Future looking good for Chinese men in makeup
BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - Male consumption of makeup is expected to rise by 13.5 per cent in China this year.
If he has been away from home for more than an hour, Wei Fan will immediately go to his bedroom and not leave until he has finished his skin care routine and applied natural makeup.
The process, which usually takes about 40 minutes, is a “commitment” Wei has made to himself.
Even if the 26-year-old is just nipping downstairs to throw away garbage, he chooses to wear a face mask. He feels that it is rude and not decent for him to look slovenly.
“I love makeup and the way it makes me feel. I gain more power and masculinity simply by grooming an impeccable eyebrow,” he said, adding that along with bad fingernails and excessive use of hair products, unruly eyebrows are up there with the worst crimes a man can commit.
Wei, who works for an internet company in Beijing, stands out among many of his coder colleagues, a profession usually comprised of “geeks” notoriously indifferent to their appearance.
He first tried makeup as a result of a hobby; performing in plays when he was a 19-year-old freshman in college allowed him to experiment with makeup during performances.
He discovered “great magic”, and began incorporating products such as foundation, beauty balms and lip tints into his daily routine to accentuate the facial features he considers most becoming.
“For me, masculinity is all about feeling confident, all about being your best self, all about your authentic self and feeling comfortable with who you are,” he said, adding that many of his male colleagues seek his advice about makeup.
“I think the taboo about male makeup is disappearing.”
At a time when women are flocking to once male-dominated fields such as boxing and video gaming, men have recently begun exploring the female-dominated world of aesthetic medicine and makeup, thanks to a greater awareness of the importance of daily grooming.
In May last year, a report by the global market researcher Euromonitor said male consumption of cosmetic products in the Chinese mainland is expected to rise by 13.5 per cent this year, well ahead of the 5.8 per cent in the global male beauty market, to reach 1.9 billion yuan ($277 million).
“Typical concepts of masculinity, coupled with the power of language and a paucity of role models, keep men away from cosmetics at a time when demand for beauty products is strong,” said Huang Yingying, deputy director of the Institute of Sexuality and Gender at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
Unpleasant sexism holds men back by creating arbitrary societal standards of beauty and gender, and discourages them from an activity that can be fun, empowering and a great source of personal expression, she added.
The rise of feminism in China in recent years has seen the double standards toward men’s appearance, which require them to be muscular and tough, gradually erased.
Moreover, attitudes toward men wearing makeup are becoming more tolerant and men are breaking gender norms to wear cosmetics, according to Huang.
Mo Yanheng, 27, who works for a State-owned enterprise in Shanghai, lives with his 28-year-old girlfriend. They are happy to share both the bathroom cabinet and nuggets of wisdom on makeup.
It had never occurred to Mo that someday he would begin using the foundation that best suits his girlfriend’s skin tone or learn the tips that make her nose appear smaller.
His transformation started on a whim 18 months ago, when his girlfriend decided to give him a fresh look, applying foundation, highlighter, eye shadow, lipstick and eyebrow makeup.
“At first, it was ‘Me, a guy with some dramatic-style eyeliner? I’m not sure about that,’” Mo recalled. “But then I let my guard down and looked at it in an unbiased way. I really saw the positives. It’s a technical skill that helps me feel good about myself. That’s not something everybody can have.”
As he delved deeper into the overwhelming world of cosmetics, his skin care routine not only became more complex, it became a habit.
Now, together with his girlfriend, he has turned to institutes of aesthetic medicine for microdermabrasion－sanding of the skin with fine abrasives－anti-wrinkle injections and so-called vampire facelifts, where small amounts of blood plasma are extracted and then injected subcutaneously to make the skin feel softer.
“With the ability to cover up, embellish or polish my look with a waft of a wand or brush, it’s hard to imagine not wearing makeup if I want to look my best,” Mo said.
“When I found myself put out by the hassle and expense of having to look ‘professional and beautiful’, I started to develop a greater appreciation of what many women go through on a regular basis.”
The couple now shares “the same amount of femininity and masculinity in the relationship and co-exist”, he added.
The softening of attitudes has also been driven by the rise of male beauty vloggers on social media.
Because makeup is a highly feminised sphere of consumption, most online influencers within the beauty community are female. However, in recent years, the industry has seen a surge in the number of male beauty vloggers gaining influence on social media platforms.
Dong Zichu, who began almost three years ago by setting up a homepage on Bilibili, a popular video site, boasts 1.35 million followers with whom he shares beauty tips, product recommendations and easy-to-follow tutorials.
In August 2016, Dong posted his first video, in which he used a dramatic tone as well as gesturing theatrically with his hands and using exaggerated facial expressions to warn consumers of the worst pieces of skin care advice. The video received nearly 500,000 views.
The 23-year-old online celebrity often spends his days testing, swatching－applying samples of products such as foundation and eye shadow to demonstrate their colour and finish－and reviewing products so he can tell his subscribers exactly how to use them.
Many women who are tired and distrustful of female beauty vloggers are even seeking inspiration from him.
He believes men can wear makeup, teach makeup and vlog about it just as well as women, and he is “fighting for that equality through my channel”.
“I want my male followers to understand that it should be less about how others feel, and more about how makeup makes them feel,” he said. “If it makes them feel strong and confident, then they should be all for it, just like me.”
Dong has established his own makeup brand, Croxx, with which he hopes to replicate the success of Jeffree Star, a makeup mogul from the United States who has 11 million followers on YouTube.
Consumers can purchase Dong’s products on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. Among his line of more than 20 beauty products ranging from 30 yuan to 200 yuan, Beauty Blender－one of the best-sellers－has sold more than 260,000 units.
Zhou Min, associate professor of new media studies at Beijing Normal University, said: “Vloggers are the trendsetters, and they influence the opinions and trends of others through celebrity worship. Viewers try to pursue similar status by emulating the habits and behaviour of the vloggers.”
With more male celebrities frequently being seen wearing makeup and beauty products, and the positive messages they constantly send out to society about “boy beauty”, more and more people are using positive words such as “clean” “refreshing” and “delicate” to describe such men, she said.
However, despite great strides toward gender equality and society’s growing tolerance of men wearing makeup, males who embrace cosmetics cannot avoid being subjected to ridicule from time to time.
Wei said people often make fun of his eyebrow tattooing, known as microblading, and use of beauty balms.
“I hate when people tease me about why I spend so much time and money on my face like a woman. They make themselves feel good by looking down on guys like me who want to look beautiful or take care of their skin,” he said.
Men who embrace makeup are much more likely to be mocked than, for example, a woman who is a “tomboy”, he added.
“I fight against all the spite and choose to be myself. Am I not brave enough to deserve recognition at least?”