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Why does the Australian beauty industry ignore men?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JORDAN DRYSDALE

WORDS BY JULIETTE CAPOMOLLA

We all know a man who loves a good pamper sesh.

Unfortunately for my bank account, I’m a hardcore beauty addict. I am too easily convinced that a $92 moisturiser (yes, I’m looking at you La La Retro Whipped Cream) will solve all of life’s issues. Oh, I need to double cleanse? You don’t have to tell me twice, and there goes another $150.  

Thankfully though, Mecca recognises the value of my hard-earned coins and rewards me for being a sucker. There is no logical reason why I, a 19-year-old with youthful skin and fortunately little breakouts, should be a level three Beauty Loop member at Mecca. But alas, here we are (please don’t tell my mum how much I spend at Mecca). Clearly, I am the perfect victim of beauty advertising. But I don’t let it stop there! 

To bring the wondrous joy (and black hole of money) that is the world of self-care into another person’s life, I have introduced my boyfriend to the enchanting world of Mecca. I’m basically an unofficial pyramid scheme rep for Mecca. I like to think it was for his own good and the good of his skin, but maybe also a tiny party of me wanted to drag someone else into the mess I’ve made for myself. 

Alas, since the budding of our three-year relationship, he has invested a good few dimes at Mecca. No, he does not wear makeup, but he does love a good skincare routine. He’s also succumbed to the bougie fragrances they have, since making a very smoky Maison Margiela Replica cologne his signature scent. 

Here’s where the issue lies. Should women, like myself, spend an exorbitant amount of cash at Mecca, we are rewarded for it through things like Beauty Loop boxes and birthday gifts. Getting my quarterly Beauty Loop box filled with perfume, mascara, lipstick samples and more reassures me that my ludicrous spending is all worth it. 

But my Mr Big does not get the same dopamine hit when it’s Beauty Loop box time. In fact, he doesn’t even have his own Beauty Loop account because it’s simply not worth it (read: he puts all his purchases on my account and I reap the rewards – it’s true love). Should he indulge in female fragrances or dabble with makeup, perhaps a separate account would be worth his time. But sadly, the rewards aren’t catered to males who go to Mecca merely for their skincare routine or favourite scent. 

This surprises me, especially since there’s a whole section dedicated to men, both in-stores and online. Admittedly, it’s much smaller than the overwhelmingly female-catered section, but it is there nonetheless. And before you ask, yes, we have questioned many a cashier whether there are male-specific rewards available, but to no avail. 

So, why is this? Is it because Australia is still behind the eight ball in terms of it being acceptable for men to indulge in a good face mask every now and then? It’s strange to me, particularly given 34 per cent of Australian millennial men used skincare products last year, according to Roy Morgan. Not only this, but Allied Market Research found that the value of the men’s personal care market is expected to reach $166 billion by 2022, a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 per cent from 2016. 

So how come men are still on the outer when it comes to Australia’s self-care world? Sure, no one’s stopping the manly men of the world from moisturising in the morning, but it’s the implicit disapproval that comes with being excluded from practically all advertising and PR, like the beloved Beauty Loop boxes. 

In saying this, we do have some brands out there putting in the hard yards to accommodate men in the market. Think Bro-To (Go-To’s brother) and Clinique for Men. But men don’t even need separate products from women – after all, skin is skin and most products are in fact gender-neutral. 

A lot of the reason why these male marketed brands exist is because men have been excluded from self-care to begin with. Brands have had to reinvent themselves, through their packaging and formulas, to make a man feel like he’s welcome to walk into Mecca and pick up a cleanser. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most Australian men feel like Mecca isn’t made for them at the moment. 

David Yi, in an article for Very Good Light, put the issue down to fragile masculinity. Yes, this is undoubtedly part of it, but it’s also much too reductive. Sure, fragile masculinity makes it practically impossible for a guy to grab a pink moisturiser, but what if that moisturiser is never marketed to him?

What if that moisturiser says ‘made for babes’ on the label which makes him feel like it’s not made for him? The simple fact of the matter is that gender-neutral beauty and self-care brands are few and far between in Australia. The whole industry has been catered solely towards women for what seems like an irreversible amount of time.

But the good old patriarchy is a double-edged sword. Alongside fragile masculinity we also have the fact that self-care has been reserved for women because it was made to service the male gaze; we try to diminish our pores to look prettier, we minimise wrinkles to make us look younger, you know the drill. Undoubtedly, we’ve moved beyond this point to a place where self-care has become a lot more positive.

I sure as hell don’t spend $92 on a moisturiser so that my Mr Darcy will tell me how plump my skin looks (would he even notice?). But as we move away from skincare acting as purely self-enhancement and move towards the idea of self-care, can we also include men in this renaissance?

It’s about time we normalise your average Joe Blow who just wants to wear his daily SPF and indulge in a good double cleanse at night. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve good skin and self-care?

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