More men than ever before are using makeup to improve their image - not that they're ready to admit to it (yet).
Bronzers, "blur" creams, tinted sunscreens and concealers are being used to perfect complexions in ways so subtle that not even their partners can tell. Which is ironic, says leading Australian make-up artist Kenneth Higgins, because it's usually wives and girlfriends who are pressuring men to polish their look.
"Girlfriends expect it. We're quite a narcissistic society now, and more men are up for it. Men are into their appearance," Higgins says.
"Guys are constantly on the (mobile phone) reverse camera checking their hair and face. There's more of a European sensibility than the rough and tumble Aussie man of a few years back."
There has also been an increasing awareness of the importance appearance plays for work, job interviews, and even LinkedIn or Facebook headshots.
Higgins says: "There's pride in appearance and mainstream men, men in in the corporate world, are using products to look the best they can as quickly and easily as they can."
As long as it doesn't show. As long as no-one knows. It has to be invisible. Undetectable.
That's not an issue, like in the bad old days of inky hair dye, orangey foundation, or blobs of "skin tone" Clearasil. A new generation of makeup products is subtle, yet effective. Mascara and lip gloss are not yet on men's radar (although there are signs of this in Asia), as much as products that improve their skin.
Pore refiners - what have become known as "blur" creams - are used to fill in pores and old acne craters. Nobody knows when they're smoothed on the nose, but any shine or sign of enlarged pores is gone.
CC (colour correcting) creams tone down redness - again, often on the nose. Meanwhile, tinted sunscreens and bronzers could be considered foundation by another name. They're used to colour and brighten the face and take away that tired look.
Concealers are useful for men who have dark under-eye circles, or for the day after a big night. "Men look at themselves after a night of drinking or after putting hours in at the office and go 'what can I do'?" Higgins says. "Their partners or even their sons are often the ones who say 'try this'. They do and they see they look instantly sharper. They see they work and no one can tell they're using anything. And they're hooked."
My top (ie. undetectable and effective) products for men:
- Benefit Pore Perfector: A squeeze rubbed on your nose reduces shine and helps to conceal or remove blackheads and enlarged pores. The younger man's secret weapon.
- Alex BB Eye Mousse: Helps disguises dark circles and reduce puffiness. One for the older man.
- Estee Lauder Revitalising Supreme Global Anti-Ageing CC Cream: Smooths out the complexion while reducing redness. For men of all ages who may be feeling "tired" if not emotional.
Do you use any men's make-up products? Has anyone noticed?
A dedicated and long-time follower of fashion, Natasha Hughes has also reported extensively on men's grooming and presentation. The former Fairfax staff writer also has a commission to write across manners and deportment, and she's not afraid to use it.