Every few months, a new men’s cosmetics brand launches and resurfaces the conversation about whether men’s makeup can take off.
The latest to attempt this is Apostle. The brand launched on Wednesday with a single product, a tinted moisturizer in 12 shades for $26. According to previous Glossy reporting, the global male grooming market was valued at approximately $55 billion in 2021. By 2030, that’s expected to reach $110 billion. The Apostle team estimates that, in the U.S., the men’s grooming market is worth $22 billion, citing its own research that men spend an average of $29 per month on beauty and grooming products. And yet, makeup has not taken a mainstream foothold in the American male populace.
Uncovering what exactly has made Western men’s cosmetics brands struggle to capture an audience has alluded the cosmetics industry. The initial concept of Apostle was to introduce men to makeup, said Tony Lecy-Siewert, co-founder and CEO of Apostle. That was through a four-step routine including a facial cleanser, a moisturizer, a lip balm and a tinted concealer. But in a survey of 500 men, Apostle found that one-third of men are not opposed to using cosmetics. As a result, Lecy-Siewert and Jamie Melbourne, co-founder and artistic director of Apostle, refined their idea to focus on men who are already makeup-savvy rather than adopt the traditional playbook of targeting a mass audience of uninitiated men.
“Why can’t men have an inclusive, accessible prestige product that speaks to them? Throwing a guy in your ad campaign and calling yourself unisex isn’t cutting it,” said Lecy-Siewert.
The branding of Apostle has an outdoorsy, earthy etherealness to it, with its Instagram replete with photos of the beach, sea coasts and mountains. Its packaging is pebble-shaped and navy blue, similar to Chanel’s hand cream. “Apostle” derives from the Greek “Apostolos,” meaning messenger, and the brand’s philosophy is that great-looking skin sends a powerful message to the world.
Apostle originally sought $1 million in outside funding but fell short. It ultimately raised $500,000 via a friends and family round with its current manufacturing partner Cosmax USA as the lead investor. Cosmax is a Korean company, and Lecy-Siewert said the most verbal enthusiasm for Apostle came from Asian investors.
Compared to the U.S., Asia has welcomed men’s makeup brands more, especially in countries like China and South Korea. Chanel launched a men’s makeup line in South Korea in 2018, and Tom Ford Beauty, Dior Beauty and Bobbi Brown have all signed Asian male celebrities as brand ambassadors. Meanwhile, hypermasculine Irish brand War Paint launched in 2018 and claims to have sold over 250,000 units of makeup to over 200 countries across the globe as of 2023.
“Every American celebrity that the American male population admires — when they are in front of the camera, they are wearing [makeup] products,” said Melbourne.
To change the taboo cultural perception surrounding men’s makeup, Lecy-Siewart said he looks to Mr Porter as a model, citing its editorial content and education-first approach. Twelve-year-old Mr Porter, the men’s offshoot of Net-a-Porter, publishes quality, slick editorial pieces daily, plus produces a weekly web magazine called The Journal. In addition, it releases a Mr Porter print magazine six times a year. Inspired by this, Apostle is taking a social media-first approach to educate its male audience about the brand, product and point of view.
Apostle worked with fashion editor Phillip Picardi to identify 12 influencers and tastemakers with 10,000-200,000 followers each for a photoshoot. In addition to modeling for the shoot, the men also serve as brand advocates and are paid to create user-generated content. Apostle is also working to seed free products to celebrity men’s groomers as a backdoor way to access celebrity brand fans. Using male celebrities like K-Pop stars to promote cosmetics is a key tactic that has opened the door of accessible usage in Asian countries.
But appealing to women is also inevitably part of the business model, especially since women comprise 80% of all purchases and purchase influence. In 2022, Geologie, a 7-year-old skin-care brand, even pivoted from being a men’s grooming brand to focusing on unisex products after discovering its significant percentage of female purchasers. Separately, in 2021, Clarins surveyed 1,000 U.K. men, half of whom admitted to “stealing” their partner’s skin-care products without their partner knowing.
“We’re talking internally about how to use women, like girlfriends and the wives, to sell to men who have never picked up a concealer or tinted moisturizer,” said Lecy-Siewert. “We knew that we wanted to develop a product that women would love, as well. … And we knew we could create a product that a wife or a girlfriend would steal from the husband’s or the boyfriend’s dopp kit.”