The Current State of Beauty


Penetration of Men's Cosmetics

In March, the international research firm Ipsos released a market report on men’s cosmetics, examining market trends and consumer behavior in three areas: grooming, skincare, and makeup.

According to the report, the market size of men’s cosmetics in the United States is expected to double. Factors such as the anonymity provided by e-commerce and the expansion of social media are believed to contribute to this growth. However, there are significant differences observed among different generations.

Regarding makeup, approximately 30% of individuals aged 18 to 65 are actively considering its use. However, there is a substantial gap in responses between those aged 18 to 34 and those aged 51 and above. While 37% of men aged 18 to 34 stated that they are not considering using makeup, this percentage rises to 73% among men aged 51 and above. It seems that the older generation has significant concerns about revealing that they use makeup, likely due to a perceived conflict with traditional notions of masculinity.

In contrast, regarding skincare, men aged 51 and above are more likely to have established daily skincare routines compared to men aged 18 to 34. Motivations such as wanting to appear younger and improve their appearance differ from the younger generation’s desire to be more attractive.

Despite the variations in awareness and motivations across different generations, men’s cosmetics are gradually gaining acceptance across all age groups. This week, I would like to focus on the changing values of beauty in different eras, regions, and contexts.

There’s a market for men’s cosmetics–and a generation gap (Ipsos)


The Resurgence of Men's Makeup in Modern Times

Let’s explore the history of “men and makeup.”

Interestingly, makeup for men has existed since prehistoric times. Archaeological excavations conducted by Professor João Zilhão at the University of Bristol in 2010 revealed that Neanderthals used crushed yellow ochre and shiny stones to enhance their features, even applying what could be considered a form of foundation.

In more recent history, during the 1800s, King Louis XIV of France encouraged men to use rouge, wigs, and powder, sparking a boom in men’s cosmetics.

A significant turning point came during the reign of Queen Victoria in England. She associated makeup with demons and declared it a terrifying invention, leading to the suppression of men’s makeup within society. This era, also known as the Second Empire, had a profound impact on the world.

In modern times, pioneers of male beauty, such as rockstars with flamboyant makeup and globally recognized K-POP group BTS, have ushered in a new era of men’s cosmetics.

The significance of male makeup has evolved over time, often symbolizing “wealth” in ancient to early modern cultures. In contemporary society, it may represent a form of resistance against social oppression. This rebellion has led to questioning how one can stand out uniquely rather than adhering to traditional concepts of superiority.

Tracing the history of makeup, influenced by nature, religion, and politics, we see how the concept of “beauty” has undergone vibrant transformations. The current trend of gender-neutral cosmetics is likely to continue creating fresh cultural shifts.

Viking beauty kits and Neanderthal contouring: the secret history of male beauty (The Guardian)

Beyond "Unrealistic" Beauty Standards

What is beauty?

Skin color, body shape, and many other aspects define external beauty standards. However, are we too confined by these definitions?

For instance, colorism, which discriminates against people with darker skin tones, exists not only between different ethnicities but also within the same racial groups. The author of “Hair Story”, Tharps points out that among African Americans, lighter skin has historically been favored due to past misconceptions about the biological superiority of white people. Similarly, the Asian preference for fair skin does not solely align with white supremacy; in ancient China, fair skin was considered a symbol of the elite.

While these beauty standards have influenced the growth of the cosmetics industry, it is essential to reflect on the narrow definitions of beauty that can lead many to feel inadequate. According to a survey by Dove called “The Real Truth About Beauty,” only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. With the rise of social media and image-editing tools, there are concerns about the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards, resulting in blind consumer behavior. Instead of striving to fit into existing beauty norms, it may be more meaningful to invest time in discovering and embracing our own unique attributes.

The Truth About Asian Beauty Standards (Good Housekeeping)

Mass Consumption of Beauty Through TikTok

When we want something, we often use the internet to compare products and gather reviews before making a purchase. Unlike clothing, cosmetics require more thorough research since returns and exchanges are not as straightforward. Social media platforms have become active spaces for this purpose. YouTube is well-known for beauty YouTubers providing makeup tutorials and cosmetic reviews for all genders. Additionally, platforms like Instagram and TikTok offer various ways to discover skincare and cosmetic information.

Over the past three years, TikTok has transformed from being just a dance app to becoming a significant influence in advertising. Viral beauty trends, such as #TeamNoSleep, have been generated using TikTok’s addictive nature. In 2021, major cosmetic brands like Sephora and Kylie Cosmetics participated in TikTok’s shopping promotion events.

TikTok’s ability to generate viral trends has led to a significant economic impact. For instance, after becoming popular on TikTok, the sales of Deciem’s The Ordinary products increased by 426%.

While some believe that TikTok is the perfect platform for brands to connect with consumers, there is a concern about blindly following trends without considering individual needs. Skincare, in particular, does not have a “one-size-fits-all” solution, and it is crucial to remain mindful of who and what these products are for.

TikTok Is Changing The Way We Buy Beauty (Elle)