The New Metrosexual Trend: Cosmetic Skincare for Men


According to NY Mag, in an upscale apartment building in Seoul, "A male security guard watches the lobby from behind a layer of makeup." Evidently, the pressure to be beautiful is not only confined to women.

Young, straight, urban men around the world are increasingly investing in skin care products, including makeup. While Western Europe still has the "largest male grooming market in the world," the latest boom in male beauty products has been centered in East Asia. In this celebrity-crazed era where competition in many aspects of life is fierce, the modern man is caring more about his appearance, and more women are finding these metrosexual men attractive.

The media plays a huge role in influencing standards of beauty, since pop stars and celebrities are used to advertise skincare products. K-pop boy bands such as 2PM and Big Bang, as well as actors in Korean dramas with their flawless complexions, are making it socially acceptable for straight men across Asia who want clear skin to invest in these products. Once seen as luxury items, such products are increasingly sold in mainstream retail stores such as Face Shop. That very fact makes it acceptable, even desirable, for men to purchase them.

The objective for using cosmetics is the same for men as it is for women in South Korea, which is to get ahead in life. Along with a fashionable wardrobe and nice physique, having flawless skin or wearing makeup provides a confidence boost. Makeup helps maintain a presentable image, which is perceived as ultimately leading to success in work and romance. In other words, makeup is the foundation for success. Young men, like young women, are influenced by advertisements in the media which play into their insecurities, pressuring them to buy skincare products that supposedly guarantee future success in life.

This recent trend indicates that perceptions of masculinity are changing in South Korea. The image of the strong, strapping war hero has been replaced by the more effeminate "flower man." The trend is picking up in western countries too. Beauty products such as eyebrow grooming kits are selling well in the U.S. Moreover, celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest and David Beckham are paying to get their eyebrows groomed. Concealers such as BB cream and CC cream, which were popularized by South Korea, have also spread to U.S. and UK markets and are frequently advertised in the popular men's magazine GQ.

The new phenomenon of cosmetic skincare for men is largely reinforced by women's approval of it. Women tend to appreciate men who put effort into taking care of themselves and their health. This could mean working out or eating balanced meals, but practicing proper skincare regiments such as cleansing and moisturizing are also vital. According to one South Korean woman, men who don't care about their appearance are seen as lazy. Not only do men feel more sophisticated when they use skincare products and apply makeup, but women perceive them that way too.

The spread of commodities such as male BB or CC cream around the world shows how South Korea plays an important role in the beauty industry and is constantly redefining it. As a result, it is pushing the boundaries of what is deemed to be socially acceptable. Products disseminate ideas and as male cosmetic sales increase, so too does women's approval of these sophisticated "flower men."

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Dana Ter

Dana is a journalist and former expat kid who grew up in 10 countries on 4 continents. She writes about art and culture with a focus on Taiwan, Korea and NYC. Her stories have been published in the Taipei Times, Contently and Untapped Cities, among others. She also has a Dual MA/MSc in International and World History from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Email: danayter@gmail.com Twitter: @danayter.

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