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How Makeup Works

        Culture | Fads

Men and Makeup
Are men the great untapped makeup market?
Are men the great untapped makeup market?
Smith Collection/Iconica/Getty Images

It's often assumed that many women wear makeup to attract men, but history is full of examples of men who weren't entranced by the made-up look. The ancient Roman poet Martial wrote to a woman who wore cosmetics, "You are but a composition of lies … No man can say, I love you, for you are not what he loves, and no one loves what you are" [source: Etcoff]. And ancient Romans and Greeks weren't the last men to complain of women tricking them with artificial means: In 1770, British Parliament passed a law that made wearing makeup a crime akin to witchcraft. The reasoning behind the law was that men were enchanted by a false face, and they were due an annulment once they realized what their wives really looked like.

Today, men's preferences for a woman wearing makeup vary as much as women's preferences for wearing it do, though it's worth noting a 2008 study that found that women who wore makeup in bars were approached by men much more quickly and more often than women who didn't [source: Saad]. Perhaps men are unconsciously motivated by the same beauty ideals and gender advertising that lead women to put on makeup?

Though we began this article by describing Egyptian men who wore makeup alongside their female counterparts, men eschewed makeup in the 20th century so that they wouldn't be labeled effeminate. Those who did wear makeup tended to be rock stars like David Bowie who were aiming for an androgynous look. In recent years, though, more men have proudly worn makeup in public, leading journalists to coin terms like "guyliner" and "manscara."

The cosmetics industry is salivating over the thought of expanding sales to half the population, but it's clear that selling makeup to men will take a little more work and time. Right now, most men are showing the most interest in products that hide flaws, such as foundations and concealers. However, if we've learned anything from the history of makeup, it's that it will only take one person with a great idea -- a chemist working on lipstick in her kitchen, or a brother lovingly marketing his sister's mascara technique -- to change the game entirely.

To learn more about makeup -- including tips on purchasing and using cosmetics -- see the links on the next page.


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