Men’s Makeup In China – Empowerment Or Threat To Masculinity?

Mandeep Sidhu

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Men’s makeup in China. Self-improvement and empowerment or an indirect threat to one’s masculinity? The rise of beauty products for men has become a hot topic, especially among Western men.

But, the discussions about whether makeup for men is right or wrong can be easily settled through their commercial demand. For example, in China, men’s makeup not only has gone mainstream, but it has also constructed a different narrative than its western equivalent.

Male Makeup In West Vs China

Men makeup in china vs west

In western countries, most men see men’s makeup as a threat to their masculinity. Instead, in China, beauty products for men are seen as a source of self-improvement and empowerment.

In China, cosmetics and beauty for men are the new normal. One-fifth of Chinese millennial men use foundation, eyebrow pencils, and lipsticks regularly.

According to the study men’s makeup concocts a mental driver for Chinese consumers, fundamentally different than the Western norm.

Male makeup in china

Despite several male beauty influencers fighting to promote inclusivity and freedom of expression, men’s makeup in the western countries carried, and still does in some part, a social stigma, primarily connected to gay culture.

Moreover, men’s makeup and beauty market have expanded by more than 50 per cent for two years in a row, according to Tmall’s Men Grooming Report of 2018.

China’s youth culture is obsessed with beauty, to the point that even GenZ (men born after 2000) has started to buy anti-ageing products, a market that has grown by 336 per cent in 2018, surpassing that of all other age groups.

History Of Men’s Makeup In China

Chinese male makeup history

Most likely connected to the gender-free culture, to Chinese men, the use of makeup translates into more attractive selves. They feel wearing makeup makes them more deserving, and it gives them more life opportunities.

The use of makeup and beauty products for men is associated with personal growth, self-development and empowerment, almost like a tool to gain a better social position.

Mens grooming in China

However, it is worth noting that China’s attitude towards men beauty products hasn’t always been this relaxed. Less than a year ago, two government-backed media outlets, People’s Daily and Xinhuanet had both criticise the rise of men’s makeup by calling it a ‘disturbing phenomenon’ and ‘unhealthy lifestyle’.

Regardless, the male beauty trend has only got more popular and now, at the start of a new decade it is reasonable to see young straight Chinese men wearing makeup during the day, and putting on beauty masks at the end of the day, as part of their daily beauty routines.

To them, using makeup and other beauty products is primarily a tool for empowerment, self-improvement and personal growth, and a path towards a better, more prosperous future.

If you understand the ‘makeup makes you a better man’ culture of millennial Chinese men, we would love to see your comments below.

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  1. Karen Henley

    24 July 2020

    Had no idea about men wearing makeup in China! Always thought it’s a taboo in Asian countries for men to wear makeup

  2. Melody

    5 August 2020

    Korean and Chinese media feature androgynous fashion and makeup as a positive social norm.