The global beauty industry, worth half a trillion dollars a year, has begun courting a massive – and for a long time massively neglected – potential consumer base… men.

Ten years ago a guy’s washbag was a streamlined thing: deodorant, toothbrush, cologne, shaving cream and possibly, just maybe, a Nivea moisturiser. Over the course of the last decade, though, men have taken steps, and more recently confident strides, into the skincare space. In 2018 alone, men’s skincare products saw more than 7 per cent jump in sales and the category is currently valued at $122 million (£93.4 million), according to market researcher NPD Group.

“Skincare is one of our best-selling grooming categories on MR PORTER and within this we see oils, serums, face-masks and peels from science, results driven brands such as 111skin, Dr Dennis Gross and Erno Lazlo perform well,” says Sam Kershaw, Buying Manager at MR PORTER. “Of course, men still tend to prefer quick, easily applied products, so that remains top of mind when shopping,” but, he says, “We have observed that men are becoming increasingly more confident in the grooming and skincare space as they educate themselves about the benefits of skincare health, explore brands that provide anti-aging and sophisticated healing solutions and adapt products into everyday routine.”

That men’s skin should need hydration, cleansing and general TLC just as much as any woman’s is, thankfully, becoming an accepted norm. “I’ve been secretly trying products from the local drugstore for years,” says Darwish Gani, co-founder of California-based men’s skincare subscription company Lumin, which launched in 2018 and already has 100,000 active subscribers and is generating eight figure revenues. “Men care a lot more than you would think but we are just lost about where to start. Using a moisturiser will be more common than using cologne in a few years and as common as brushing your teeth by the end of the decade. This is a cultural phenomenon and the numbers are showing it.”

READ  Woman uses Twitter to track down photographer who captured her proposal

But why should men stop there?

The male-grooming business, valued at $57.7billion (£44.6billion) in 2017, is growing exponentially. In fact, according to a report by Allied Market Research, the men’s personal care industry is set to reach a staggering $166 billion (£127 billion) by 2022.

But that growth won’t come simply from flogging more men a moisturiser, for beauty brands to truly capitalise on the opportunity, they need to sell men – and all kinds of men – makeup.

 Jeffree Star (Getty Images)

The end of the last decade saw an explosion of fabulous male influencers rewriting the rules on ‘beauty for the boys’.  James Charles (16 million Instagram followers) became the first male face of Covergirl in 2016, shortly followed by Manny Guttierez (4.3 million followers) for Maybelline in 2017. Charles and Guttierez form part of a powerful group of influencers that also includes Jefree Star (15.7 million followers), who are largely from the LGBT+ community, and whose incredibly loyal followers are overwhelmingly female. A loyalty evidenced by the fact Star’s eponymous cosmetics line tends to sell out each new drop within five minutes and in January 2019, when Charles visited Birmingham in the UK to launch a palette with Morphe, traffic literally stopped.

If the last decade was one in which experimental, colourful male beauty found its audience, the 2020s, which kicked off with straight actor Ansel Elgort wearing glittery eye makeup to the Golden Globes and John Lewis opening its first male cosmetics counter, are poised to be the decade in which male cosmetics hits the mainstream.

In the past 10 years Google searches around male makeup have increased by a whopping 67.5 per cent, and beauty brands have begun to respond. In 2018, Chanel, Clinique, Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs all launched cosmetic lines specifically for men and in addition to the big players, several independent brands have appeared to take their slice of the pie.

“This year we have seen an increased number of searches for ‘make-up’ on-site, particularly for concealers and bronzers,” says Mr Porter’s Kershaw. “Across this space, we are carrying concealer sticks and brow gel combs by Tom Ford Beauty and Le Mer, alongside tinted moisturizers and face bronzers from Lab Series, Clinique and Sisley-Paris.”

Danny Gray founded men’s makeup brand War Paint in November 2018, after his appearance on BBC’s Dragons’ Den saw him gain a £70,000 investment from Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani. He’s personally been wearing makeup for 20 years.

“I suffered with BDD [Body Dysmorphic Disorder] after being bullied at school and it literally helped me get out the door,” he explains. With War Paint, he aimed to launch the brand he never had growing up. “I never felt comfortable walking in store and purchasing a product and could not find a safe place online that related to me about application, so I created my own.”  

While the chemical formulas of women’s makeup are fine for men to use, Gray has developed his range to specifically deliver what most men are looking for: typically lightweight formulations, a matte finish and no overly feminine scents. “Male skin can also be more prone to acne so we have made sure all our products have acne fighting qualities,” he says.

War Paint’s foundation

War Paint has shipped more than 20,000 units to 68 countries in just eight months, and is set to generate revenues of £500,000 in year one – it’s also the headline brand on John Lewis’s newly opened male cosmetics counter. The £18 concealer is the top selling product, closely followed by the full set (£114) which includes Foundation, Tinted Moisturiser, Face Sponge, Bronzer, Brush, Anti-Shine Powder and Concealer.   

“The rise in men using makeup is growing at an incredible rate, as well as the number of people talking about the space. I would say that this is not a trend but rather a movement that will keep progressing… the next stage is to continue to normalise men in the makeup space to the point where the everyday man can feel comfortable and confident incorporating it into their everyday routines,” says Gray.  

His advice to any guys just starting out? “Start small and add more if needed. War Paint products focus on looks that are subtle and mainly for evening out skin tone, so you don’t need to apply loads for desired results,” he says. “My other top tip would be to make sure you blend onto your neck for a more natural look.”​

War Paint’s Night Out set


Andrew Grella, founder of New York-based male makeup line House of Formen, agrees that when it comes to certain products, men ideally need different formulations. “Men’s skin tends to be thicker and produce more oil, so formulations have to account for that.” He was inspired to start his business after he woke with a bout of acne on prom night, and his mother saved the day with concealers and bronzer. “When I saw the result I figured there should be a brand dedicated to helping men out their best face forward,” he explains. Grella launched House of Formen with four key makeup products in 2013 and has noticed a major uptick in sales in recent years.  “As more knowledge is circulated regarding skin health and actually showing men they could look better with a product or two, it’s becoming more of a norm.”

These brands are on a mission to eliminate the stigma surrounding men in makeup and to help men feel more comfortable and confident in their appearance. And if online subscription services, tweaked formulations or more ‘masculine’ packaging are a means to this end, then their arrival should met with fanfare. For as Chanel stated when they launched their male makeup line Boy de Chanel back in November 2018: “Beauty is not a matter of gender; it is a matter of style.”

Best skincare and makeup products for men:

Makeup artist and men’s grooming specialist Sara Clark has worked with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Simon Cowell and McFly to get them red carpet ready. Read on for her six must-have products:

  1. A good moisturiser is a must  

One for skin and one for under the eyes. Think of it as an investment. It takes a few moments of your time to moisturise face, neck and hands… but it will benefit you for many years to come.  

I love Dermalogica and Sisley – both do ranges for men and women and they have always been a staple in my kit. But for a more budget friendly option, Nivea for Men Deep Matte Moisturiser is good (£11.99 at Boots, shop it here)

  1. A lip balm

Dry lips are pretty gross and very un-kissable so get rid! So easy to have a little tin of Vaseline or a tube of Lucas PawPaw (£6.95, shop it here).    

Lucas PawPaw £6.95, shop it here  

3.​Eye drops

Optrex Eye Dew Dazzling Blue (£3.79, shop them here) reduces redness and brings out the whites of your eyes perfectly.


  1. A concealer

I think a pen is great for individual use and then use your index finger to blend. Personally I am a huge fan of Tom Ford (for male and female) as the consistency works so well and camouflages any redness, razer nicks, under eye shadows so effortlessly, but still looks very natural.

Concealer, £34, Tom Ford for Men. Shop it here

  1. Tinted Moisturiser. 

 I used Instant Filter Moisturise by Lab Series (£31, shop it here) on someone recently and it was great. Subtle amount of tint, just enough to even out your skin tone. Also Lab Series BB Tinted Moisturiser which also has an SPF35 (£38, shop it here) evens out skin tone and texture and refines pores. 

If you like wearing something a bit more “makeup”, then I absolutely love Giorgio Armani Second Skin Face Fabric (£39, shop it here). It has a super light coverage, almost invisible and a very natural finish.  But makes your skin look beautiful and even. A couple of years ago it was discontinued (crazy!) but thankfully the lovely team at Armani Beauty brought it back!

Giorgio Armani Second Skin Face Fabric, £39, shop it here

  1. Bronzer

Ensure that you get the correct tone… the ronseal look isn’t a great one! But its back to my fave men’s brand Tom Ford for this one.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here