A Beginner’s Guide to Makeup for Men

What to know, what to buy and how to apply it without looking like a clown

A Beginner’s Guide to Makeup for Men
Lionsgate Films

You may recall when baseball legend A-Rod announced his new male beauty line back in May. Images of the former Yankee (who had sadly just come off a breakup with J.Lo) looking jubilant and a bit intense as he applied his new “Blur Stick” concealer circulated online, advancing the dialogue around men and makeup. Rodriguez’s venture into the male beauty space may have seemed unconventional to some, but it actually falls in line with a growing trend.

“Many brands like Tom Ford and Fenty are jumping on the trend of makeup for men, which is a booming market,” James Sun, the founder of BeautyTap, an online site that features reviews of trending beauty products by professionals, tells InsideHook. “Nearly one-third of men ages 18 to 29 say they would consider wearing some makeup. “

As we’ve seen with skincare, Botox and hair transplants, cosmetic procedures and practices — like wearing makeup — have become more mainstream for men, who are in turn taking more of an interest in their personal appearance.

“I am seeing more men want to use makeup to cover blemishes and feel their best, just as women do. With the popularity of social media, photos and selfies, men are paying more attention to how they look and want to look their best,” Brittany Lo, Professional Makeup Artist & Founder of Beiatells InsideHook. Especially for bigger events like weddings, men have shown interest in a little cover-up. “We are noticing more grooms than ever before requesting makeup as part of their grooming routine to ensure they look their best in photos,” Lo adds.

While it’s certainly becoming more accepted, we can probably go ahead and say there’s still a bit of a stigma surrounding men using makeup, and you might not yet be fully comfortable wearing it. But makeup isn’t all glitz, glamour and sparkly eyeshadow. You can seamlessly integrate simple, natural-looking products into your daily skincare routine to cover under-eye circles or an unsightly pimple. As A-Rod told GQ in June, he looks at his new concealing product not as makeup, but as just a part of his routine. “I see it more as a Blur Stick. It helps with blemishes, dark spots, pimples, redness. Sometimes you don’t get to sleep eight hours. So I see it as a continuation of my routine that I’ve done for the last 40 years,” he said.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with looking at makeup as makeup. Whether it’s an unpretentious concealer, a subtle stroke of blush or a glistening eyeshadow, you have the prerogative to slab it on your face.

“This is the time to be exactly who you want to be,” says Molly R. Stern, a celebrity makeup artist and skincare devotee. “Makeup is a tool to feel gorgeous and empowered. And feeling good is non-binary.” 

It also bears noting that, like botox and hair transplants, the reason celebrities, actors, musicians and athletes look so handsome and smooth all the damn time is because they’ve got something on their faces.

“I think the thing to remember is that when you’re seeing men on television and in magazines or print 9 out of 10 times they’re wearing some sort of makeup,” says celebrity male groomer Marissa Machado. “It’s not just for women, plus men have been wearing makeup since the 1800s.”

So if you’re ready to join the ranks of A-Rod and Hollywood heartthrobs, but have not a single clue where to start, we got you covered. Literally.

Getting started

Both Lo and Stern recommend starting with a good skincare regimen, one with effective, high-quality ingredients.

“Then for makeup, a great go-to for men is a concealer to use as a coverup,” says Lo. “To make the transition into skincare and makeup easy, I suggest trying products like a facial setting mist that keeps skin hydrated but also gives a very subtle glow. When men notice their skin is radiating it encourages them to experiment further with new products and ingredients!”

We’re in a time that big beauty brands are making makeup lines geared toward men. Such as Chanel and Tom Ford,” says Machado who like Lo recommends starting with a stick concealer and moving into a bronze gel (which will add a nice touch of color or sunless glow to your face.) “These two products can really make a difference without being noticeable makeup.”

“I think a great primer and concealer is a must,” adds Stern. “I’m a dedicated fan of Armani’s Luminous Silk Face and Under-Eye Concealer.” Essentially, get yourself some concealer boys.

Achieving the most natural look

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the profusion of formulas on the market — all claiming to do this and that to your skin. But if you’re searching for a concealer or moisturizer to deliver a simple, natural look, here’s what formulas to avoid:

“There are products that deliver hydration and a gorgeous glow, but others that give a shimmery sheen to the skin. I would steer clear of products with a shimmer in the formula,” says Lo. “Keep the coverage very light so there is a sheen to it that allows the skin to show through for a very natural look. I like ILIA Skin Tint or Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer for sheer coverage.”

Anything with iridescence or glitter, along with Dewey formulas or anything that says “glowing skin,” should also be avoided note Machado and Stern.

Big beauty brands like Chanel and Tom Ford are creating makeup lines geared toward men.
Courtesy of brands

Picking the perfect shade

Choosing a shade that best matches your skin tone is one of the trickiest parts of wearing makeup, but there are a couple of easy steps you can take to avoid looking mismatched.

“Swatching it on your face is ideal, but if that is not an option I recommend looking at the back of your wrists and checking if your skin has a cool or warm undertone,” says Lo. “Blue/purple veins typically mean you have a cool undertone, green/olive shows a warm undertone and blue/green is a neutral undertone. Based on that you can pick a shade range you think is close to your facial skin tone and either get the neutral, warm or cool version. Also, some stores will allow you to test out the product at home and return the ones that don’t match so that is always an easy option too.”

Applying your makeup

The key to applying makeup is to blend. “You don’t want color sitting on any day-old growth,” says Stern. Luckily you can blend your moisturizer and concealer with just about anything — even your fingers!

“The application is what generally intimidates anyone trying to learn how to use makeup,” notes Lo. “I think the beauty of makeup is that there are no rules and there are many ways to achieve a look. Concealer can be easily applied with your fingers and the warmth from your fingers helps to blend it into your skin.”

You can also use a makeup sponge or a Beautyblender, adds Machado, which is a popular style of applicator used to apply and blend makeup seamlessly and streakless-ly.

Mistakes to avoid

The biggest mistake first-time makeup wearers make? Using too much product.

“A drop of foundation or concealer can go a long way, so I recommend starting with less and building as you need more,” says Lo. “The purpose isn’t to hide your features, but rather to enhance them. By subtly removing redness from your face or brightening your under eyes, it can make you glow without leaving a cakey makeup look.”

“Less is always more,” adds Machado. “The pro tip is to only apply what you need. Look in the mirror. Find the area that needs the most help and start there. That way you’re really breaking down the face to what’s necessary.”

Oh, and smile! You look good.

“Smile at yourself in the mirror,” adds Stern. “It helps.”

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