I have a story of a friend. He suffered from “Asian flushing,” (you know the one where if they have a sip of alcohol they turn red). To make himself feel better he would go to the Benefit counter (of all places), and buy cover-up and foundation that would hide the discoloration (if he had asked me sooner I would have told him to get a green-yellow tint to balance the color, but it’s too late now). EVERYONE made fun of him. Fast-forward three years to this new world order where ManUp, Jack Black, Clinique for Men, The Art of Shaving, and Marc Jacob’s unisex make-up line all exist (and are extremely popular), and now my friend was just ahead of his time. Unfortunately, the men in my family are difficult and are not quite as willing to experiment as my musician friend. They abhor any addition to their meager life regimens (seriously, my Dad has probably been wearing the same style of shoe since before I was born). So I decided to try a little experiment.
I have made the observation that when a group of men are placed in a room, conversation will quickly turn to two things: a) how big my muscles are and b) my ability to grow a moustache” (and if he can’t, out of self-defense he turns to his pride in clean “shaven-ness”). I decided to take advantage of the fact that beard maintenance (or lack of beard maintenance) is a point of pride and snuck in shaving products into one of my fiancé’s presents. And guess what, despite his reluctance at first, he actually loved the products so much that he wants more!
He’s not the only one. Male skin and cosmetic products are becoming a huge trend, the so-called “sneakerification” of male cosmetics. Think back to the last time you took a guy to buy a pair of shoes; it was probably the single most excruciatingly painful experience of your life (or maybe that’s just me and the men in my life). Anyway, the point is, deep down inside men really do care about their appearance just as much as women (though they will vehemently deny it) and sneakers/shoes are a non-judgmental way to assert their pickiness over the “looks” and “feel” of their overall appearance. Well, that non-judgment is also seeping over into the world of male cosmetics.
Blurred gender lines are becoming the norm in our society, but taking care of your skin has nothing to do with being “girly”. Since the beginning of my fiancé’s new skin regimen after shaving, he has noticed a significant decrease in ingrown-hairs, clogged follicles, razor rash and acne breakout. It’s amazing what a little care can do to one’s skin. Let’s explore the products that are currently being marketed to men.
There’s your general skin care products; starting with shaving gels/foams, aftershave, cleansers and lotions. Men’s products are really not that much different than women’s; shaving foam, cleansers and lotions are basically the same across the board, and aftershave is just the male equivalent of toner. In addition to the moisturizing and cleaning, many of the male products have also started adding extra ingredients like antioxidants, exfoliants and botanical oils in an effort to create more pleasing and effective products. And don’t forget about the sunscreen! As much as my Dad likes to think his skin is immune to effects of the sun, he still tanned in California just like the rest of us and I made him wear sunscreen under the threat of pending melanoma. Sun protection, especially at a young age, will protect from the effects of sun-damage/sun-aging, contrary to the popular belief held by my family that male skin is immune. New additions to male cosmetic products available on the market include emerging lines of make-up (or what I fondly refer to as “man-up”) including eye-liners, concealers and foundations. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your school of thought, they all have ironically manly names like “Jackhammer”.
With all this gender-product similarity in mind, it’s quite the travesty that men’s products are much cheaper than women’s. For instance, Tom Ford’s line of make-up sells foundation to men for half the price of the women’s foundation and it’s practically the same formula! I feel in the coming future, there will many opportunities for the savvy woman to exploit the price difference to her advantage. And though the products are sold at separate counter, I don’t see this barrier stopping me. Naturally, I already have the plan in place; I’ll just pretend I’m buying it for my fiancé.
The rise of manicured Wall Street banker and the Silicone Valley geniuses with their thousand dollar sneakers has completely changed the paradigm of male “beauty”. It is no longer faux pas to be fru-fru. In fact, I’m sure the next scale on the dating scene won’t be the shoes they wear or the car they drive, but, “How’s the complexion?” And, “What about those cuticles?” So men out there, you better jump on the train to Beauty Town and get used to the idea of male cosmetic products before it’s too late.
Margit Lai Wun Juhasz
Mount Sinai Medical Student