It is said that ancient Japanese women started to put on red lipsticks as a charm against evil spirits. Over time, make-up has evolved into sophisticated definition: not only to conceal people’s imperfections on their faces but also to define a person’s characteristics. It has been by far a popular method to enhance women’s beauty by using a plentiful kind of products such as foundation liquid, concealer, lipsticks, cheek blush, etc.
In Vietnam, it is extremely rare to see “straight” boys and men wearing make-up. The reason is easy to guess: most of them find it girly, time-consuming and above all, they are scared of being judged by the society since boy wearing make-up is still not widely accepted in Vietnam and it is thought that make-up is heavily linked to women.
However, Japanese society has shown that make-up has no bound. Boy with light natural make-up to full face make-up look and even drag queen like make-up can be spotted everywhere, particularly in crowded areas like Shibuya. In Kyoto university, I have seen not only female but male students also taking good care of their appearance. They are particular about their hair styles, their eye brown shapes, the dark circles under their eyes, etc.
The idea that make-up is solely oriented towards women is no longer true. “About 90 percent of young men in their 20s use men’s skincare and makeup”, said investor Kei Sugawara. This is a surprising data that is nearly the same as the percentage of women doing make-up and skin care.
Japan has been known as a giant of cosmetics and personal care products market, which trails behind only USA. Japanese men nowadays are becoming interested in beauty (including skin care and make-up) and more conscious of their appearance, which redirects the world’s second largest cosmetics industry to a new development strategy. Men who do not succumb to the old-fashioned idea that “boy wearing make-up is gay” are having a positive influence on modern Japanese society. In my opinion, male make-up is also one way to represent the “gender equality”. Japanese men are putting on make-up for many reasons.
1.They feel insecure with their appearance:
Many boys grow up with a lot of pimples and large pores on their faces which make them feel dissatisfied and unconfident in front of people. A flawless face would be more attractive to girls than a face full of red spots. To cover their pores and scars, they choose to apply a thin layer of foundation or concealer and end up with a natural look that no one can realize that they are wearing make-up. There is also an argument that make-up gives men a “masculine benefit” in which their muscles, sharp cheekbones, jaw line… can be made pronounced by employing the so-called contouring method. Thus, make-up has the power to enhance a man’s masculinity rather than diminishing their manliness as the traditional thought.
2.Their work requires a good-looking appearance:
There is no doubt that actors and men celebrities need to wear make-up whenever they are on TV shows and events because they are influential figures to the society. Their looks matter to their fans and other people. But how about a salesman or a manager? It turns out that men whose job require a lot of face-to-face interactions, for instance, a salesman who meets and talk with many customers in a day, tend to put on make-up because they think it must be more polite to appear with a gentle look, which in turn is likely to help them get the work done smoothly. It is believed that 90% of the first impression is decided by the eyes. Hence, customers would probably feel more comfortable and satisfied with a good-looking staff rather than a slovenly one. At least a groomed appearance could boost their confidence in front of strangers.
3.They are inspired by beauty vloggers and their idols
The booming of beauty vlogs of male vloggers on Youtube and influencers on social media platforms has generated a new wave for the beauty industry of Japan. They have been conveying a brand novel concept of make-up and encourage men to break the out-of-date thinking, cross the barrier and put on make-up as a way to express the love for their bodies. Idols also play an important role in setting a new idea for male beauty. Fan boys are likely to model after their idols to have a youthful look and let their personality show up and show out.
Many Japanese cosmetics brands such as Shiseido, DHC, Gatsby and Acro Inc. have launched a variety of make-up products targeting at male customers. According to Mainichi Japan (2019), “Acro Inc. is marketing more than 100 products oriented to a male audience under the brand name “Fiveism x Three,” including foundation sticks, concealer and nail colors”. Male make-up era has arrived and they are all on a competitive run to increase the sales with the inventions of diverse products including face wash, lotion, foundations, etc. The Japanese male cosmetics market is surging and has a promising future with more and more start-up brands coming into play.
The “phenomenon” that more boys are wearing make-up are perceived with an open mind in Japanese society thank to the multi-cultural environment and the impressive swell of social media network. They are not judged as gay but cool and having strong unique identity. Japanese men are challenging the old concept of make-up. Today they are free to do whatever they want without the invisible pressure from public opinion. Personally, I think that as long as you like what you are doing, go ahead! There will be no obstacle that can stop you from showing your real personality and care for your face. How about “boys wearing make-up in your country? What is your opinion about it?
Denyse Yeo, Smooth operators: Japan’s male skincare market “growing slowly but surely”. BeautyTech.jp. Retrieved from https://medium.com/beautytech-jp/smooth-operators-japans-male-skincare-market-growing-slowly-but-surely-2a019ac29698
Koki Mikami. Japan enters the ‘makeup boy’ age with surge in cosmetics for men. Mainichi Japan. Retrieved from https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190623/p2a/00m/0na/005000c