This Gaultier, Whole Man and Superdrug stuff is basically cosmetics-for-beginners.

Also, unless people adhere to Marxism in its very purest form, I’m not sure what the objection is to market forces at work – if there is a market for male cosmetics, it will be filled. Market forces aren’t always such a terrible thing.

I agreee that the terms ‘manscara’ and ‘guyliner’ are embarrassing, but the other ranges are just calling it by its proper name. This may prove to be the first step towards breaking down the sex/gender barriers around cosmetics and toiletries. Now if women would stop buying those pink razors called ‘Lady Shave’…

sianmarie // Posted 1 August 2008 at 4:37 pm

it’s interesting i think. my bro wore make up all the time as a teen and still does, and apparently my boyfriend was no stranger to the eyeliner when he was younger.

but is there a difference? i think so, as make up is marketed to women as an essential, something we are expected to wear and often has a social stigma attached to it for not wearing…men in make up is often (and not all) a case of experimenting, rebellion and fashion fun. obviously there are men as mentioned above who wear concealer for aesthetic reasons but there is still a different focus i think on why women are expected to wear make up and why men do.

Dave // Posted 3 August 2008 at 5:30 am

I think it’s a good idea, I would be willing to try it, and however I find it very embarrassing and would find it hard walking into shops buying it.

Something needs to be done to make it more mainstream for it to be accepted

When you walk into big department stores such as John Lewis, where all the cosmetics are, there are always girls on the counters.

This needs to change, maybe stick some men there as well; I think it would make it a little less intimidating etc.

Maybe, they should start greeting men as they walk into the shop and introduce them to the new products and offer to sample the products on them.

This would then help break the ice

Aimee // Posted 3 August 2008 at 1:52 pm

I can’t see that this is progress, all I can see is that more people are being belittled and exploited. I dislike being belittled and exploited and told that i’m not good enough and that I must use XYZ product to make myself better, more feminine, and more worthwhile as a person… this is all insideous, but it happening to other people as well doesn’t make it any better, it makes it more widespread and it makes it worse.

Anne Onne // Posted 3 August 2008 at 5:30 pm

I’d like a world where nobody felt compelled to wear make-up, and nobody was judged on turning up with a make-up-less face. That means I don’t want men to suffer compulsory make-up either. But I’d also like a world where men and women (and everyone for whom gender is just a tag) could wear as much as they wanted to, without being thought a freak, where metallic purple eyeshadow wouldn’t be seen as a crime against masculinity. Some utopia, eh?

I’m not fond of marketing, and of the beauty industry making more money. I wish it were an ‘expression’ industry instead. But hopefully, some good might come of this, if gender boundaries are blurred.

Jonny // Posted 7 August 2008 at 10:54 pm

I wear makeup. I have done since i was 12. People labelled me ‘goth’, ’emo’ and ‘mosher’ but i carried on and stuck to what i wanted to do. i find it a little demeaning that its getting the point where cosmetic brands are saying stuff like “Pete Wentz (fall out boy-bassist) wears makeup, so all guys should.” it’s personal choice. If you want to wear it then wear it.

Anononymous // Posted 27 August 2008 at 8:35 am

Make up for man – I think this is not a bad Idea at all. I like to wear foundation and powder at times to even out my skin tone. I wear make up to work any no one has noticed or more to the point no one has commented.

I find this difficult at times to buy with the worry of getting cought by someone I know.

Not sure about eye liner or mascara though. I don’t think i would.

Phillip // Posted 3 December 2008 at 6:10 pm

I have been wearing makeup for a few months now and I really don’t find anything wrong with it. I wear foundation, powder, concealer, eyeliner, and even mascara and I make it look very natural. I don’t buy products for men, I buy the women’s stuff at the drugstore. The only thing is while I am still a little embarrased to browse the makeup aisle I hate when the women working the cosmetic section ask you if you need help, like several times. I like to shop in private and I can be anywhere else in the store and never once be asked if I need help, but in the cosmetic section I am always asked. It makes me feel like the think I am confused and in the wrong section, but I just tell them no I am just browsing and they will leave. I guess my advice for guys who are approached at makeup aisle just say you are a performer and need to stand out on stage.

BeOnTV // Posted 20 February 2009 at 5:17 pm

Hello everyone,

This is a very interesting topic, in fact Channel4 are currently working on a programme on Male beauty and i was wondering if any of you guys would like to come and join other men to talk about your experiences in using make-up and also discuss your day-to-day grooming sessions with other men? Please email me if you are interested in taking part.



Eric // Posted 20 February 2009 at 9:23 pm

Here’s an idea. Do what you want and let other people do what they want. I don’t understand why the only way that it’s cool for dudes to wear make-up is if it’s “not noticible”, if it covers blemishes, or some other pragmatic thing. I wear make-up because I think it looks cool. I wear eyeliner (not guy-liner), eye shadow, and mascara whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I don’t wear any at all. I’m not gay and not homophobic. I don’t wear it for any pragmatic purpose and I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Do what you want and have some fun.

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