A Skin Care Revolution For Men
If you were to ask me what my favourite form of self care was, my answer would be “skin care” - which is the case for most females as well. Speaking from personal experience, products like face masks and serums, practices such as steaming, discussions with my friends and spontaneous purchases made in the middle of the night are all the result of me completely immersing myself into the world of skincare. And I have the accessibility of the skincare industry to thank for that, because of how embraceable and acceptable it is for females. While it’s a great experience for me, this circumstance leads me to question why I never see my male counterparts talk about skincare with the same enthusiasm.
Now that I’m reflecting on it, growing up, it was a rare sight for me to see males encouraged to take care of themselves, much less their skin. As a female, it would be rather unfair of me to make a conclusion regarding the deeper rooted issues of toxic and fragile masculinity in relation to skincare, without any personal experience or insight on it. However I do observe that there are certain issues within the industry in need of discussion so that further progress can be made.
For one, there’s a need for more knowledge of skin care within the male population. I’ve had multiple male friends tell me that the only form of skincare they partake in in the morning is splashing some water on their faces before walking out the door. I can’t generalize the entire male population by saying that every single guy does this, because obviously there are men who do take care of their skin, however there is a great population of them who do not. Now, where does this lack of knowledge stem from? The answer would be female centric marketing techniques. So it's not compltely unjustifiable when they're baffled when I tell that there are a couple of steps they should be maintaining in order to achieve healthy skin. As a population who buys skincare and cosmetic products in much higher quantities than men, women are often the largest target market for companies, which is why we see advertisements and promotions for women's products so often. But the current skincare and grooming companies that do target men are often very hyper-masculine, who seem to be depicting a rugged and minimalist image for men to overcome the “feminine” stigma around skincare - Axe, and their hyper-masculine marketing are the prime example of this. So there’s really no middle ground here, it’s either being too “feminine” or “soft” or taking on the severe exaggeration of the stereotype of masculinity.
Nivea was one of the first skincare companies to cater to men as well, through their royal blue packaging, celebrity endorsements and their message that skincare was more of a grooming habit than a cosmetic one. Then there were companies like Dove (providing a message of empowerment through their gray and black colour scheme) and Keihl’s (who refer to their men’s moisturizers as “facial fuels”). “Advertisers are walking a very fine line in their verbal and visual choices, encouraging men to be consumers of feminine-style products while also allowing them to maintain the qualities that have traditionally been gendered as masculine,” says Elza Ibroscheva, PhD, a professor at Webster University who also notes that cosmetic bags for men are often branded as “grooming kits.” I’m grateful for companies such as MAKE, Soft, Empathy Cosmetics and more who are breaking down this barrier and working towards making skincare and cosmetics more inclusive to men.
Recently, I caught my dad doing something I’d never seen him do before; applying moisturizer. Now, I'm not completely sure when he started doing this, but it baffles me as to how he’s survived this long with almost no form of skincare. It warms my heart at the same time, seeing this rugged man who used to have absolutely no concern for his skin, much less a whole routine, now taking a step to developing a healthy morning routine by applying a simple layer of moisturizer.
“Kuriyan de kamm” the elders would say in the Punjabi language - an ancient South Asian construct which narrates that self care is strictly a woman's way of life, and is too feminine for a man who is worthy of any form of respect. It makes me proud that despite spending most of his life surrounded by this culture, he’s been able to transform his way of thinking which benefits him and his well being, through a incorporating healthy skincare routine consisting of regular moisturization and the occasional facemask that I force him to wear. As a father to a teenage girl who constantly has one face mask on or the other, his interest and fascination in the ingredients that I put in them is another display of his open mindedness and development.
Ultimately, by calling myself a feminist, I recogonize that it's also my duty to myself, my peers and my community to stand up for and discuss issues to eradicate the prejudice against men, as much as I do for women. I think it's extremely important for us to work together to break down all pressures that are put on men, telling them that there are certain objectives of masculinity they must acheive in order to be a "true man". Doing so will build a healthier global community, where men are as encouraged take care of themself and keep their well being in mind, as women are, allowing them to be the best version of themself.