Gender equality gets new twist as male bloggers hold forth on beauty, makeup

By Long Nguyen   December 10, 2020 | 08:47 pm PT
The growing demand for grooming products among men, affluence and the influence of pop culture have brought into the limelight a new breed of influencers: male beauty bloggers.

Vu Duy starts a video review of beauty products: "Hello, welcome to Duy’s YouTube channel... Many of you have told me to tell you my morning skincare routine that focuses on skin whitening."

He then takes the audience through a range of products from cleansers to moisturizers and serums.

A man with pale skin and painted nails, he has 299,000 subscribers to his channel and thousands of comments under each video.

"This is so helpful. Can you please tell us how to take care of our skin in winter?" one commenter asks.

Duy, 23, is part of a growing community of male beauty influencers in Vietnam, who, in the last few years, have been using social platforms to review grooming, and even women's makeup, products and guide people through tutorials, gradually establishing trust among both male and female audiences.

Dao Ba Loc is famous for his videos about makeup products. Photo courtesy of Dao Ba Loc.

Dao Ba Loc is famous for his videos about makeup products. Photo courtesy of Dao Ba Loc.

Duy, whose channel is called Call Me Duy, also has a website and a 300,000-member Facebook group.

One of the most prominent male beauty vloggers is singer Dao Ba Loc, whose YouTube channel has 283,000 subscribers and got more than 43 million views in the last five years.

Loc, who wears concealer, eyeliner and lipstick in his videos, usually gives his audiences, mostly women, tips on cosmetics available at various price points and their use.

Le Bao Trung, who calls himself a "skincare-holic," has a Facebook page and website where he posts videos of how to use professional skincare products from international brands, and attracts both men and women viewers.

"Your skin is so smooth and your lipstick colors are so trendy, please upload more videos," one woman wrote under a video of Dao Ba Loc talking about lipstick swatches.

Many cosmetic brands and stores, noticing their popularity, ask them to endorse their products, making them influencers or key opinion leaders.

Duy has collaborated with many beauty stores, including international health and beauty chain Watson, to introduce products in his videos and give away gifts and vouchers to viewers.

The so-called ‘Dao Ba Loc phenomenon’ boosted the sales of the MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Matte lipstick from American brand Wet n Wild in Vietnam in 2017. Many netizens watch Loc’s videos to see what lipsticks he uses and use them themselves.

"More and more men [are] reviewing beauty and makeup products online, and the number will rise," Giang Nguyen, a Hanoi makeup artist, said.

The reason is the surging interest in beauty products among men.

In recent years there has been increasing awareness of grooming among both men and women and affluence, sending demand for grooming products surging.

A survey done in July by international e-commerce platform Picodi found Vietnamese men on average spend VND4 million ($172) a year on beauty products.

Another by Ho Chi Minh City market research firm DecisionLab found that more men than women buy beauty products online.

This makes the male grooming products market potentially huge for both cosmetics companies and bloggers.

Shampoos and hair care, body wash and cleansing products for men have been in the market for years, and international brands are joining the game by offering gender-neutral products.

U.S. brand Kiehl's and Canada’s Ordinary are two that offer such skincare products. Their serums, creams and cleansers all come in simple, clinical-looking packaging, erasing the line between male and female.

"There is no cleanser for only men or women," Duy said.

"Those men-only products use dark-colored packages or so-called masculine smells like mint and pepper to attract men."

But he said there should be no gender boundary for skincare and beauty products.

Vu Duy attends events related to cosmetic products to share his skincare and makeup experience. Photo courtesy of Vu Duy.

Vu Duy attends events related to cosmetic products to share his skincare and makeup experience. Photo courtesy of Vu Duy.

But the popularity of male beauty influencers and images of men wearing makeup is also owed to foreign influences like South Korean pop culture, according to industry insiders.

A 2019 study found that 51 percent of Vietnamese like South Korean pop music and 68 percent watch South Korean TV serials in which singers and actors often push the envelope in terms of ‘masculinity’ by wearing makeup and using beauty products considered feminine such as BB Cream, brow pencils, lipsticks, and eyeliners.

The admiration for a country whose men are now the world’s largest consumers of men's grooming products has changed the Vietnamese perspective on men using beauty and makeup products.

"It is totally normal to see men wearing lipstick or concealer; my idols in BTS have done that for years," Nguyen Hoang Anh, 21, who calls himself a "skincare guru," said.

Ngo Vi Trung, asked whether he felt lonely being a male beauty blogger in Vietnam, said: "There are many male beauty bloggers in Vietnam, and I do not feel that I am a loner in this field."

But it is not always smooth sailing for them.

The bloggers get criticism and even hate messages for appearing with pink lips or pearly white skin, which makes them "girlish," according to some.

"Are you a man or a woman?"

"How can a man look like this?"

"I cannot stand this."

These are some of the slurs that Duy and Loc face for their YouTube videos. Many people even question their sexuality.

Loc said he tries not to be affected by such messages, but admits he is upset by the abuse.

"I do not get angry ... any more though sometimes they make me a little sad. Now I am beautiful, famous, and have a lot of people who love me."

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