RTHK radio show Agender Cafe podcast and transcript – Men’s makeup and beauty (25-1-2019)

A few months ago I was kindly invited onto RTHK’s Agender Cafe radio show to speak about men’s makeup and beauty – you can listen to and download the podcast here. Here is the show’s transcript:

You’re listening to the 123 show with me Noreen Mir  this Friday afternoon. And since its Friday it is time for the Agender Café and I would like to welcome back to the studio our wonderful co-host Karen Koh. Karen, how are you?

I’m great Noreen how are you?

I’m very good thank you. So what are we talking about this week on the Agender Café?

So today we’re talking about something that we talk about a lot, beauty products and makeup. But not for us for guys, for men so we’re talking guy-liners and manscaras.

Oh I like that a lot! Guyliners.

Ok, so if we look at men and makeup ready for a little history lesson.

I’m ready!

So historically men have actually always worn makeup and so if you go back to say ancient Egypt and even Roman times men wore eyeliner you know the very almond shape Egyptian eyes. Kohl around their eyes and they stained their lips red with ground-up beetles and stuff like that. Then in Elizabethan England in the 18th century and 18th century France they put white powder on their faces to make them really pale which usually killed them because it was a lead-based powder – so that wasn’t too good.

They died looking good.

They died looking wonderful for that time. And they wore extravagant wigs, and then it wasn’t till the mid-1800s when Queen Victoria came in and you know she was very straight laced and declared that cosmetics were vulgar and vain and the work of the devil and the Church of England got on board and reinforced this view. So makeup was sent to the female end of the gender spectrum. So it was no longer acceptable for men to wear makeup. Then we come to the 20th century and it sort of re-emerged with the modern movie industry so around the 1930s in Hollywood guys like Clark Gable were the pin-up boys and they had makeup and it kind of stayed with us since then but it’s always been on the fringes you know, it’s always been the actors, the musicians, artists, people like Prince, David Bowie, Steven Tyler, Boy George – they’re the ones who have worn makeup publicly and kind of promoted makeup. And so when you fast forward to today it’s still on the fringes but now we’ve got some of the world’s biggest names in skincare and cosmetics launching lines specifically for men. So Chanel recently launched a line called Boy, Tom Ford has some men’s makeup products and then there’s a newer makeup company, Milk makeup that ran a video campaign in 2017 called blur the lines and blur is the name of their product but the campaign had people from a whole range of gender identities talking about how makeup is for everyone. And then last year Maybelline which is a real mass market company used this male YouTube and Instagram star James Charles who is beautiful to market their new mascara. So we know that here in Asia a lot of men are more aware of taking care of their skin, but now this kind of goes a step further with more and more men actually feeling comfortable with wearing makeup so that is what we’re going to talk about and we have three great guests to discuss that with us today, we have James Thompson Sakrani who is the founder of Style Standard and that’s a curated men’s boutique focusing on essentials, formal accessories, grooming and lifestyle products, we have Shing-Hei David who works in garment design and manufacturing and he’s been a skincare and cosmetics user since he was a teenager and we have Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who is a beauty journalist and a trend forecaster as well as an academic with a focus on gender. So thank you all for joining us today.

Thank you!

So maybe if I start with you Babette, since you write about this and you’re in this industry what do you think is behind the move towards men wearing makeup?

Generally worldwide or in Asia?

Worldwide and Asia.

Yes sure so I think worldwide as well as Asia celebrity trend really has been driving it, so especially with South Korea. So a lot of South Korean celebrities drive fashion and beauty and skincare trends across this region, so I think just seeing celebrities use makeup a lot more especially in the last eight to 10 years in this region and then being able to talk about it. So you’re seeing a rise of vloggers talking about the makeup they use and the skincare products they use and so there is more of a general acceptance. I mean you saw in Korea about five years ago beauty brands that are specifically targeted towards women would use men to advertise their skincare products as well. So its much more of a, like you were saying, a blurred lines around gender here as well.

And as far as the consumer goes in Asia are the majority of men open to this or do they still feel like this is something they can only do privately at home and not really let anyone know I’m doing it?

Hmm I think the market here like with women is really driven by skincare predominantly rather than makeup. That’s a lot to do with the climate as well, so as you all know it’s really difficult to wear a lot of makeup here compared to England where you can wear like ten layers of makeup and we actually had to.

It will just melt

Yeah it does! It’s a really horrible thing to find out here, like your makeup will just melt off your face as your hair will just explode as well. So yeah I think a big focus here is skincare and I do think it is getting more generally accepted by people here but I think it still is very niche here and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s much more natural looks so you’re not going to see like colour cosmetics here become mainstream for quite a few years I think.

When you say niche, how niche? Are you talking about the younger generation, are you seeing middle-aged, or are the older men also looking after their skin nowadays?

I’ve seen as a beauty journalist across quite a lot of generations but I think there is a much more general acceptance for a millennial consumer that this will be part of your day to day routine like maybe a three or four step beauty routine, whereas I’m also seeing it with older generations as well.

So the other thing about niche is I mentioned before it was always the artistic, creative types of people who were more accepting, is that the same, if you’re here in Asia and you work as a hairdresser or a makeup artist or in fashion (you’re kind of expected) in the music business, it’s acceptable to wear makeup. And kind of not surprising.

Definitely and I think it’s also due to workplace rules as well come to play into it a lot as well, as a hair stylist or a fashion stylist you can really wear what you want to, but a lot of office environments still have quite traditional dress codes across Asia, so maybe you want to have bright red hair but you can’t do it here still, so I think if you saw more, with like the rise of co-working spaces and new ways of working people can be more independent and can express themselves more as an individual in the work environment I think then you will see this come across more.

Well let’s bring David Shing-Hei  into the conversation as well. David welcome to the programme. So you’ve been interested in cosmetics and makeup since you were a teenager, what peaked your interest in it?

I was 13 when I think I had my first dance performance and then I thought oh I’m a dancer so someone is going to do my makeup backstage so I was waiting and waiting then I was like oh but all my dance friends have already done their makeup so then I was like ‘who is going to do my makeup’ and then I realised that they had done their own makeup and there was no budget for the dancers. So I was like ‘oh can I have your makeup’ and then I start applying it onto my face and that’s how I first started doing makeup.

So you had never sort of experimented before? So what sort of things did you use that day did you use powder, foundation, eyeliner…

I just picked whatever to just make my skin look better and I remember I picked like a glitter to make my face look super shiny and I naturally have very heavy eye bags so I apply the glitter on under my eyes so on stage my eye bags look even more outstanding.

You had the shiniest eye bags!

And then I felt really upset because that was my first performance when I was 13 and it was in Cambridge. It was a contemporary performance so you were meant to look natural but good and then I looked terrible. I think I looked like a cabaret, a drag queen but I’m wearing men’s tight lycra and so I was like ‘no I can’t do that’ so then I went online and searched and back then I was 13 and not ages ago but then it’s not very common on YouTube to see how men are doing makeup so I would just ask my friends or I go to a cosmetics shop when I was around 14 and I was like ‘hi I want some basic makeup on stage just to look good’ and yeah that’s how I started.

What’s your routine? Do you do a cosmetics routine now, you can also include skincare routine.

When I wake up I drink a glass of hot water – that’s what I’ve been told is how you look after yourself and your skin and your body, and then I wash my face, and then toner and then moisturiser and then I just apply primer so your face looks less oily, then a concealer stick and then I put some powder to set it and then a little bit of eyeliner in a dark brown colour that looks a bit more natural.

So you do this everyday right?

Every single day. I think I have to do it like three times every day because it comes off in Hong Kong and then sometimes after I go to the gym and then I have to do it. Even when I stay at home on Sundays I feel really tired without putting anything on my face, so when I wake up I know that I’m not going out but I’m still putting basic makeup on my face, and then I feel like I can start my day. It’s an addiction. But you really need to look after yourself like you need to remove your makeup properly because it’s not perfect for your skin.

It clogs your pores.

But you look good.

You know when you remove it what do you use to remove it? I just want to get some tips from you.

Just makeup remover but I don’t use an oil based one because that gives me a lot of acne so I don’t use oil based makeup remover, I used to use a lot of oil based makeup remover and it gave me a lot of bad skin so I’m still recovering from having acne from when I was 16/17 I didn’t really care I feel like I’m just going to put lots of foundation on. I used to cake myself because I was in London so obviously I can. It’s not going to melt.

And then how do your family and friends react? Do all of your friends and family know you wear makeup every day?

My friends, especially all of my best girlfriends, always ask me like what is the good brand right now, they ask me that because I sort of know. But then some of them will be like why do you need to put makeup on, but that was like ages ago and now they don’t really ask. Because I think that our generation understands this is who you want to be and then you can’t be bothered about people so sometimes when I’m at the gym I just want to fix my makeup you get people coming up and asking you questions.

Ok, so let’s bring James into the conversation here. Now you’ve just started this lifestyle business. What sort of demand do you see for men’s cosmetics and for men wanting to know how to use makeup, whether they should use makeup. Is it socially acceptable to wear makeup?

I think frankly I’m very much on the other side the guys we deal with and I just men on a broader scale, aren’t doing this sort of thing to the extent that maybe guys in Asia are doing it. But also to Babette’s point about it being more niche. I think generally you will find most guys aren’t doing that yet – it’s still a fight to get guys to moisturise. It’s still a fight for me for example we sell a face mask and I love it, I swear by it, I think it’s amazing. Women know all about this stuff, guys are just coming to the table. And a lot of guys aren’t interested. I had a conversation with someone recently who basically said look my face is clean what else matters? And that is sort of the key point there. That’s the line for most guys, is if it’s clean, what else do I really need to do.

So do you think that is because they still feel like taking care of your skin and your face is vain or it’s effeminate and if I’m not someone who does that, as that would mean I’m less masculine?

I think that that plays into it. Let me totally change track for a second, but if you look at the political situation in Europe and in North America there’s a big pushback right now against this sort of they call it the feminisation of culture. Gilette just had the ad that came out that in many ways I think called out men in general and said look you gotta do better you gotta step up, but a lot of guys turned around and went ‘no actually hang on you’re attacking us, this is who we are, this is our culture, this is our people, and so there’s a lot of guys you won’t look at this sorta thing because they do see it as too girly or too feminine.

But at the same time you also have a lot more awareness of gender, equality and gender norms, I don’t mean to say gender norms but the whole range of gender identities so in some ways it’s like there’s never been a better time to be able to say ‘hey I can be whoever I want to be’.

I agree,  I think right now a change is happening, David I think is a great example of this. 10 or 15 years ago you wouldn’t have had grown men on radio publicly admitting to wearing makeup, let alone talking for it or how to do it, it just wouldn’t have happened. And so we’re getting to that point but I think it’s a slow paradigm shift, and it happens gradually, you know you don’t turn around and say hey look go and buy foundation, go buy concealer, go buy this, go buy that, you say look maybe try a face mask once in a while, maybe get your girlfriend to try something like this.

Well I was going to ask so where is the line drawn for men then? They’re obviously into some sort of grooming, perhaps they’re into grooming their beard, or their hair, I mean where is that line at the moment for regular guys?

I think the little is a little bit blurred and again to go back to South Korea, it’s a great example of that because culturally we can look at South Korea and say look obviously this isn’t such a big thing, guys are doing it, it’s spreading across, look at K-pop and the influence that’s had around Asia and around the world. But I think for most guys if you just grab the average guy off the street they’re starting to get into things like face scrubs or that sort of thing, moisturiser is becoming a much more common thing. If you look at North America, the pharmacies are full of it for guys now, whereas 10 years ago you wouldn’t have seen a lot of stuff.

They need serum as well. You know women have such a range of stuff but sometimes I think is it just manufacturers wanting another piece of the pie and just making a line for men. Exactly, because men’s and women’s skin aren’t too different, skin is skin you know, we have oily, we have dry, we have T-zone, combination skin.

What about the other aspects of grooming for example eyebrows. Men, I know my sons are always looking at their eyebrows and going oh mum can you help me pluck my eyebrows because of the stray hairs in the middle? Nobody wants a monobrow right? So do we see men doing things like waxing their eyebrows or waxing their back? Or other parts of their bodies, butts?

They do eyebrows now, for all my dad’s family friends, all the family friends, all the uncles, they have tattooed eyebrows.

Are they the permanent tattoos or are they the embroidery types, the micro-blading?

I never asked them but they a look a bit…

Do they talk about it? Or they just do it?

No, I mean

How old are they? If they’re your dad’s friends?

50-65 a lot of them.

Have they just recently started to do their eyebrows?

Recently, I think in Hong Kong it’s very common, I think it’s the wife that asked them to do it, because my dad hasn’t done it yet, so my father was like what happened to your eyebrows to one of my uncles, and he was like what is wrong with it, I look amazing. He sat there and I think there was once like time to time my dad always says he wants to do plastic surgery to remove his eyebags to look younger. And I was like that is so weird, but go ahead.

Yeah but it’s interesting…he is so open in talking about it.

He wanted to do it…actually in Hong Kong as well and in Asian industry if they want to do it, but when James was talking about K-pop and Babette was talking about K-pop, it’s really sad to see how lots of like men are artists in the K-pop industry they will do amazing makeup but then they also got banned to go to China to perform because the government was like no you’re not allowed to be, you can’t wear makeup on stage.

Because it’s a bad influence or?

I think they found it a very bad influence for their own country so they’re not allowed to wear earrings, they’re not allowed to wear heavy makeup if they want to go to China.

But that’s interesting because I know in China there are a lot of male beauty vloggers right? Babette, so you cover a lot of stuff in China.

So there has been a recent, as James was saying as well about the backlash, so we’re seeing in China a real backlash against gender identities so this apparent quote marks feminisation so quite a traditional idea that if you wear makeup it’s linked to your sexuality somehow so it’s quite a traditional idea still, so I think it’s also a backlash against Korean influence as well, so you are seeing that backlash. And back to what Noreen was saying earlier about the marketization, I think it’s really important as a beauty journalist to understand because if you think Korea is probably the epitome of the skincare industry where it will go, and it’s pretty much saturated now, there’s not much more you can go there, there’s 15 step beauty routines so where are you going to take this right? Exactly. What’s the next step? And now you’re seeing a band of Korean women who are now smashing up their makeup and denying it which is a backlash from a country where cosmetic surgery is so popular so I think that’s really interesting, so obviously a lot of beauty brands are doing really well from Korea and Korea is leading the way, so if they say hold on there’s a huge market here which is men and as James was saying, men don’t know about this, so it’s such a nascent industry, there’s billions to be made here. And it’s much better if you market it as men’s versus women’s makeup because otherwise consumers will be like I can just use exactly the same product.

And have men until now been using women’s products?

From friend’s wise yes, yeah.

So do I because I have to.

Because there’s not such a big range right? Because you might have like one male concealer that’s maybe one colour range whereas women’s concealer you’ve got 15 different shades. Foundation, CC cream – well CC cream is a bit more gender neutral anyways, but like foundations, powders, there’s such a bigger range.

Moisturisers, if you look at the ingredients on the back they’re identical. It’s just the colour schemes of the bottles.

Exactly. It’s the packaging.

It’s the marketing as well.

Yeah exactly.

So as these companies are launching these men’s ranges, I mean David from your point of view are they doing enough or should they be doing more?

I mean like for Chanel I look into it but there’s not enough colour, bye – that’s what I said. That’s all I said, I think because I’m so used to different brands because none of these female targeted cosmetic brands – they’re all unisex in a way. If you see it that way, so I don’t think a Boy cosmetic will make me want to want to buy because I’m a guy I’m going to buy Boy Chanel one but I understand it might be helpful for the men to be like oh maybe it’s ok that I can buy cosmetics because they make a line for men’s.

Alright, so James very quickly I want to talk a little bit more about Style Standard, so how does it work? It’s a men’s boutique focusing on essentials and formal accessories, grooming and lifestyle products so if I was a guy and I needed help just I would come to you and how would you help me?

I mean our basic premise is because we’re so heavily curated the idea is really that you can go to our site and anything you don’t have is stuff you need. And the goal really was to make decision making a thing of the past, as cliché as that is in a way, the thing is you know on a totally different line if you look at fashion accessories or formal accessories more specifically, guys have too much. I mean if you go through any man’s closet of a certain age he’s got 30, 40, 50 ties – he maybe wears 5 or 10 on a regular basis. So if you’re 18 years old getting your first job, how do you make those choices? You know, how do you get into that kind of thing, how do you start navigating that world, you go to ties dot com and there’s something like 50,000 options so how do you choose the right 4 or 5 ties you need. We’ve taken that to go back to what we were talking about, we’ve taken that and gone to grooming as well, and said look you know, there’s a lot out there, talking about what we were talking about, it’s insane. So what we do is we say look, make it all really simple. You need a facewash, a face scrub, a moisturiser, we’ve got all this, you want to start getting into a hand and foot scrub, and repair lotion. The face mask that I was talking about earlier we’ve got all this stuff but it’s not crazy, it’s not 10 different types of the same thing. You don’t really have to figure it out.

That’s so interesting and are men interested in face scrub as well? Are they interested in a face wash? Are they interested in hand lotions?

It’s a tougher sell. Honestly. The stuff that sells easily is the shaving stuff, the face wash, that kinda thing. Moisturiser moves to a better extent but once you start talking about things like a walnut hand and foot scrub, you know guys sit there and go why do I need this?

So what do you tell them?

You know the honest answer is you have to tell them or make comparisons to what they already know. And so in North America for example, whenever I’m back there and talking to people there, the big comparison is to their cars. Because most guys care a lot about their cars or their bikes or whatever they’ve got, and so you make the comparison, you say look you spend more time working on your vehicle than you do on yourself. You would clean your tires, why won’t you clean your hands or your feet right. But it’s a knowledge issue, you’ve got to educate people.

And that’s exactly how I convinced my husband to really just step up his routine.

Welcome back, you’re listening to the Agender Café this afternoon with me Karen Koh and Noreen Mir, and we’re talking about men’s beauty and makeup with three guests – James Thompson Sakrani, the founder of Style Standard, Shing Hei David who works in garment design and manufacturing and has been a skincare and cosmetics user and lover since he was a young man, and Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who is a beauty journalist and trend forecaster. So before the break James you were talking about how to get men to actually use more range of products, it’s all about motivation, as you said they are saying why do I need this, what about the whole motivation of attracting a partner? Does that come into it?

It’s massive. That’s a big, big thing, and so it’s funny actually it’s easier to sell to single guys on that front than it is to necessarily guys in relationships and I think around the table we all know what it’s like to get sorta complacent in a relationship and you start going well what’s the point?

I don’t need to try anymore.

I can stop dying my hair.

It’s definitely an issue. It’s a concern I think not just in terms of grooming but when you look at the men’s style industry on a larger level that’s one of the biggest fights guys have when they’re trying to educate on this subject, I mean there a few sort of style gurus and people I follow that I’ve been listening to for a while and that’s actually one of the biggest issues they have is how to say look you’ve got to take care of yourself for yourself right. To get a partner the best way to do it is to be a better version of yourself. Not to be what they want to be. But it’s definitely a major issue for guys.

Ok David so what about you? You have a partner does he care about how you look, like whether you’re wearing makeup or how you can look on any particular day?

I think he cares that I put makeup on, as he thinks it’s not good for my skin. But I always tell him that I wash my face, I remove my makeup completely and they’re organic so they’re healthy to my skin, so leave me alone. But he needs to put some SPF. He doesn’t wear that at all.

So he doesn’t do anything but you do everything?

Yes quite a lot.

So you make all the effort but do you do it for yourself or for him?

For myself. I think it’s a habit for me. I think in a way to say, a very positive way to say, it’s almost like an addiction. But I like it. I mean I feel better.

Would you go out without makeup for example?

No, never.

When was the last time you went out without makeup?

I was 12 / 13 – something like that.

It was just before your first dance show?

Before my first dance show I went to a dance show without anything.

But we’re the same, women sometimes they don’t do it for other people they do it for themselves as well, that they put makeup on because it makes them feel happy, it puts them in a better mood, it’s a confidence thing as well so I suppose it’s the same principle.

I think it’s very important to look the best version of yourself when you go out there, so I mean I don’t like to judge people but sometimes I see people with very heavy, dark circles, I will be like aw babe just get concealer. It’s doesn’t take you like 10 minutes.

It’s not that hard.

I mean like one minute. Apply on it and you will look amazing.

What if they’re just happy just not concealing it?

They can do it.

I want to ask the guys, how aware are men about how they look? (A lot) I mean do they really look at themselves in the mirror and go hmm ahh this is a problem, that’s a problem, this is great, that’s great, because women are quite critical (they tear themselves apart) every day you know we look in the mirror and we go okay I have a dark spot here, a dark spot there and I don’t like my eyelashes here or my eyebrows are this and my lips are that, do men really look at themselves do you think?

Definitely when I was at the gym lots of guys after their workout they look at their bodies whether they have a bit too much fat there, or they have to grow their bicep there, or stuff like that. So I think in this generation, a lot more guys are going to the gym because they think and they know that will make them look better.

But what about their face? I mean you can definitely change your body through exercises.

A lot, I’ve seen it a lot. But I don’t think they understand the importance of looking after their own skin, so I think sometimes they need to know but they don’t know where that information is from, they’re afraid to ask because they’re afraid to go to the beauty counter to ask, if they go to any counter to ask all these sales person I’m sure they can help them, but it’s kind of awkward and embarrassing if you go to a department store it’s a very open area, people might look at you and be like oh why is this guy at the beauty counter? What is doing there for example? That’s why a lot of beauty counters they have like a male staff to help them.

But I think a lot of guys still find it a bit too much for them.



James what do you think? As a guy do you really know your face really well and okay I have this flaw, I have that flaw, or this part is really good.

You know I think there’s a lot of body dysmorphia when it comes to guys which isn’t talked about. And this a major issue I mean women’s issues are exposed, and people talk about them, and people are trying to address them. Guys have these issues, to go back to what David was saying, you know you go to the gym, and guys are struggling with a lot of the same concerns, on a more general level, I don’t know that necessarily it’s quite the same for women as it is for men, because I think with guys you can get away with walking around with T-shirt and shorts, I’ve been to a few weddings where I’ve just wanted to grab people and shake them because there is no sense of dress or taking care of themselves, but it’s more of an issue there in that guys struggle with a lot of the same issues, but on different fronts. So facially for example, it may not be that they think I’ve got to switch all the way over to makeup but okay I’ve got acne and what do I do about that. I don’t know how to deal with that, I’m going into a Walgreens or shopping at a drugmart or a Fanda and just looking for whatever says acne on it. So there’s sort of that issue, of how do you get guys into that.

They don’t really know where to go for information, or maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

Yeah I think to what David was saying, you know it’s intimidating to be out in public and trying to do this stuff.

So I think beauty can definitely sell better in the supermarket if you go like grocery shopping, so you can just grab a bottle and you wouldn’t know anything.

It is being sold in supermarkets in say the West.

They do sell there definitely.

Or in Kohl’s in Australia. Yeah.

And then Babette where do you think the beauty media industry comes into this because as we know, well now you don’t pick up physical magazines anymore, but online you can go to any women’s beauty site (social media) and there will be 100 articles about what to do with your eyelashes, but what about for men? Is there an equivalent amount of advice? You know that they can access?

Sure, so I think you saw in the 90’s news, for example in England you had Esquire magazine, GQ, a lot of men’s style magazines especially around the time that David Beckham was really metro-sexual, David Beckham in a sarong, this kind of movement especially in England you saw a lot of men maybe being more comfortable and confident in grooming, I mean you have that sort of ‘Essex boy’ stereotype that we call like a ‘pretty boy’ so a man that will take like really good care of his face and cares what he wears, so I think what David was saying earlier about social media as well it’s such a big part now. So it’s so easy now to go on Instagram and look at male makeup users and see how they do it and they interact with people, and that’s why you’ve seen a lot of beauty brands now like you were saying earlier just go directly to them and use these people as spokespeople because they can see like the power that they have and how it’s a very natural, authentic connection as well, rather than just using a celebrity who maybe doesn’t know how to do it themselves, or always use a makeup artist or use a team of people, rather than going through years of trying out stuff, failing and then working out what works best for them and knowing that struggle and also what a nice joy it is to wear makeup sometimes.

Is there a male equivalent of Kylie Jenner and her lip kit?

Guy Tang and his hair. He uses himself as well.

I do it myself,

I love how he is not particularly…. He wears makeup but he doesn’t give advice about…No. He just does other people’s hair. But is there like?

Not on this scale, Kylie Jenner is like a billionaire now from her business so not on the same scale. But you’re seeing them, the Instagram star that you mentioned earlier, there’s a couple more, like the face of Covergirl is a male model last year, Maybelline, yes so there are a few especially in America. I think it’s only a matter of time before you get more here.

Do you know any in Asia right now David?

Well someone I know that I was telling Noreen about, I think he does a lot of great people and guys in Hong Kong and in Asia, he goes around and he tells people that he finds people who doesn’t know how to look after their hair, their makeup or how to dress to impress people, and he goes around and helps them to get a different haircut, and how to look after their skin, so there’s people out there but it’s not huge because you don’t gain more male followers you got loads of female followers just to watch the channel but I think in a way lots of secret male audience watching his YouTube channel and then learn how to look after himself.

So it’s still you say secret, so is it still not seen as.

I think so, definitely.

Why is it still?

Sometimes you see a friend and say oh did you do something to your eyebrows and they will say no I didn’t and I was like you obviously did, so you know that, you know a lot people they don’t like to tell people if they’ve done something to make themselves look better as it might make them feminine – whatever it is.

Is that a concern that you see amongst some of your clients – oh I don’t want to do that it seems a bit girly, you know in terms of grooming or wearing something like SPF you know (or a face mask).

Oh absolutely. I mean adoption for this sort of stuff is always tough, you know I was saying earlier the biggest issue is education, and SPF is a great example, we’re just seeing that become commercially a thing, I think we’ve just passed that tipping point for SPF for guys because the idea is okay SPF is for useful for a junk trip but why would I wear it every day? Let alone why would I wear it in the middle of winter? Which is when it’s worse. So yeah it’s definitely a big issue in terms of how do you convince guys that doing this is manly, it’s masculine, it’s a good choice for you, especially to go back to the idea of the Gilette ad and all that sort of thing, there are those guys now who came out and said look we’re becoming too feminine, women are taking over, women are ruling so now we’ve got to take back sort of masculinity, so it’s a big fight right now I think for a lot of guys.

Yeah and it’s really important to wear sunscreen, just on the topic of that, trying to find the right one. I’ve just made some notes you know, if you see a bottle that says SPF that only targets UVBs which causes redness, you should really look for ones that say PA+++ a lot of Japanese sunscreen will have that, that will specifically target UVA which causes free radicals in your skin which causes the wrinkles, so really look for sunscreen that has it.

Thank you! +++ Off topic completely but yes Hong Kong is still seen as quite conservative, we are I think to some level we want to follow the trend of Korea and Japan but we’re also at the border of China as well so there’s that sort of conservative nature amongst women and men. So how do you see it going forward? I mean will we have a bigger market in terms of male cosmetics and beauty products or are we pretty much saturated at this point? Babette, what are your predictions for example?

Personally I think the beauty market is only going to grow here, but it will be slow I think for the time being. As to what you were saying, Hong Kong is quite conservative, it’s also a very small market and it’s very luxury and high-end so you might say the Tom Ford beauty, or Chanel male beauty I could imagine doing quite well here because it’s a very luxury driven market here, I think if you look across more of Asia it’s a much bigger market, so Thailand, Vietnam (yes Thailand) places like that have a really great beauty market like really domestic, really cool interesting brands coming out now, and really different attitudes also towards gender. Like I said specific to Hong Kong, it’s still quite a prevalent culture here of traditional ideas towards makeup equals your sexuality, whereas a lot of other cultures don’t equate the two. And also I’ve just seen that with beauty journalists here when I’ve been interviewed by other people, that’s why it’s quite refreshing to be here today to talk about this and people ask me if it’s to do with sexuality like do men wear makeup because they’re gay, so it’s still a lot of education here to be done. So I think it will only grow here hopefully.

Yeah so what are your thoughts on that David?

I just hope it will grow, I hope it will be like a common thing, so like I mean I do that at the gym like after at the changing room when people look at me – I don’t really care.

Do they ask you questions?

Well not in Hong Kong but I think in Hong Kong people are very afraid of confrontation, I don’t think they do that at all, so I get a look but I also look at them like what are you looking at.

So they worry that if they say, maybe they’re worried if they ask you, you might get upset or

Yeah I think so.

You should just say oh you should try it, or this brand. Want to try some? Can I cover your dark circles?

But then when I was in London I did get, it was very surprising, but a Middle East guy, he came up to me and was like mate this is for girls right what are you doing there, I was like oh my god are you serious, and he was like yeah, why are you putting like makeup on your face it’s for girls. And I was like because I just want to do it, so just stay away from my zone, and just let me do my thing, and he was like no I just want to understand why and I was like I just want to look good, do you go for a haircut, do you go for a shower, it’s just part of the thing to look good so I mean it’s not stopping people from looking good. I remember when I was like 15 I used to go to school in England and then I came to Hong Kong when I was 16 for 1 year to study so I’ve always done my hair when I go to school and my classmates of my best friend at school, they are all guys and then when I came to Hong Kong friends will be like, they weren’t really my friends as I was here for a year, they were like laugh at me and ask why are you doing your hair, why are you being so picky about your hair, like what is the point it’s for girls you don’t do that, and I didn’t care but I’m surprised they don’t do their hair and they look terrible, and then 2 months ago I bumped into one of these friends who laughed at me when I was 16, and he said omg are you David and I looked at him and I was like great hair, and he said I’m very sorry for laughing at you (wow) because I realised that was really important and there’s nothing wrong with that, and I was like it’s all cool, he wanted to let me know at 26 it’s not too late (he remembered) and then he came to me and was like are you David and afterwards he (he recognised you from your great hair) my great hair, and then he actually came back to me on Facebook and said I’ve been meaning to apologise as I felt bad for about 10 years, because I was not in Hong Kong for about more than 10 years, so he was wanting to find an opportunity to come and say sorry and that day I felt like amazing because I’m glad that he understand and he told me all his friends who laughed together about my hair they all have to do their hair now, and they’ve always been saying like we wish we know that from David like ages ago and then I was like ok. Interesting.

A hair-warming story. I was interested in hearing Babette and Noreen both of you if your boyfriend or husband started wearing makeup how would you feel about it?

I don’t know as I don’t always wear so much makeup so maybe I would feel a bit like he’s one upping me. But I wouldn’t object.

If you don’t wear makeup it’s all good.

I wouldn’t object to it, but I might even be supportive, just be like oh wow and then I would have to step up my game you know. Just to compete so I would think that it’s quite interesting….Babette what about you?

I always ask my boyfriends to wear makeup and I haven’t had a yes yet.

You’re waiting for that yes! So you ask them?

Well I think it’s because I like colour, ah you can’t see me know but I’m always like why don’t you try an amazing colour.

By the way Babette has this amazing makeup, peacock blue eyeshadow and eyebrows today.

Thank you! So I said oh we’re going to Clockenflap why don’t you like a red for your eyebrows and my boyfriend was like no I don’t need to, no. So I was like ok, no worries, baby steps. Baby steps, maybe go back to face masks.

Or a concealer!

Exactly. I previously dated someone who worked in F&B so you’re very customer facing. So I said you look like death this morning please for the love of god put some concealer or blusher on your face, oh that was a huge argument, never got over that one. Huge

Because people don’t want pressure.

Yeah I was like trust me on this one, you’re working in a restaurant, it’s a nice place. Please put something on.

Yep, I think if people are facing a lot of people in public they should. (Yeah definitely!) Just a bit. Just some concealer, why not (definitely).

Do you think the reaction was bad because he felt like it’s maybe effeminate?

Probably it was my presentation hahaha (the way you said it…you look like death!) Yes maybe I should have said look this makeup is really cool, why don’t you experiment, why don’t you try some on? That could have been more diplomatic.

Well James how do you go about phrasing things to make people accept it, you mentioned at one point about making comparisons you know you spend a lot of time looking after your car, the tires, how best to approach the men in our lives to you know get them to do just as simple as putting SPF on?

Well I think that’s the first thing, going straight to makeup right off the bat. It’s never going to work. It’s sort of a gradual thing you know if anyone’s listening who is worried about their partner or the guy in your life the easiest way to give advice is to get guys to try it at home. There’s no judgement, there’s a lot less, I think one of the issues with your story is that you’re going out in public, going to your workplace or Clockenflap (that’s probably not a bad location, that’s a great place) Clockenflap is great for that kind of thing. People are willing to experiment a little but to say going into work in a consumer focused role you know there’s a lot of anxiety for anyone in that kind of situation, so you’ve got to take away the anxiety first off is maybe the hardest part about it, I can’t imagine most guys I know being willing to wear a dress in public for example, but if you were to say to him look just throw this on in your bedroom no one is going to see, they might be a lot more willing to try it.

Or have a manicure like if they’ve got bad fingernails, you know they can have a manicure that’s very subtle, it doesn’t have to have nail polish but you know just introduce them to the idea.

But where would a man go, because a lot of the nail salons are very woman-based you know (I’m sure they do) it takes a guy with thick skin to really sit down to have a mani-pedi (they don’t feel comfortable in the environment) well now there’s more male grooming places (they are, yeah) there’s quite a few that (do your hair and do this) and yeah do waxing and they’ll do nails. So it’s not like there’s no places you know, they just have to be I guess brave enough to go there or be taken there (it might be a good place for them to meet some girls) yeah, yeah that’s true, it’s interesting though James because I worked in TV business news for many, many years and when our guests came in who were mostly people in the finance industry we would always offer them makeup because you’re sitting under 800 watts of light and nobody looks good with a naked face under 800 watts of light, so some of the men would say no but we would always insist on it and at least powdering them so they weren’t shiny, and some of the men actually wanted a full foundation and makeup and some of them when they left would leave it on because they realised they actually looked better, but in that context they were fine with wearing makeup because they knew they were going to be on TV, they’re representing both themselves and their company, and you don’t want to look bad in front of…there was one guest in particular who would come every two weeks and he would go in and spend 30 minutes beforehand doing his makeup and then he would leave with the makeup on (he did it himself? Interesting, wow) he actually became quite good at it. So I guess it’s all about how they think it’s going to be perceived or seen by other people if it’s in a sort of professional way they are more likely to agree with it.

Well we’re coming up towards the end of the programme let’s end with some tips, some beauty, some personal tips or some tips you’ve seen other men test, maybe David let’s start with you first.

Always SPF, wash your face after you use SPF and then if you have a special occasion just have a normal powder on it doesn’t really hurt your skin and it doesn’t make you look caked, so just put a bit of powder (that’s true I heard that from several beauty bloggers if you put powder after SPF after foundation or whatever it stops the dust from getting in your pores so it’s better that you have the powder rather than dust clogging your pores. I don’t know if that’s) or a face mask possibly. (Babette?)

I would say go for organic and natural beauty brands so what you’re putting on your skin is really good for your skin, I would say always take your makeup off before you go to sleep, drink a lot of water, way more water than you think you will because most of skincare is water and genetics and yeah just have fun, experiment with it and realise that makeup can be a really fun thing to do.


I think as the one person around this table who doesn’t wear makeup my immediate reaction is just to say come buy from us haha no I think water is a great point, no one is ever as hydrated as they need to be, I think the biggest issue for guys is being adventurous, being willing to go out and try something new, see whether it works and try something else and you know this is never going to happen but talk about it, talk to your friends, talk to people in your life, get advice, get help, not in the get help kind of way, but you know connect.

Yeah, yeah don’t be afraid to talk about it. That’s why we’re talking about it today (exactly, don’t be shy). Don’t be shy. Exactly well thank you very much indeed for all your sharing, it’s been eye-opening, thank you James, Babette and David.

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