“Boy beauty,” as it has been represented so far by mass-market brands like CoverGirl and Maybelline, is a well-intentioned step toward democratizing the use of makeup. But it can actually end up feeling limiting.
“It’s a positive thing, but I just worry people think there’s only one way men can wear makeup,” said Georgie Greville, creative director at Milk Makeup. “So we take many different approaches. There are no rules, and that’s been defining for us.”
Greville pointed to the look and ideal that male beauty influencers James Charles and Manny Gutierrez, tapped by CoverGirl and Maybelline, respectively, have promoted. They’ve achieved social media star status by proving they can be just as good at makeup — and usually, even better — as the girls, using products made with women in mind. The result: sharply angled eyebrows, perfectly lined lips and a highly contoured finish.
Milk Makeup, the product line released by creative agency Milk Studios last spring, wants to offer more accessible options for men who are interested in makeup. Last week, the brand launched a “Blur the Lines” campaign promoting its new Blur Stick, a pore-minimizing primer that works under foundation or by itself. In the campaign, which was produced in partnership with men’s beauty publication Very Good Light, both men and women are featured.
The key: The Blur Stick, along with the rest of Milk’s makeup line, is easy to use. According to Greville, the tube packaging makes the stick foolproof, meaning no matter your skill level, you can smear it on your skin and achieve the desired, poreless effect.
Milk Makeup’s products are “genderless,” not for men or women, because Greville and the Milk team see that, so far, what’s been presented as male beauty is limiting.
“‘Typical’ guy makeup is not super accessible yet, and it’s because guys in America haven’t yet adopted any kind of casual makeup routine, because they feel stigmatized,” said David Yi, the founder of Very Good Light. “Brands like CoverGirl and Maybelline are saying, ‘Hey, we’re behind this,’ but they have a lot of homework to do in the men’s market. Guys need a lot of education.”
“I’m all about redefining masculinity, which is why I was excited to do this project. Because a man can still be a man and no less masculine for wanting to wear makeup. I’m talking about me. That doesn’t make me any less of a man for wearing color on my eyelids.”- @eddyljr on masculinity, gender roles and identity. Read more about him and our #BlurTheLines campaign in conjunction with @milkmakeup on site now.
Yi said that Very Good Light sets out to try to fill that education gap, by showing different types of makeup products and looks that any man can realistically achieve. A lot of times, men who wear makeup aren’t looking to make a statement, they’re just looking to enhance their features — adapting the popular “no-makeup” makeup trend from women.
“Are all guys going to wear makeup tomorrow? No,” he said. “But there is a market for guys who want to enjoy the no-makeup makeup look.” Yi added that already in South Korea, makeup brands are marketing to men, and it’s not uncommon for them to use products like under-eye concealer.
There’s, of course, skepticism over how soon this trend will become mainstream in the U.S. A recent YouGov study asked 2,500 Americans age 18 and over for their thoughts on men wearing makeup. It found that many people aren’t ready for it. In the survey, 50 percent said it would be a bad thing if men started wearing makeup regularly, 11 percent said it would be a good thing and 37 percent said it would be neither good nor bad.
Men’s beauty and skincare lines exist, but Yi said they’re missing the mark by trying to reimagine the concept of makeup, but in a, well, more manly way.
“They don’t understand the target market,” said Yi. “They’re going after straight men, and that’s not going to work. They need to think outside the boxes of traditional masculinity.”
Greville said that the future of brands is genderless, not one or the other. In January, Mac Cosmetics partnered with Caitlyn Jenner on a line that was marketed as genderless. But pushing beauty product as being “for everyone” can easily come off as a money grab — the more customers you appeal to, the more profit there is to be made — if brands don’t properly see it through. Greville said that Milk’s roots are in promoting individual expression, and its line launched with that mindset.
But for mass market brands looking to appeal to a younger generation that’s starting to think beyond gender, it’s not second nature.
“I’m seeing brands in [beauty and skincare] pop up in this space that have no basis in it at all,” said Sam Farmer, the founder of an eponymous line of unisex skincare. “If it doesn’t make them enough money, they’re going to stop that. I question their motives.”