Makeup for men is the new normal

by Jose Gutierrez

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n recent years, the market for men’s beauty products has grown significantly. In 2012 sales for these products generated $2.6 billion and they’re expected to hit $3.2 billion by 2016.

But the products sold aren’t limited to the traditional items associated with men’s grooming, such as shaving creams, razor blades and aftershave. Moisturizers, concealers and exfoliating scrubs are seeping their way onto the faces of the men who once so proudly denounced these products. There are two essential factors that have contributed to this change: the marketing of these products and the loosening of gender roles. I say this change is for the better.

There’s no doubt that marketing played a huge role in increasing sales. According to the Los Angeles Times, male beauty products are often packaged in cigar boxes and containers mimicking liquor bottles in an effort to make the products appear more masculine. The marketing has to reaffirm a man’s masculinity in order to persuade him into buying the products. Apparently, most men are squeamish about using products that seem too feminine. While I’m certainly glad that men’s beauty products are reaching a broader audience thanks to marketing, I still find it frustrating that many men won’t buy beauty products without a “for men” sticker. Is masculinity really so threatened by regular products that we have to create entirely separate products for men? Apparently so. But hey, I’m just glad that men are now purchasing more beauty products. However, marketing is only one part of this change.

Gender roles are changing, and in this case men are engaging in practices that aren’t traditionally considered masculine. Robb Willer, associate sociology professor at Stanford University, told The Stanford Daily that during the last 10 to 20 years we’ve seen a significant loosening of expectations regarding the norms regulating male behavior.

“Among other things, we see that men these days are more openly concerned with how they look, how they dress,” Willer told The Stanford Daily. “In general, the expectation that men cannot exhibit traditionally feminine characteristics appears to be relaxing.”

I recently discussed gender roles with Doreen Mattingly, a women’s studies associate professor at San Diego State. If there’s one thing I took from our discussion, it’s that gender roles change as time passes. In the U.S., it used to be a woman’s role to be a housewife, often in charge of raising children and attending to housework. But times have changed. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that 79 percent of Americans reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles. The attitudes toward gender roles are still changing, now further evidenced by higher sales of men’s beauty products.

I began using beauty products back in 2007, my freshman year of high school. It was during that time that I began to develop acne and other blemishes on my skin, and I don’t think acne makes anyone feel good. So, I was tempted to treat my skin. I bit into the forbidden fruit that was beauty products. I don’t know what fruit Adam and Eve bit into, but the fruit I chose was an apricot—a St. Ives apricot facial scrub. I exfoliated my face with it on a fateful morning and my life was never the same; I was hooked. The point of this short story is that I never needed a “for men” product to guide my purchases. I’m certainly glad that slapping on a “for men” sticker makes men feel more comfortable, but abiding by that “for men” sticker severely limits your choice for beauty products. As much as the market for men’s beauty products is growing, the products have always been there, albeit inside pink and gold colored bottles.

Overall, I’m thrilled that men are participating in these nontraditional activities by beautifying themselves and using beauty products. I feel that when we strictly abide by gender roles, we severely limit our human experiences and even our identities by conforming into molds that were predetermined for us. I don’t think we ever needed separate beauty products just for men. A good moisturizer will work on any skin type regardless of age, race or sex and regardless of the packaging that the moisturizer comes in, whether it is a manly bottle or a feminine one. However, for a good blemish base cream you’re going to have to find the right shade first.