Why don’t (most) men man up to skincare?

Through the lens, lightly

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Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 6:04 PM

More than a decade and a half ago, while I was working in New Delhi, I had gone to meet the head of a lifestyle brand for a story; one of his company’s verticals was skincare, and while we were chatting (I forget the peg of the story, but it was definitely not skincare, which is why whatever he proceeded to state was a bit of a wild card), he casually mentioned that they had a done survey on men’s “beauty habits”, and a staggering number of males had fessed up to stealing copious portions of their wives’ skincare potions (when the ladies were not looking obviously). This finding, he continued, was so potent that his company was about to launch a ‘manly’ version of a quick-selling product… I don’t want to get into details, but suffice to say that it was one that made your ‘complexion’ glow.

I immediately demanded a copy of the survey, and went on to file a short piece on the changing ‘face’ of men. At least on paper.

I realised that while the boys were sporting enough to spill the beans in anonymous surveys, they were chary of being upfront and face-first about it.

They still are. Rarely will you come across a member of the male species who will tell you he is comfortable with a beauty regimen. This, despite the fact that the male ‘grooming’ sector — which is not just hirsute shaving gels and woody eau de colognes — is growing by leaps and bounds, year on year.

I wonder why.

I have a friend who appears to be curious about skincare. “Oh, sunscreen lotion… And what’s that, a moisturiser?” Sniff, sniff. “Smells nice.”

“You want some?” I offer.

“You mad or what? That’s for women!”

“Okay, but there’s a corresponding men’s range with stronger ingredients, because your hide is tougher.”

“Oh, those are for pansies, real men don’t need all this feminine nonsense!”

Then, the other day a colleague nipped across to where I sit to ask, “Have you heard of this brand called XXXX?”

“Oh yes, I’m a huge fan, pick up their products whenever I can — in fact, they have just come out with a lovely lash serum… But why do you ask? Are you using the lash serum too?”

“Are you crazy?” but I thought he was laughing too hard.

“Why should I be crazy? Why shouldn’t men yearn for thicker, smoother lashes?”

He decamped promptly.

I narrated the story to the same curious-about-skincare-but-unwilling-to-apply-moisturiser friend, who went “Eeeks, which man would want to have fuller eyelashes?!”

Last Sunday, a female friend informed she had just applied a yoghurt mask on her face and was sitting back on her favourite ottoman chair, eyes closed, when her husband waddled in and wanted to know what she was up to.

“Can’t you see?” she said, opening one eye. “I’m trying to soothe my irritated skin.”

“Oh,” he said, “even my facial skin feels a little itchy…”

She offered to apply the same mask on him. “Stay away from me woman!” he screamed. “I’m a man!”

But somehow she convinced him that “nobody’s going to ever find out”. “If ever tell anyone I did this, I swear I will kill you with my bare hands,” he threatened, before he took his place on the ottoman chair and allowed her to maskify him.

The moment he closed his eyes, she clicked a photo and WhatsApped it to me, with the caption: “Guess who’s basking with yoghurt on his face?”


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