Men and Makeup

Not long ago, a man’s grooming regimen consisted of soap, shampoo, cologne, and shaving cream. Today, the men’s beauty market is a billion-dollar industry, estimated to grow to $18.92 billion by 2027. Men are now open to using a variety of products, including facial cleansers, exfoliants, serums, moisturizers, and most recently, cosmetics.1

The modern era has sashayed in broadening non-binary acceptance of products previously only advertised to women. Thanks to a focus on radical acceptance that breaks stereotypes and gender norms, men in makeup are now celebrated, not scorned. While cosmetics are becoming more commonly used by men beyond the stage and screen, an astonishingly long history of men wearing makeup is noted across ancient cultures around the globe.

Men’s Makeup Throughout History

The earliest records of men wearing makeup date as far back as 3000 BC in China and Japan. Men during this period used natural ingredients to create a sort of nail polish, which was a sign of status and wealth. Additionally, the earliest archaeological discovery of makeup tools used by men was found in China. It consisted of a “portable” makeup box with a bronze mirror, wooden comb, scraper, powder box, and small wooden comb.2

The “portable makeup” box and its components

Pictured: The “portable makeup” box and its components
Source: New Han Fu

Ancient Egypt

The striking cat eye makeup look is rooted in ancient Egypt. Men would rim their eyes in black to emulate cat patterns as a sign of wealth. They also wore pigments on their cheeks and lip stains made from red ochre.4 Makeup was an important way of showcasing masculinity and social rank.

Egyptian men and women wearing makeup

Pictured: Egyptian men and women wearing makeup
Source: Oasis Academy Temple

Ancient Korea

The Silla people believed that beautiful souls inhabited their beautiful bodies, so they embraced makeup and jewelry for both genders. Hwarang, which was an elite warrior group of male youth in Silla, wore makeup, jade rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other accessories. They used face powder and rouge for added pigment to their cheeks and lips.5

The guessed image of a Hwarang

Pictured: The guessed image of a Hwarang
Source: Glamour Flare

Elizabethan England

The Elizabethan Era heralded the look of flawless skin. Men wore powder all over their faces to whiten the skin as a sign of wealth, intelligence, and power. However, cosmetics during the period were highly dangerous due to the presence of lead in the majority of products. In many cases, these cosmetics led to premature death.6

Man donning the lead face powder

Pictured: Man donning the lead face powder
Source: Byrdie

The Victorian Era

From 4000 BC to the 18th century, men wore makeup every day for various purposes, traditions, and simple enjoyment. This changed when Queen Victoria associated makeup with the devil and declared it a horrible invention.3 Soon, makeup was perceived as feminine, thus vilifying its use by men, narrowing the depiction of masculinity.

Men’s Makeup in Modern Times

More recently, counterculture male personalities wore makeup as an act of rebellion. Rock stars, punks and goths would wear eyeliner, nail polish and other makeup for flair and self-expression. Today, male beauty influencers give tutorials on themselves rather than on female models. The negative stigma of men wearing makeup that was implanted during Queen Victoria’s reign seems to be dissipating. Men are now celebrated by progressives for wearing makeup and embracing the freedom to be and look how they desire.

The 1970s and 1980s

During these two decades, men’s makeup was hardly mainstream. Instead, it was reserved for rock ‘n’ rollers and stars who gained notoriety by bending social norms, such as Boy George, Prince, and David Bowie. However, many of the most well-known male makeup artists began their careers in the 70s and 80s. Way Bandy started to work in the beauty field in 1967, followed by Kevyn Aucoin in 1982, and a plethora of others soon followed.7

Boy George wearing makeup in the 1980s

Pictured: Boy George wearing makeup in the 1980s
Source: Like Totally 80s

The Early 2000s

The concept of “guyliner” hit mainstream in the early 2000s. Pete Wentz, lead singer of the rock group Fall Out Boy, and countless other men lined their eyes in black to achieve a smoldering, bad boy look. The trend was most popular with rock bands and their followers.

Beauty brands began to launch “metrosexual” products specifically targeted to the man who wanted to look sophisticated, well-groomed and polished. Yves Saint Laurent, for example, released the male version of its best-selling Touche Eclat concealer in 2008.8

Pete Wentz wearing “guyliner”

Pictured: Pete Wentz wearing “guyliner”
Source: Marie Claire

The 2010s and Today

A surge of social media allowed male beauty gurus to share their makeup and makeovers on a grand scale. Covergirl and Maybelline broke the mold by introducing star influencers James Charles and Manny Gutierrez, respectively, as spokespeople for their mass color cosmetic brands. This mainstreaming of cosmetic-clad male influencers has helped to dismantle gender-specific beauty stereotypes.

Today, we are seeing more gender-neutral ad campaigns from high profile beauty brands like Milk Makeup and Fenty Beauty. Additionally, skincare has become less stigmatized, and this acceptance is slowly seeping into cosmetics.

Male Celebrities with Impressive Beauty Tips

From Cleopatra to the Kardashians, we have long been intrigued with the beauty secrets of powerful women. The truth of the matter, though, is that today men also offer impressive makeup and skincare tips. Here are a few:

Peter and Harry Brant

Models Peter Brant and his late brother Harry Brant have amazing makeup tips. The brothers received the majority of their pointers from makeup artist Pat McGrath, and they even call her, “Mother Makeup.”9 In an interview, Harry mentioned, “Mother Makeup never uses any brushes because the heat of your fingers helps products go on smoother.”10 The brothers launched their own MAC Brant Brothers Collection in 2015, which also includes an eyeshadow palette with shades that can be used for all areas of the face.

Pictured: Brant Brothers
Source: Ok! News

John Stamos

Actor John Stamos has been named one of the most beautiful men in the world, but he claims the real winner is his skincare routine. He allows 1 day a week for his skin to breathe sans makeup. On Sundays, he stays away from makeup and uses his favorite facial mask, which is the Bioxidea Miracle 24 Face Mask for Men.

John Stamos in men’s face mask

Pictured: John Stamos in the Bioxidea Miracle Men’s Mask
Source: Instagram


The members of BTS are avid skincare enthusiasts. According to Jin, J-Hope, and Jungkook, K-beauty sheet masks and a well-thought-out skincare routine keep their skin glowing. The group notes that toner, face cream, and drinking lots of water are essential to a beautiful complexion. Additionally, J-Hope says that he tries to see a dermatologist whenever he has free time.

BTS is also known for its edgy makeup looks. Recently, the group collaborated with VT, which is a K-beauty makeup brand that is known to marry effective ingredients with innovative scientific technology. There are multiple products within the VT x BTS collections, such as makeup brushes, toothbrushes, lip balms, hand creams, eyeshadow palettes, and more. To grab a product or two from the collections, click here.

Pictured: BTS
Source: Style

Manny Gutierrez

Beauty blogger Manny Gutierrez, or more commonly known as Manny MUA, has an abundance of makeup tutorials online where he shares a multitude of tips and tricks. A few of his pointers include:

  • Always moisturize before applying foundation to combat dryness.
  • Use a dampened beauty blender to avoid cakey foundation.
  • After your foundation is applied, lightly dab your sponge over your face to pick up any excess product that may be leftover.
  • Spray your face with primer water for a little extra hydration.11

To check out more of Manny’s pointers and to watch his full tutorials, check out his Youtube channel.

Manny Gutierrez for Maybelline

Pictured: Manny Gutierrez for Maybelline
Source: Bored Panda

David Yi

The founder and editor-in-chief of Very Good Light, David Yi, recently wrote a book titled, Pretty Boys: Legendary Icons Who Redefined Beauty (and How to Glow Up, Too.) in which he explores self-care and wellness. He states that feeling beautiful transcends time, boundaries, and binaries.12

On his blog, Very Good Light, almost all of the posts provide skincare and makeup tricks. In one recent article, he offers tips for your best summer skin, which are:

  • Use an exfoliator to help reduce oiliness that tends to get worse during summer.
  • Find a foaming cleanser for your skin to help with oil control.
  • SPF always!
  • Avoid retinol in the summertime because of increased sun sensitivity.
  • Opt for lighter makeup, such as a tinted moisturizer.

Click here to view more of Very Good Light’s tips and tricks, and check out David’s skincare line, Good Light, that’s all about beauty beyond the binary.

Pictured: David Yi
Source: ONS

Are Men’s Beauty Needs Different From Women’s?

The belief that men’s skin is drastically different from women’s is what many believe to be the culprit behind the unspoken partitioning of the beauty cabinet. Structurally this is true, but Mumbai-based dermatologist Dr. Madhuri Agarwal believes that the skincare requirements for both genders aren’t all that different. According to studies, Dr. Madhuri Agarwal says, “Men’s skin is 20% thicker, 70% more oily, 40% more sweaty than women’s skin.”13

It has also been proven through research that male skin contains more collagen, thus it can retain a tighter, firmer appearance. The collagen content of male skin declines at a constant rate over time, while female skin declines faster later in life, especially after menopause. Thus,  female skin thins out more dramatically than male skin.14

Male and Female Skin Thickness Over Time

Source: Eucerin

Dr. Madhuri Agarwal also mentions, “Environmental exposure, stress levels, and testosterone can also cause a variance from women’s skin. However, the ingredients for treating skin problems will be the same, such as salicylic acid for acne. The only difference is men may require a higher percentage or higher frequency of product usage as compared to women.”15

4 Gender-Neutral Brands To Love

More brands are moving away from traditional norms for greater inclusivity, diversity, and representation. Celebrating people of different sexual orientations and gender identities is becoming more common within the beauty industry. Here are 4 gender-inclusive beauty brands worth noting:

  • Fluide: A vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free cosmetics brand built for all skin tones and gender expressions. Fluide also donates part of its sales to LGBTQ+ organizations.
  • Noto: Founded by a queer womxn, Noto is a gender-neutral, multi-use beauty brand that is committed to self expression and representation. Though it claims that its packaging is bio-degradable (ahem, it’s not), Noto’s dedication to equality and acceptance is exemplary.
  • TooD Beauty: TooD Beauty’s founder, Shari Siadat, created the brand to break beauty standards and celebrate everyone for who they are. The label’s clean products can be used anywhere on the face, hair, or body.
  • Byredo: Ben Gorham launched Byredo’s cosmetics line in 2020 after concluding that fragrances shouldn’t be classified based on gender, so cosmetics shouldn’t either. The brand released a range of makeup products claiming pigments for all skin tones.

Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil

Humanist Beauty believes that beauty products shouldn’t be gender-specific. Our Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil is for everyone, no matter what gender or race you are.

We created the Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil to feel like a soothing sanctuary on skin. It can be applied to visibly repair, deeply nourish, and diminish signs of stress on your skin twice daily. As part of your holistic regimen, it can also be used on pulse points and other skin externalities to help aromatically calm and soothe your mind, body, and soul.

To grab your bottle, click here.

References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5],her%20beauty%20and%20societal%20exploits. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13][15],has%20a%20tighter%2C%20firmer%20appearance. [14]