Beauty for the boys

Beauty for the boys

Once upon a time male grooming was limited to bar soaps and shaving foam. Now the industry is upping its game and things are looking very pretty indeed…

The past decade has seen men’s grooming grow from industry afterthought to a serious business worth an estimated £798million in the UK alone (according to Mintel). From the basics of taming man from beast (shower, shave, shampoo), men’s grooming now encompasses forays into haircare, skincare, and even make-up. The increase in demand for products is as driven by a confident male consumer as it is brands racing to keep up with the spread of ‘fast culture’ and innovation across all consumer channels. It seems men are now as invested in their daily grooming rituals as women and spend an average of 30 minutes every day on their morning routine, just 10 minutes less than their female counterparts.

What’s driving this change? Social media has enabled men to present a curated version of their lives. Some savvy beauty enthusiasts, unencumbered by the constraints of traditional media, have been born again online as ‘Beauty Boys’ flooding YouTube and Instagram with grooming and make-up tutorials. The industry’s take on this male upswing is that beauty is set to go genderless. ‘The media is picking up on what trans and non-binary gender people have always known, namely that gender is a spectrum and hardly anyone is all male or all female,’ explains Dr Meredith Jones, Reader in Gender Studies at Brunel University London. ‘Androgynous looks are going to be huge this year.’

As many of the Beauty Boy channels surpass beauty brands in terms of followers and engagement, it makes perfect sense that the industry wants to engage with them. At the end of 2016, CoverGirl and Maybelline appointed their first male beauty ambassadors, their looks identifying as male, but echoing the high voltage impact of drag make-up. Rimmel called in Lewys Ball to their recent campaign, and L’Oréal added Jake-Jamie Ward to their books. The UK bloggers, particularly the boy-next-door Ward, present as enhanced and relatable. ‘I don’t think they are a fad but they do represent early adopters,’ says Yolanda O’Leary, Brand Consultant and Beauty Expert. ‘The most important thing is not whether L’Oréal has a woman or a man in their campaign, but that they are representing a variety of beauty ideals, whether that’s across gender, race, age or body size. In the West we are far behind Asian men’s perception of beauty and willingness to experiment.

Clockwise from top: Cover Girl’s first male ambassador James Charles, a sketch by British designer Matty Bovan for Marc Jacobs Beauty, South Korean actor Kim Soo-Hyun, South Korean actor and singer Lee Min-ho, Christopher Raeburn AW16

Asia, and in particular the heavily powdered heroes of South Korea’s K Pop scene, have inspired the birth of Flower Boys, guys who use concealer, foundation and eye make-up in their daily routines. These routines, along with a demand for constant newness sees the Korean industry predicted by Euromonitor to be worth close to $1.5billion by 2020. South Korea’s men no longer look to simply cleanse and tone, they’re seeking ingredients that help soothe, restore balance and bring nourishment to skin and hair.

New cult UK beauty brand, 3INA headed to Korea to seek out advanced ingredients such as ginseng, gold leaf and hyaluronic acid for their new range of sheet masks. ‘The inspiration is from Korean product innovation,’ explains Arita Celma, Head of Marketing at 3INA. ‘The masks have been developed with both men and women’s skincare needs in mind.’ Natalie Hasseck, Head of Creative at 3INA adds, ‘We develop products with a gender-neutral mentality. Of course we are market sensitive but in essence we want our products to be enjoyed by all.’

O’Leary supports this new gender-free approach to beauty. ‘A more fluid and open-minded strategy should be taken by more brands in order to stay relevant and engage with younger audiences,’ she says. ‘The focus should be to introduce modes of personalisation rather than focusing on gender.’

  • Words: Will Larnach-Jones

  • Photography: Rex Features