Male cosmetics: Man gets slap on the face

Men in the UK are already spending up to €840 million on grooming and marketeers are adamant that men will yet take to cosmetics in the same way that they’ve taken to moisturisers. Caomhan Keane decided to give man make up a twirl...

YVES ST LAURENT once said, “The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” 

Buy, maybe. But applying makeup by one’s self is certainly a fool’s errand. Especially for a 30-something male who’s grown tired of ‘being born with it’ and is now ready for what Maybelline has to offer.

Inspired by MAC’s credo ‘all ages, all races, all sexes’ I’ve decided to man up and tart up, to see what the 54% of men in a recent J Walter Thompson survey went through when they succumbed to society’s pressure to beautify themselves.

Step one is to seek professional help. An only-child with a tut-tutting mother, raiding her makeup kit unsupervised resulted in me having a face like a Picasso painting.

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“Come in and have a consultation, that’s the most important advice I would give to anybody,” MAC Senior Artist Lesley Keane tells me when I’ve scrubbed the Maters war paint off and stopped looking like a drag queen’s autopsy. “Some people, especially guys, try to cover a blemish with a concealer and it’s the wrong colour, or they put too much on, and end up — not only highlighting the aforementioned blemish, but also the fact that they are wearing makeup in the first place, which most men really don’t want.

“We regularly have guys coming in because they have a girlfriend or a sister who has pointed out a flaw and they say ‘she made me come in, what product can I use to deal with this and can you show me how to use it?’

Male cosmetics: Man gets slap on the face

Going for a makeover at MAC at Dundrum Shopping

Centre, before taking his new look out in

public. Pictures: Fergal Phillip

But what goes on at such a consultation? “With MAC we look at the person — their style, hair, etc, and get an idea of what kind of make up they might go for, then we pinpoint their skin.

“Are there any noticeable challenges? We’d never mention them to the customer, of course; we’d just come up with solutions. And as you get talking to a person they give more information.

“Men are becoming conscious about looking after their skin — the younger generation are unbelievable. They don’t care about putting moisturiser on in front of their friends.”

But Ken Boylan, a makeup artist who has his own range Makeup/Play and operates a salon on South William Street, isn’t so sure. “I have never, in my 20 years of working in this industry, had a man come in and ask me to do their makeup. Versace brought out makeup for men but it just didn’t work. I don’t think it will ever take off, especially in Ireland.

“It’s not seen as a very masculine thing to do. It’s a stigma thing. Your wife wears it, your sister wears it. And the guys that do wear it, they never tell anyone.”

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While most men just use makeup to cover blemishes, Boylan thinks there are plenty of ways they could use makeup to make themselves look more masculine.

“You could darken your stubble line or make a heavier brow. I would love a man to come into me for a consultation (and I do think men should go to male makeup artists because they will better understand what it is you’re looking for).

“But for most straight men, when they step into a makeup shop, it’s like that scene in Father Ted when the priests end up in the lingerie section. They haven’t got a clue how to behave.”

While some places offer private, secluded areas for consultations (privacy is hugely important to men who doll themselves up, with orders for deliveries often being made in the wee hours of the morning), I decide to put myself on display, plonking myself down at the MAC counter in the Dundrum Shopping Centre.

Male cosmetics: Man gets slap on the face

Before taking his new look out in

public. Pictures: Fergal Phillip

And as a variety of brushes, pencils and gels add multiple shades to my eyelashes, brows and lids — and my cheekbones are contoured to Stanley knife sharpness, the ladies going through the same process — and a bunch of school girls browsing lipsticks while on the bunk, barely give me the onceover. So with my new face on, I decide to take my mug on the road and see if it elicits a second glance… or a hail of fists.

Over lunch the next day, my friends notice the eyes. Apparently it takes years to master guyliner and having slathered on the make up by myself, I’ve retreated to a preschool habit of drifting outside the lines. But none had picked up on the fact that the rest of my face is now lying at the bottom of a layer of make-up, which they concur is a success.

My mother is a different story. She has the eyes of an oppressive dictator when it comes to anything outside of the norm and I’m barely in the door before she’s after me with the soap she once reserved for foul language.

We have a chat about it after Fair City interrupts her contrarian demands and she’s shocked to learn that men’s grooming products are worth £600 million to the UK economy. That means actual straight men must use them, which appeases her, thus appalling me.

As I prepare to depart in a huff, she asks if she can borrow my blusher.

While it’s never wise to linger in the gents, the lack of response to my makeover was thrilling the liberal in me and frustrating the writer tasked with talking about people’s reactions.

At the cinema I decide to try a little contouring at the sink.

Admittedly, it being a cinema and not the trough at a Shamrock Rovers game, the risk of getting my head kicked in was fairly minimal, but as a post-screening crowd poured in, they were far more concerned with finding a new home for the giant sodas they’d consumed during the never-ending Avengers movie, than taking the mickey out of the lad powdering his nose, and bar the odd doubletake, no one said a word.

And that’s pretty much been the norm. There was the occasional eye roll from some male friends when we were going out and I turned the whole ordeal into a pantomime of preparation.

But as the Hendricks kicked in and the girls made a fuss, my guyliner was passed around like a soggy smoke behind the school bike shed and they all gave it a scrawl.

Personally, I can’t see me keeping it up. While I prescribe to the Wildean maxim that punctuality is the theft of time, I’m fortunate enough to possess skin that doesn’t require much shrouding, and I can’t delude myself into adding the 40-minute prep’ time into my day.

But as the double standard applied to beauty starts to balance out, it’s at least becoming easier for men to take Helena Rubinstein mantra on board. “There are no ugly people. Only lazy ones.”

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