The Stigma of Men’s Makeup


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When Yahoo Beauty editor-in-chief Bobbi Brown was hired to do Mike Tyson’s makeup, he told her, “You ain’t touching me with that stuff” when she opened her makeup kit. Later in the day, he finally let her put some powder on his face. Brown convinced him that his pride wasn’t worth the shiny gleam of his face on camera. Many men feel like wearing makeup will make them less masculine because cosmetics are usually used as a means to enhance femininity and prettiness for women. According to, the average woman spends $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime, but only 15% percent of sales of the $382 billion beauty industry are from men.

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When guys get blemishes or dark circles under their eyes, they’re not expected to hide them. But guys can be insecure about their skin, too. While many women love to experiment with bright lips and bold eye makeup, men who wear makeup often don’t want anyone else to know about it. In an article for GQ, Regular Guy Drew Magary wrote, “The fear of liking makeup is probably what keeps many men from ever trying it.” Stereotypically, men are supposed to be unfussy, but for guys with public jobs makeup is not only a necessity—it’s a blessing.

Benedict Cumberbatch made waves after praising the value of concealer on the Golden Globes red carpet. “Makeup is a wonderful thing for men as well as women,” said the Imitation Game actor. The truth is, nearly all male celebrities are wearing some type of makeup for big events and on screen. Radio host Elvis Duran, for example, wears bronzer on his face to avoid looking washed out. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics made a limited edition bronzer named after him in honor of his commitment to color. “Guys who want some more color on their cheeks should embrace gel bronzer, which works well because it’s tinted and transparent. In addition to putting it on your face, put it on your neck and ears, too—and do wash your hands afterwards because it stains,” says Brown. According to the makeup guru, covering a blemish doesn’t have to mean a full face of makeup. Just applying a plain facial moisturizer helps with hiding blemishes—no tinted makeup needed at all.

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Select men have actually owned up to their cosmetics use for years. In fact, some people even credit makeup as the reason why John F. Kennedy won the election against Richard Nixon. On their televised presidential debate in 1960, Kennedy look tanned and energetic, winning over voters, while Nixon looked tired and faded. Meanwhile, English rock star Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones often wears mascara to enhance his eyes onstage. In Brown’s experience, she has noticed that many guys wear clear lip balm—chapped lips aren’t en vogue for neither men nor women, after all. Refinery29 Senior Beauty Editor, Phillip Picardi, proudly admits to wearing a full face of makeup—yes, even foundation—but no one would be able to tell that his natural glow is aided by Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow Instant Soft-Focus Beauty Flash Primer ($55). With increasingly more offerings dedicated to dudes in the beauty market, men are becoming more comfortable with grooming, and no longer hitting up their sister, girlfriend, wife, or mother for emergency concealer. Unisex lines like Malin+Goetz, and dedicated men’s grooming products, like Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Conditioning Beard Oil ($50) are helping some men become more comfortable using beauty products.

Related: Men Add Facials to Their Ever-Expanding Grooming Routines

Recently, BuzzFeed writer Isaac Fitzgerald wrote about wearing a full face of makeup Monday through Friday, with an incremental increase of makeup every day. The first thing he did before he dolled up? Shaved his facial hair—foundation and concealer don’t perform well over stubble. After smearing on some lipstick, Fitzgerald noticed that his female coworkers complimented him or offered him pointers, while his male coworkers avoided eye contact even while talking to him. Sure, heavy makeup for men is still on the fringe, but both men and women can attest to the confidence boost of good skin.

(Disclaimer: Bobbi Brown is the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Beauty.)