Maybe back in college you were the bad boy that decided to go crazy and wear “guy-liner” out to the club. Beyond that, though, the closest thing you’ve come to wearing makeup is smearing on some men’s lip balm. You totally support gender nonconformity, and have never missed an episode of Drag Race, but beyond that, wearing cosmetics is just not on your radar. Or is it? Look at it differently: You’ve already accepted that taking good care of your skin — shaving carefully and using a serum and men’s face moisturizers — can provide a competitive edge. After a late night, you’re even willing to use an eye cream or roller to tighten up those bags and dark spots under the eyes. In the past year most of us have also spent more time than we’d care to admit staring at our own faces on a Zoom call. That alone should be enough to make us reconsider our grooming routines. Wouldn’t using a product to cover up pimples, rosacea, razor burn, or even to tone down gray hairs be a logical next step? Men’s cosmetic skincare brands are making a bet that regular Joe is finally ready for his close-up.
We asked Robert Reyes (a bicoastal makeup artist who’s work has been seen in major publications, as well as New York Fashion Week menswear shows) for a few pointers about how to look even more handsome on those video calls.
Begin with clean, shaved skin. Use a serum, and then moisturize. “It’s like painting,” says Reyes. “The surface should be prepared. Once you’re ready, application is simple. Just use your fingers,” says Reyes. “It’s really user-friendly. These products start with skin care, so it’s all about making your skin look more even and hydrated. Men’s skin is rougher and more porous than women’s, so using a product that’s developed just for you is key.”
Now that your canvas is prepared, check under your eyes. Dark or a little worse for wear? Apply that eye cream or roll-on, but if things are looking particularly bleak, break out the big guns. A concealer can cover up those dark spots to make you look fresher and wide awake. Squeeze out a drop, then blend the product with the tip of your finger. (Use your ring finger: It’s a little weaker than others, so you’ll naturally be more gentle.)
Identify those problem spots: Do you have a patch of razor burn, a blemish, scar, or pimple? Again, dab on a bit of that same concealer you used under your eyes to cover up problem areas elsewhere. Go easy at first: a little goes a long way. Reyes recommends “applying product to a tissue first and then to the skin.”
Now that you’ve addressed specific problems, it’s time to blend and warm up your skin tone. (Don’t get too hung up applying these products in any particular order. It doesn’t matter whether you start with a foundation or a concealer. What matters is keeping your routine simple.) A foundation product adds a little color to your face, while evening out the skin tone.
Reyes recommends starting in the hairline, working your way down past your sideburns, and across your cheek bones. Go back to the outside of your face and work your way along jawline, blending as you go. He also suggests playing around with color until you’re comfortable. “Have two shades available,” says Reyes. “Different shades help cover redness and you can blend it in. You don’t have to cover the whole face. Just add a bit to warm up the skin.” (Each of the brand’s websites can help you narrow down product that fits your skin tone.) Add a bit more to your cheeks and forehead to cover freckles, red patches, or just to add some color to pale winter skin.
Go easy until you get the hang of it and keep a washcloth handy to wipe away excess. While the simplicity of all of these products rests in the fact that you really only need your fingers to apply them, sponges or brushes can come in handy for blending. “Don’t dig into the powder,” cautions Reyes. “Start with the edge of the brush. Shake a little off. The brush will allow for precision and will hold more pigment. It should look natural, like you got a little bronzed in the sun.
Finish with a little powder to reduce oily shine and add a little more color (think about where you get color after a day in the sun: your cheekbones, forehead, and nose).
Keeping your lips hydrated is key, same as your face. As we said in the intro, use a quality lip balm, and use it often to keep lips moist and not dry or cracked.
Several brands also offer gels that can straighten and control wayward hairs on your beard, brows, etc. The packages are reminiscent of mascara, with small brushes to allow for precise application. Others do the same while adding a bit of color. These products are all great to fill in gaps and cover a little gray in hairlines, eyebrows, etc.; perfect if your facial hair isn’t growing in flawlessly. (Editor’s note: As a former blonde who has gone white/gray, I tried the Tribe’s Beard Fix on my eyebrows and was pleasantly surprised at how much more expressive I seemed on video conference calls.)
We’re hoping that you’re doing this anyway, but it’s imperative that you wash your face to remove all this product before you go to bed at night. Are we worried about staining those high-thread count pillowcases? Maybe a little. Mostly we want to be sure that your skin has a chance to breath, while getting rid of dirt, sebum, bacteria, and all sorts of other nasties that could lead to breakouts and irritation.
If you’ve decided to go pro and use those brushes, or sponges, make sure they’re kept clean, too. “Dirty brushes and sponges are breeding grounds for bacteria that can cause breakouts,” says Reyes. “Furthermore, brush care helps them last longer. I use a quick cleaning disinfecting spray brush cleaner every day. My favorite is Beauty So Clean Wipeout Makeup Brush Cleaner. Spray the brush and wipe with a tissue or paper towel. I’ve also been using a UV-light sanitizer box. Brushes should also be shampooed at least once a week. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Unscented Bar Soap or Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Soap works great. You can even use bar soap: simply wet the brush, swipe over bar, lightly lather and rinse thoroughly, dry flat on a towel. It’s a perfect time to throw in a little weekly self-care, and do a mask while you shampoo your brushes!”
If you’re still unsure, don’t worry: All of these brands recognize that for most of us this is boldly going where no man (well, very few of the men we know) has gone before. Check out Mënaji’s YouTube channel, War Paint’s Application Guide, or Tribe’s Instagram for straightforward tips about how to use the brands’ products.
Of course the best part of using these products is that you can play around with these quick fixes in the privacy of your own home, and, for the most part, nobody will be the wiser. They’ll just wonder why you’re always the freshest face on those team conference calls or video client meetings. Once you’ve grown comfortable using the product, you’ll want to incorporate it into your everyday grooming routine.
Get Mr. DeMille on Skype. We’re ready.
This is just one of several kits that Mënaji puts together. We like it for its simplicity and the fact that most of those products (okay, that compact is gonna get some attention) won’t raise a carefully tweezed eyebrow in the locker room. That camouflage toiletries kit is also a must-have.
Probably the simplest, most straightforward product offering, we like Tribe’s no-nonsense approach. Three steps. Use your fingers. Done.
Ready to go pro? War Paint’s offerings include everything from moisturizer to product to cleanser to brushes.
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