Should Makeup Be Gendered?
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
The triumphs and failures of makeup for men- is it simply a marketing ploy for big beauty brands?
As societies globally are becoming more progressive, individuals are seeking new ways to represent themselves and form their identity. The launch of male-specific beauty products has opened a doorway to leading questions surrounding the concept of ‘makeup for men’, such as why is it that the current beauty industry is so exclusive? Is there a need for a distinguished differentiation of makeup for opposing genders? Do you feel confident purchasing beauty products without fear of being judged? It seems that whilst attempting to make for a more inclusive industry, we are in some ways regressing- how can brands campaign for inclusivity whilst making different product lines targeted at opposing genders? Is there a large enough market sector to warrant makeup specifically for men? Do men want products to be specifically targeted to them? Are brands conceptualising male-only beauty products as a marketing ploy?
Male ‘grooming’ has become a buzzword in the beauty industry as of late and many brands have decided to latch on to this new interest by offering products designed for men that can facilitate their grooming needs. Jaxon Lane, for example, offers a ‘BRO Mask’ that has two separate sections of a face mask to accommodate for facial hair and bigger face shapes. A variety of different products are offered under the guise of ‘male grooming’ such as lip balms and treatments, hair care products (including hair loss colour filler treatments), moisturisers and more. Some brands, however, have journeyed further than skincare and now offer ‘for men’ beauty product collections. Boy de Chanel, Chanel’s self-explanatory gender specific makeup collection, offers a range of products designed exclusively for men, at a luxury price point- such products include lip balm, foundation and a ‘3-in-1’ eye pencil.
This surge in interest has accumulated resulting in androgynous makeup brands such as One/Size and We Are Fluid being created- they reinforce the messaging of many beauty brands that makeup is for all, and they don’t compromise on packaging or brand messaging. These brands focus on communicating the diverse capabilities of makeup and represents beauty for every gender, not just women.
On the whole, however, there is a distinct lack of advertising material targeted towards men, which not only prevents exposure for the brand, but also counteracts the ‘inclusivity’ message that many of these brands aim to communicate. 94% of respondents, to a survey conducted by INJECTION, assuredly remarked that they have no knowledge of any makeup brands specifically targeted for men, and considering that 33% of the respondents wear makeup, it is alarming. It should be said that greater representation of men by leading brands across the beauty industry in advertising campaigns needs to be recognised. As Cover Girl’s first male beauty ambassador, James Charles debuted in the magazine in 2016 and Manny Gutierrez became the face of Maybelline in 2017, becoming innovators in the beauty community by encouraging the recognition of men in the beauty sphere.
Marketing is extremely influential in its attempt to attract consumers- after all, marketeers would be doing a poor job if their products did not appeal to customers and their needs! Packaging, therefore, plays a huge role in attracting and solidifying purchase decisions. When it comes to beauty products and skincare, several brands opt to use traditionally feminine colour palettes and graphics as a way to attract this type of customer- male customers seeking products like this may feel excluded and therefore refrain from making such a purchase.
Brands such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, The Ordinary and Superfluid have very muted packaging that can easily appeal to anyone and therefore steer clear of any gender prejudices. They aim for a ‘beauty for all’ approach and successfully create beauty products that can be used by anyone and everyone if desired. Is there a desire, however, for beauty products that are designed with men in mind?
There is scope for the stigma to be reduced if makeup products are created for and targeted towards men; sleek packaging with subtle cues may result in more men feeling comfortable to experiment with makeup without fear of being judged or shamed for using beauty products.
© Soap and Glory, Photograph by INJECTION - Charlie Sandles
© Copyright: War Paint For Men
Product Differentiation for Men:
The question remains though, is there really the need for beauty products specifically made for men? Research shows that 83% of Millennial men think their appearance is very or fairly important and 52% of men agree that big facial skincare brands focus too much on women's needs. But whilst in the minority, there is clearly a warranted desire for beauty products specifically marketed towards men: ‘34% of men would like to see masculine messaging reflected on their ideal beauty or personal care product’.
Responses to our survey conducted reveal varying opinions to the necessity for male makeup only brands.
‘I can see why some men may want makeup specifically branded towards them’.
-23 y/o, Worcestershire, Rural
‘Everyone’s skin is different, and I personally wouldn’t want to buy ‘female’ products’.
-47 y/o, Gloucestershire, Rural
‘No. I think there’s a need for all-inclusive makeup for all genders, and brands should push that harder, but male-only makeup doesn’t seem necessary’.
-22 y/o, Ohio, Urban
‘I don’t know if there is a need for a men’s only product or just the need for more attention to male customers’.
-22 y/o, Germany, Urban
What is particularly interesting to consider is the pricing of these exclusive ‘for men’ products- Chanel’s range, as an example, is selling matte nail varnish for £31- whilst it is a premium brand, it seems that the marketing behind the product may convince men (who are more reluctant to buy nail polish from ‘female’ makeup brands) to spend an extortionate amount on a product that would cost a tenth of the price from Rimmel London.
Again the notion of male makeup being used as a marketing ploy by brands resurfaces as an argument, and it is questioned whether brands are simply using this opportunity to duplicate beauty product formulas and market them in a more paired back way to appeal to men.
Acceptance and Usage:
Social media platforms, such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have facilitated the creation of content showcasing men wearing makeup on a daily basis- whether this be as a way to cover up blemishes, fill in hairlines, or boost the confidence of the individuals’ appearance, or alternatively, as a way to experiment with the art form that is makeup. Many Gen Z kids have grown up with male beauty influencers on social media such as James Charles, Patrick Starrr and Manny Gutierrez, who all campaign that makeup can be used by anyone, of any age, gender and sexual orientation. Their content explores the use of all makeup- not ones specifically designed for men- and as a result, inspires millions of subscribers to experiment with the versatility of beauty products.
For many men considering using makeup for the first time, it can be incredibly daunting to watch the aforementioned beauty gurus create full glam, drag or artistic makeup looks, but the growing community truly reinforces the use of makeup to define your identity and explore new ways to express yourself. Videos such as TikTok GuyLiner Makeup reinforce this concept and provide content for individuals who want to explore the use of makeup but are unsure where to start.
At present, it is no secret that the beauty industry is marketed and tailored towards women and as a result, is less inclusive than it suggests it really is. The new concept of ‘makeup for men’, and brands that are dedicated solely to creating male beauty products are great, are pioneering in reinforcing that men should feel confident and have the ability to explore makeup and the world of ‘beauty’. However, maybe it is more worth brands concentrating their efforts on creating more inclusive brands with subtler packaging, aligned with more inclusive marketing campaigns. This way the beauty community can truly achieve its all-inclusive, ‘define who you are’, experimental promise.