Why Exclusive Is A Swear Word When It Comes To Men’s Make-up…

Women’s beauty has come a long way in the last 20 years, but men’s make-up is still plagued by misunderstandings, stereotypes and taboos.


We spoke to Lee Gilbert, Founder of KENMEN, to find out why, and which brands are bucking the trend.

Ayo Ogunseinde

The Problem


As Lee Gilbert, Founder of men’s luxury skincare and grooming brand KENMEN, explained, there are a number of pervading challenges:


1.Polarised stereotypes


The pervading myth that men’s grooming is linked to their sexuality misses the mark completely. Men are primarily concerned with ‘confidence enhancers’ and the best tools required to achieve this and fit their needs. It is important for men today to project a strong image of certainty, professionalism and physical wellbeing.


The false assumption that there’s a polarised choice between ‘toxic masculinity’ and the more effeminate and misunderstood ‘metrosexual’, is simply wrong. Not only do most men not fall into either of these categories, they’re in fact looking for products that have nothing to do with any implied sexuality.


2.Social stigma


It used to be that men were reticent to use a dedicated facial cleanser, eye cream, or even a moisturiser unless it was marketed as part of their shaving routine - for example ‘after-shave balm’, as opposed to face cream.


While millennials have helped to dispel this stigma through their buying power and grooming habits, making men’s skincare more socially acceptable, men’s make-up still has a long way to go.


3.Department stores slow to embrace men’s make-up


Department Stores and luxe brands have been slow to adapt to changing times, failing to market men's cosmetics.


There has also been a failure to monetise men’s fashion departments through men’s make-up, or to incorporate adequate male colour lines.


4.Men’s make-up not consumer driven


Most brands create products for men without a specific function in mind. The big brands who launched men's lines simply re-fragranced and re-packaged products originally dedicated to their female clientele.


Sadly, they did not take into consideration, the crucial differences between women's and men's skins, metabolisms and vascular systems and the key role of tissue inflammation which is more prevalent with men.


5.Inclusive v. exclusive


The problem with words like “prestige” and “luxury” are that they’re ‘exclusive’ terms that exclude the majority of the population.


For this reason, today’s marketplace currently appears to be trying to dilute the words "luxury and prestige" in order to be more ‘inclusive’ and, more importantly, to enter or target multi-channel markets.



The Solution: Brands Getting It Right


  1. Tom Ford - Despite the price-point and luxury stamp, Tom Ford "get it" by focusing their marketing on physical and emotional confidence. Ford’s idea of male grooming is great at portraying what it is to be a man. His vision of modern glamour and luxury. His products are still classified as men’s ‘grooming’ or ‘skincare’, although continue to edge closer to the realms of ‘make-up’.

  2. Jecca Blac - Founded by Jessica Blacker, this range of genderless make-up hits the nail on the head when it comes to focusing on feeling fabulous, regardless of which labels society assigns you. As Jessica explains: "Jecca Blac was inspired by an audience that felt very overlooked by the beauty industry. We celebrate all makeup wearers, no matter on age, gender or expression."

  3. Haus Laboratories - Focusing on inclusivity, Lady Gaga’s new brand of dramatic make-up has received a lot of airtime. Gaga said at the time of the launch: “I really wanted that feeling of self-discovery and self-acceptance and really loving who you are, in a way that may be completely unconventional”, regardless of gender, race, shape, nationality or age.


Do you think men’s make-up has now caught up with women’s cosmetics? Or do you still think there’s work to do? We’d love to hear from you.


Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash