Rihanna shook things up with her new brand – and got me thinking about fragile masculinity.
Let me explain. BadGalRiRi recently launched the skin care sister to her Fenty Beauty makeup brand, Fenty Skin. Almost unheard of for a “celebrity” brand, there are only three products (a cleanser, a toner-serum hybrid and a moisturizer with SPF) which makes for a no-nonsense, yet essential, routine.
The ad campaigns impressed me most as they included Rihanna posing with men, including rappers A$AP Rocky and Lil’ Nas X. Skin care brands rarely use men in their ads, let alone rappers. Then, on Twitter, I saw dozens of men asking when she was going to create a line just for them. “Whoever told you skincare has a gender, LIED to you!” she replied in a Tweet.
Rih is right, skin care isn’t gender-specific, but there still seem to be a lot of weird feelings in our culture around men and personal care.
I don’t need to have a doctorate to know this. Inside the bathrooms of the men I’ve dated, I’ve seen the ONE lonely product they (horrifyingly) try to use for their hair, face and butt sitting on the shower shelf. A male coworker admitted to me that they’ve never washed their face. My friend’s dad uses Dawn (yes, the dish detergent) to wash his face and hair. Even when I was trying to find stock photos for this column, the majority of “men’s grooming” or “men’s skin care” photos that came up were pictures of men on their wedding days or in tuxedos. It seems if men don’t have a big event, it’s very hard to get them to put effort into their appearance. And while it may not be every man, it’s a BUNCH of them.
It’s fragile masculinity – or anxiety felt by men who believe they are falling short of cultural standards of manhood – that serves as a barrier to entry.
Philip Picardi tackled this head-on last year when he wrote an op-ed for GQ entitled “Hey Fellas, Is It Gay to Take Care of Yourself?” (The title is inspired by a joke format by comedian Jaboukie Young-White, which mocks the idea of fragile masculinity and homophobia by asking if non-sexual things make someone homosexual.) Picardi writes that male grooming is the ultimate long-term investment. The more energy you put into your self-maintenance now (like using an eye cream or daily SPF), the less you’ll have to worry about it as you get older.
And not so fast, older men. There are still products that will make a difference no matter your age. The Washington Post recently published a story on men spending more time looking at themselves thanks to Zoom meetings. They don’t love what they see and have started to purchase skin care products to address concerns like redness and even concealer to mask their dark circles.
It doesn’t make you less of a man to care for yourself. Taking care of ourselves makes us feel confident. When you look good, you feel good.
If you don’t feel you need concealer, that’s OK, but you gotta take care of your skin. Everyone has it and it’s our largest organ that keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Cleanse and moisturize twice a day. Use sunscreen in the daytime – you also can choose a moisturizer with sunscreen in it. That’s all you have to do and it only takes about five minutes. My picks? For normal skin, Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser and Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 15. For acne-prone skin, try CeraVe SA Renewing Cleanser. For lines or sagging, splurge a little with Kiehl’s Age Defender Cream Moisturizer. Try Fenty Skin if you’re so inclined.
The skin on our bodies has different needs than that on our scalps so use different products to wash your body and your hair.
And, please stop relying on your wife, girlfriend or another woman in your life to buy you products or teach you how to use them. She isn’t your keeper. You are a grown-ass man and I believe in you.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT