The Evolution of Men’s Makeup

The Evolution of Men’s Makeup

Think makeup and without a doubt, the latest female influencers spring to mind. Online, beauty blogs abound, as do YouTube channels dedicated to young women spruiking the latest and greatest makeup trend. But long before the Huda Katans and Kylie Jenners of the world were even a blip on the beauty radar, makeup and skincare were the dominion of men. Here, we take a look at the evolution of men’s makeup – from ancient Roman eye creams to today’s contemporary cosmetics.


Blokes have been donning smoky eyes and dabbing moisturisers since the dawn of time, it turns out. Long before enhancing a face with a well-applied winged liner was the domain of women, men were experimenting with beauty remedies and cosmetic improvements (the word ‘cosmetic’, by the way, comes from the Greek work 'Kosmetikos' meaning a sense of harmony, order and tranquillity. And frankly, amen to that!). In fact, ancient Egyptian men were just as likely to boast a face full of makeup as their female counterparts in the days of the pharaohs, as makeup was a sign of status and power. The Romans and Greeks, meanwhile, were partial to an eye cream. Only recently, a 2,200-year-old Roman soldier's tomb uncovered in modern-day Western Turkey was found to contain a jar of what’s believed to be goji berry eye cream! #eyecreamsintheafterlife

More recently, Victorian-era male actors regularly wore makeup after it was declared by Queen Victoria I that makeup was ‘vulgar’ and only to be used by prostitutes and thespians. Although female actors were not permitted at the time, this declaration began a gender shift in makeup use that would eventually see it become the ‘feminine indulgence’ it has been considered until very recently.


Despite makeup and beauty products having been largely relegated to the Land of the Ladies over the last couple of centuries, there have always been counter-culture icons who’ve hotly contested this norm. David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust alter ego is one of the most recognisable of these dissenters, but there are many modern examples. Slowly, attitudes towards gender identity – in particular, masculinity – are being eroded, and the use of cosmetics by men is becoming ever more popular.

The entertainment industry has led the way, of course, and it comes as no surprise to anyone that your nightly news hosts or A-list Hollywood types are boasting a healthy foundation-enhanced glow on silver screens, theatre stages, and televisions around the globe.

The term ‘metrosexual’ began to make an appearance a couple of decades ago, and during this time, Jean Paul Gaultier even launched a men’s cosmetics line. It was short-lived. However, it seems he was simply a little ahead of his time. Nowadays, the men’s cosmetic industry is a burgeoning market and new players are entering the fray each year. In 2016, Covergirl launched its first male beauty ambassador, James Charles.

       “CoverGirl has always embraced diversity and pushed the boundaries,” says James. “I think having a male ambassador really takes it one step further and just expresses inclusivity for all. Makeup is kind of becoming a more genderless concept, which is so cool and something that I’m all for.”

Today, the men’s personal care industry is worth a whopping $166 Billion USD, and men’s beauty is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing categories for the beauty industry over the coming years. 


Taking pride in one’s appearance is just as much a part of men’s lives as it is women’s, and research shows that men are just as likely to be dissatisfied with their appearance as women. Men’s grooming products, including shaving creams, beard oils, body washes and lotions have all become a part of the modern lexicon, and most men would have experienced the stocking-stuffer beard trimming kit at least once in their lives without batting an eyelid.

Nowadays, with the advent of social media and the ever-growing selfie culture, men are becoming ever more conscious of their looks – in particular, their skin. But it’s about so much more than applying the latest and greatest filter to a photo. From boardrooms to brunches, men are turning to skincare and increasingly wanting to put their best face forward.

“I was at a party and all the young guys, their skin looked great and I realised they were all wearing make-up,” Tony Tsianakas of Tony & Munro tells Rob Rapport. “It amazed me because there was no talk about it making you less manly, these guys just wanted to look good. That’s what we want, we want you to feel good and look good.”

With Asian markets like Japan and Korea leading the pack, the men’s cosmetics craze is now making headway in Europe, the USA, and Australia. This trend has seen men’s grooming evolve rapidly from shaving creams and shower gels to hair products, fragrances, daily moisturisers, SPF protection and now, makeup. All in a bid to look good, feel great, and face the world with confidence.


While women have been enhancing their features for decades, whilst simultaneously protecting their skin with moisturisers, cleansers and SPF protection, men have been sadly left out of the equation for some time. This is all about to change with the men’s makeup revolution, which, importantly, is being approached by the industry as a holistic equation. Both looking after the skin for the future and improving the complexion today are important factors in most men’s makeup routines being introduced to the market, with correctors and concealers finding equal billing amongst eye serums, BB creams and moisturisers. This balanced blend has been coined ‘fusion cosmetics’.

As the industry grows, men are becoming more aware of the benefits of looking after their skin, and how this can translate into later life. Good quality men’s cosmetics mean not only looking great today but fighting the signs of ageing tomorrow. From a smoother and clearer complexion to reduced fine lines, softer and more supple skin, prevention of sun damage and that all-important radiant glow – it’s a wonder it’s taken this long! But the trend is here to stay, it seems.

       “Beauty belongs to everyone. It’s not only for cis men and women, and that’s why we’re so excited to have brought the Tony & Munro brand to life.” Ewan Munro Belsey, Co-founder, Tony & Munro

There’s no doubt that men’s cosmetics are here to stay. Fusion cosmetics which blend makeup and skincare for men are set to become the next big thing in the beauty industry; as it becomes not just acceptable for men to up their grooming game with cosmetics, but second nature and an integral part of the daily grooming routine.

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