Jenny Lau/the Gauntlet

Makeup and masculinity

Publication YearIssue Date 

Women always have the option of accentuating their features with makeup. Before a night out at the bar, I make my eyes pop with a little eyeliner and tint my lips for fullness. Although I’m confident with my body and how I look, I always feel better — even though I might not necessarily look better — with a bit of cover-up and blush. There are so many things and features to love about women, yet most women feel the need, or are socially pressured by the prevailing sentiment of beauty, to hide their blemishes from the world.

Although this pressure to look good is an issue in its own right, the question we must ask ourselves is, When does makeup become too much?

Male beauty products have been on the market for years, with marketing strategies that are similar to female products — they speak to the targeted demographic. Male products are latent with masculine terms and images, like blue packaging and a sexy female protégé, making it very clear that using the product is heteronormative and not, in any way, emasculating. Beyond the basic creams and cover-up, however, is where people begin to get uncomfortable because males wearing eyeliner and mascara blur the lines of a normative male-female dichotomy. 

The trend of males wearing makeup is picking up — the eye of the hurricane is South Korea.

According to the Huffington Post, the male cosmetics industry in South Korea was worth $495.5 million in 2011, making the country the largest market for male skin-care products in the world. This trend doesn’t stop in Korea — people of all types wear makeup in North America, whether obvious or not, and it is only projected to become more prevalent. 

Personality aside, I have a very specific ‘type’: tall, dark and bearded. Perhaps this stems from the proliferation in popular culture of this prototypical male, or maybe it comes from the raw masculinity of facial hair. Regardless, this idyllic male is ubiquitous in North America — makeup counteracts the male idol. 

This transformation from beard to eyeliner only raises questions because it opposes our ideals of masculinity.

There are also issues with makeup that transcend the gender gap. Yes, makeup shouldn’t be as prevalent. And, yes, people should feel confident with their natural selves. We also need to be smart consumers in a beauty-driven world. Like any other realm of consumerism, makeup has its issues — like animal testing and unsafe products — however, these issues can be resolved through product awareness. But makeup isn’t something that is going to go away.

Men should be able to curl their eyelashes and use cover-up for a little more confidence at the bar without reproach, just as women should have the confidence to go bare. Makeup doesn’t inhibit us or mask who we are — it is just an option that should enhance our confidence and break a gender double standard. Males wearing makeup shouldn’t change our perspective on beauty — beauty products become too much only when we consume blindly or place too much importance on looks.