K-pop is pushing men's lip colour at a level above and beyond "LGBTQ"
Even if lipstick is just for girls, there is no shortage of alternative products gaining ground in an emerging market
Men have used makeup for millennia: Egyptian Pharaohs almost certainly did, though women have tended to need it more to compete against other women including youthful competitors, or just to stand out from the crowd. Whereas male cosmetic use in recorded Western history peaked somewhat in the palace of Versailles before the French Revolution, the use of cosmetics for both sexes sublimated in the proverbial Victorian age when female cosmetic use was subtle or reserved, except in theatre and make-up was tarnished with an association with prostitution (the Victorian explorer Richard Burton used cosmetics, both for disguise and perhaps to stand out a little). Cosmetics began an upswing in the 20thcentury thanks to the film industry and represents a multi-billion-dollar empire – largely reliant on the female sex. Its use among men is understandably negligible though there is something of an upswing with brands trying to carve into an experimental and potentially growing male market.
Gentlemen really cannot afford the luxury of time to use cosmetics as women do unless their career or reputation needs spicing or maintenance. The virtues of cosmetics and lipstick in particular for men remains dubious.
Whereas two years ago, lipstick for men was largely unheard of, there are companies now actively marking the stuff in subtler shades than advertised for women, and this has little to do with drag. There are several brands, perhaps a handful at least that you can find using a quick search at a price point around $20 per stick.
Many men wear nude, taupe or colour matching lipsticks, marketed for women in public. Being lipstick, the colour density may be too strong for some men and they may dab on the stick and blend rather than a full application.
Where lip colour for men is coming into its own in an emulation of lipstick is via the lip balm product category rather than full-on lipstick. Men have been using lip balm and increasingly so as protection against cold weather or for hydration. Sometimes this may be for medical reasons. The acne drug, Roaccutane for example (if still marketed) worked by supressing sebum production in the skin that led to lips becoming especially vulnerable due to the lack of naturally produced sebaceous oil. Doctors recommended the use of Vaseline or similar alongside this drug (Marlyn Monroe used Vaseline extensively), though higher end lip protection come from brands like Norwegian Neutrogena. Most well-groomed men now use lip balm, especially in winter. Although most such balms targeted at men were totally colour free, some tinted balms are now being marketed as unisex.
(1) Nivea Fruity Shine gained endorsement from at least one Korean boy band (the K-pop genre) that represents an overlooked explosive marketing trend increasingly relevant outside Asia. These K-pop, largely male bands have become pall bearers for tinted lip products for men as they emphasise youth, beauty or the androgynous look. A similar, perhaps better-quality brand largely targeted at women is the (2) Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm range available in subtler shades than lipsticks for women who don’t necessarily want to use lipstick. With a range of bright and more demure natural shades, BB is quite popular with some men. Many of these lip balms are made of all-natural plant-based waxes such as Shea butter, oils and colours and may have a beneficial hydrating effect. Cheaper than these is for example (3) “Technic Tinted Lip Balm Stick Moisturising Lipsalve Vitamin E in 6 Shades”, an effective unisex lipstick. (4) A little more feminine is Avon true color tinted lip balm designed to look like a lipstick with about five shades, but the color is still demure with a temporary wet look as with many balms. All the above stick-based products are in the price range $5 (at time of writing) and light use will ensure a stick lasts for over 1 year.
Some may be a little shiny though you can find your preferred type of application, degree of matt or gloss and individual colouration to suite preference and budget. E.g., balms and tinted lip moisturisers are sold in small tubs for the male market by brands like “Mankind” or in tubes or perhaps rarely - containers with brushes. There are dozens of products available and the most economical ones have been emphasised above as others are more expensive.
Whereas paler lips may be over-emphasised from tinted balms (like a brighter lipstick), they are especially popular with male sectors of the S. Asian or black communities with darker lips as well as in the Far East and Japan. For the average bloke using a lip salve, the tinted versions may represent added value, especially in work that involves face to face communication or for more fashion-conscious individuals.
Tinted lip products for men are gaining ground though men don’t use these for the same reasons as women and not necessarily to look more feminine. Sensible brands are increasingly marketing their products as unisex rather than just for women and there is wider adoption of tinted lip products Including lipsticks by a male clientele.
Technic vs Avon, cheapest to expensive
Fully Dressed for Winter
Lipsticks can come with a range of ingredients that can nourish, protect and perfume lips as women have known for years. The moisturising function would be most appropriate during bleak periods in winter when you have to face work in a harsh climate in many senses of the word.
Shea butter, coconut, refined petroleum and delicate perfumes. For a full coated treatment that still doesn’t look out of place and for your coat of colour to withstand food or drink a blended approach may be best that provides a more substantial treatment for certain situations. Some of the waxes will melt a little after application creating just the right moisture balance so you don’t need to lick your lips.
Use a pale matt lipstick as an underlay, with a brighter, more moisturising darker tone on top. The colours could mask each other. You may wish to try the opposite approach too of a pale colour over a dark colour. Pictures below.
After smudging off with tissue, you may end up with a good coat that looks demure that will retain moisture and colour throughout the day with no need for a more effeminate touch up. Two co-operative colours to be fully dressed for the modern gentleman.
Two shades for a blended but demure look
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