Hey, men: Don't be surprised if very soon your toiletry kit contains not only shaving cream, deodorant and toothpaste, but concealer, oil-absorbing face powder and brow gel.
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That's because guys are relying on an increasing number of made-for-men products like these to put their best face forward.
"I think men are much more receptive to the whole grooming concept from start to finish. Makeup is sort of the final frontier," says Wendy Lewis, a beauty consultant and author of "The Beauty Battle: An Insider's Guide to Wrinkle Rescue and Cosmetic Perfection from Head to Toe." "They’re certainly concerned about camouflaging imperfections. The idea of a little light dusting of powder is no longer an extreme measure."
Experts say it's only natural that men would turn to makeup to look their best. Grooming, after all, has never been more acceptable. Last year, $4.8 million was spent on male grooming products in the U.S., a 7 percent increase over the year before and a whopping 42 percent increase from 2001, according to Euromonitor, a London-based marketing and research company.
And while still not the norm, makeup — including products from Clinique, Clarins and Jean Paul Gaultier — has become a more common part of the male beauty routine. Walk into megastores like Sephora or Macy's and you'll find a variety of masculine beauty products including bronzer and face masks. Clarin’s Self-Tanning Gel for Men, for example, amps up skin color while evening out skin tone.
Buff and bronzed
KenMen, a Montreal-based cosmetics line founded in 2004 by Lee Gilbert, includes skin tints, body and face highlighter, and skin correcting sticks (otherwise known as concealer).
"My makeup artist friends were looking for a product for men that didn’t scream, 'Look, I’m wearing makeup,'" she says. In the past year, she has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in online sales at www.kenmen.net, which also serves as an anonymous forum where men can ask about cosmetics without having to approach a salesperson at the beauty counter. Gilbert says makeup, not skin care products, account for a greater chunk of those sales.
"Men don’t want a ton of choices," she says. "What they’re really, really interested in is education."
That includes learning more about the beard and eyebrow corrector — filler that disguises sparse patches of hair — or learning how to apply KenMen’s best-selling bronzer.
Can you keep a secret?
Holly Doss, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist with an eponymous cosmetics brand, also believes discretion is the key to introducing men to makeup.
"Most of the feedback I’ve gotten," she says, "is that they want to buy makeup without ever having to leave their home. They don’t want to go and try anything out in 'real life.'"
Doss, who has worked in the entertainment industry under the tutelage of celebrity makeup artist Trish McEvoy, primarily sells foundation and concealer from her unisex line to men who want to look polished, but not pretty. She says they like that they can use their fingers for a fuss-free application.
Polished and powerful
OK, it does the job. But is manly makeup here to stay? Gilbert thinks so.
"In order to get that competitive edge, they have to look better," she says. "They’re going to do whatever it takes — and there are products out there that can help them achieve this."
© 2012 Forbes.com