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I’ve often thought that dudes have it kinda rough when it comes to general face improvement opportunities. Maybe my guy friends in college were especially naïve, but my offers to share my concealer with them during finals time were always met with shock, awe, and envy.
“It looks like skin in a bottle,” my friend Colin said once as I dabbed at a particularly nasty PBR-induced blemish on his chin. “It’s a miracle!”
Right. When it comes to marketing toward guys, apparently most makeup companies just throw tubes of man-cealer at beleaguered lady friends and hope for the best. Sigh.
That’s changing these days, of course. As we heard from Tynan just yesterday, more and more dudes are recognizing the virtues of foundation and concealer as essential tools for disguising the fact that you spent most of Saturday night hiding in a poorly lit photo booth and sneaking Pisco out of an Avengers flask.
In South Korea, in fact, men wearing makeup has become so ubiquitous that it’s now considered unprofessional for businessmen to try to dodge the foundation bullet. According to Businessweek, in the last decade, most Korean men have begun to feel an immense pressure to have flawless, pampered skin.
Despite the fact that there are only 19 million men in South Korea, their skincare and cosmetic purchases currently account for 21% of global sales. It’s not an unbelievable marketing strategy -- Businessweek quotes one college student as claiming, “Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well.” In South Korea’s highly competitive business environment, Businessweek implies, having imperfect skin is apparently the equivalent of going to work in last night’s shirt. If you don’t have the discipline to moisturize every night, you might as well be lying under a desk slowly choking on your own unproductivity.
As far as I can tell, most of the masculine makeup industry in Korea seems to be focused on this issue of “control.” There are aesthetic concerns, of course, but they seem almost rudimentary: looking good is only a vehicle to further kick ass. Most of the men profiled seem to be using primarily foundation and eyebrow pencil, both of which are arguably gender-neutral cosmetics focused on correcting imperfections and enhancing traditionally “masculine” aspects of the face.
However, more “effeminate” makeup styles, first imported from Japan in the late 90s, are also spiking in popularity. Thanks to a handful of supremely beautiful Korean athletes who’ve been hawking cosmetics throughout the last decade, dudes can simultaneously draw attention to their lower lip and feel like they’re channeling some of the toughest athletes around.
In the States, meanwhile, makeup-for-men sales are also beginning to climb. Unlike in Korea, though, the lines between “feminine” makeup and wall-punching brosculinity are nowhere near as blurred. American man makeup is understated and subtle, often disguised as cigar cases and, one hopes, eventually a bronzed falcon bench-pressing Mila Kunis. MANLY!
Much like Korean men, American men are recognizing the merits of proper skin care, but without the hypothetical presence of Ryan Lochte gleefully applying concealer in between pantsing Prince Harry and mispronouncing “America,” they seem to be a little baffled as to how they should be approaching the whole ordeal. Sans the proper marketing handholding, many men (at least according to that LA Times article) are apparently defaulting to the School of Secret Work-Naps: a few bracing trips to the restroom, your pores are flawless and no one’s the wiser.
This, in my opinion, is a damned shame, because there is little hotter than a dude who wears makeup well. Sure, I’m talking professional competency, which increasingly includes proper skincare and tasteful eyeliner. However, I am just as happy to watch dudes carefully sculpting cut-glass cheekbones out of BeneFit Cha Cha Tint and giving themselves half-lidded come-on eyes in dirty bathroom mirrors as I am seeing them strut around giving well-coiffed presentations on synergy.
Much of my waking sexy daydreams are populated by visions of long-calved guys in tottery heels and smoky eyes, who do very little save for lounging on things and mouthing Yeah Yeah Yeahs lyrics in my imagined direction. Even though I am the opposite of toppy in my non-subconscious life, every British actor under the age of 40 has probably made an appearance in my imagination wearing nothing but fishnets, lip gloss, and a pouty expression.
This is probably some bizarre amalgamation of 80s movies and Pete Wentz fan fiction, but I want every boyfriend I ever have to wind up on a Sunday morning with my borrowed lipstick smeared all the way down his chin. If he’s also wearing a skinny tie from the night before, so be it.
Needless to say, I can no longer watch RuPaul’s Drag Race in the presence of others.
The grand irony of all of this is that I myself am kind of shitty at makeup. Most days I don’t wear any at all, and when I do, it’s haphazard at best. My typical skincare routine often doesn’t include “washing off previous day’s foundation,” and, even when I try to go extra femme-y, I end up sneezing all over my mouth or washing off the whole shebang with dance-sweat within minutes.
I mean, yes. I love a genderfuck, I do, I do. But it’s also that idea of competency in all its forms; if a dude can actually manage to curl his own lashes and clearly feels awesome and sexy while doing it, that’s going to be a giant turn-on for me regardless. Bonus points if he can show me how to use highlighter properly (because seriously, how).
Eventually, I’d love it if all American beauty products came with a “unisex” mode, and for lipstick and blush to be just as professionally lauded as concealer and foundation are starting to be. For now, I’ll content myself with tugging my dates into Sephora and staring at them expectantly and/or watching K-pop videos until my eyes bleed.
Feel free to send Kate lots of photos of dudes in lipstick at @katchatters.