If an alien civilization only knew our species from the pictures we upload to our dating and social media apps, they'd be forced to conclude that we spend most our time doing yoga on the beach, posing with heavily sedated tigers, and pursing our lips to make our mouths look more like our assholes.
If they'd been scrolling through our species' pictures for the past decade, they'd also notice skin tones becoming more even, teeth whiter, eyes brighter, and abdominal muscles more defined with every passing year.
"Are the Earthlings are becoming more attractive?" a middling alien biologist would ask.
"Gleeb, you insufferable fuckwit," his superior would say. "They're using filters!"
I know that I wouldn't dream of posting a picture of my mug without employing a little digital fuckery first. The inherent problem with that of course is that when you head out in meatspace to a Tinder date or maybe bump into a friend you haven't seen in awhile, you'll look like your digital avatar's uglier, iller twin.
If only there was a way to apply "Lark" or even "Clarendon" to myself IRL, I often think. Well it turns out there is. It's called makeup and apparently, more and more men are using it than at any point since the Bronze Age.
Some experts cite cosmetic enhancement far predating homo sapiens' journey out of Africa and there's oodles of archaeological evidence showing that the ancient Egyptians were applying kohl as eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara over 6,000 years ago. It seems that for most of its history the use of makeup was not associated with gender and that only relatively recently—at least in the Old World—that cosmetics have been used by and marketed to women. If indeed makeup for men is a trend, my tired, weathered old kisser demands that I be on its bleeding edge.
"Men want to look good and feel good about themselves too," says makeup artist Matthew Drohan, as he sits down at my kitchen table and begins unpacking his brushes, creams, astringents, and powders. "I think that we're getting over the idea that makeup is for women and it's about time. But for now there's still a stigma. So much so that for men, it's not even called makeup but 'male grooming.'"
Drohan asks me to consider the fact that virtually every time we see famous exemplars of masculinity, whether it be on TV, in the movies, magazine spreads, talk show appearances or walking down red carpet, they are almost certainly wearing some makeup on their faces and when shirtless, often on their bodies to accentuate their musculature.
"So isn't it a strange idea that men wouldn't want to look their best in their day to day lives?" he asks. "Well maybe it's because men feel like they don't have the time to devote to applying makeup," I offer.
"I wear makeup every day," Matthew says. "And yeah, and I do it for a living but most guys would be able to look fresher, more awake, with more even skin tone and and just generally better if they allotted, like, five minutes to this before leaving the house."
Matthew asks me some questions about my grooming routine and doesn't seem to be terribly shocked when I tell him that I don't really have one. My face and body gets soapy and wet in the shower and that's about it.
"Um, you really need to start washing your face," he says, echoing something my mother tried to instill in me in 1981. "Use something with an exfoliant. You'll notice an immediate difference but over time, this is going to help skin cell turnover and keep you looking younger."
Matthew goes on to explain that while he is going to be applying makeup to my face, he'll first concern himself with cleansing, toning and moisturizing my skin. There's a facial wipe to slough off some of the dead skin cells I've been letting idly hang out on my face and then he applies a small amount of a delightfully citrusy-smelling cream to the back of his hand—which he uses as a palette—and then transfers it to my face.
"Smells great right?" he says as he notices me enjoying a whiff. "This soothing aroma is actually going to have an effect on the way you look. You'll be just a little more relaxed as you go about your day and it'll make a difference."
He then sprays my face with astringent solution containing witch hazel. This is a toner and it's used to improve the circulation to skin, making it tighten slightly; it will also control surface oil. He asks me to apply a lip exfoliant the flavor and texture of Pop Rocks and invites me to rub the big sugar-like crystals around my lips. Matthew then rubs on a moisturizer and when he's done he invites me to look at myself in a handheld mirror. I appear greasy, as though I've face-planted in a gyro.
"Okay so we have your skin looking more glowy and shiny now," Matthew says. "The thing is that we want to certain areas, like your cheeks, to be shiny but you really don't want a super shiny nose or forehead. So that's where the actual makeup comes in."
He starts mixing color on his hand and underlines a classic mistake that people make when applying foundation. "A lot of the time, people's faces aren't the same color as the rest of them," he says. "Your body is tanner than your face, for example. That's why I like to color match with the neck. If you're face is a different than your neck, it makes it really obvious that you're wearing makeup."
A mistake that, when made, is often made bigly. Matthew then adds a powder that he applies with a brush. He takes care not to go into my beard line because the powder will clump around it and again, broadcast the fact that I'm wearing makeup.
"Your lashes naturally curl, so we don't need to bother with curling them, but we can do a little something with your eyebrows," he says while inspecting them closely. I'd always felt quite good about my eyebrows and, if I ever touched them at all, tended to smooth them out towards my ears with my fingers.
"What you actually want to do is brush your eyebrows up," he says, using a toothbrush. " You want what's called Bossy Brows. It's going to make you look more awake and well, bossier."
I was skeptical, but as Matthew suggested, I immediately looked perkier once he'd swept my caterpillars to erect attention. It was now easy to see that their thickness was not as uniform as I'd thought. Matthew came to the rescue with a pencil and filled them in where needed. The finishing touch for my brows was a fixing gel that would keep them in an upright and locked position. All done.
He handed me the mirror and my immediate reaction was that, rather than seeming in any way feminized, my makeup was reminiscent of "Blondie," Clint Eastwood's character's face in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. My skin tone was evened out, dark eye circles diminished, my blemishes vanished and my brows, well, bossy AF. I liked the look and was excited to head out with friends for dinner.
"You want some abs, too?" Matthew asks.
Of course I fucking do.
Painting on abs is pretty common in Hollywood, for photoshoots and on runways, so, I was pretty eager to see what a little shadowing could do for me.
First off, getting your belly moisturized by someone else is something you have to try if you haven't already. It's wonderful. Matthew first asks me to flex my abs as hard as I could so that he could take an educated guess as where they might be located. He then used makeup to accentuate where the shadows would be if I didn't love beer and pasta quite as much as I do.
I look in a full-length mirror revealed what I might look like if made sleep a priority, washed my face on a regular basis, did crunches like a crazy person and if I gave up doing all the things that, while fun, are accelerating the aging process.
"Will the makeup last all night?" I ask him.
"Your face should, but if you want to show off your new abs later, spray them with the cheapest , nastiest, hairspray you can find."
I wasn't disappointed that my friends didn't remark on my glowy, even, well-rested face when we met for drinks and dinner a little later on. Feeling that I looked subtly better was quite enough for me. What was disappointing was that when I excitedly disrobed in front of a girlfriend later that evening, my short-lived six-pack was now a brown stain that lived on the inside of my shirt.
If nothing else, my makeup experience caused me to buy an exfoliating face wash and use it, apply an SPF with a slight tint, and brush up my brows to their bossiest extent whenever I'm looking to impress.
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