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Male makeup is catching more mens' eyes

Male makeup is catching more mens' eyes
  • Male makeup is slowly gaining traction in the U.S. on the heels of a growing male grooming and skin care market. 
  • The rise of male beauty influencers, like YouTuber and CoverGirl ambassador James Charles, is destigmatizing color cosmetics. 
  • Further fuel is coming from younger consumers who are challenging notions of masculinity.
  • Globally, the Asia-Pacific region is the biggest male makeup market, thanks to K-pop.

Troy Solomon, recording artist and Instagram influencer, started wearing makeup about three years ago after he got his face made up for a photo shoot. He said he didn't enjoy the foundation or concealer, but he loved the colorful mascara and highlighter, and started incorporating them into his daily routine.

The 29-year-old, who has more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, identifies as a gay man, but he said makeup should be something any man can use, regardless of their sexuality. He spoke at a panel regarding masculinity in April during Beautycon in New York City.

"I think we're in an interesting point in our history where gender norms are breaking down," Solomon told CBS MoneyWatch. "No one's going to think of makeup as a gender-specific thing."

Younger consumers are challenging notions of masculinity in the emerging male makeup market, which is slowly gaining traction in the U.S. on the heels of a growing male grooming and skin care market, according to Coresight Research.

Worldwide sales of men's grooming products reached more than $52 billion in 2018, increasing from $34 billion in 2014, according to Euromonitor International. Euromonitor projected the market will reach nearly $64 billion in five years.

K-pop propels a booming Asian market

The $9.7 billion U.S. market counts for about one-fifth of global sales. That's considerably behind Eastern and Western Europe, which has about 32 percent of all sales. However, neither are growing as fast as the Asia-Pacific market, where K-pop stars and a generation of Chinese social media influencers have fueled a male beauty product boom.

BTS, the Korean pop sensation

China's Tmall CEO Jason Chen said in March the male beauty market is growing faster than that for women. Chen said demand is outpacing supply at the online retailer. Male consumers are spending more on products designed specifically for them, versus unisex products, according to Coresight Research.

Helping the trend is the rise of K-pop culture, where young men in boy bands sporting eyeliner, lipstick and BB creams (beauty balms or blemish balms) have helped normalize makeup for men. However, the trend has also stoked backlash from Chinese government and society, where many have derided well-groomed, delicate-featured young men as "little fresh meats."

"No makeup" makeup for U.S. men

In the U.S., the rise of male beauty influencers in recent years is credited for destigmatizing color cosmetics for men. In 2016, CoverGirl made waves when it chose YouTube makeup artist James Charles as the first male ambassador for its beauty products, including mascaras. 

"They're making it more acceptable for young men to feel comfortable," said Alison Gaither, beauty analyst at Mintel. Gaither said much of the bolder looks in vogue in recent years, including makeup techniques like cut crease, contouring, and strobing, were historically rooted in drag culture. However, male makeup users are more typically looking for a subtle look rather than searching for eye shadow palettes.

Nine percent of Generation Z males ages 18 to 24 said they use some form of lighter, "no-makeup" makeup, whether it's tinted moisturizer, BB cream or CC (color correcting) cream, according to Gaither. And more than two-thirds of Gen Z males said they're interested in using a genderless beauty product, versus male packaging that emphasizes deep reds, greens and uniform black.

"The genderless-type positioning is the nice middle ground," Gaither said, "'because it's not seen as intimidating."