The unofficial dress code for Saint Laurent’s Paris Fashion Week runway show last month was chic, understated, and very French. Ezra Miller, the actor and proud owner of some ridiculously high cheekbones, dressed appropriately in an all-black ensemble of a mesh top, fringed jacket, and skinny jeans.
To top it all off, Miller swiped on a slightly shiny brick-red lipstick.
Though representatives for the Fantastic Beasts star did not respond to The Daily Beast’s inquiry (read: plea) into what exact shade Miller wore, he is regularly seen wearing rouge at events. In 2017, he copped to wearing a glossy pink lipstick from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty makeup line.
Miller identifies as queer (telling GQ he lets the pronouns “he/his/him ride”). He’s become something of an ambassador for gender-fluid style, inspiring headlines like Vogue’s “Ezra Miller Makes the Case for Lipstick on Men.” But Miller is hardly the only guy out there racking up Sephora rewards points.
Last summer, Chanel released a “Boy” line of makeup that included a foundation-like tinted “fluid,” brow pencils, and a matte lip balm.
“By creating Boy de Chanel, its first makeup line for men, Chanel reaffirms the ever-changing codes of an unchanging vision: Beauty is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of style,” the brand told WWD.
Tom Ford, the fashion designer who has long courted androgyny in women’s suiting, also has a beauty collection for men. Though you will find bronzer, brow gel, and lip balm in the lineup, much of the offerings lack color.
A separate line of 25 Tom Ford lipstick shades are named after “boys” in the designers life. Options such as James, Richard, and Tony won’t come cheap, retailing at $36 for one clutch-sized mini tube, or $885 for the entire, full-sized set.
Those who do not make Ezra Miller’s salary can turn to upstart brands like Fluide, a Brooklyn-based brand which just celebrated one year of business. The gender-neutral label sells bright $16 liquid lipsticks and $12 lipglosses, and part of the proceeds are donated to LGBTQ community organizations.
Ubiquitous beauty labels like CoverGirl, Maybelline, and Rimmel have all enlisted men to model lipstick in their ads. MAC Cosmetics (tagline:“All Ages, All Races, All Genders”) frequently collaborates on collections with men like the influencer Patrick Starr and Moschino designer Jeremy Scott.
Even Crayola released a 58-piece gender neutral makeup line with the online retailer Asos. Multi-purpose crayons that added color to both the lip and cheeks started at $14.50. (Unfortunately, the products were widely panned by online beauty gurus.)
Men’s skincare is a booming business. Last year, market research firm Mintel reported that sales of facial products among men age 18 to 44 were up 84 percent among the 1,000 surveyed. But according to The Guardian, guys who buy cosmetics account for less than 1 percent of the global beauty market, which is worth a very cool $465 billion.
Historically, lipstick on men has a performative reputation. Think David Bowie pairing his “Life on Mars”-era sapphire eyeshadow with ballerina pink lips, or Marilyn Manson's signature black scowl. Adam Ant's white face paint would look gaudy on a woman, too.
But Ezra Miller, or the deep-pocketed dude ponying up for Tom Ford's collection, are disciples of a more everyday look.
Cynics might say that “male”-specific makeup lines are no different that products that already exists for women, and that a lipstick is a lipstick. But those who work in research departments for big beauty companies will counter that there are a few key differences between men and women’s skin. These variations, they argue, inherently gender cosmetics.
“In general, female lips tend to be more full, and the cupid’s bow is often more pronounced,” Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a New York-based dermatologist, said. “In men, both the epidermis and dermis layers of skin are thicker, and they have more oil glands and sweat production.”
Because men tend to produce more oil, Dr. Bhanusali encourages them to buy non-comedogenic makeup. Though there is no real standard for what it takes to be non-comedogenic, in theory products with the label are designed not to clog pores.
That means Chanel de Boy, with its ambiguously-named “tinted fluid,” might be onto something—the lighter a foundation, the less likely it is to cause breakouts.
However, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research for dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital said that, “To my knowledge, there is no data showing that men’s skin is any less sensitive than, any more protected from UV light, or any more hydrated than women’s skin.” That means wearing SPF and using moisturizer every day should be a genderless pursuit.
Rachel Weingarten, a beauty writer and marketing strategy consultant, has worked with beauty manufacturers on how to best sell products for either gender. “I do think you’re going to see more color lines for men,” Weingarten told The Daily Beast. “But your average guy is not putting on foundation in the morning, sitting at a cosmetic counter with his wrist out or saying ‘swatch me.’ I don’t think we’re going to see Ezra Millers everywhere, but we will see more.”
Weingarten compares the rise of gender-neutral or male-oriented branding to the popularity of brightly colored nail polish. “In the ‘90s, no one had ever seen baby blue nail polish anywhere,” she explained. “Now, you wouldn’t even think twice about it. You can get pink, green, yellow polish. I think [male makeup] will be like that.”
Of course, novelty nails do not have the gendered history that once made the idea of “lipstick for men” strange enough to be a viable Friends punchline.
Despite Chanel or Tom Ford’s best efforts, mainstream masculinity is still fragile enough that during a recent trip to Sephora, a man in line scoffed at the suggestion that he was there to buy makeup. “I’m just here with my girlfriend,” he said, and a woman holding hairspray materialized at his side.
“If you’re not out with your girlfriends, you feel really out of place in the cosmetics aisle,” said Mama Celeste, a drag performer from Oakland, California who asked to be referred to by their stage name.
Now 25, Mama Celeste admits to stealing “a lot of cheap makeup” from their local Stop & Shop to get what they needed for their first night out. “I remember a lot of anxiety,” they said.
After years of shopping, Mama Celeste is much more confident with their purchases, though they mainly shop online. Liquid lipsticks are their preferred formula, as “they help with the illusion when you’re overdrawing your lips a lot.” Mama Celeste counts the LA-based company Sugarpill’s $18 option as a favorite.
Weingarten, the writer and consultant, compares men in lipstick to fleshy fashion designs. “I think that in our pop culture climate, a perfect lip on a man could be considered shocking in an acceptable way, [like how] Kendall Jenner wore that slit-to-the-crotch dress to the Oscars. We're not going to look at him any differently, but we're still going to look.”
And judging by the response to Miller's marvelous pout, isn't us looking kind of the point?