Best make-up for men 2020: a beginner's guide to brands

From Chanel to War Paint, we've collected everything you need to know about the best make-up brands for men

Best make-up brands for men
(Image credit: Getty)

How's your face looking these days? Be honest. A little red? That'll be the beer. Dark circles? Get some sleep, mate. How about spots? It happens. The question, of course, is what can you do about it all?

There was a time when the answer was, nothing. If it's not something that can be fixed with a 5-in-1 face wash/shampoo/shower gel/beard cleanser/mouthwash, it's simply tough luck, buddy. 

Fortunately, as the world of grooming has moved on, the idea of men's make-up has become increasingly common too.  And why shouldn't it? Men experience the exact same skin blemishes as women, so it only makes sense to use the same products proven to cover up those problem areas.

"Men have worn make-up on the red carpet, on TV and in films for decades, but it's now becoming an everyday way of helping guys feel confident in themselves," says make-up artist Shauna Taggart, who has prepped the faces of male models like Oliver Cheshire for magazine covers. "For men who feel self-conscious about a spot or have pigmentation, make-up can be used to subtly improve their appearance without being obvious."

Unsurprisingly, cosmetic companies have been quick to jump on the growing trend, and there are now as many brands for men to choose from as there are shows to binge-watch on Netflix. Trouble is, that can make finding one worth shelling out for tricky.

To help you separate the new foundations of your grooming routine to the crap concealed as something better, T3 got hands-on with seven make-up brands for men worth considering. 

Types of Make-Up For Men (And What They Do)

Want to know the difference between concealer, foundation and primer? Don't worry, here is everything you need to know about the different types of make-up for men.

Primer

Putting on make-up is a lot like painting a door. Wait…hear us out. Just as you wouldn't rush straight in with the gloss, it's also important to first prep your face. After you've sanded down (i.e. exfoliated), consider applying an undercoat AKA primer. While it's not essential, doing so ensures anything you add after goes on smoother and lasts longer.

Foundation

Foundation is exactly what the name suggests, the base upon which you'll lay the rest of your make-up. Thicker than BB or CC cream, it helps to even out skin tone and mask imperfections. Opt for a matte liquid version, which doesn't require a brush, in a shade that matches your skin colour as closely as possible. 

Powder

If you live in constant fear a neighbouring country might invade your face, the problem is likely excess oil. Powder works to mattify the skin and prevent shine. Look for products labelled 'translucent', which will give a natural finish without altering the colour of your foundation, or try blotting sheets for an easier, pocket-friendly fix. 

Colour Corrector

Sometimes foundation and concealer alone don't cut it. Whether it's the red flush that comes with a killer hangover or dark circles from sleep deprivation, colour correctors hide imperfections by cancelling them out with opposite shades. Apply a bit of green before your foundation to camouflage redness, purple to neutralise yellow spots, or orange to take care of dark circles.

Concealer

Even the most skincare-militant of guys are prone to the odd blemish. That's where concealer comes in. Slightly thicker than foundation, these little pigment pens dispense targeted coverage to help hide everything from acne and shaving rash to dark circles and pigmentation. To ensure it blends into the surrounding area, match your skin tone exactly or go slightly lighter to brighten under-eye areas.

Best concealer for men

Best make-up for men: five essential products

Still don't know where to start? Check out these five products below for the ultimate beginner's make-up kit.

(Image credit: E.L.F.)

1. E.L.F. Colour Correcting Stick

Banish red skin and dark circles

Reasons to buy
+Infused with Vitamin E to help hydrate the skin+Melts into skin for seamless blend+Instantly help correct and neutralise colour imperfections

There are many reasons why you might regularly wake up looking like the devil is trying to escape your pores. Whether it's rosacea, acne or irritation, the green Colour Correcting Stick by E.L.F. can at least help get rid of the visible signs of redness. Simply swipe, blend, wait, then cover.

(Image credit: Lab Series)

2. Lab Series BB Cream

This miracle cream does everything

Reasons to buy
+Moisturisers+Combats wrinkles+SPF+Adapts to your skin tone

A grooming Swiss army knife, BB creams (which stands for blemish balm) combine the powers of a sunscreen, oil-control gel, tinted moisturiser and wrinkle cream in one. Easier to apply and less detectable than foundation, the original and still the best for men is by Lab Series, which comes in a single shade that adapts to your skin tone.

(Image credit: Tom Ford)

3. Tom Ford Concealer For Men

Hide dark spots and under-eye bags

Reasons to buy
+Great brand+Simple to use+Sexy design

If you're essentially a human who wants to look good, then you need to add a concealer to your grooming routine. One of the OGs of men's make-up, Tom Ford's sleek metal stick makes light work of dark spots, sends bags packing and banishes bad skin days. 

(Image credit: Glossier)

4. Glossier Boy Brow

Get perfect brows with this simple to-use-product

Reasons to buy
+Soft, flexible hold in one easy swipe+Doesn't stiffen or flake+Moisturises as well+alcohol, fragrance, paraben, and cruelty-free

One of the easiest ways to show the world you care about yourself and your appearance is to get your eyebrows in order. Aside from getting rid of any errant hairs, use a clear gel like Boy Brow by Glossier to brush them up. Doing this opens up the eye, making you look instantly refreshed.

(Image credit: Clean & Clear)

5. Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets

Keep these oil adsorbing sheets with you at all times

Reasons to buy
+Simple to use product+Can be used by anyone+Doesn't smudge make-up

Even if it wasn't for the glistening forehead, enlarged pores and jokes about the BP spill, there would still be no man alive who enjoys oily skin. Luckily, it can be combated with the right kit. Clean & Clear's blotting sheets work to soak up excess sebum, leaving behind a matte finish. Throw them in your gym bag, your desk drawer, basically everywhere.

How To Apply Make-Up For Men: 5 Expert Tips

Along with a personal trainer and live-in chef, a private make-up artist to take you from a two to a solid ten every morning is something few guys would turn down. While that may be a pipe dream for most, we do happen to know a few. Olivia Davey is a celebrity hair and make-up artist who has groomed everyone from musicians to sports stars. 

These are her five tips for looking your best at all times:

  • Prep The Skin: Male skin is oilier and shinier than female skin, so start by applying an anti-shine or oil-free moisturiser. This creates a matte canvas underneath your base to avoid any sheen. Once you've applied your make-up, you can remove any additional shine with a powder brushed lightly across your T-Zone or blotting sheets.
  • Less Is More: When it comes to applying your make-up, less is more. Always start with a minimal amount of product and build up the application where needed. This helps to keep your make-up looking natural and much easier to blend.
  • Focus On The Eyes: Don't apply concealer or foundation too close to the lash line. This can make you look too heavily 'made up'. The best way to apply concealer underneath the eyes is with your third finger, gently pressing it into the skin where dark shadows appear.
  • Hide The Signs: Always brush through your brows, beard and hairline once you've applied a foundation or BB/CC cream to get rid of any excess product. A clear mascara or brow gel are also great tools to set the hairs in place, creating more definition and clearing any telltale make-up that may be clinging on.
  • Fill The Gaps: A lot of men have patches in their facial hair, so one tip I find extra effective is to fill these in. Again, subtly is key. Get a matte powder that matches your hair colour and apply small strokes to any sparse areas. If your hairs are very dark, I also find a mascara can be useful here.

The best make-up brands for men:

(Image credit: Chanel)

1. Chanel

Boy de Chanel is a luxury make-up brand for men

Reasons to buy
+Foundation with SPF+Eyebrow pencil can be used as facial hair filler
Reasons to avoid
-No concealer product

For skin so good it practically offends people, you'll need more than a bit of moisturiser. But that doesn't have to mean piling on a trowel of slap every morning. Recognising that men are more likely to want to camouflage something they don't like, such as dry lips or a patchy beard, Chanel launched Boy de Chanel. The three-part line-up includes a matte foundation, nourishing lip balm and an eyebrow pencil that can also be used on facial hair. Hydrated lips, spot-free skin and a full beard – what's not to like?

(Image credit: War Paint)

2. War Paint

Macho-named make-up brand designed for men

Reasons to buy
+Cruelty-free and vegan+Donates 50p of concealer sales to CALM
Reasons to avoid
-Limited shades-Contains coconut oil which can cause spots

From Dwayne' The Rock' Johnson to Jean-Claude-MF-Van-Damme, Hollywood's hardest men have long used women's beauty products without denting their hormones. So do blokes really need their own make-up? In a word, no. But for guys just starting out, or those shy about heading to a make-up counter, there's War Paint. Designed exclusively for men, the complete range includes a foundation, tinted moisturiser, bronzer, concealer, primer and make-up remover, all in uber-masculine black packaging. 

(Image credit: Clinique)

3. Clinique for Men

Simple, smart, and straightforward make-up from experts at Clinique

Reasons to buy
+Allergy-tested+Fragrance-free
Reasons to avoid
-Broad range could be confusing-Female-focused branding

Ask any professional groomer worth their pressed powder, and they'll tell you the secret to undetectable make-up is good skincare. It's no surprise, then, that the cosmetic bods at Clinique have come up with several near-invisible ways to hide your imperfections. The brand's collection of liquid, cream, powder and stick foundations, for example, may seem intimidating, but a quick online test makes it easy to get recommendations. Men's skin generally produces more oil than women's, making the Stay Matte formula a smart choice.

(Image credit: The Ordinary)

4. The Ordinary

The go-to brand for those 'in-the-know'

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Light coverage
Reasons to avoid
-Requires primer for best results-No other products

For years, science-flexing skincare brand The Ordinary has been a go-to for those in-the-know. Which probably explains why it racked up a wait-list of over 25,000 people when it made a move into make-up. Named 'Colours', the collection features two products: a lightweight serum foundation and a high coverage foundation. Both available in 21 shades and with various 'undertones', this is one best bought in-store with the help of an expert and applied after a primer for optimum results.

(Image credit: Clinique)

5. Givenchy Mister

Make-up for men that's close to perfect

Reasons to buy
+Male-specific solutions+Easy to apply
Reasons to avoid
-High price point-No skin coverage product

There may be no such thing as Mr Perfect, but Givenchy Mister might just get you close. Comprising four easy to apply products designed to make skin look clean and smooth, there's a complexion-correcting pen, healthy glow gel and clear brow gel. The hero product, though, is the brand's mattifying stick, which can be rolled over the T-zone (that's the forehead, nose, and chin, in case you didn't know) to absorb excess shine and reduce the appearance of pores.

6. Fenty

Gentleman's Fenty offers a huge number of shades

Reasons to buy
+Inclusive shades+Online tutorials for men
Reasons to avoid
-Only full coverage-Concealer needs to be blended for best results

It's time to let you in on a secret, not all celebrities are born handsome. Take Daniel Kaluuya, the Black Panther star set the internet alight with his Insta-ready skin at the 90th Academy Awards. His secret? Rihanna's Fenty Beauty brand. As well as being one of the most inclusive make-up labels (offering 50 different shades), it sells a 'Gentlemen's Fenty Face' set that pulls together five complexion-focused items from its regular line and has a series of online tutorials specifically for men. 

(Image credit: Shakeup Cosmetics)

7. Shakeup Cosmetics

Easy-to-use with unique formulas designed for men's skin

Reasons to buy
+Cruelty-free and vegan+Skin-first approach
Reasons to avoid
-Limited stockists-No concealer

Taking a Ronseal approach to men's grooming, Shakeup Cosmetics is hoping to, well, shake up the skincare industry with its line of male beauty goods. The brainchild of twins Shane Carnell-Xu and Jake Xu, the Beijing natives are banking on Europe being just behind Asia, where products like its carefully formulated BB Tinted Moisturiser, Under Eye Concealer and Volumising Lip Gel are already best-sellers. Fix up, look sharp. Or rather, wake-up, shake-up.

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