It’s a lesson we’ve been learning here at Very Good Light, especially as we go over our own dozens of skincare products that line our bathroom sink. With the dawn of coronavirus quarantine, where we’re forced to stay in, the reality is hitting that perhaps we didn’t need so much after all. We’re rethinking the products we consume and demanding they’re multi-use instead of having one sole function. After all, at a time when the economy is uncertain, every dollar counts.
Which lead us down a journey to seek products that really do the most, like a brand called Cardon.
The company, launched by former roommates Jacqueline Oak and Narae Chung, is for the everyday guy who wants an upgrade without sacrificing quality. The true stamp of approval was when the two founders told us how all of their products were developed in Korea. “Think of it as K-beauty for men,” Narae told us. “Effective ingredients that are great for your skin.”
Their 3-In-1 Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer especially made us believe that one product really could have more than one function. The gel, which comes in a luxuriously plush, plump form, is supposed to 1) hydrate 2) soothe and 3) repair your skin. This is all, of course, a perfect recipe to combat “maskne,” the new dreaded skin condition that comes with wearing a mask all day. The two founders suggest you use it as a nighttime product but we’ve been using – and reusing – throughout the hot summer days.
Not only is it made with cactus extract, an ultra-calming super ingredient in skincare, but rosehip oil, and VGL’s personal favorite ingredient, Niacinimide. As you know, the latter helps with inflammation, flare-ups, and also with acne. Together, the light-as-air formula has been working seamlessly with my sunscreens in the daytime, and night creams at night. The product comes in a pump and for $27 you get 50 ml (1.7 fl oz) which will last you more or less for two months.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
You only need 2-3 small pumps, which magically goes a long way. Immediately, there’s this cooling effect from the cactus extract that gives your angry summer skin an instant chill. Working together with the rosehip oil, you get hydrated pores – but without any stickiness or oily residue (both wins in my book). But what’s best is after continuous use, the product really does work overtime. Our skin wasn’t only bouncy and plump but after a few weeks, we noticed acne scars fade, skin become more dewy. Maskne be damed, this made our complexion even-toned and less angry. More so, it made us totally re-think products, altogether. Should we expect more from brands in this uncertain time? Should we demand they all think about multi-functions? Is less really more? Our final verdict: Absolutely.
At a time when we’re rethinking everything it’s time we also pivot how we think as conscious consumers.
When James Charles was named Cover Girl’s first “Cover Boy,” it was a changing tide for the beauty industry.
The year was 2016, and the then high schooler was merely a rising star on YouTube. Charles, like many young men who beat and baked their faces weren’t yet household names nor were they the in-demand influencers that command million dollar salaries. After all, makeup for guys was still, by and large, stigmatized.
That all changed when Charles’ campaign went viral overnight. While it was a nod towards inclusivity – how men could wear makeup and be celebrated, too – it was a changing tide for the beauty industry as a whole. By putting James, a young Gen Z male, front in center next to the likes of superstars like Katy Perry meant that the beauty industry was betting on boys.
“I thought it was cute and honestly, big,” recalls Tynan Sinks, a beauty reporter, who’s covered the industry for almost a decade. “You can feel however you want about him but you can’t deny that it was a moment, especially because you’re asking me about it four years later. It was definitely something that felt like the first of its kind. I mean, drugstore beauty is a beast all its own and, that could have gone a lot of ways for CoverGirl, but I remember it feeling nice, and it still does.”
This was well and good from a social standpoint but most important for brands their bottom line: investing in beauty boys was entirely a prudent capitalistic imposition. The numbers have been there for years, spelling out the potential for exponential growth in the men’s beauty market. One study projects that in two years, the men’s beauty will hit $122 billion in sales in the U.S. alone. Another study from NPD iGen Beauty Consumer reporter found that 40% of Gen Z were actively seeking gender neutral beauty products. Brands are scrambling to try their luck in this market with even beauty conglomerates like Chanel Beauty, launching its first foundations (Boy de Chanel) catered to men.
The market it ripe to grow because of the groundwork laid in the 2010’s, say experts. In the past decade, men have become more interested in beauty thanks to celebrities from Frank Ocean to gender nonconforming stars like Ezra Miller as well foreign inspiration. Devon Abelman, digital beauty editor at Allure, who often covers Korean beauty and South Korea’s biggest celebrities, says that the rise of globalization has had an incredible impact on men’s beauty. She says the rise of Asia and its stars have empowered everyday guys to find beauty inspiration.
“They see the glass skinned boys of BTS, GOT7, and Monsta X, and they’re like, sign me up,” she tells Very Good Light. “As I said, with more men in beauty ads, I think this could help push the market along and normalize beauty shopping for men.”
Big trends Devon’s followed in the past decade for guys include luminous skin (from B.B. creams to dewy skin), nail art, smokey eyes (eyeliners, eyeshadows, etc), and lip tints.
So where does this lead the future of the men’s beauty market? And what trends will be adopted to thrive in an ever-changing marketplace, one where gender and sexuality are discussions that are becoming more commonplace? And most important: is “boy beauty” still a market the industry cares for, or will gender becoming irrelevant altogether?
Here are the biggest insights that are coming for “boy beauty” in 2020 and beyond.
Hair care is growing, and growing, and growing
It’s no secret that hair care is on the rise. By 2024, Modor Intelligencefound that the men’s market alone will reach $116.33 billion. That’s a lot of pomade. Among the hottest categories are organic hair care products, shampoos and conditioners, and anti-dandruff hair oils. Benjamin Lord, marketing executive in the beauty industry and former global marketing at NARS Cosmetics, says it has everything to do with experimentation.
For one, it’s the easiest means of beauty expression and it’s also one that is generally accepted among young people. “There’s pressure on your hair [to look its best],” he tells Very Good Light. “Celebs and artists are experimenting and getting creative. Hair color and styling products have a promising future ahead.” A category he thinks will become more prominent? Hair texture. “Guys want curls, too!”
So is skincare
When it comes to Gen Z, skin is in. “We’re talking about a generation that spends hours using Instagram filters, taking selfies, and posting pictures of themselves on social media,” says Benjamin to Very Good Light. “There’s pressure on your skin and men are chasing their glow, too: from face sprays and sunscreen to lip gloss. Not to mention young male adults have legitimate skin concerns, from acne to dark spots. The men’s skincare market is trending worldwide and in 2020 and beyond expect a surge of new start-ups that try to disrupt this market.
More male visibility in beauty ads is essential
While men’s beauty may not be a new concept for many people, it’s still essential to grow the market. This year, sources tell Very Good Light that major beauty retailers like Sephora will be taking a more aggressive stance on including men in their campaigns. This means catering to a male clientele will be more important for its growth more than ever before.
Tynan agrees that visibility will expand everywhere. “I see people of all genders much younger than me expressing themselves through beauty and I think it’s the most beautiful thing,” he tells us. “I know YouTube is full of influencers and artists, and I think that does play a big role in visibility for everyone, and being able to find someone who looks like you. But it’s different, to me at least, when you walk into a Sephora and see someone who looks like you on the gondola or in an ad.”
Pick a stance – or say goodbye
In the last decade, men’s brands that not only survived but made a mark did so because they were outspoken in their beliefs. From AXE, which chose to get behind the LGBTQ+ community, Gillette, which created a groundbreaking ad about a healthier version of masculinity, to Harry’s, which has been steadfast with diversity, men’s brands needs to show their true colors or risk becoming irrelevant.
“The brands that value authenticity and transparency will be the ones that win out above the rest,” says Adam Mansuroglu, the senior style editor at Men’s Health. “You can’t fool the male consumer; they want to invest their hard-earned money in the best products for the best value that make a difference.”
Full-faced makeup looks will become more commonplace
Men, get ready to for full face beats – primetime. In the new decade, it will no longer be considered “daring” for men to wear makeup in entertainment. So says Georgie Greville, co-founder of Milk Makeup.
“The rise of men’s beauty is actually Darwinian,” she tells Very Good Light, of masculinity seen in the wild. “Just Google Tiger Spider – you’ll be blown away by its beauty and prowess.” That’s all to say that men will be naturally inclined to beautify as well. “We will see the continued evolving of creativity with both natural and full face men’s looks permeating culture everywhere from TV shows and red carpets to middle schoolers going to Whole Foods with their mums.”
Will gender even matter?
“Gender won’t be a label attached to anything at all by the end of the decade,” says Devon. “They won’t even call it unisex or gender neutral as one day, the notion that makeup doesn’t have a gender will be universally implied. More men will hopefully be featured in makeup ads, too, showing off as many varieties of makeup styles that women do in campaigns.”
But to get there, there’s still work to do. According to Benjamin, there’s still a real need to cater to men to get them to be a part of the beauty conversation.”We’ve come a long way, but the industry will need to proudly cater to men, before claiming to be genderless,” he tells us. ‘FOR MEN’ is a necessary step towards more inclusivity in beauty at the moment. And it’s great to see brands taking over from influencers and breaking the norms of representation as well.”
That’s all to say, that yes, men are more complex than you think
Are the days of hypermasculine advertising over? We’re close. But there are still brands that adhere to these toxic notions because it still sells. There’s still a huge market for men who aren’t as comfortable to embrace new ideas. At the end of the day, brands will need to understand who they are and what they stand for before making their next move. And it has everything to do with nuance.
Men aren’t polarized, either. They shouldn’t be placed into a single box on either extremes of the masculinity or identity spectrums. To succeed at marketing with men, brands must understand most men are three-dimensional, complex, and shouldn’t be boxed in.
“Grow a beard and wear a little lip tint, play with a fun eye palette for night and keep it clean with strong brows for day,” Adam says. “As long as you stay authentic to your true self, you can do no wrong. Now that’s very 2020.”
Are queer people the gatekeepers of beauty?
Here’s where the men’s beauty industry is heading in 2020 – and beyond
I came to own my gender non-conforming identity. Here’s how you can, too.
I risk my life to wear nail polish. This is why I still do it.
Actor Adam Faison breaks down what gay sex scenes in TV are really like
Harry’s is probably the best and recent example of how a company can be built into a multi-billion dollar success.
After all, Harry’s, which was founded in 2013 by Adam Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider, sold to Edgewell (which owns brands like Shick and Bulldog) for a reported $1.37 billion. The brand, which was going blade-to-blade with rival Dollar Shave Club, acquired by Unilever in 2016 for $1 billion now dwarfs that sale and is one of the biggest acquisitions by any brand in recent history.
With the Harry’s business in mind, brands are clamoring to become the next big thing in grooming. Now that shaving and the beard category has simmered, the skincare is now suddenly red hot again. No surprise as the men’s beauty business is on the rise and conglomerates from Unilever, P&G, Estee Lauder to L’Oreal still haven’t launched exciting newness in years. Though Research and Markets reports that the men’s market will hit $78.9 billion by 2023, it’s new brands that seem to be leading this charge. That means in under four years alone, multiple new men’s brands will cash in, by being put to test on the market, and acquired in the same way.
But for every Harry’s, are hundreds of men’s grooming brands that never make it past their first year. So how does a brand get through to the end consumer? Very Good Light reached out to five men’s skincare brands that launched this year to see what they’re doing to get rise to the top. Each of them is trying to their best to say something different, create conversations, while attempting to capture a “new” men’s consumer. Here’s what they’re doing:
The brand: “Koa means brave or courageous in Hawaiian and is also an ancient tree, from which the first surfboards and outrigger canoes were made. We’ve throw out the old rulebook when building our brand and our name is a nod to that.”
Backstory: Both Hiro and Ty were in the tech and finance worlds, which they say gave them the confidence to become entrepreneurs. “Working with technology companies showed us that young people can build businesses that challenge the status quo!” they say. After 2 years of building the brand and testing formulas for 18 months, the brand launched this year. “We spent a f—ing long time getting our products to a place we are proud of,” they say.
Demographic: Mid-20’s, to Gen Z men with 20% of customers being women.
The range: Priced from $18 for a cleanser to $27 for an SPF. The founders say the brand’s tinted SPF and Balancing Toner have been products they’ve received the most feedback with.
Hit product: The brand’s Balancing Toner pads have a blend of AHAs and BHAs to encourage cell turnover as well as Zinc PCA to help control oil.
Their take one men’s beauty:“Remember the Axe Effect commercial? We hate that this is still how grooming is presented to guys,” the founders say. “It’s still that brands present as hyper-macho to overcome stigma. Grooming is about meditation, practice and self-respect.”
Founder: Matt Mullenax, CEO and Matt Teri, chief development officer, NYC
The brand: Affordable line of products that are 100% vegan, sulfate, paraben, cruelty, silicone, phthalate and aluminum-free.
The range: Huron’s initial line of men’s personal-care products includes an invigorating and deodorizing body wash, a mildly exfoliating and super-fresh daily face wash, a lightweight, intensely hydrating face lotion and a cooling and tightening eye stick.
Backstory: Matt Mullenax named the company after the street in Chicago he lived on in his 20’s. “It was when my skin was arguably at its worst and my frustration with the hole in this category – the lack of personal care that made sense at non-offensive prices – was most palpable.” Matt Teri worked in men’s grooming and personal care at Lab Series and Tom Ford Beauty. Matt Mullenax was at Bonobos where he developed his skill sets in the direct-to-consumer market.
Demographic: Pre-teen customers to men in their 60’s who want “premium quality within price parameters.”
Hit products: Body wash, face wash, face lotion and Eye Stick, all under $20.
Their take on beauty: “Today, there’s a different mindset around health, wellness and fitness especially among guys,” Matt Mullenax says. “Taking care of yourself, body mind and skin is progressive.”
The brand: “A clean skincare line created for the man who wants to upgrade his skincare regimen, simplify the process and put his routine on autopilot.”
Backstory: Disco comes from the “feeling of living in the moment and hypnotic rhythm,” says Benjamin, a successful entrepreneur. In college, he launched two boutique fitness gyms, which he scaled and sold. He decided to launch Disco next after seeing that not one brand had his trust for all of his skincare needs. “I started Disco out of personal frustration,” he says. “The options available to me weren’t created with my needs in mind, riddled with ingredients I never heard of or were too feminine, which ended up being a concern across men.”
Demographic: Men 24-38 who “make self-care a convenient and daily habit,” he says. “We’re on a mission to normalize self-care for the average man.”
The range: Seven products across face and body, from a stick cleanser, $16, to a clean deodorant of the same price.
Hit products: The Face Cleanser Stick has been popular. “[It] draws bacteria, chemicals and dirt to the surface of the skin to achieve a flawless complexion and fight acne.”
Their take one men’s beauty:“Men are having much more of an open dialogue about health and wellness, in addition to educating themselves on the products they’re consuming,” he says. “Because of this increased awareness, we’re seeing a demand for clean and transparent products – which is what Disco stands for.”
Founders: Patrick Dolezal, Emily Farra, James O’Dwyer, NYC
The brand: The word “soft” has a dual meaning, says James, one of the brand’s co-founders. “It has traditionally been considered an insult to men. Not so long ago, if you weren’t ‘masculine enough,’ or you showed any sort of emotion, you were ‘soft.’ But being soft is great and we’re hoping to redefine what the word means to men and subvert it.”
Backstory: The three co-founders became friends in college at Indiana University and moved to NYC for careers. Emily became a fashion reporter at Vogue, James works in tech, and Patrick was in the field of biology. Two years ago James and Patrick became interested in skincare but were disheartened by the lack of options for men. With a mantra of self-care, the three set out to launch a product that wasn’t hypermasculine.
Demographic: Teens to late 30’s, interested in the message of modern masculinity.
The range: A Moisture Mask priced at $36, and a Ritual Set for $42, which includes Palo Santo and a Soft-branded matchbook.
Hit product: With one SKU, the Moisture Mask is fragranced with light ginger notes as well as created with EU standards, excluding 1,400 toxic ingredients.
Their take one men’s beauty: The Soft guy is “confident, smiling, diverse, happen to have great skin,” says Emily. “All of the guys we worked with told us they’d never done a shoot like this before,” with flowers, wearing pastels, posing in casual ways. “We’re hoping the branding and price point is approachable.”
The brand: A wellness brand that incorporates supplements alongside skincare products. The name comes from “a system” for guys to look, feel and perform their bests. “We men are simply creatures,” says Josh. “We like routine within our lives.”
Backstory: Both co-founders have had extensive experience with lifestyle brands. Josh co-founded Frame and skincare brand, Davi, while Oli co-founded Wednesday, an agency. The two became friends over a beer and considered starting a new business in 2017.
Demographic: “We’re trying to build a brand for men across all walks of life,” says Josh. “All men deserve to be the best versions of themselves.”
The range: Supplements and skincare come together in what they call an Inside-Outside program, “TotalBody.” “It’s designed to optimize men from the inside out, in the easiest way possible. It retails for $119 for a one-time purchase or $99 monthly.
Hit products: The brand wants to be experiential as well, building a community around wellness and health. They’ve collaborated with Y7 Yoga, UnPlug meditation, Rhone, MyoDetox and more.
Their take one men’s beauty: “Men have been underserved in this space for years,” says Oli. “What ‘betterment’ means to us, is simply the notion that when you are at best, everone around you wins.”
Sometimes all you need are some cracks in your foundation, creases under your concealer and makeup so brittle it exposes just how fragile you and your masculinity are.
So says a few new men’s makeup brands that have been born in the past few months. Apparently, there’s a huge demand for men and their masculinity that’s as fragile as a glazed, fruity tart. Why use Fenty Beauty, IT Cosmetics, Milk Makeup or Glossier when you have men’s brands that ensure men understand their place in this world?
-You grow beards and need the world to know you grow beards
-Drink whiskey at bars without straws
-Need a shower loofah that’s gray, black or dark blue
-Are obsessed with 3-in-1 “grooming” product
-Are terrified by the color pink
-Can’t be seen buying tampons for a loved one under any circumstance
Still on the fence and wondering if you need cosmetics products that celebrate fragile masculinity? No worries. We rounded up the best for you. From a brand that touts the need to be “discreet,” a brand that’s marketed as “war paint” to signal that it’s truly for macho manly men, and one that literally has the name “men” in it to ensure that you aren’t confused by who it’s for, here are the best brands for you, your manhood, and of course, your beard – yes, we noticed you had one.
If there was fragile masculinity in a stick, it’d certainly be STRYX. This brand is named after a really fierce and totally straight animal called an owl, and it’s really great if you’re looking for a product that will remind you that you’re still a guy. In fact, STRYX wants to put your mind at ease so that no one – not even you – will question yourself and your manhood if you use makeup. Call it confidence in a stick or purely a tool to make you recall yours, this is a true winner!
On its sleek site, STRYX writes this description: “Stryx is rethinking the meaning of men’s [INSERT QUOTATION MARK HERE] cosmetics[INSERT QUOTATION MARK HERE] products. We engineer discreet products uniquely for men, we engineer discreet products uniquely for men, so that men can easily and comfortably look their best.”
The brand offers two products: a concealer tool ($29) and tinted moisturizer ($29). Each comes in three amazingly diverse shades. They range from a color called “Light Cognac,” “Medium Mahogany” and “Dark Eclipse” – all shades that are moody and manly and not feminine and not like, having to do with women.
After all, the brand says, it’s seriously NOT FOR WOMEN. “We didn’t just take a product made for women and slap a ‘For Men’ label on it,” STRYX says on its site. The brand goes so far as to ensure you know that it’s ~MaScULiNE~ by explaining that its metal material is used on race car engines! “All integral components are crafted from an industry-first proprietary metal material commonly used in race car engines due to its strength and temperature resilience.”
If you didn’t notice by now, STRYX, the owl, is seriously “makeup” but “for men” and made from “race car.” That’s seriously a hoot!
Stop what you’re doing, do 20 pushups and think: WWKDD (What Would Khal Drogo Do)? Would he wear makeup? Hell yeah! Would he call it makeup? Hell no!
Yep, this isn’t makeup, my friend. It’s WAR PAINT. Life is a war, right? So paint up your face so that you can face the day. It’s nuts out there!
If you’re looking for an amazing makeup brand that isn’t actually called makeup, look no further than this one called War Paint.
“Many people believe all skin is the same, however, men and women’s skin are very much different,” the brand explains on its site. “The difference in men’s skin to woman’s skin is caused by hormones, specifically testosterone. Androgens such as testosterone affect the thickness of the skin and how much sebum their skin’s sebaceous glands produce. Seeing as men have a whole shedload of testosterone, their skin is both thicker and oilier than women’s.”
Got it? You can’t use women’s products because men make more oil and our skin is thicker! In any case, if you need any more convincing, try this product because it has range. The concealer comes in Fair, Light and Tan! The bronzer is in one shade! The tinted moisturizer comes in FIVE shades from Fair, Light, Tan, Medium and Dark. That’s pretty inclusive. Don’t know your shade? No problem! The site has a very robust offering of discovering what’s your shade? Find your shade, throw some shade. Whatever the case, it’s really crazy out there – don’t forget your WAR PAINT!
Heard of Nicki Minaj but not Menaji? The former is a world star. The latter wants to be. The former has fans and the latter does too! Both are pretty much a little similar only the fact that they’re pronounced in the same way except the former has one more syllable.
Menaji has been around for years and though it has yet to see its shine, it does do a good job covering it. The OG men’s makeup brand isn’t makeup at all, rather, “corrective cosmetics.” As per the site, “We focus on combining natural ingredients to make corrective cosmetics and skincare for men.” Our favorite product? The Men’s CAMO concealer! Called URBAN CAMOUFLAGE it’s “your secret weapon.”
What we love most about this OG brand is that the packaging is really unremarkable in the best way. Meaning, it looks like lip balm, makes other guys think that it’s just for your lips and not for anything else and that means the secret is really safe … until they Google what Menaji actually is. Shit.