Men’s grooming is booming

When you do an internet search on words like ‘make-up’ or ‘lipstick’, the only pictures you see are women or girls with their favorite blush or foundation. Well, Google and co., you’d better update your images quickly when talking about make-up now! In these modern times, make-up for men is no longer a taboo. Many famous male celebrities such as Jared LetoAdam Lambert and Boy George are already using make-up to look good in the spotlights.

It’s not a rare consumer trend nowadays: more and more young men like to experiment with make-up. Beauty no longer is a woman’s prerogative – men want to look good as well, as was revealed by a study conducted by the Chapman University. Their research has shown men are actually vainer than women. Overall, the survey indicated that men spend more time in front of the mirror than women. Keeping this evolution in mind for 2017, it would not come as a big surprise if many men started using make-up as a daily routine. Still, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, men prefer the word men cosmetics rather than make-up. Make-up does sound too feminine for some men. The fact that make-up is a ‘woman thing’ is a challenge retailers should overcome. Some brands are even making their men cosmetics more attractive by using a very masculine package for their products such as foundation packed in the form of a liquor bottle.

Nevertheless, in times of gender equality, emancipation and free-minded spirits, men wearing make-up should no longer be a gender issue. Remember, women wearing trousers was once unthinkable as well. It has also been proven that younger generations (especially Generation Z) are more open-minded than previous generations. Kids of the Z Generation were born in a gender-fluid world. Research has revealed 81% of the respondents agrees that gender does not identify you as a person. Besides, teens from Generation Z are already buying clothes based on what they like, not on what their gender is. For retailers and branding, it means thinking in unisex terms. All these external factors need to be considered, because they influence the way we will think about make-up for men in the near future, specifically in 2017.

2 men make-up

New male grooming habits

Male grooming habits are usually applied by men to look nice, neat and presentable for the day. Most men think good hygiene, a nice hairstyle and a shave should be sufficient to start their day. But there are always men that think they can do better! Times are changing, and so are those ‘normal’ male grooming habits, where a mere shower and clean fingernails won’t be enough.

Meet 22-year-old Junaid and 17-year-old make-up artist James Charles (introduced in this Daily Mail article). These two young men took male grooming habits to a whole new level.

British Junaid is convinced his looks need more than just the traditional hygiene techniques. When he goes out, he spends hours in the bathroom: peeling his eyebrows, applying mascara, and using his favorite lotions and foundations. Junaid was seen in Obsessed with My Body, a Channel 4 documentary. The program studies the reasons for improved male grooming habits. To Junaid, make-up is not a way to show off on Instagram but a way to heal his past: he was bullied because of his looks. He says that “perfecting the way I look on the outside helps me to conceal some of my more painful memories.

17-year-old James is more like a breakthrough. He’s the first man ever to make the front page of CoverGirl, an American magazine about beauty tips. He’s also a perfect example of the Generation Z mindset, which implicates gender equality and personal identity. CoverGirl gives opportunities to men that want to share their make-up knowledge. Thanks to James, boys with similar interests can openly experiment with glamourous make-up. On his YouTube channel, he’s even encouraging other men to use make-up. His branding story is very simple: he just adores wearing make-up, regardless of what society may think of it. His influence all around the world is growing after being spotted with Katy Perry, and on November 13, 2016, he was on Ellen De Generes’ talk show Ellen. So, the big question for 2017 is whether modern men won’t dare cry because it will ruin their make-up.

Is it a cliché that only gay men use make-up? Well, not in the current day and age! Chris Oflyng is an 18-year-old vlogger that made a video about the fact that he’s straight and wears make-up. He openly expresses there’s nothing wrong with wearing make-up, regardless of your gender and sexuality. His video already had more than 1.8 million views. You can watch it here:

Yes, we are talking about vlogging, because if you say Generation Z, then you must think new ways of communication media. ‘90s kids used to chat with MSN Messenger right after school. Millennials nowadays are fully focused on video blogging aka vlogging. Successful YouTubers are the new idols, such as PewDiePieCasey Neistat and also make-up artists like Manny Mua and Patrick Starrr. Young men watching make-up tutorials no longer are a rare phenomenon. After all, girls also watch videos about car technology or how to wear a tie, right?

Opportunities make-up retailers should grab in 2017

study conducted by Hong Kong Means Business has revealed reasons why men use make-up. They made a comparison between young and mature respondents. 59% of these young men uses make-up because they want to look good and boost their confidence, while only 46% of mature respondents uses it for beauty issues. So, retailers should be more open-minded towards the future men of Generations Y and Z. In Singapore and South Korea, there are already malls with cosmetics sections designed specifically for men. In America and the UK, men just ADORE using make-up. They see make-up as a personal skincare product to cover up some imperfections or to emphasize their uniqueness. But still, have you ever seen a make-up store with billboards of men wearing lipstick, mascara or eyeliners?

The first opportunity for retailers in Western Europe should be to sell make-up for men online AND offline. E-commerce in men cosmetics is booming. Online stores like MenCareMMUK and Formen are selling exclusively designed, pre-tested male make-up of excellent quality, and it’s working! Why? Because men are ashamed to openly buy make-up products in local supermarkets or make-up stores such as M.A.C. It seems that make-up for men is hiding away in offline shops, because customers are afraid of the reactions of their surroundings.

That’s why the second opportunity retailers should grab is to break the taboo. Make it clear that make-up is not just for women, metrosexuals or drag queens. Nobody wants to be put in a certain category or box. Make make-up more neutral. Or even better: make it look cool and masculine.

The third and last opportunity is to make make-up for men more accessible. Make it easy for them to locate it, and do not be too expensive. Products for men that are sold online are quite pricy (€31 for an eyeliner). If men have to pay a lot for these products, they may lose their interest.

Of course, we need to realize that not all men are the same. It’s an industry that should be accessible for men that are interested, but not every man should feel obliged to use it. Make-up for men is a consumer trend that has to happen as an evolution, not as a revolution. In certain parts of the world, it’s already accepted, and in some countries it’s the most unthinkable thing for a man to do. Still, in a world where gender equality and acceptance are common values, make-up for men should no longer be a taboo. The UK male grooming market is expected to be worth 1 billion pounds by 2017. It will only take time, appreciation and money to make unisex make-up the norm. Make-up is a product that should make people feel more beautiful and confident.

Like 19-year-old British YouTuber Jake Jamie Ward says: “This is not about men wanting to be feminine, it’s just about creating the best possible version of ourselves” – again, someone from Generation Z is doing the talking! So, retailers should take a closer look at this generation’s interests and lifestyle to become a successful player in this delicate market. And to conclude with one tip for all men: use make-up seriously, otherwise you risk looking ridiculous…

Want to explore how your brand can connect with Gen Z? Discover what our research toolbox and expert power can do for your brand!

Ready for the Zoomers - Gen Z report

Ready for the Zoomers?

Gen Z are the digitally native generation: social-media-literate, always-on and hyper-informed. With many Gen Zers coming of age during the pandemic, the past two years put a mark on their lives and outlook on the future. In this report, we shed a light on what makes Gen Z different from the generations before them and what they expect from brands.

Request your download

You might also be interested in

Aibo Robot Dog

3 Trends in Domestic Appliances & Household Care

Written by Anita Janssen

Take a closer look at 3 trends in domestic appliances & Household care from our What Matters 2023 Report. Read more here.


3 Trends in Beauty

Written by Delphine Vantomme

Take a deeper dive into what trends are coming up in Beauty. A closer look at the industry from our What Matters Trend Report.

GrabFin Banking in Your Back Pocket.

4 Trends in Finance

Written by Scott Lee

From our 2023 What Matters Trend Report, find a closer look at 4 trends in Finance and what you can expect to see in this industry.